Friday, January 19, 2007

Weighty Concerns

Several folks recently asked me about whether or not the governor should weigh in when it came to the renaming a street, as in my last blog. My comment was essentially that I didn’t think the governor had a dog in that fight. So, the question became, when should a governor get involved in local issues? Rather than give a brief answer in the comment section of my blog, I thought I’d like to give more expanded response.

Basically, the governor is elected as the state’s Chief Executive Officer. It is therefore their job to respond to any issue which would have a direct or possibly indirect bearing on the state’s business. This generally includes, but isn’t exclusive to projects requiring state funding, impact tourism, attracting or keeping businesses, or environmental issues. Outside of that, I see few instances where a governor has any business in local issues.

Let’s take for example the dog ordinance. A really bad piece of local legislation to be sure; but, does it impact the Commonwealth in any way? At first blush, one would say no. After all, we’re talking about “dangerous” pets running amuck in Metro Louisville, right? But let’s look at the larger picture here. Whether the rest of the state likes to admit it or not, Louisville is the economic engine which runs Kentucky. Our tax dollars fund projects in Paducah, Bowling Green, Pikeville, Harlan, and all points in between (and yes, including Lexington).

One of Louisville’s biggest draws is our central location for conventions. This bad legislation has already drawn national criticisms from dog, horse, and other animal associations. Many, if not most of these organizations have voted to move their conventions and shows elsewhere, which impacts not only Louisville, but the surrounding areas as well. So, not only does Louisville get a black eye, so do vendors, hotels, businesses and others in and around Louisville who make their living off tourism. Now, given the broad economic impact of this ordinance, wouldn’t you think the governor would want to at least comment? I would.

On the other hand, renaming a street after Martin Luther King really has no direct economic impact on the state. After all, it’s not like there are no memorials in Kentucky named after this great civil rights leader. The only costs to be incurred are by the residents of Metro Louisville in paying for new street and highway signs. But I think perhaps what’s a more important issue was how the whole matter was handled by the two Metro Councilwomen, Shanklin and Woolridge. They basically decided they were going to rename the street and the public be damned. That’s not how you do it folks.

Metro Council, as well as every other elected official, is there at our leisure. They take their marching orders from us, not the other way around. If they had a sincere interest in renaming a street, they should have first asked for the public’s input on whether there was an interest, and if so, where. Perhaps what was most telling of all was when the two walked out of the meeting half way through, and both allegedly said they would rename the street regardless of what the resident’s wanted. I truly hope this is remembered come election time.

So, to summarize, the governor needs to decide whether there is any direct or indirect impact on the state at large, such as use of state funds before deciding to poke his nose into a local issue, including I might add, a local Primary race. The fewer levels of decision making in government, the better.

Blogging by the Numbers

A couple of readers asked why I thought campaigns courted political blogs so aggressively. They also mentioned seeing Pro-Fletcher supporters posting comments under “anonymous” and asked me to comment.

I’ve spent almost 30 years in politics. I’ve done everything from dialing for dollars, GOTV, putting out yard signs to managing campaigns and running for office a couple of times. Politics is a full contact sport and not for the timid (it’s a lousy place to be if you’re the paranoid type because believe me, they really are out to get you). Running campaigns is a tough business. The goal is to define yourself and your message first and then define your opponent and their message. You want to control the agenda and flow of the election. To do this you need a great candidate with a great message. But even the best candidate is useless unless you can reach voters.

Campaigns are organized media events. They are about reaching a specific audience. How successful you are at this depends on how much money you can raise to order to get their name and message out. Everyone uses pretty much the same tools like TV, newspaper, radio, mailers, etc. Blogs brought a whole new wrinkle into the mix. Here’s a new medium which “pre-targeted” base. Blogs tend to be huddled into specific categories, such a cooking, SciFi, gardening, music, and of course, politics.

Political blogs, like most blogs, are incredibly specialized. They tend to already be broken down not only into right, center, left spectrums, but also into specific pro/con issues like gun control, abortion, and so forth. As a candidate or campaign manager, they’re almost a Godsend. All one has to do is identify their respective target base (i.e.: female pro-gun supporters for instance), and with the click of a button, they have excess to thousands, if not millions, of potential voters and perhaps more importantly, financial donors. Best of all, it usually doesn’t cost anything to ask for a link to a campaign homepage or perhaps an occasional mention in a column. From a campaign manager’s perspective, what could be better than that?

Naturally, any old political blog won’t cut it in the same way one needs to be audience specific about which radio stations to advertise on, and on which days and times (biggest bang for the buck). The trick is to find an established blog with a strong readership, which caters to your candidate’s message. That takes experience. But if you’re successful, the payoffs are tremendous and very cost effective. One of the best examples is former Governor Jesse Ventura who credited his win over two much better known and funded politicians to the use of the Interest and Minnesota political blogs, which were mainly run by local college students. As an Independent, Jesse was able to bypass much of the established political routes he simply didn’t have access to because of the two party’s control over funding sources, which of course translates to exposure. Blogs are changing the political landscape, and who knows, may in time spell the doom of the two party’s monopoly over elections.

Now, here’s where I get a little miffed. I really enjoy a good open political discussion. Just keep it civil and keep it honest. What I don’t like are campaign’s trying to link to their sites without permission using the comment sections of blogs. If you like a particular blog and want to link to it, ask. If you work for or support a particular candidate and want to put in a plug for them, ask. Of course, if you just want to add your personal two cents worth, then by all means! After all, that’s what the comment sections are for. Most bloggers I’ve come across are pretty agreeable people. It’s really not more than common courtesy.

Hey Kettle, this is the Pot calling…

Speaking of political bloggers, Mark Nickolas, publisher and editor of the liberal, was recently indicted for willfully failing to file his state tax returns for the years 2004, 2005, and 2006 according to a January 17th article in the Courier Journal. Nickolas claims through counsel that he filed his tax returns and has provided proof. The Department of Revenue said they scheduled two meetings to discuss the matter with Nickolas. He rescheduled one and failed to show up at the other. As many of you know, Nickolas has been a vocal critic of Fletcher’s administration for alleged unethical behavior. The investigation is currently ongoing.

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