Monday, May 31, 2004

Wow, it's been a month since my last post, and what a month it's been. First, progress on the culture jamming I mentioned. Thanks to the crucial assistance of Mr. Justin O'Dell, I have managed to acquire the majority of the lawn signs from the city council election. I can't remember the exact figures, but the democrat to republican/Meredith Richards write-in ratio was very close. I am lumping together the Richards campaign with the republicans because both happened to use the same kind of lawn sign. Which is interesting. This reminded me of the funding the Bush 2000 campaign provided for Nader ads in swing states.
I noticed a large degree of clumping with the signs, with most neighborhoods having a small number of democrat signs and a few neighborhoods (notably the more wealthy ones on the north side of town) having many republican signs within a small area. We began our collection by sharing a bike around the Woolen Mills neighborhood, stopping repeatedly to grab signs, then hopped in my car for the rest of the neighborhoods.
Since then, my mind has been occupied with returning to school for my graduate degree. I have been struggling with the application for U.Va.'s urban and environmental planning department. I have stressed out far too much over this, but it's almost done. Wish me luck! Once it's over, I promise I'll update more.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

I'm doing some Adbusters-inspired culture jamming around the national election. The concept is the posting of terms relating to the Bush record, but without actually mentioning Bush. So you might see a sign that said "Enron" or "Weapons of Mass Destruction" or "Excessive Secrecy" and nothing else. The intent is to create questions and dialogue, about the meaning of the terms, who displayed them, what the intent itself is. I feel a great number of issues are being left out of the national debate, and I'd like to create an alternate forum for them to get out. If you'd like to work on this and other related projects, sign up for the Charlottesville Adbusters Meetup here:

If you'd like to order a FREE sign for your lawn, e-mail me at Yes, it's a lame e-mail address. I have to wait 60 days for the address to transfer to my new provider.
I'm worried about the city council campaign. I went to the NAACP-sponsored council forum and was struck by the low turn-out and the poor quality of the Republican candidates. Kenneth (Ann Reineke kept calling him "Kenny") Jackson was offensive and ill-informed, and yet powerfully condescending. Reineke actually made some policy statements, focused on the city budget. She said that property taxes were too high and business taxes were too high, and this hurt affordability and the job market. Which I agree with. She also said that police and teachers should get better pay and benefits. Which I also agree with. She also said that the city shouldn't spend $6 million on new software. I think she means the city should stay outdated, but I think Waldo Jaquith's suggestion of pursuing freeware makes a great deal more sense. So I agree with everything she said should happen, but the only way I can imagine her achieving these conflicting priorities of lower taxes and better pay and benefits is by cutting critical social services. As Kevin Lynch pointed out, Charlottesville is the main provider of social services for the entire region of central Virginia. We provide a crucial public good that benefits us and especially our neighbors. This was fine when the nation funded the states and Virginia funded Charlottesville, but since the state went into a budget crisis of its own, and Bush's unfunded educational mandates, we've been left with greater responsibilities and fewer resources to meet them. So I heard two options. The Democrats propose that we maintain the line. We suffer high local taxes and keep Charlottesville a world class city. The Republicans didn't make a clear proposal, but it appears that they wish to mimic the federal and state governments by lowering taxes and cutting services. I understand their position, we've definitely been put in an unfair spot, but I'm unwilling to budge an inch and give up the things that the city pays for that make Charlottesville great. Like the wonderful work that city landscaping does, or what little social safety net we have that keeps homelessness low enough for affluent people to be comfortable in public spaces. This is one of the many things that make the Downtown Mall work, like Friday's After Five. So, I'm backing the Democratic ticket, but I really think that we're going to need some creative solutions and major lobbying at the state and federal level to get Charlottesville back off the financial razor edge that it's been left at. None of candidates seem to be saying this, but my impression of the Republicans ability to work well with city Democrats is very poor. Also, I've been noticing some Meredith Richards write-in signs next to Reineke and Jackson signs. If I were Meredith, I'd be offended. Though it would be ironic if Meredith were elected by Republicans.