The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time
We look for specific behaviors and actions in our candidates and
Campaigning on ideas that meet peoples’ expressed needs
rather than ideas based on idealistic philosophies that conflict
with practical considerations, and proposing progressive
legislation that is feasible within the present political
Speaking for their own position and respecting the position of
Clarifying challenges and long-term issues.
Distinguishing short-term and long-term solutions.
Working to understand the needs of all constituents and
recognizing that everybody matters.
We work to set a good example and demonstrate the behaviors and
actions we want to see from others:
Everybody is equal
Mutuality – We learn from each other.
We have three specific goals for ourselves as well as for candidates
and our elected representatives:
Speakers seek to express themselves in a way that is understood
by the listeners.
Listeners will assume that the speaker knows something the
listener doesn’t. If something doesn’t immediately make
sense to the listener, the listener will ask questions and offer
the speaker an opportunity to clarify the subject.
Speakers will assume that questioners know something the speaker
doesn’t. Speakers will accept questions as an opportunity to
re-evaluate and clarify a position both for the questioner and for
Our specific goals for overall reform are:
communication/problem-solving/conflict-resolution skills in
candidates and elected representatives. Look for these qualities as
we "interview" the candidates for the position. We, the voters, are
hiring them for the position. We can select for these skills.
Reduce the influence of money on elections.
All parties/interest groups/perspectives should have some
representation in a multimember governing body (city council,
school board, state legislature, etc.)
We have an additional goal that we may take up at a later time:
Encourage ballot initiatives that address
the needs of most citizens and discourage ballot initiatives that
primarily benefit a single business, industry or other limited
Goal #1 of encouraging strong
communication/problem-solving/conflict resolution skills is potentially
very challenging and very rewarding. If we’re going to elect
people with the desired skills, those skills have to be an issue during
campaigns. This requires joint efforts by voters, candidates and
journalists. Candidates should demonstrate their abilities to work
things out with those who may disagree. Candidates should also
demonstrate their ability to present common ground and differences to
voters in a clear, respectful way. If candidates can’t deal
effectively with differences during a campaign, they’re not
likely to deal effectively with differences on budgets, health care,
retirement benefits or other divisive issues after they’re
elected. The same is true for candidates’ abilities to clearly
and respectfully communicate to voters their common ground and
differences on divisive issues. The process is quite simple: All
candidates for the same office collaborate on a joint campaign
statement of common ground and differences. These statements would be
printed and distributed at no cost to the candidates. Costs would be
covered at first by donations with a long-term goal of getting public
funding and shifting responsibility to whoever runs the election.
We will have no direct editorial control but will review the statements
and may question the candidates about reliability of claims and
encourage them to either further explain why they consider certain
information to be reliable, or issue a disclaimer that some claims are
uncertain. Evaluating competing claims and determining reliable sources
can be a big part of resolving certain conflicts. This also simplifies
things for voters since they get comprehensive, reliable information in
Cooperating candidates might also be given reduced rates or increased
word limits in their sample ballot statements. Several candidates might
be allowed to combine their sample ballot statements, perhaps including
charts or tables clearly showing their differences.
Goal #2 of reducing the influence of all money (from corporations,
wealthy self-financed candidates, PACs, private contributions, etc.) is
met to a large extent by our solution to goal #1. Distributing campaign
statements at no cost to candidates reduces a large part of the
campaign budget to $0. There are no attacks or one-sided statements
requiring a response since all statements are approved in advance by
all candidates. If candidates need less money, they don’t need to
raise as much and voters don’t need to contribute as much. If we
do a good job educating voters about the desirability of joint campaign
statements, and the corresponding reduction in costs to the candidates,
we can encourage voters to divide their contribution between the
candidates and helping to pay costs for the campaign statements of each
voter’s preferred candidates. Limiting campaign contributions and
public financing can also be part of the solution.
Goal #3 of providing representation for multiple perspectives can be
achieved through proportional representation
which in turn can be achieved with an established voting method
sometimes known as “Ranked Choice Voting”, “Choice
Voting” or “Proportional Voting”. Voters rank all
candidates in order of preference and the votes are counted in a way
that provides majority control with minority representation. General
law jurisdictions such as Mendocino County and the cities within
Mendocino County cannot legally use any type of ranked voting until the
California election code changes. Until then, we'll focus on education
to prepare voters for the day when ranked voting will be an option. We
will also provide local support for efforts of groups like Californians
for Electoral Reform (cfer.org) and FairVote.org which promote ranked
voting throughout the state and work with state legislators to change
the election code.
Better to light a small candle than curse the darkness.
We recognize that reform is a moving target and we need to
constantly reevaluate our own goals and solutions. The solutions
involve a long-term effort with a grass-roots movement pushing from the
bottom, candidates pulling from the top, and journalists squeezing on
the sides. Voter, candidate and journalist education is an important
part of any change as people aren't likely to support an option they
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