Friday, April 29, 2011

How to make politics boring


Bike guy Michael Sonn urged me in a comment to attend this forum (below in italics) next week. If I don't attend, he wants me to stop "bitching" about the city's anti-car policies on this blog, as if criticism and/or negative thinking aren't among the primary purposes of blogs, especially this one. 

Whoever wrote this calendar item for the Chronicle, like most groups that stage these events, apparently thinks this is the way to proceed: restrict the subject matter of the event to ensure that nothing meaningful---or, horror of horrors, anything negative---can possibly be said. A forum on "service"! Will any of the candidates oppose public service? Hard to imagine anyone even saying anything interesting on the subject. This approach drains the political process of interest and guarantees that the opposite of "exciting"---"boring" is the word I want---will be achieved. 

As a candidate I experienced this over the years. A favorite tactic: prevent people in the audience from directly asking the candidates questions.Instead make them write their questions on index cards so that the minder moderating the event can ensure that nothing of interest can come out of the process. Hard to say what these folks are afraid of, since politics is only interesting when there's a genuine conflict of ideas.

An evening featuring the candidates listed below can't possibly be "exciting." If they stray from the topic assigned by the milk monitors, or, even better, go out of their way to highlight their differences, the event might possibly be interesting. 

USF hosts exciting Mayoral Forum on service
Thursday, May 5, 6:00 pm
at University of San Francisco, CA
Price: FREE and open to the public
Phone: (415) 422-2697
Age Suitability:None Specified
USF’s Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good in partnership with BuildOn hosts special forum with San Francisco Mayoral candidates.
Modeled on the 2008 Presidential Candidate Forum on service, this forum will allow the mayoral candidates to address questions about the future of service and engagement in San Francisco. Participating candidates include: Michela Alioto-Pier, David Chiu, Bevan Duffy, Tony Hall, Dennis Herrera, Joanna Rees, Phil Ting and Leland Yee.

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10 Comments:

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Mikesonn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This post isn't about the "bike issue," Mike, but thanks for sharing your obsession. Why didn't City Hall put the issue on the ballot six years ago when we tried to warn them that they were making a mistake?

 
At 9:35 AM, Blogger Mikesonn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another comment from remedial reader Sonn. My comments on the Milk Monitor Syndrome at candidates's nights are inaccurate? Anyone who's either been a candidate or attended one of these over-organized affairs knows they are. The USF forum's announced topic is lame and irrelevant to the real problems facing San Francisco.

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger Mikesonn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The more you post comments here the dumber you seem. As I pointed out above, this post isn't about the bike nuts at all; it's about how timid people with good intentions poorly serve the politcal process by attempting to put such forums in a straitjacket.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger Mikesonn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're not only a lousy reader, but you can't even remember what you said in earlier comments. I didn't claim that you were trying to muzzle me; I just paraphrased what you said: "So stop bitching and get up there and enter the subject into the debate."

But it's naive/dumb to think that the candidates for Mayor of SF don't already know that traffic in SF is an issue. This morning's story in the Chronicle by Rachel Gordon, for example, especially when you consider that the city is already collecting $180 million from city drivers every year.

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger Mikesonn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

When you write "bitching," what you really mean is "criticism." That's one of the primary functions of blogs, Mike. You "disagree with everything" I say, but when pressed for specifics on the facts, you come up empty. You're convinced that you're right and I'm wrong, but never can close the sale intellectually.

I disagree that still more money must be extracted from city drivers, since they are already soaked for more than $180 million in parking tickets, parking fees, and parking meters. Even with all that money extracted from drivers, City Hall can't keep our streets decently paved.

Do you really think the candidates for mayor are waiting for me to introduce traffic in the city as a campaign issue? Do you think Chiu hasn't seen my open letter to him? As I pointed out, I sent it to the email address on his website.

 

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