Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Fate of Fair & Equal in the Council

Early on in tonight's Common Council meeting, the aldermen accepted a communication from city clerk Tracy Delaney certifying that the petition filed by the Fair & Equal campaign "complies with all the requirements of law." Later on, when it came time to vote on laying the proposed legislation amending the ward boundaries on the aldermen's desks, the outcome was predictable: 550 in favor (John Friedman, Henry Haddad, Michael O'Hara, Rick Rector); 1,383 opposed (Claudia DeStefano, Robert Donahue, Tiffany Garriga, Abdus Miah, Priscilla Moore, Lauren Scalera); 95 abstained (Alexis Keith). The outcome was summed up by Alderman Friedman (Third Ward), "And so the weighted vote perpetuates itself."

When casting her nay vote, Council president Claudia DeStefano said she appreciated the work done by the people involved in the Fair & Equal campaign but called the process "not open enough or transparent enough." Obviously not having read this morning's Gossips post about the Political Corruption Walking Tour in Chicago, where one of the modern-day "shenanigans" cited was "local politicians who still draw their own electoral maps," DeStefano complained that elected officials had been left out of the process. She called for making the process "fair and equal." (It will be remembered that in January, at the Council's first meeting of the year, DeStefano announced her intention to establish a "bipartisan committee to examine ward boundaries" with the goal of making a proposal to be presented to voters in a referendum in November 2016. Some of the people involved in the Fair & Equal campaign expressed interest in serving on that committee, but when it was never formed, they took the initiative themselves.)

Every alderman voting against the proposed legislation and the one who abstained paid lip service to the notion of doing away with the weighted vote but quibbled about the proposed new ward boundaries. The one exception was Alderman Robert "Doc" Donahue. Before casting his nay vote, Donahue, who has been a Fifth Ward alderman since 1994, declared that he was "not about to vote to break up the Fifth Ward."

Despite the Common Council, the proposition to amend the ward boundaries to create five wards of equal population and hence to achieve the constitutional standard of one man, one vote will be on the ballot in November. The Fair & Equal campaign has enough petition signatures to bring it directly to the Board of Elections. Addressing his fellow aldermen, Friedman proclaimed tonight, "Gnash your teeth all you like. The weighted vote is over."


  1. Predictable outcome of bad peeps politicians protecting themselves and closing their minds to equity and fairness.

    A good lesson for all of us not to be like those who voted against the proposed legislation--petulant, afraid and controlled like puppets by entrenched power brokers.

    Hudson city government is truly something out of an old bad Western, and we are all truly living in the proverbial Wild West.

  2. "They took the initiative themselves."

    How rare it is for citizen efforts to be rewarded by any of our Common Councils, despite the abundant evidence that Council members rarely know enough to properly vote on many issues, let alone have the capacity to conduct studies on them.

    I'm currently reviewing last summer's SEQR vote on the sewer separation project, for which the Council members studiously avoided informed citizen input even though the Aldermen knew next-to-nothing about the proposal or about SEQRA.

    We're in great hands.

  3. I don't know if the so-called weighted vote is unconstitutional (could someone remind me of the high court case), but it's certainly not un-American (or inherently corrupt or even undemocratic) to give a voting district more "weight" when it has more people in it; towit, the U.S. House of Representatives, which allocates the number of voting members to a state based on that state's population. Shall we redraw state boundaries to redress this inequity? I don't know the history of weighted voting in Hudson, but it certainly seems like a reasonable alternative to redrawing ward boundaries every time there's population change. And it's certainly not surprising to me that the elected representatives of the wards with the most people (votes) would oppose this petition. But that is hardly a surprising, much less corrupt, stand.

    1. Please read the Hofstra Law School report of 9/15/2015 available on the city's website.
      Hudson is the only municipality in the US that employs weighted voting at the legislative level.
      Hudson weighs the "voting power", not merely population of each ward, according to the very complex Banzhaf index method of calculation.
      Municipalities often change ward or similar boundaries once a decade regularly after the US census results. Hudson has not changed its ward boundaries in this century or the last one.

    2. Weighted voting happens everywhere in the nation at the county level and, as you point out, for congressional districts. It's only unconstitutional if the percentages are too far off, which I believe is something in the neighborhood of 10%.

