Thursday, April 24, 2014

Distressing disenfranchisement

I received a sad email the other day. It depressed me for two reasons.

The email was from our Town Center Village office notifying us about voting in this weekend's election for Columbia Association Board & Village Board. Our village board has 2 spaces & 2 candidates, so that's not a factor as they both win.

But our incumbent, Suzanne Waller, does have an opponent. I'll refer you to my friend Bill over at the 53 for a quick basis on why not to vote for said opponent. Her opposition to the Inner Arbor plan is disheartening. She is in that camp of Columbia regressives who assign conspiracy theories to all land use discussions. "Let's keep Symphony Woods the same as it is where the only use is Wine in the Woods & people walking through it to Merriweather Post." For an analysis of the campaign rally, I mean, Save Symphony Woods shenanigan last Saturday, check out Julia's post.

That's not exactly what distressed me though. The numbers did.

Don't quote me because I deleted the email after I did what I was supposed to...Vote.

As of late last week, less than 140 ballots had been received. The mailer had gone out - it's free, postage paid! - so I found it in my mail pile, signed & sent it back.

But the second piece of disheartening news was the reminder that the quorum for Town Center is 10% & that equates to about 215 votes. (Voting is by unit, not person.)

Isn't it sad that we've allowed people to give up? At some point, years ago, our village boards decided these little quorums were enough. We've accepted the possibility, no, the absolute probability of apathy. Or that the pursuit of happiness is greater than affirming our liberty.

In 2010, Frank Hecker noted that 20% of Howard County residents are independent/unaffiliated. This is depressing because that means they've signed themselves up for only the general election. I can understand certain professions where that's advisable & common.

Nobody realizes how few people were allowed to vote when our supposed "democracy" began. White male property owners basically. Getting the right to vote was a privilege! Why do we not recognize that anymore? Why do so many ignore the elections that determine so much about their lives?

Don't disenfranchise yourself - it takes 1 minute to vote in Town Center's election. Check the box, sign & seal. (Alright, given Columbia's community mailbox system, it may take 3 minutes.) Vote in your Democratic or Republican primary - Early Voting is June 12 - 19 this year, including the weekend! Take advantage of your freedom to vote. I will!


Saturday, April 5, 2014

I'm just a girl in the world

I'm often found reading a book, waiting for my family at my favorite restaurant, which is somewhat exclusive. It's very small so if you don't have a reservation, you may be waiting for a while. If you do get a spot, then you should say Thank you & sit your derriere down. (Potentially printing that out & posting it at the door because it happens all the time...Oh, that's the only place available?)

I've written about it before in this very spot. But what happened this week really bothered me. Because I've gone through the same thing, many times.

Two gentlemen, over 50 based on stories I overheard, arrived at 5:15. I myself had not had a reservation, but I was perfectly content to hop up to our usual spot at the common table. It's well-lit, Lil does her homework there, I's our "thing." A female server came over to ask if I would slide down a seat, because that way she could slide in these 2 guys who were waiting for another person. I scowled a little, but accepted my loss of the end seat.

She told them she had nothing else available. They didn't believe her. Because at 5:15, the place was empty. But they have reservations starting at 6 PM, so the place would be full in 30-45 minutes with people who had known they should make reservations. She told them there was no flexibility because they had 2 large parties that night. She escorted them to the common table, laid down their menus and went away.

They didn't sit down. They stood there complaining...

"Last time, the owner's son was here. He got us a table."

Their server, a male of about the same age as the female server, came over to get them started with drinks. They asked him if he was the owner's son. He said no & they asked if he was there. Upon being told no, they explained their plight to him & he offered to help. He went over to the computer & came to the same conclusion. They argued with him & he said the same thing the female server had said. As this was going on for way too long & driving me nuts, I finally interjected "You're lucky to have a table. This place is really busy." One guy said "Really? Because I live around here."

Of course if he was a regular patron then he would know that I'm probably the most regular regular, the most consistent customer, the one who is there on most days of the week that end in "day."

They looked again at the male server & he reiterated the situation. Finally, they sat down.

But here's my thing - they didn't believe the female server & they didn't believe me. They wanted a man to help them out.

I have encountered this lack of credibility in my judgment before by men & sometimes even women. I worry about this for my daughter. It's tiring constantly being second-guessed. It's not that I don't appear confident or have the right resume. It's because I'm a girl. The only time I never felt like that professionally was when I worked for a company where the CFO was female. Although look how that turned out...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Homework - the upcoming CA elections

I often use Trip Advisor & post my own reviews. If I'm using the site & find it useful, I feel a bit obligated to note what reviews helped me plan a trip and contribute my experience. I worked for Marriott Corporate Finance during 2010. I was able to take advantage of the generous benefits of being a Marriott employee, but that meant (since I'm honest & scared of getting in trouble, which generally work well together) that I couldn't review any of the Marriott hotels. Obviously, not the biggest problem in the world, but I like giving kudos where kudos are due. To let a company know that a server/housekeeper/clerk/somebody exceeds expectations because I personally experienced that & they are a valuable asset.

Personal experience. My thought-out review that I discuss with others in my party. My honest opinion of the value of the experience. Whether I would return. My personal, you heard it from me, input.

So people know that my family likes to cruise, visit Walt Disney World & go to Europe. People ask us for advice often.

Hypothetical -

"Kirsty, has your family gone to Megalopolis?"

"It's HORRIBLE. Don't go."

"Oh, really, why? What happened to you?"

"I've never been there."

"Is crime high? Is it really expensive? Is it dirty? Is the food unsafe?"

"One person I spoke to 5 years ago said they don't have pickles."

"Really? That sounds sorta odd."

"Well, pickles are really important to him. How could he ever go to a place that doesn't have pickles?

"Um, ok. Did you talk to anyone else?"

"Another person said they heard you had to stand on a bus for a few minutes during rush hour."

"Hmm, I know someone else who went & they loved it."

"No, I've spoken to 2 people who hated it."

"But they haven't been there? Why don't you check it out for yourself?"

"No, why would I? Two people I met for a few minutes years ago said it was terrible. I thought I hated it anyway so I'm right."

Hopefully, you're seeing my point. Why would you rely on the expertise of someone who's never been there but listens to hearsay & takes it to heart?

MFS, a financial company, has the tagline - "There is no expertise without collaboration.SM"

I agree. But the collaborators have to have some background to bring to that conference table. Advisors also need to be willing to investigate both sides of the story & not keep blinders on to adhere to their predetermined opinion.

When you vote in the upcoming Columbia Association elections, whether for your village board or the overall council, ask if your candidate is willing to listen. Or have they made up their mind already? Do they have personal experiences or do they just listen to one constituency? Do they want to collaborate or do they want to demand change?

Do your homework - these elections matter in your daily life as you drive around Columbia. Make it count.