Thursday, April 28, 2005

Lincoln City Council Race

Last month we reported the results of the primary election for three Lincoln City Council seats. We were disappointed in the sparse turnout, just 19.3%, with contentious issues at stake and plenty of red ink in the budget. Oddly enough, that beat the Omaha primary turnout by 3 points.

Next Tuesday is the general election with incumbents Terry Werner (D) and Ken Svoboda (R) vying with Dan Marvin (D), Shawn Traudt (R), Robin Eschliman (R), and Mark Koller (R) for three at-large spots. Each voter can cast votes for up to 3 of the 6 candidates. Ironically, the strong Republican showing in the primary (they got 60% of the votes cast and 4 of the 6 spots) may work against them in the next round. Straight ticket voters on the Republican side must leave off one Republican, while their Democratic counterparts can vote for both Democrats.

Differentiating the candidates can be tough, as they all want to be centrists/moderates in the eyes of the public. A proposal was floated last week to spend millions of dollars that are not available to build an arena, and all six candidates had the same basic position. You could summarize them all as: interesting idea, but we'll have to think of where we would get the money. One can parse the nuances of their quotes to try to divine who is really thinking, "There's no freakin' way we can pay for this even if we wanted to," and who is thinking, "Well, we could raise taxes on ..."

Fortunately, as reported in the Lincoln Journal Star, a local neighborhood association, the Neighborhood Alliance, has graded the candidates. Besides proving that "non-partisan" is not the same as "non-ideological," the survey also provides a valuable measure of the candidates based on their responses to a questionaire:
While the Neighborhood Alliance doesn't endorse candidates, it hopes voters will take a look at its grades when they go to the polls next week. The group took pains to explain it is nonpartisan and used an unbiased process to develop the report card, but the only two candidates who earned As were the two Democratic candidates, Terry Werner and Dan Marvin.
Details of the questions and the candidates answers were not available, but:
"We think that fixing sidewalks is not a Democratic or Republican issue," said Michael Cornelius, another board member of the Neighborhood Alliance.

However, the questionnaire went well beyond sidewalks.

It awarded points based on support for everything from creating neighborhood police substations to burying power lines, adopting design standards, clamping down on dilapidated buildings and junked cars, downzoning neighborhoods and banning upholstered furniture on porches.

Candidates were also asked several questions about how much developers should pay for growth.

They were dinged if they didn't support existing impact fees and an expansion of impact fees for power, schools, fire and police protection. The city of Lincoln began charging impact fees in 2003 to help pay for infrastructure costs associated with new development.

Candidates were also rewarded points if they agreed new development should pay "a significant share" of initial infrastructure and school, fire and police services to the development.
The results were telling:
  • Terry Werner(D): A
  • Dan Marvin(D): A
  • Shawn Traudt(R): B
  • Ken Svoboda(R): C
  • Robin Eschliman(R): C
  • Mark Koller(R): D
We are pleased to say that we voted for Mr. Koller in the first round, and our faith in him is clearly justified. He has definitely earned our vote for next Tuesday. Ms. Eschliman continues to build on her strong showing in the primary, and Mr. Svoboda again shows why he is such a formidable candidate.

We congratulate and thank the Neighborhood Alliance for producing such a useful tool. It's a welcome break from the normal routine, wherein Terry Werner alternately trumpets that he's proud to run on his record and cries, "dirty politics," when his record is actually presented to the voters by the Republicans.

UPDATE: Gunscribe also has a post on the election on his blog, From the Heartland.

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