Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Playing the Gamechangers

It’s a bit of an awkward confession, but I might as well admit that for me, real life is scary sometimes. I made the decision to actually attend an in person debate last night, partly because it helped organize it, but also partly because sometimes it's nice to confirm that politicians sweat under pressure, a level of detail not yet available with internet streaming. I came back with a few thoughts on the candidates, but many more realizations about more important things.

We need to stop arguing as to whether social media has a place in events. 

As I am a total awkward feministy cliché of a girl, I’m going to reference Tina Fey as if she is a modern philosopher because she is a modern philosopher so here we go:

“Some people say [Photoshop] is a feminist issue.  I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called Bust in 2004. I looked at the two paltry lights they had set up and turned to the editors.  ’We’re all feminists here, but you’re gonna use Photoshop, right?’ ‘Oh, yeah,’ they replied instantly.  Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones.  They don’t change your size or your skin color.  They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they may take out some armpit stubble.  Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light.” (Bossypants by Tina Fey, 2011)*

This paragraph is relevant because it sets the precedent for the entire argument: change does not go away. We can take all the firm stances we want, but if we don’t use something it will not stop someone else from doing it. This isn’t going to lead into some way to excuse punching a puppy or a tinfoil hat diatribe, in fact, quite the opposite. Only once we accept something as a reality can be properly use it. Tina Fey says this of Photoshop, and I wish more people would adopt this tone for social media.

I heard a lot of criticism about the decision to stream tweets during the debate, and interestingly enough when I asked about this opinion the solution proposed was to not have screens because they were distracting people from the issues. To be clear, a medium that allowed a minimum of a hundred people who weren’t in the room to participate and ask questions was deemed a distraction. On top of that, there were those who passively saw the online postings because it was one of the most talked about thing in Canada on the same night some guy with curly hair said something about some party? whatever as well as the 145 individuals who watched the streamed debate in their homes. But it’s a distraction.

Now, this is not to say the balance of new media and old methods has been fine tuned yet, but the absolute worst way to discover this is to ignore what is happening. Furthermore, it is scary to admit that a new way of doing things has an intrinsic value beyond entertainment, but social media definitely gives a voice to those who, well, actually may not have a voice. For a self-professed crowd hater like myself, being able to confirm quotes onscreen was invaluable when my ears sometimes deceive me. As accessible as buildings are, to pretend that having a ramp is actually the solution to someone with physical disabilities is an insult to the extra effort involved in preparing for every day life. Finally, for those with certain invisible disabilities, which I feel the need to define here after some responses to the questions last night, social media provides unprecedented involvement in the community. As everyone adores a good slippery slope argument, I am writing this now to set the groundwork why e-voting is the best idea I never want to take part in, but that’s two or three more pages into the future. In the meantime, I’ll just encourage you not to do it too far ahead of time because as Wag the Dog taught us, the last few days before an election are really, really important.

Many dismiss a new way of doing something new as lazy because it’s a convenient way to deal with the lives of people that you are suddenly thrust into who might redefine what an ability is to you. You shouldn’t do that. Because it is a terrible idea. Saying such a thing would be a dumb thing to say. (Open Mayor participants, that juicy steak was for you!!!)

I’m not advocating forcing anyone to get a here’s 82 pictures of my newborn profile, and I honestly probably don’t want to read half your tweets about being srared of wut obmama will do?!!!!, but instead just suggesting that if we’re going to be discussing youth engagement in politics, we shouldn’t be fighting trends with all our might. If an administrator had just said “Hey guys, rap music is probably going to be a thing” back in the 1990s, I might not have had to suffer through “hardcore” “slam dunk yo junk yo!” public service campaigns all through junior high. The easiest way to not only establish some sort of control in the form of best practices is to freaking admit that it actually exists. This may involve some mistakes along the way, but so does life, and you’re reading this now, so something decent is happening, right? Now tweet about it.


-Here’s another look about social media & engagement, and I don’t think the two conflict.

