Thursday, February 03, 2005

Arcata Receptive to No Confidence Resolution

At the conclusion of Wednesday's Arcata City Council meeting, Councilmember Paul Pitino asked that the No Confidence Resolution be considered when the Council next meets on Feb. 16. Apparently this is sufficient to secure the resolution's place on the agenda.

However, before adjournment, Councilmember Harmony Groves said that she and Vice Mayor Dave Meserve would like to review the resolution in a subcommittee. It is unclear whether this would delay formal consideration by the entire Council. It is also unknown whether the subcommittee would work privately or with members of the public. I will be making a round of phone calls tomorrow to thank all the Councilmembers and learn the answers to these questions.

I hope that it will be possible and appropriate to work with the subcommittee as the group's output seems extremely likely to me to pass the whole Council. I am even optimistic about the thought of not having further input as Harmony and Dave both have proven progressive stripes. In my opinion, whatever they develop together would also be extremely likely to pass the whole Council. I expect they would modify the eight recommended reforms, and it is a good bet they'll also tinker with some of the problems described in the top WHEREAS sections. I can be very flexible in those areas. I just hope the two most important ideas will remain intact, namely saying there is "no basis for confidence" and the Consent of the Governed is being denied.

On Tuesday night I made my usual appearance before the Eureka City Council. My comments could have been a little briefer but I'm not sure there would have been an appreciable improvement in the response, which was nearly nil. Still, the Council has encouraged me to continue presenting them with the latest controversial election information and so to some extent I am taking on the role of self-appointed Council reporter.

This week I delivered a copy of USCountVotes response to Edison/Mitofsky's Election System 2004 report. E/M's report was the CYA for the exit poll discrepancies with the official totals. USCountVotes is a bunch of Ph.D.'s in statistics and other math fields and they found E/M's report "incomplete and inadequate," noting that E/M published conclusions contradicted by their own facts.

Coupled with the recent news of more journalists on the government payroll, I emphasized again to the Eureka City Council that we can't know what to believe which means there is no basis for confidence in US federal elections. I used the opportunity to again request a town hall forum on election reform. One other data point I cited says that 43 states had official vote counts trending towards Bush as compared with the exit polls, 15 of the 43 were differentials beyond the margin of error, and that the odds are 1 in 1 trillion that this could happen by chance.

I mentioned that last point again to the Arcata City Council. The rest of my appeal basically spoke to what each Councilmember had told me individually since I submitted the resolution a few weeks ago. I acknowledged that they don't always want to take on national issues, but that this was one they saw fit to address last year with the Building Confidence Resolution (inspired by an earlier version of No Confidence). And since passage of that has clearly not brought closure to election reform efforts, it is appropriate and timely to engage the community on this matter.

I mentioned that I had been encouraged to call for a town hall forum which I'd be happy to see, although I haven't yet had any cooperation in setting it up. I commented that I understood changes were likely to be made, as Dave Meserve has made clear. And I concluded by following Paul Pitino's advice, which was to note that the problems are clearly established, we're working with a solution-based reform agenda, and that a town hall forum may be an unnecessary use of time and resources when the resolution is already ready for the agenda. It felt really right leaving them with two ways that would feel like progress to me.

I'll have another update in the next 48 hours as I determine what the Councilmembers see as next steps.



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