      But weighted voting at the municipal level evidently only happens in Hudson, and that's NATIONWIDE!

      So why is it such an unreasonable alternative to redraw the ward boundaries every 10 years when every other like municipality in the nation does exactly that?

      If Hudson is the one exception to a universal rule, then it's likely that our voting system is the unreasonable one. Are you suggesting that the entire rest of the nation is unreasonable?

      Now look at the Fair and Equal plan, which made very few changes to the boundaries yet got the proposed ward populations to differ less then 2%. It's an amazing accomplishment.

      And with such slim margins, the new ward boundaries wouldn't be changed for decades, and probably many decades.

      You can dislike the plan all you want (though I've never heard an actual reason for disliking it, and that includes your own reason), but what you cannot do is fault the Fair and Equal proposal for lacking brilliance.

  4. The reason for disliking "the plan," as I now understand it, is that it has redrawn the ward boundaries without any major input from "the people." In fact, as far as I know, the current plan was create by a half-dozen or so people, who presented to a lot of us as a petition. That's fine, but let's not kid ourselves: the proposed plan is not the result of either a grass-roots movement (as that term is commonly understood) or a community discussion (as that term is commonly understood). But my only point is that there is no objective evidence, from what I can see, to support the proposition that the proposed redrawing is "fair and equal," as those terms are commonly understood.... I fully support the referendum process and if the Fair and Equal folks can take their proposal to Hudson voters, it's fine by me. But I don't take the Hofstra report or the fact that Hudson is the only municipality with weighted voting as evidence of anything other than a municipality doing democracy the way it has done it. I'll look at the Hofstra report again, but as of now there is nothing, that I can see, that is inherently unfair or unequal (or unconstitutional) about weighted voting.

    1. The "people" have no input on the current Rutgers' calculation of the weighted vote.

      It doesn't strike you as aberrant that Hudson is the only municipality in the country that employs a weighted vote in its legislative chamber?

    2. You can't be serious to suggest that the present situation, or "the way [Hudson] has done it" till now, is in any way fair.

      You also can't be paying attention if you think this opportunity to discuss the proposal, which is to be followed by a referendum, is anything other than democratic.

      If a plan is sound - any plan - then you've just given the lamest reason of all for disliking it: because everyone didn't think of it together.

      The usual channels had their opportunity to fix the situation, and did nothing.

      Where's that "grassroots" plan? Oh, no plan? What a surprise.

      In response to the Council's predictable dithering, and everyone else's lack of energy, a group of smart people found each other and worked their butts off to create a long-overdue, corruption-resistant solution. True, they got there by merit and application, and not by ineffectual and interminable consensus.

      I notice you're happy to stir things up, though, without substantiating any of your suspicions: "from what I can see" .... "as I now understand it" ... "as far as I know" ... "nothing that I can see" ...

      In my opinion, it's irresponsible to criticize your neighbor's hard work without fully understanding the issue. These are citizen volunteers, very like the South Bay Task Force, whose hard work you'd now undermine to satisfy a hunch.

      I learned my approach from a pretty wise person - that the best idea wins.

      And for me, Hofstra isn't in this story at all.

  5. This article from William and Mary Law Review examines how weighted voting weakens representative government when used long term.

    The author was not studying Hudson, but the practice in general. The specific problems are listed starting p 26, prior to that is analysis & background.


  6. 1.

    For nearly 5 years I've been working, in public, to do away with the weighted vote. It is, at its heart, a logical attempt at maintaining fixed-geography election districts. The problem, as it's developed over time, is that the population disparities between the wards have exacerbated over the ensuing 40+ years since weighted voting was adopted. Some of this is due to pure demographics: younger (more prolific) families in the northern wards compared to older families (whose children have already moved away) in the southern wards. Some of it is due to legislative fiat: NYS (or was it the fed? doesn't matter) mandated that prison inmates be counted in their home districts not where they are incarcerated (as was past practice); the result was the 3d ward experienced an immediate loss of some 300 people after the 2010 census.

