Thursday, May 7, 2009

A sad day for New Paltz and a happy day for democracy

Brian Kimbiz, write-in candidate for the Village Board, has just usurped Pete Healey by 1 vote in a recount.

I've been arguing with people for weeks on the merit of write-in candidacies, while they constantly dismissed the possibility of a write-in victory, instead choosing to sidle up to candidates who are on the ballot, insisting that they WILL be our new trustees. That's how our system works. It's democracy.

For those of us that support the elimination of unnecessarily restrictive and convoluted election laws, student participation and an open electoral process, this is a victory.

For those of us who want improvements for our community, progress and restructuring, and checks and balances for a terminally ill government, this is devastating.

Many of us fall into both categories and that might help explain why it all makes me so nauseous.

I have long been an advocate for student participation in local politics. I have also been a strong advocate for write-in campaigns, as I believe the arbitrary rules governing ballot access and the petitioning process are pointless and unnecessary. Being able to jump through a few hoops doesn't qualify someone to hold office; being unfamiliar with the silly process shouldn't disqualify someone from being a valid candidate. There are, however, many situations where the write-in candidate is not only incapable of jumping through those silly hoops but is also a horrendous candidate. This is the case with Brian Kimbiz.

We all remember the Julia Walsh fiasco and many of us cringe when thinking back to the horribly misguided decision we made in the voting booth on May 6, 2003. Did our community survive? Absolutely. Was it a painful, miserable and frustrating experience? Extremely so. Is it something I believe we can weather again, especially considering the existing board makeup? I am doubtful. Could it be worse? It pains me to say it, but yes. And it gets worse right now.

On the Brian Kimbiz for Village Board Facebook group, Brian proudly proclaimed,

"THE NEW PALTZ VILLAGE BOARD ELECTIONS IS MAY 5TH."

(is May 5th??)

He continues...

"THE BOARD IS COMPOSED OF 6 MEMBERS, THE MAYOR, DEPUTY MAYOR, AND FOUR TRUSTEES."

(6 members?? Really??)

Wait, there's plenty more...

"DESPITE THE FACT THE STUDENT POPULATION IS ABOUT 6,000, EQUAL TO OR GREATER THAN THE NUMBER OF VILLAGE RESIDENTS, WE HAVE NO REPRESENTATION ON A BOARD THAT HANDLES EVERY DECISION IN THE VILLAGE, THE VILLAGE WE ALL LIVE IN."

(VONP Population in 2000 census: 6,034. SUNY New Paltz student population in 2007: ~2,000. Sigh.)

"CURRENTLY THE MAYOR AND THE BOARD ARE WORKING TO MAKE RENTING HOUSES OFF CAMPUS IMPOSSIBLE FOR STUDENTS BY PASSING LEGISLATION THAT WOULD LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT CAN LIVE IN ONE HOME."

(Um... wow, I have NO idea where that came from but... huh???)

So I guess we can all agree that Trustee Kimbiz certainly needs to be schooled in New Paltz 101 (grammar and proper use of caps lock may also be added to his courseload). But, to be fair, perhaps we should also consider where he stands on the issues.

From his New Paltz Green Party Questionnaire, on his priorities:

"I also feel like new development of homes and commerce is very important in and around the Village of New Paltz. The decisions that are made now have long term effects down the road. This means that any new additions to this town should go through the highest scrutiny before any decisions are made. I believe one of the greatest things about New Paltz is the size and membership of its citizens. Also housing situations concerning tenants, landlords, students, and most importantly home-owners need to be carefully considered. Housing conditions, zoning laws, taxes, health issues, among many other things needs mediated in order to create the best community for all of its members."

Wha...? Also, I tend to be a bit of a bitch when it comes to the interchangeable use of Town/Village. When I'm talking with a friend, it's just obnoxious and picky. When it comes to a Village Trustee, I think my annoyance is justified. (Throughout his in-person interview, Brian continued to talk about his vision for the Town Board and his commitment to serving on the body, so as to improve "stuff" in the Town of New Paltz. Members on the interview committee were actually becoming confused as to which office he was seeking.)

When it came to questions about specific issues, Trustee Kimbiz rarely had an answer. At one point, a member of the interview committee questioned his decision to run for an office that he clearly knows little about. Trustee Kimbiz' response was that he would like to get elected first, then learn about the issues and develop positions and opinions later. He saw no reason to understand the intricacies of concerns facing our community until after he was actually elected. He has, however, "watched Town Board meetings on TV a coupla times."

