Friday, February 8, 2013

Tweedledum and Tweedledummer

It’s been two weeks since I sent my email to “Dred Woodrow” and I haven’t received an answer, so I don’t think I ever will. Not that I expected the candidate himself to respond, but I did suspect a volunteer minion had been tasked with responding to questions by matching up the appropriate campaign boilerplate to each question in a way that might pass a Turing test.

This is the email I sent:

Dear Mr. Woodrow,
I have recently received some of your literature regarding your campaign for state representative, district 65.  I have some questions regarding issues and positions that I hope you can answer.
First of all, I see you voted against the new CATS bus tax. I understand that you want to prevent public money from being wasted, and I certainly respect that position. On the other hand, I worry about the ability of people who do not have their own transportation to be able to access jobs and medical care. I know you will not be facing this issue in the state legislature, since you probably agree with me that public transportation is best addressed at the municipal level, but can you explain why you voted against the tax, and what strategies you had for getting people without transportation to jobs and health care (or perhaps getting jobs and health care to those people?) Knowing your thinking on this matter will help me assess you as a candidate.
Secondly, I see you are pro-life. As you are probably aware, Louisiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Those are 2006 numbers, but the numbers haven’t changed much. I think this is a problem that can and should be addressed at the state level, and would like to know how you see yourself doing so.
Thank you for your time.
Perhaps my attempt to be polite and fair minded didn’t come across that way, I don’t know. I’m not impressed by not having received any kind of response.

The other candidate, as I mentioned in my last post, doesn’t even have an email address for his campaign. He has, however, reached out in his own way, with a newsletter styled mail-out with a big headline stating Conservative Choice. The newsletter is 8 pages long with nine articles about the campaign, his family and marriage, his business experience, plans, and why he is running. There are even mock ads, which are more statements from “Hussein Sumac” and his wife. It’s a slick idea, and it gives a lot of information.

All of it dreadful. Okay, most of it dreadful. For one thing, one headline reads “[Hussein Sumac]to Lead Big Fight Against Gun Control in State Legislature”. Of course, there is no gun control legislation being proposed in our state legislature. The legislation he is talking about is proposed Federal legislation, and he can’t do anything about that. He’s just grandstanding. At least, I hope he’s just grandstanding, because I’d hate to think he doesn’t really know the difference between the state and Federal government.

Another article is headlined, How My Experience as a Job-Creator Will Pay Off.  Here I have to say something good about Mr. Sumac. He has built a business that employs 200 employees and he is only in his early 30’s*. That is a decent accomplishment. I do take issue with his statement, “I have learned to create jobs - real, high-paying jobs in the private sector - not government jobs.” First of all, that job he is trying to get himself elected to, I don’t know how to break it to him, is a government job! It’s not a good idea to be condescending about a job you are applying for in what amounts to a job interview. It’s especially puzzling to see him dismiss government jobs as not real jobs and then turn around and say that he is running for office because “life is partly about giving back to the community.” (That was actually another headline.) Yes, we know, all those people holding government jobs feel like they are serving the community, too.

But our Mr. Sumac has some positive proposals to make. One of them is extending Hooper Road “across [the] Amite River to  Watson without imposition of tolls”.  Hooper Road is in the northern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish. Watson is in nearby Livingston Parish. (Parishes are our equivalent of counties.) The only ways to extend the road across parish lines is to 1) convince Livingston Parish to extend the road on their dime or 2) make it a state road. The state highway department is limited by law to the number of miles of road it can hold in each district. In order to add a state road, they have to demote an equivalent amount of roadway to a parish road or even private road. It can be done, but getting it done requires a lot of pull in the legislature, according to my source, who worked for DOTD for 30 years and loves to lecture me on obscure laws, usually when I’m trying to read. But maybe our boy has connections. Nope, here’s another headline: “Not Part of Good Ole Boy Network”. Good luck with that road.

What’s even more puzzling is his insistence on not using a toll to pay for the road. Supposedly Mr. Sumac is for balanced budgets and no new taxes. The state is already facing a shortfall. How do we pay for this new road? No headlines there.

And of course you have no doubt thought of my last point by now: building roads is a [dreaded] government job. Even though private contractors will be employed, government at either the state or parish level will be responsible for obtaining the land, awarding the contracts, inspecting the work and oh, yeah, paying for it.

I still don’t know who to vote for. I just wish I had a better choice than Tweedledum or Tweedledummer.

*His business has been described as supplying janitorial services to nuclear power plants. I suspect “janitorial services” in this context does not mean dusting and mopping. The picture he uses to illustrate his business article is a picture of a nuclear power plant. I can’t resist. “You didn’t build that!”

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