    To counter this growing population disparity, the weighted voting system employs a method that provides for "voting power" on the part of all wards. In this context, "voting power" refers to the ability of a single ward to decide (up or down) any particular vote. In other words, by moving away from simple percentages ("the 1st ward has 10% of the city's population therefore it gets 10% of the votes in the Council") and adding a derived coefficient of "voting power," the weighting system provides the 1w council members with slightly more weight than they would have under a straight percentage basis. This coefficient -- the "voting power" calculation -- is unconstitutional. Weighted voting is permissible, per the Supreme Court, when it is based solely on percentages. The problem with this approach is so glaringly obvious in Hudson's present circumstances -- no wards but the 5th and the 3rd need show up to control the outcomes -- that not even the 5th ward alder folk have suggested that we use simple percentages. In practice, this means there is no incentive on the part of aldermen to compromise with each other -- which many would consider the job description itself in many ways.

    But, as we saw 2 years ago in the Legal Committee, and 8 or so months ago in the full Council, and yet again on Tuesday last, the weighted vote tends to perpetuate itself.

    So. What is a frustrated alderman to do?

  7. 2.

    The answer was: nothing. In what amounts to a ratification of the Tao, I was approached by several members of Hudson Forward and a number of unaffiliated Hudsonians who wanted to work on a solution outside of the Council context. Would I join them? Would I?! I did.

    I wish the Council could work as well together as the F&E committee did. Without any controlling framework, about a dozen of your neighbors began working together to try to understand how Hudson might move to a more democratic voting system in its legislature. Were we all on the same political page? professional page? social page? Nope. Were we as ethnically, religiously or vegan v. meat-eater/sedentary v. Cross-fit diverse as the city is? Nope. We were and are a pretty Christian group (not all but most); we are white, white, white, white, white. That sucks but that's the way it worked out. A couple of women but mostly men. Two elected officials; one appointed. Several business owners, a couple of semi-retirees. Our professional backgrounds are in education, cultural NFPs, marketing, publishing and 2 miserable lawyers.

    Our imperative? To work together to craft 5 election districts (we call them "wards" but you don't have to) that hewed to, as closely as possible, the existing ward boundaries, and that had populations that are equal (the Constitution permits up to a 10% differential between the most populous and least populous district in a jurisdiction). Secondarily, we wanted to be sure that the new lines didn't have a statistically meaningful -- or even a cursory -- affect on the distribution of minority voters within the existing wards. Our reasoning was we didn't want the line changes to be perceived as changing neighborhoods. In other words, we were trying to do one thing and one thing only: craft a Constitutional voting system for the Common Council based on the Constitutional norm of one person one vote. Our perspective was that of votes, not elected officials (and certainly not the incumbents) -- we weren't (and remain) unconcerned about the affect the changes in the ward boundaries would have on sitting officials.

  8. 3.

    Did we do it in secret? Nope. Did we do it with fanfare and press releases? Nope. Why would we? To begin with, there was no guarantee that we'd be successful. Second, who cared? Did the voters rise up when the Legal Committee found a non-political process too much for the Council's feeble abilities? No. When the last mayor (inevitably) vetoed the simple question "should the weighted vote be replaced with one person one vote?" No. So who cared what we were doing? Clearly, no one. So we did what we did. A dozen or so neighbors -- yours and mine -- using their skills and abilities to study the law, the history, the math; to study the census data block by block; to discuss alternative map configurations, to understand how a voter education effort might be designed and implemented. And, in the end, we believe we achieved what we set out to do.

    Was there public participation? Sure. We -- the dozen or so of us who got together every week for months and months, who went back to our homes and offices and did the work to make the F&E proposal a reality: each and every one of us are your neighbors. We ARE the public.

    But that, of course, begs the question: did the balance of the electorate (and even those too young or foolish not to vote) have a voice? Well, yes and no. Yes, because nothing prevents anyone, or any group, from getting together and doing what we did. No because that's not how the system works.

    Here's how it does work: The Council can do (or not do -- its favored course of action) whatever it likes. It can pass the resolution and place it on the ballot, or not. The Council, in this case, is simply irrelevant. Substantially more of our neighbors have signed the F&E petition that are required to get it on the November ballot. So now, between today and the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, everyone gets to examine and pick apart our work. Beat on it. Challenge it. Challenge us. We welcome everyone's participation in the public aspect of this process -- the education and decision making process that all voters must engage in before entering the proverbial voting booth.