Some highlights on those local issues:

What is your position on Town and Village Unification?

At this moment I do not have a position on the unification of the Village and Town. I will have to better hear both sides of the issue.

What steps will you take to improve current tenant/landlord relationships as well as the current housing situation in general? 
 


I think I can be a great lesion between tenants/landlords. Being that I am a tenant I feel safe housing conditions are very important. 
 


What will you do to ameliorate current traffic problems?

 


I am not sure but I believe either making more roads, or increasing flow on certain roads are both bad ideas.

Could you describe your fiscal philosophy?
 
 
 


I believe government should provide services that the community desires at the best price possible, however I also think high taxes are bad, so money must be effectively directed to the things that serve the community best.

What will you do to improve the relationships between SUNY and municipal governments? 
 
 


I am again a perfect liaison between the two. I would be coming from the SUNY (working as Senate Vice-Chair) to the other.

What concrete steps do you plan to take to increase transparency in your office and make it easier for the public to participate in the governing process?
 
 


I want to use the Internet as a huge resource in staying connected to me. I think this can be so beneficial as it makes access to me almost instant. My email goes straight to my phone. Aside from that I plan to have a web forum where the public can see my day-to-day work for them and even respond. I think my tech savvy can have a large influence on getting very close to me.


You can't make this stuff up, people. And, honestly, I don't know why anyone would want to. You can read Trustee Kimbiz' full questionnaire at the New Paltz Greens website.

As for the future, we can expect that the Dungan/Gallucci reign will continue with rather catastrophic consequences. We can expect that without Trustees Zierler and Healey, the maniacal schemes of these individuals will magnify unchecked. We can expect that Village employees will continue their work, except this time without allies or security. We can expect that there will be no progress, no open communication and no innovation.

And, if my assessment is correct, we can expect that Julia Walsh can finally pass the "Worst VONP Trustee" legacy onto Trustee Kimbiz. Congratulations, New Paltz. We get the government that we deserve.

21 comments:

  1. Have democratic elections been reduced to a popularity contest?

    And why is it always the dumb kids that are the most popular?

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that a professional editor and writer is being replaced. Some may think you're holding Brian to too high a standard by expecting him to have mastered written English at his tender age (obviously the college doesn't care), but the ability to organize and formulate thoughts is really important to communication. Our mayor is strong in this regard but often comes up short in person; Brian may be the opposite but I am concerned about adding someone with communication issues to a board that already is saddled with problems in that department.

    However, Brian is the man, and he's not going to improve without support. He'll be here longer than most of his voters will be, so let's make the best of it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Let me know after you've tried to have a few conversations with Kimbiz. I'm not sure that there are even words interspersed between the "like"s and "totally"s. Sadly, in the communication arena, the written word is his far greater attribute when being compared to speech.

    As for outlasting his voters, I give him six months. If he finishes his term without quitting or being kicked out of office, I vow to never weigh in on New Paltz Politics again.

    ReplyDelete
  4. And, seriously? This kid is a graduate and student leader. Ugh, it makes me want to return my SUNY NP degree. What an embarrassment.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, if you encourage write-ins then this is what you get, someone too stupid to figure out the simple rules for getting on the ballot. Why are so many people so opposed to these rules? They're not that hard. And they are fair because they're the same for all. Jumping through these large and low hoops shows that at the least your interest in the job goes beyond twittering to your friends, "write me in, dude!". Now we have a fucking idiot with a direct hand in running the village. People with idiotic ideas are on thing, idiots with no ideas are another. He's clearly the latter. I am glad, however, that we can now all call a spade a spade without being automatically labeled "anti student."

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't know about this kid, from the college. You know, people like that, they come down in the village, sneak in the back door of an election, and before you know it they launch secret plans to alter the course of Western civilization for their own self-aggrandizement, become famous and make a lot of money off it, and then when anyone speaks out against them, they are called, what's that phrase, "hate-filled bigots," or something like that. Yeah, watch this kid, he could poison the water, or redefine the meaning of free speech, or something. Plus there's the grammar problem.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Ugh, it makes me want to return my SUNY NP degree. What an embarrassment."


    Hey, come on, the kid just opened a big ole can of whoop-ass. They threw him off the ballot, he organized a write-in campaign. He lost the first count by a few votes, asked nicely for a recount, and won by a vote. He showed spine, fiber.