-Google Analytics tells me a few of you are maybe involved in campaigns, and I would strongly suggest you read about how mayors need toengage youth while I still have your attention.

-If you made it to the end of this piece with the question of “but weren’t you supposed to tell me a scandalous dumb thing about each of the candidates?” then sorry, but I played a bit of a word trick on you. Psych! I have said enough angry things about candidates LINK for now, and there are still many days and a few debates left before the election, but thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Your Favourite Piece on Mayoral Candidates in the 2012 HRM Election


When I was young I used to read those stupid promotional magazines they give away in “EXTREMEEE” music stores for free. The pictures of Kurt Cobain and whoever else demographically appealed to angsty youth was plastered all over my walls as I pored over the CD reviews to “discover” new music.

“How can you reduce art to a f-ing star system?” my then much cooler than me record junkie friend asked. “Art is complicated!”

The star system gets a lot of flack, but I’m standing up for it. Because yes, art is complicated, but so is life, and sometimes life needs a cheat sheet. Right? Make all the arguments you want about the method, but the reason that this will be your favourite article about the mayoral candidates so far isn’t the quality of the writing, because there are a gazillion better ones, or the information as much as  the fact that at the end there’s a nice & tidy summation of my feelings about a candidates so you’re not left with questionable passive statements like “If you like the sound of a cat trying to eat a triangle while jumping from a tree, this Yoko Ono album is for you.” Although, I really wish there was a candidate that statement applied to.

So let’s get down to it, shall we? Before we introduce the candidates; some notes.

1) There’s little I hate more than people mentioning one scathing comment about an opposing candidate and hoping people will read the section ripping apart one candidate and then scroll down over theirs. As a result, I am scattering some TRULY awesome links through the piece to ensure that you keep reading. And I mean a variety of truly awesome links that could be funny or interesting or mind blowing like THIS ONE. My gift to you is links, your gift in return is democracy. Thanks.

2) If you’re a candidate’s person trying to respond to this, don’t tell me to check their freaking website. DONE. THAT. Seriously, I have spreadsheets after poring through every page of your precious nominee for the position of glorified ribbon cutter and you do not have something that is SO HIDDEN that I didn’t investigate it a month ago. And if you do, that's stupid because that’s not how websites are suppose to work. So that argument has been annulled. Don’t even try.

3) “You’re biaaaaaaseedddd.” So? You aren’t? You think papers aren’t? You think the Internet isn’t? You think journalists DON’T have opinions? I’m not holding myself to a journalistic standard in any sense, but isn’t it enough that I dislike all the candidates pretty much equally?

4) “There isn’t enough policy in this blog post! You should analyze their policy more!” What policy? Do you see any policy? No. Oh, you do? Because you work for the candidate? See 2). Done.

5) Come to this AWESOME debate; it’s going to be awesome. Awesome. Awesome? Awesome.


Mike Savage, roof raiser
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Remember that MP for Dartmouth Cole Harbour who didn’t get re-elected? Hi, Mike Savage here to run your city. Michael Savage, which is his name when he’s not trying to relate to you, is the political equivalent of Matchbox 20: produced in a studio with a lot of money and pretty outdated.  Like Matchbox 20, at his worst the campiness can make you want to scratch your ears off with a set of car keys, but at its best it makes you half smile as you remember how it was playing at that terrible party you went to where some bro puked on your lap but it was okay because you kind of had a crush on him at one point. No no no no that is not a personal experience no no noooooo that never happened to me noooo. Michael Savage.

When Kelly was “running”, Savage was a “game changer”, but now we all just feel like we’re part of a game. He was a kinda adequate backbench MP in every way.  He has a very pretty website with nice words like “our”, which is supposed to make you feel included.  His ideas are solid; HRM has untapped potential, we need more jobs, we need to “partner” and “grow.” There are so many words you can almost be fooled into thinking there’s information there. YOU’RE WRONG. Almost all the numbers that look so fancy are reflections of statistics about Halifax.