    Every citizen of Hudson has the opportunity to examine and discuss the F&E proposal. Every registered voter in Hudson will be asked to vote on it this November. We, the F&E committee, believe that what we have crafted will yield a fair and equal representation for all Hudsonians -- regardless of race, socioeconomic standing or ward.

  9. 4.

    A couple of small items:

    You can't get to equal population wards without moving lines. Anyone who wants to "get to one person one vote but not change the ward boundaries" isn't clear on what's being discussed. You can't have one without the other.

    The Council -- which ostensibly represents the people -- could have done something about the weighted vote. Mr. Miah stated late last year when he voted to uphold the umpteenth mayoral veto of that year that he hoped to work on this issue because it needed more study. He's done nothing. The president of the Council announced that she intended to convene a committee to work on this issue -- that was 25% of her term in office ago and she's done nothing.

    As Kevin Hannan eloquently stated here a few days ago, a community is more than a ward, and a ward doesn't make a community. Our neighbors will still be our neighbors once we are all equally represented -- just as they are our neighbors now when some of us are "more equal than others" in the Council.

    Two wards in this city have nearly 50% of the votes in the Council. The other 3 wards need not show up for all but 1 or 2 votes a year. This should, and likely does, insult your sense of American fairness and equity. If you'd like to change it, take a look at the F&E petition. If you don't like that approach, present your own. The voters, as a group, get to decide. See you at the polls.

    1. Thanks for that account.

      And thanks to the Fair and Equal group for the thoughtful effort and the ingenious solution.

      This was classic American voluntarism at its best.

  10. Lots of words here; some of them helpful. And Intend to look at recommended backgrounds. But my point is the same: have a vote to dismantle weighted voting; then, separately, have a community debate about how to redraw the ward lines. Simple. I know the petition-makers want us to believe that the proposed boundaries in their petition are "fair and equal," but in fact, anyone familiar with gerrymandering and the pitfalls of representative democracy, knows that these boundaries are anything but fair and equal.

    1. I suppose you are referencing the distinct racial, economic, level of education and social class now present in each current ward, and that redrawing the map would yield worse, or still, imperfect balances. Then, to my earlier point in a prior post a week or so back--just let's get rid of all the wards and have a citywide elected common council consisting of representatives each holding an equal vote.

    2. Hi Peter. I am not sure if your reservations are more process oriented, or substance oriented (you think there is a "better" map lurking out there, just waiting to be found), but if your choice were the map proposed, or no map, and we continue with the status quo, with all its legal (including voters illegally voting in the wrong ward) and other problems for another election cycle, which would you choose?


    3. PM, you continue to defend your hunch, though you'll postpone learning about the subject until later.

      Ten days ago, the F&E advocates were unethical liars, and "intellectually bankrupt." How much has changed for you since then (I noticed no apology), and since you failed to read the petition you signed? People took your charge seriously, though it turns out they shouldn't have.

      Despite your neighbors' unwarranted generosity, you have yet to offer a reasoned counter-argument, and instead fall back on uninformed innuendo. Now we read that the proposal is "gerrymandering," which anyone knows "in fact."

      I know you'll ignore this comment as you have all the others, but what you're doing is textbook demagoguery. I just don't understand why you're doing it.


    4. Geeze Louise. I just did a search of this chain for "unethical liars" and "intellectually bankrupt" and only find the terms in unheimlich's comment. I'll keep searching.... Steve, my reservations are about process and substance. I am against the weighted vote as presently constituted) but, as I've said time and again, if the ward lines are not drawn properly, then the new system won't be any fairer or more equal than the current one. The redrawing may be considered "process," but, depending on whose ox gets gored, is also very substantive. All the attention of the Fair & Equal petition supporters -- and most of the criticism leveled at me for my dissent -- is directed at the unfairness of weighted voting. None of their attention is directed at the questions about redrawing the ward boundaries, even though it can very easily be argued those lines have hugely important implications for many residents and will determine whether minority residents -- pick your demographic: race, age, sex, religion, education level -- get a voice on the Common Council. I'm certainly happy to see the petition -- with both weighted vote and redrawn districts on it -- go to the voters, but I won't vote for it because I want serious community debate about redrawing the Ward lines. I'm sorry if I missed this, but do we know who drew the boundaries proposed in the petition and how they determined them? Thanks.