    Not only that but he outpolled the future Commandante of the Cuban People (when Fidel finally dies, as he must), Jason West, by nearly 4 to 1. Spine, I say, the kid has spine.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Even snakes have spines. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. This kid is out to Destroy New Paltz. If he gets his way who will pay the taxes needed for all the things he wants. The landlords certainly won't, but the student block busting will continue until thet force all the middle class people oot

    ReplyDelete
  10. Whatever anonymous wrote the above comment not only has some very strange ideas about college kids (most of us were once idealistic college kids too!), but has more grammar problems than Mr. Kimbiz, oy. That's saying a lot.

    Also, Billy: I don't know the specifics of Brian's petition process, and I am not above calling him stupid, for I fear he truly is. However, it's a policy in this town for certain parties to challenge all petitions as a way of intimidating third and no-party candidates. Brian maintains that there were only tiny errors (I believe he said missing dates?) on his petitions.

    Also: just because one student is ridiculously unqualified to serve on the Town Board doesn't mean that it's OK to say that no students should ever be a part of running this town, which is what most villagers seem to believe. I'm a townie myself, and I'd love to see more students active in local politics---even if it creates a repeat Jason West scenario. Jason's victory was a great leap forward for democracy (as is, yuck, Brian's, you're right Brittany), and he had some great ideas. The execution of them wasn't always elegant, that's for sure, but it doesn't mean no students should ever run again.

    Emily: when weren't elections popularity contests???

    Martin: your comment is ridiculous.

    If I were Brian I would be working on shaking my head clear of the pot fumes and cramming like hell, because I'm sure not going to be the only one crowded into the next VB meeting to see just how much of an ass he will make of himself.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Which comment? The watch them city slickers from the college comment with the broad allusion to Commandate (in waiting) West, or the can of whoop-ass comment in which Fidel is mentioned?

    Either way, you must understand sublimation as a literary device, the restraint on saying what you really think, which is too blunt for the delicate moment.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yea yea, sublimation, woo. Take a hot shower there, Mr. McPhillips! Don't get all Nietzsche on us, say what you mean, right winger! The better to take you down in good haste.

    Or: the better to agree. Because since Jason West describes his political views as "Radical Populist, possibly Benevolent Monarchist," (I am not making that up!) I think you're pretty much spot on with the Castro allusion. (Insert standard lefty half-hearted defense of Castro here, with requisite mention of organic farming and self-sufficiency...blah blah)

    No, it seems to me that "when anyone speaks out against them, they are called, what's that phrase, "hate-filled bigots," or something like that." is baiting people who, well, hate hate-filled bigots. But maybe you were being highly, highly arch and are making fun of crazy right wing bigots who take exception to having their spades called as such. I'll choose to believe that. I'm not calling you a bigot, by the way. If you would open comments on your blog I'd take a day off from work and have some fun with the word, but I'll be nice on Brittany's blog.

    I've got to get back to chocolate, but one more thing: not that I'm a JW defender or anything, but if you're trying to say that he made a lot of money off his fameball, my sources (=emails from JW begging for housepainting work) tell me you are completely off base. Just FYI, in the interest of making your critiques as precise as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  13. OK, so "begging" wasn't accurate. "Inquiring about housepainting work" would be better. Since I'm the one harping on precision.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Lagusta and Martin are both right. Jason did make money off of his "fameball." That money is also long gone. You fill in the blanks.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Lagusta – “Brian maintains that there were only tiny errors (I believe he said missing dates?) on his petitions.”

    Yeah. I guess the 45 unregistered people on his forms didn’t matter. Or the addresses from Albany, Kingston, Staten Island, Marlboro and Montgomery. Or that the election board determined he wasn’t even a registered New Paltz voter when he completed and turned in the forms. I’m really not kidding. I just found out it says that. But nah. Probably had nothing to do with it. Just some missing dates and “the wrong color ink” like he said in the April 9 New Paltz Times. The wrong color ink? Are you serious? Hasn't anyone else requested a copy of this ruling? We’ve been conned.

    ReplyDelete
  16. "Jason's victory was a great leap forward for democracy...."

    Really, Lagusta? Really? How so? Jason won thanks to a three-way race that split the "traditional" Democratic vote. Four years later, with only two candidates (I'm forgetting Jonathan Cohen, which always makes me fell better) the outcome was that Terry effectively got the combined votes that had gone to Nyquist and Feldman and Jason got what he'd got and picked up, I beleive, less than a hundred new votes despite his supposedly revolutionary politics and rallying the students.