Savage references things that went right in other cities that are relevant to Halifax models (Winnipeg, Ottawa) and talks about adapting them. His abstract desires are in the right place. He has very powerful endorsements and he knows how this game works. Mike is a politician, and some people think that is good.

I don’t hate him. If elected, Michael Savage will be rock the crap out of being mediocre. He’ll do a few things right, he’ll do slightly less things wrong, he’ll use the word “vision” a lot. He will not rise above the status quo WITH FLARE, and what he spends his multiple pensions that we pay for on will be interesting to read about in Frank. Michael Savage is a Michelina’s dinner; you always remember you’re eating a bland box meal that will eventually make you unattractive and sick, but he’s one of your, and Nova Scotia’s, favourite flavours.

Rating: *** of 5

Tom Martin, pensive looker
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I am not a cool knowledgeable cyclist type, but I think we’ve all watched a child ride around on a bike on the first gear. It’s adorable how hard they peddle, but they barely go anywhere. Keep that helpless, adorable image in mind next time you watch Tom Martin speak and you’ll like him a lot more; he’s really trying, goddamnit!

Tom is widely regarded as the guy who stands a chance at taking out Mike Savage which should be enough to send you into existential ennui for 30 minutes, so here’s a time for one of those links I was talking about

Okay? It's okay. Watching him speak in debates is awkward because he’s a good enough speaker that you can’t write him off as a newbie, which only makes the bungle of what he actually says worse.  Unfortunately, many of debates are not streamed or available online, which is really, really good for Tom because he has perhaps unintentionally both endorsed the War on Drugs (no, those exactwords) and said that he experienced racism. The racism statement seemed weird and arguable enough (Racism requires power and privilege and does not equal discrimination) without actually looking at the story behind it, but then you do and it just gets worse. Tom says that he experienced racism when he was the only white guy (COP! As in, definitely not powerless) in a courtroom, but didn’t go into any elaboration with what happened or how he dealt with it, leaving us to believe that being the only white person in a courtroom is racist? Or maybe something “racist” happened? I don’t know what he’s saying, but I do know that poor articulation is not something I want from someone who is applying for a position that is mostly talk.

Tom has been involved in law enforcement as a homicide investigator and hostage negotiator, which is something I respect. His supporters know this, because they love to talk about it. Under “My Stance” ol’ Ask4War has 3 options: Business, City Hall, and Crime. I’m not going to pretend crime isn’t an area that HRM needs help with, but I’m also not going to pretend “I don’t know if crime is down or not because those numbers come from statistics and stats can be manipulated: a robbery can become a theft, a break and enter can become property damage. I am not saying this is what is happening because I don’t know, what I am saying is that the misrepresentation of crime statistics has happened in the past - I have witnessed it myself. I do know that violent crimes, particularly murders, in HRM have significantly increased and that point cannot be debated.” is a real platform instead of fear mongering. I don’t think I need further commentary than to repeat “Business, City Hall, and Crime” are the only 3 “stances” sections on his website.

Tom is great at answering questions that people send in and carefully highlights them on the front page of his website. He is definitely much stronger in writing than his speaking. He has a lot of experience in a lot of different areas of this city, and that is highly commendable. The problem with Tom is that the more you understand him, the more you understand how little HE understands about the variety of issues in this city. Keep pedaling Tom, keep pedaling. Oh wait. Active transportation isn’t one of your stances.


Fred Connors, calm chicken holder
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Fred Connors has been to Paris and Fred Connors says “I swear to God” in a sassy way and Fred Connors doesn’t want your loser bike lanes in front of his store, okay? Fred Connors has a cool name and is friends with cool people and goddamnit I want to claw my hair out and just be Fred Connors, okay? There. I said it. Fred will read this statement and smile and laugh to himself and think I am a loser but he’s also savvy enough to be nice to me if we ever interact and say “Oh no, I am not that cool” modestly BUT ONLY BECAUSE HE KNOWS HOW COOL HE REALLY IS. Fred Connors is cool, but just as the popular kid in high school made a crappy student president with the promise of a video dance that the administration eventually wouldn’t allow, I am not looking forward to Fred Connors’ video dances.