  11. As to TO'C's comment about my calling the petition "advocates" "unethical liars" and "intellectually bankrupt," well, I assumed that there was some grain of truth to the charge. And so I found, in a July 10 comment (http://gossipsofrivertown.blogspot.com/2016/07/fair-equal-in-register-star.html) my statement: "When I signed the petition I was assured that it did not include any ward boundary rewriting; it was in support only of one-person-one-vote. Now, it would seem, that that was a lie; that the petition includes these very premature new ward boundary lines. This is a huge mistake, politically and ethically. I completely understand the misgivings that those in the 5th and 2nd wards would have about the proposed redistricting. It is both politically unsavory and intellectually bankrupt to be proposing such redistricting without a good deal of democratic and grass-roots debate." I stand by those words--not TO'C misrepresentation of them. Since the fellow who got me to sign the petition turned himself in and denied saying what I heard him to say, I have decided to let that go as a he-said-he-said non-sequitur and am not going to go down that rabbit hole -- and have said as much in a previous comment. But I certainly called no one an "unethical liar" and TO'C is exhibiting a bit of intellectual bankruptcy in so characterizing my comment. As his his charge that I called the "advocates" of the petition intellectually bankrupt. The description is clearly aimed at the petition not its advocates, who, I am sure, are well-intentioned. Words matter. As do facts. Let's get them straight.

    1. Your words PM:

      "When I signed the petition I was assured that it did not include any ward boundary rewriting; it was in support only of one-person-one-vote. Now, it would seem, that that was a lie .... [The] new ward boundary lines [are] a huge mistake, politically and ethically. ... It is both politically unsavory and intellectually bankrupt [etc.]" (7/10 @ 9:09 PM).

      Next you stated that "I should not have said that I was told that petition did not include any ward boundary rewriting [sic]" (7/11, @ 4:23).

      Later still you admitted that you "recall very distinctly saying that [you] had many reservations about that graphic [the proposed boundary map]" (7/12 @ 4:29).

      Now you seek to clarify the above contradictions by stating that your vitriol is "aimed at the petition, [and] not its advocates."

      So, the petition bearer is a liar, but it's only the petition which is being unethical and not the people who wrote it.

      To your first assertion that you were "assured that [the petition] did not include any ward boundary rewriting," someone took the time to explain to you that "the title of the petition appears in bold at the top, in all caps:


      "Further down the page, in the center, the ballot initiative is named: A LOCAL LAW TO AMEND THE BOUNDARIES OF THE WARDS OF THE CITY OF HUDSON AND VOTING PROCEDURE OF ITS COMMON COUNCIL."

      In reply, and without acknowledging any of your previous misrememberings, suddenly you were able to recall saying at the time that you were signing the petition because of its title, and the title of the ballot initiative, "and not because of the redrawn boundaries in the accompanying map" (7/12 @ 4:29).

      Are you sure that all of these misunderstandings were caused by the petition-bearer's lie? Because frankly, none of it is believable by anyone.

      My advice is to just apologize and move on.


  12. I am one of the members of the Fair & Equal team and we have spent many hours on the very issues that Mr. Meyer has raised. I would encourage Mr. Meyer to spend some reviewing our website http://weightedvote.info where we address all of those questions. If Mr. Meyer had taken the time to do so, he would have found a page on the site called How We Created Wards of Equal Population http://weightedvote.info/how-we-created-wards-of-equal-population/ which includes, for instance, this paragraph:

    "Census blocks are delineated geographic areas established by the US Government. The US Census, conducted every ten years, indicates how many people live within each block. It also provides data on age and racial composition within each block. We relied on this census data to create wards of equal population and also used this data to protect “Communities of Interest” under the new ward boundaries. The racial demographics within each ward for the most part remain unchanged, although the percentage of minority representation in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th wards increases slightly."