    Democracy in New Paltz comes down to whichever constituency gets caught napping in a particular election. This year it was the green/liberal contingent who thought their man Healy was safe and that they could maybe have some fun with write-ins and maybe capture the second seat. It backfired. You took votes from your own guy. Now we'll all pay the price.

    As Anonymous suggests above, Kimbiz's petition, had it been validated, would have amounted to condoning election fraud. But still people talk as if challenging it was anti-democratic and part of some grand conspiracy.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Billy, WTF are you talking about?

    The students didn't carry the 3 candidates in 2003. The student participation was essentially the same as it is any other year, until now. The Innovation Campaign was successful because of their ground operation and the 3-way split between Nyquist/Feldman/West. 2003 was NOT decided by students; I've gone over the numbers at length.

    This is the first election that was truly swayed by the student vote. When considering the turnout, the percentage of students this year was higher. I've gone over the names of those who voted and cross-checked the numbers; it is very obvious that most people voting for either Healey, Kimbiz or O'Donnell bullet voted. There is very little crossover and in the instances where this did occur, it was primarily dual votes with non-Kimbiz write-in candidates as the second selection.

    Healey doesn't characterize himself as a Green or a Liberal, and the Greens and Liberals certainly don't have a universal position of support. The people voting for Kimbiz were most certainly NOT Healey voters (or O'Donnell voters, for that matter); no one was "having some fun" with the write-ins, except maybe the students.

    The one undeniable fact right now is that no one was "taking" votes from anyone. Each candidate had a very clearly defined constituency and voters tended to vote for only one candidate. The numbers back this up.

    Challenging petitions for the sake of challenging petitions IS undemocratic and obnoxious. The whole process is undemocratic. And there is nothing that precludes idiots from seeking elective office; we got rid of literacy tests and property ownership requirements long ago, and petitioning should be similarly eliminated. If a complete moron wants to run for office, it is that persons right as a citizen. It is up to the VOTERS to refrain from choosing a dancing monkey to represent them in office. The voters dropped the ball.

    Look at the turnout and see who was missing. Local officials, elected and appointed, and community leaders were noticeably absent from the rolls. Shari Osborn, Don Kerr, almost everyone from the Planning and Zoning Boards didn't vote. These people have a vested interest and were still sleeping on the job. If people don't take the civic duty of voting seriously, then they deserve what they get.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yo, anonymous, thanks for the info. I don't in any way want to be a Kimbiz defender, but I don't want to see him unfairly slandered, when there is so much to fairly slander him for!

    Billy, Brittany addressed your points much better than I ever could.

    I wouldn't in any way say that Pete Healey is the "Greens' man." As Brittany said, he's not a Green, and he has done a lot to make Greens mad, in fact. I've been pretty angry at him in the past for political reasons, but we talked it out, like all smart people do, and I'm happy to say he's now a pal of mine. I'm a Green, but that doesn't mean he's a pal of all the Greens.

    ReplyDelete
  19. WTF are you talking about?
    I never claimed that the students put Jason in office. It was the fact that Feldman split what otherwise would have been Nyquist's support. Go back and look at what I wrote. My point is that in 2007, Jason's significant efforts on campus yielded little if anything in the way of fresh student support. In 2003, he was a relative unknown. Four years later, he was very well known and yet only saw a relatively small increase in support among students or anyone else.

    Frankly, do you think voters are served when there is absolutely no requirement for getting on the ballot? That's ridiculous. Comparing a petition to literacy tests and property ownership requirements is ridiculous. Any idiot is free to run, but even an idiot can get some signatures on a petition.

    And, yes, the students had a big impact on this election, but considering the pathetic turnout, that's not saying much.

    ReplyDelete
  20. And how is the petition requirement undemocratic? it's like this received wisdom for some people that because that's the way "the establishment" wants it, it must be a sinister, undemocratic plot. Is it undemocratic to say that only adults can run for office. Or that only residents of a particular village can run for office in that village? You seem to think that only a system that allows completely unfettered access to the ballot is truly democratic. Rules are fine as long as they're not arbitrary and apply equally to all. Petitions meet those requirements.

    ReplyDelete
  21. thanks for this awesome web page, i like it alat bantu sex because the article is very unique and easy to understand

    ReplyDelete