Fred has a better website than Savage, and although the blue font he uses as a highlight is my favourite colour, it also gives the impression of a hyperlink before you blindly click on the screen for 5 minutes and realize that there isn’t much on this website.  Comparing Connors to Savage is a very apt comparison, because amazingly enough they both have a similar amount of actual platform, which is to say not much. Savage evens this out with lots and lots of lots of typing, while Connors has suave ass photos and hyperlinks that aren’t. The thing is, all things considered, I would totally prefer Connors over Savage if neither has any clear policy. If we are to give up and admit that this position is ceremonial, well, Connors throws a better ceremony. Connors would be an exceptional ambassador for Halifax, but I’m hoping for more.

Isn’t this way too positive thus far? Funnily enough, I haven’t actually liked Connors during the debates.  Calling Occupy Nova Scotia a bunch of dopesmokers is a mean tactic which I don’t appreciate in a  politician, and his bogus flip flopping about cyclists’ roles in Halifax have no place in 2012. I find his views on bike lanes problematic and a lot of his interactions undiplomatic, but in spite of this I have to say he kind of kicks ass, and mostly because he won’t win. I doubt his ability to connect with the variety of people that being mayor requires, but at least he can looking serious while holding such a contentious election issue such as a chicken and be the only candidate to point out the irony of 6 white guys “discussing multiculturalism.”

Note: I would be remiss to write a page about Fred Connors without referencing my mom, who cycles from Clayton Park to the core every morning and afternoon. Her favourite story is that days before Connors snubbed bike lanes on Agricola, she didn’t purchase jewelry at the mall and instead went to a local retailer because it was more cycle friendly. So take that.


Robert Wesley McCormack, too good for photos-er
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I’m scathing, not cruel.

Steve Mackie, doesn't give a ffffff

No website, no debate attendance? -*************.

Aaron Eisses, that guy
Ah, Aaron. Aaron is the closest I’ve come to actually liking someone during these debates thus far, and even I acknowledge that a vote for him is a protest vote, rather than someone who is actually suitable for mayor yet. Blowing us away with calm, concise messages rather than trying to bamboozle us into thinking he’s said something is always something I appreciate, and although I enjoy that he admits when he doesn’t know something (a Twitter exchange discussed compost bins), I do know he doesn’t really know enough about the way HRM works to become mayor.  Still, his principles and priorities tell me that there are good people in this for the right reasons, so thanks for running, Aaron. I’m glad the publicity from this run will hopefully propel you into an awesome councilor position next time.


Tuxedo Stan, everything good about everything
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Oh em geeeee I am soooo politically enlightened because I can type stuff in Facebook!!! Ughhhhhh whatever why is a Cat running omg none of these people are as smart as me!!!!

These are the 2 main types of responses I have seen to the best mayoral candidate ever, and they are both wrong. Dismissing Tuxedo Stan as a cute gimmick is dumb; there are signs for this cat because he’s a cat, but there is money invested into this cat because these candidates are unsatisfying. It’s all fun and games until you reference the rhinocerous party or the waffle party or the exact definitely of protest vote. I think Tuexdo Stan is a perfect response to the disappointment we have seen this election period. Purrrfect.

DAMNIT. Sorry.

****************** out of 5

You made it down to the bottom? That’s awesome. I’m so proud of you. Now come to the debate TOMORROW; I can’t wait to hear why you think I’m wrong IN REAL LIFE VERY LOUDLY! Democracy is yelling & I wouldn’t have it any other way. LINK

-Nothing I said here represents the views of organizations I volunteer for, employers, friends, or family.
-I do not have an degree in HRM because such a degree does not exist, but I don’t pretend to.
-Here are some good resources/ opinions, some with with actual facts, that are relevant to HRM things in no order because "bias!!!"

Now go vote for an awesome councillor, because you’ll need them.