    We, as a group, are now far more than "well-intentioned" on the subject of the weighted vote. We can answer virtually any question you have on the subject and are confident that we have followed the letter and spirit of the laws and best practices in drawing new boundaries. We will explain the process to you in as much as detail as you like, but set aside a good chunk of time. Afterwards, you will understand that no oxen were gored in the creation of the new map. The simple fact is everyone would be equally represented if the referendum passes--something that can not be said now.

    Finally, the team is acutely aware that we are all neighbors and will be after people vote in November. That sensitivity has been a central part of the process at every step.

    We encourage you and anyone else who is following this discussion to go to our website http://weightedvote.info/ and take the deep dive. And we welcome your questions, large or small: contact@weightedvote.info.

    Charlie Suisman

  13. Mr. Suisman's comment is appreciated, but all too familiar: how many times does one hear, "if Mr. Meyer had taken the time" to get educated.... That's part of the problem. Democracy and public service in the interests of democracy is about reaching out to ensure public education and the public good -- not to lay down some line in the sand and dare people to cross it. As I have said many times, I don't doubt that Mr. Suisman and his colleagues have done some research and believe in the righteousness of their cause. But to lecture people about their duty to get educated is something else. I see it differently: it is up to Mr. Suisman and his colleagues to get folks educated. when I first went to the site he recommends I found no names of anyone who were behind this petition. Not a good sign. I go there now and it's the same: not a single name on the entire site. "How We Created Wards of Equal Population" is page without a single referene to who the "We" are. Absolutely ridiculuous. I could be missing something here, but this is about as undemocratic an initiative as you can get: we have no idea who is behind this thing. ---p

  14. I'm sorry, Mr. Meyer. We seem to be living in parallel universes. No one is daring you to cross any lines. No one is demanding you get educated. We have offered our help in educating anyone with an interest in the subject. We have created a website that allows people to do so at their leisure. You seem to be particularly interested in the who, rather than what. The what is plainly at your disposal. As for the who, we invite you to talk with us, ask us questions, review the website, look deeply at the proposal. If the who is so much greater than the what, come meet with any or all of us. You are invited. You wrote that "words matter. As do facts." We have offered the facts. We have offered the tools. We have offered to meet. I don't know how we can do more than that.

    1. Thanks, Generous, but as a journalist I am constitutionally incapable of trusting anonymous sources. It is doubly ironic in this case to have anonymous sources create a document about a fundamental issue of democratic governance, no matter how smart or well-intentioned. They are indeed parallel universes, but in this case, on this issue, they should not be. Yes, it's a process objection, but democracy is nothing if not a process. As a citizen of Hudson I'm certainly not about to turn over the decision to rewrite ward boundaries to unelected and anonymous people.... Having said that, I do want to apologize for my early inflammatory language. I do appreciate the efforts of the F&E folks, whoever you are, and do hope for a good outcome when the voters vote. And I especially appreciate the forum provided by Gossips. thanks, -pm

  15. Good Morning,

    As someone who has always posted on TGOR blog under her own name, but has at times been. . .
    well, I'll use the word "reprimanded" by faceless people using "creative" handles, I agree with Mr. Meyer.

    Since history is a huge passion among TGOR's readers and posters, here is some Hudson history: it was not that long ago, when local housing issues were front and center, whether it was housing managed by then, a TRULY not-for-profit agency, a Public Housing Authority, or housing managed by a private sector developer.

    EVERY single time I was stopped in CVS, a grocery store parking lot, THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE, on Warren Street, I was alternately grilled and chastised about "who" was in what meeting. "Names! We want names!" "Who was there?" "Why was So-and-so there?" "Whose idea was that?" "What do you mean you don't know who was there?" "What are you people hiding?"

    These people however, weren't wearing masks - I could look them in the eye, when responding. Sometimes, rational conversations were had, and people went away feeling as though their concerns had been heard, their questions answered right then and there, or I contacted them later with additional data. Many times, people just wanted to vent and spew, name call and accuse, then storm away without the benefit of waiting for an answer. In their "open" minds, EVERY SINGLE process in Hudson was shrouded in secrecy, leading to EVERY SINGLE outcome labelled illegitimate or corrupt.

    Interesting how times and mindsets have changed.

    No doubt I'll be taken to task by people who will not sign under their own names, and who tell me my experiences either didn't happen, aren't relevant to this particular discussion, or that I don't understand, or don't get it.

