I put up my first political sign today... ever. Why is it my first? I've certainly cared about elections before. But it hardly seemed like putting up a sign would make a difference in the Obama campaign. It always seemed more of a declaration of who you were (like a vanity license plate) than something that would actually sway voters. But today I stopped my streak of indifference and actually printed up my own signs and taped them to my windows. Here's why:
I've been getting flyers... many colorful bright flyers telling me to vote Yes for Measure J. Vote yes for J and Yes for Santa Clara. Since I live in Santa Clara and have a job, I would say I am pro both. I then spent some time looking for information on what the actual measure was. The short of it is that it's asking for Santa Clara to subsidize the building of a football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, it seems quite shocking that a city of 110,000 residents would be building the stadium for an NFL football team (which wouldn't be changing it's name). I had heard murmurs of this for the last few years, but now there were flyers showing up at my door, so I needed real information.
I found very little at first, after all, this wasn't a big national, state, or even county issue. It was just a Santa Clara city issue. I felt very isolated in this when I realized that I don't think ANY of my friends actually live in Santa Clara. Please speak up now if you do. After some research, (including the only balanced article I could find - from the New York Times of all places) I did decide to vote against Measure J. If you're curious why, just read this book about publicly subsidized stadiums HERE. It's quite fascinating. Aside from any police and traffic issues, it's basically financially ridiculous. The city loses a lot of money and gains delusional aspirations of being a "big" city and the promises of an economic boom that never comes. In summary... monorail! But as very few of you can actually vote on this topic, I'll skip talking about the details and go on to why I put a sign on my window.
Having realized what a big waste of money this would be, I started getting really worried that this would pass. Why? Well because it was really hard to find good information out there, and while there is a strong lobby ($1 million from the 49ers) for the measure, the opposition is... well, let's just say there is no pre-existing lobby or union to oppose Measure J. While the supporters have sent me 3 mailers so far and have a very convincing professional looking website, the opposition has a website that looks like it was made in the 80s. But what really got me is that I started seeing the same "Yes on J, Yes on Jobs" (We're paying over $100 million to get hot dog vendors who don't even live in Santa Clara jobs?) all over the place. I don't see any "No" signs. It really makes it look like everyone wants this Stadium. Of course, it could also be that no one paid hundreds of thousands of dollars at kinkos to make "No" signs and then pass them out to everyone. So I made my own. Now the 3 people who pass my house on a daily basis will know that there is SOME resistance to the hegemony. Perhaps others will speak up as well.
But I still feel rather neutered here. In truth I hate that politics has been reduced to making signs. With all the technological advancements at my disposal, I made a sign. The problem is that this is a local issue. None of my facebook friends or the people that read this blog can vote on this issue. And yet because it's a local issue, each vote matters so much more, and the results of the vote will matter so much more to me. I feel like this tie to the local community is where technology is currently failing me. I admit. I am not tied well to my community. But I want to be. I want my facebook or google to make this easy for me. Because like everyone else in my community, I am lazy, busy, and a little scared of other people.
Another thought that came to mind, is that I would like a way to communicate with the people in Santa Clara. I would like to email firstname.lastname@example.org. Sure, this would be horrible horrible spam. But there's already a way to do this. it's called Snail Mail. And it's very easy to target a local election this way. In fact, that is what is being done in this election. It is being bought because the only way to communicate directly to all the people in Santa Clara, is through mail, and mail costs money... lots of money. So right now the gate to how much political spam you get is how much money they have to spend in order to chop down trees to make pamphlets and put all that paper on trucks to get delivered to your door. But what if email spam was allowed? it could be regulated not by how much money people have to spend on creating the SPAM but by the city. Let's say that the government is allowed to send everyone in Santa Clara a couple emails a week - you cannot opt out, just like you can't opt out of having a mailbox when you buy your house. Those emails could contain political advertisements from both sides of any issue. Sure, the side with money could still buy ads on TV and send you SPAM in the mail. But at least the other side would be able to put out their message even if they have no money. And if email ads prove to be MORE effective than home mailer ads, maybe we'll waste less money and environmental resources as a society on physical spam mail. Just a thought.