    I know John Friedman. He uses his own name in person and when posting. And not just because he's a public official. He acknowledges people on the street. He doesn't hide.

    Here's a question that will elicit howls of laughter in some quarters, will probably be described as childish or ridiculous in others, but no doubt the replying tone will be snarky:

    Would it be okay, if we were starting our country today, in 2016, for the writers of the Declaration of Independence to use handles, instead of their real names? Would everybody be good with that?

    And yes, I fully understand the difference in magnitude of the two documents. It's a theoretical question.

    Now, I'll wait for, not a thoughtful response regarding the secrecy of those who volunteered time and talent, but the usual incoming.

    Again, interesting how times and mindsets have changed.

    1. To "Unknown":

      As someone who's reported veiled threats found in Gossips comments to the HPD, I think I'll hold onto my handle, thank you very much. (It's probably time to change it, too, though I'm also interested in my neighbors knowing who's posting.)

      Otherwise, in a small community with relatively low social-connectedness, we trust the moderator with the wholly unidentified comments above, that they are consistent with the latest Gossips policy:


      Next, please consider something which has already occurred to some readers, that this latest obsession with naming names - though not altogether misplaced - has totally supplanted any discussion about the content of the Fair and Equal proposal.

      In this way, your anonymous comment assists the opponents of Fair and Equal, which may be the purpose of the comment. It further distracts us from a discussion about the proposal which is based on its merits.

      Normally, to be fair and equal, I'd have added the word "demerits" to the end of that sentence. In this case, however, I refuse to do so before opponents of the Fair and Equal proposal offer their first reasonable argument against the plan; i.e., in response to the proposal's content alone.

      After weeks of discussing this subject at Gossips in threads which show a gradual development to this newest distraction, I'd hope that reasonable people will not suddenly relent, and dignify the latest obsession with identities before the content of the Fair and Equal proposal is ever addressed.

      So far, whether at Gossips or in The Register-Star, any opposition that I've seen to Fair and Equal - and to fairness and equality themselves - boils down to some variety of insinuated calumny. That's not a debate; it's maliciousness in reasonable-sounding clothing.

      If you don't want to announce your identity, then good for you. But whether you intend it or not, that discussion is a distraction from the difficult job of solving Hudson's insane voting system.

      Whoever worked out this proposal (and I had nothing to do with it), was "wicked smart," to quote a fellow poster here.

      My motto is "Best Idea Wins," but that requires our engagement with actual ideas. (Conspiracies are poor substitutes for ideas.)

      So far in this discussion, the only ideas I've seen are from the folks at Fair and Equal.

  16. If the silence means anything, then we have our answer. The opposition to the Fair and Equal proposal was never about ideas, but about personalities.

    Whether in comments at Gossips, or in the one story which appeared in The Register-Star, the complaints we've seen so far fail to engage the proposal itself, and by now focus only on personalities.

    This is because demagoguery always needs a villain, and good-versus-evil scenarios (e.g., so-and-so "lied" and then "turned himself in," the proposal is "unethical," etc).

    Gauging from the excitement generated above, such accusations, even when made on the flimsiest of pretexts, can easily hamstring an elegant solution to a complex issue.

    But if it's easy to whip up conspiratorial-seeming diversions, in the end there's no substitute for real ideas. Real ideas are hard work, and for those who see the City's weighted voting system as a problem, a considerable level of expertise is required to solve it.

    The Common Council was obviously not up to the task, as demonstrated by its inaction, and no other group has been able to crack the nut.

    And so we come to the Fair and Equal proposal, and our current opportunity to discuss it.

    Already it appears we've discovered an unwritten rule of this debate, which is that anyone who aims to tear down the admirable achievement of the Fair and Equal group had better know what they're talking about.

    The information is readily available, so let's have a look at the actual content of the proposal and then discuss that. (I know, what a crazy suggestion.)

  17. Thank you, "Unknown," for what the kind words.

    I don't know why the members of the F&E committee aren't listed. For the record, I am a member of that committee, and I hope the committee publishes its membership roster sooner rather than later.

    But I'm curious when a group of citizens getting together to discuss perceived governmental problems became undemocratic? When did it become undemocratic for that group of people to devise and then publicize their ideas to their fellow citizens? How, pray tell, can this be inherently wrong? Isn't what the F&E committee did the exercise of core First Amendment rights? And, if not, how were the Federalist Papers?

    While I'm at it, I'll admit to being further confused by the negative implication associated with the F&E committee's attempts to educate the electorate (and the rest of the population) about what the weighted vote it, how it (doesn't) work, and how our proposal will solve some problems without exacerbating others. When did a grass roots, public outreach education program become, inherently, a bad thing? Are we using any subliminal messaging? No (you'll have to take my word for that but I know you will because . . . wink, wink). Are we making any wild claims or even presenting anything we say without citation to authority and evidence? I don't think so, at least not as to anything material about the system itself and how we propose to change it. Indeed, recent history shows that many voters don't understand the existing system, how it differs from the system used by every other (!) American jurisdiction, and how it can be replaced.

    Well, I'm confused by lots of other things, too, but I think I'll leave it there for today.

    1. Admittedly, until now I didn't actually know you were a formal member of the F&E group, though I know you are an ardent supporter.

      We spar on many issues, but in this matter we're in agreement.

      And for those who seem a bit obsessed with names and identities, I'm glad you mentioned The Federalist Papers, which were published pseudonymously.

  18. Last month Mr. Meyer posted a comment asking "Do we know who has started this 'grassroots' campaign?" I congratulate him for his consistency, if not his memory.

    The owner of The Gossips of Rivertown replied:

    "As I understand it, plans for the campaign originated with Hudson FORWARD. Those who have been working on this campaign [over] the past several months include Kevin Hannan, Ted Gramkow, Don Moore, Peter Frank, Steve Dunn, Bob Rasner, Charlie Suisman, and Beth Kanaga. There may be others I'm overlooking."

    I heard these names introduced at the group's formal presentation.

    It's regrettable if the participants were never mentioned elsewhere (possibly they were, and why wouldn't they be?), but the list provided by Gossips was a good start for anyone who was really interested.

    Overlooked contributors, if any, were easily discovered in the ensuing month.

    1. If Mr. Friedman's part is only known to me now, that's because I didn't care to learn about anything other than the idea itself.

      It's always the best idea which should win.

  19. Again, we have this question of whose responsibility it is to come clean. Yes, of course, the smart ones among us (including Gossips readers) can certainly find out who is behind F&E, extending the ample history of insiders ruling. But the fact remains, the F&E website has none of that information and that is telling. Certainly, if it were a site devoted to the ocean currents off the coast of Bali, I would not be writing about it. But as this group is drawing lines through my back yard, I certainly want to know who they are. If I were King of Hudson, I would order them to divulge. But I am just a citizen voter expressing my opinion. And, for better or worse, in a democracy where opinions matter as much as FACTS (stupid people have vote too!), well, that is my opinion. I don't have the obligation to do what the F&E folks should do and spread their names about. They are pushing this thing; they want my vote, they have to earn it. If they think other voters don't care, God bless them, don't announce themselves. The nice thing about these political questions is that they get resolved at the ballot box. Maybe they're right, Hudson is a community that doesn't care who the authors of the Declaration of Indepednence are. cheers, peter meyer

    1. And when the shady authors "come clean," and you've achieved this great accomplishment, will you then take the time to find out what this is all about?

      You know, you could've just gone to a presentation, or established your own dialogue with any of the people named by CO. You could have explained to the group why this is so important to you, and taken a more constructive role.

      Instead, and without understanding the issue, you did your best to smash their hard work to pieces. You grandiosely impugned some very decent neighbors, just to prove the point that they'd overlooked announcing themselves to your satisfaction.

      I see no justification for your actions, when other, more neighborly means were available.

  20. The campaign team is now shown here: http://weightedvote.info/who-we-are/

    Worth noting that F&E is growing and is much larger than this team. Every petitioner, canvasser, and supporter is part of it. That said, if it builds trust to publicly list our names, that is easy enough to do. Thank you for the suggestion.

    1. Thanks, Kevin. This is a great start to making this the democratic process that it should be. We can't have Fair & Equal without honesty and transparency. Good luck.

      --peter m.