Thursday, March 27, 2008

Updated - Why County Board Elections Matter!

(This is an updated and expanded version of an earlier post. In addition to my previous environmental ratings of Dane County Board Supervisors, I've added ratings based on human services and other issues. Don't forget to vote on April Fool's Day!)

It's easy to overlook the importance of the Dane County Board, and County Board elections, when we think about politics here in the Madison area. But the Board determines environmental, land use, and human services policy for the entire county, including Madison. As these ratings show, there's an enormous difference in the way liberal and conservative County Board members vote on these issues.

The first two charts show ratings for every County Board Supervisor based on their votes on environmental (1st chart) and non-environmental (2nd chart) issues since August 2006. I've grouped the liberal Supervisors (blue) and the conservative Supervisors (red) so you can see the rather astonishing contrast. The average score is more than 90% for liberals verses less than 20% for conservatives. Click on the charts for larger versions.

Below are the individual voting records of each Supervisor for every issue I used in my ratings. I ignored absences and abstentions when I calculated the percentage ratings, but they're shown in the vote records. Some County Board members miss a heck of a lot of meetings, and you should consider that when you evaluate them.

Finally, here's info about each vote that went into these ratings. The numbering corresponds to the charts above. For more details go to the Dane County Board Minutes and Agendas web page, and use the dates in the tables below to find the appropriate minutes. Keep in mind that many of these votes are on amendments or proceedural moves, so you may have to work backwards through the history of the issue to really understand what's going on.

Vote #DateMinutes PageItemSignificance
18/17/2006108-109Res. 73Purchase of conservation land - Dunn, Pleasant Springs.
9/21/2006147-148Res. 102Delay action on purchase of land next to Brigham Park.
39/21/2006150-151Res. 103Independent study on power lines.
411/15/2006193BudgetCut conservation fund from $5 million to $1 million.
52/1/2007269Petition 9335Zoning change to permit development adjacent to Military Ridge Trail.
62/1/2007270Petition 9632Re-refer loosening zoning restrictions - Blue Mounds
73/1/2007294-320Ord. Am. 26Loosen floodplain restrictions. (Sub. 2).
84/5/2007371-372Ord. Am. 34Delay effective date of Coal tar sealcoat restrictions.
95/2/200726-28Res. 290Delay action on Bio-Ag, Town of Dunn.
108/16/2007107Petition 9721Zoning change to permit construction - Vermont.
118/16/2007114-116Res. 57 Sub. 2RTA - Adoption of Res. 57 Sub. 2.
129/6/2007134-135Petition 9611Zoning change to permit construction - Vermont.
139/20/2007146-147Petition 9474Re-refer zoning change to permit development - Springfield.
149/20/2007155-157Res. 94Motion to cut Conservation Fund.
1511/1/2007207-209Res. 127Delay action on Saddlebrook purchase.
1612/6/2008244Petition 9474Zoning change to permit development - Springfield.
1712/20/2008271-274Ord. Am. 26Postpone action on Transfer of Development Rights (TDR).

Vote #DateMinutes PageItemSignificance
Res. 36
Retirement incentive for county employees to reduce need for layoffs.
Res. 35
Honor US Troops - includes troops home language.
39/7/2006131-134Ord. Am. 7
Forbids housing discrimination based on receipt of "Section 8" assistance.
Res. 110Opposition to WI referendum banning gay marriage and civil unions.
Ord.Am. 27
Right of nursing mothers to breast feed in public locations.
64/19/20078Ord. Am. 17
Motion to permit "Section 8" housing discrimination, would reverse #3.
Ord. Am. 2. Sub. 1Requires county contractors to comply with fair labor standards.
Res. 60
Impeach Bush & Cheney.
Ord. Am. 12 Forbids county from profiting on phone calls and other services provided to jail inmates.
1010/4/2007167-169Ord. Am. 18
Strengthen fair housing requirements and enforcement.
1110/18/2007189-190Ord. Am. 19Family medical leave
1211/12/2007217-224BudgetAdd 12 new sheriff's deputies without offsetting revenue


1. Due to his voting record I listed Richard Brown as a conservative despite the fact that he was endorsed by the Democratic Party in his last run. The Dem Party actually endorsed Lisa Subeck against him this time around, and Brown was eliminated in the primary.

2. Although I did the ratings and made the charts, I didn't compile the actual vote data. Many thanks to my co-conspirator who did most of the hard work to make this post possible.

3. I apologize for using images rather than tables, but blogger has a hard time dealing with anything other than very simple tables.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Howard Dean Back in Madison - Pictures & Audio!

Howard Dean came back to the Majestic Theater yesterday. The last time he was at the Majestic was four years ago, near the end of his unsuccessful presidential campaign. He returned as the Chair of the DNC, an organization he's transformed from a bunch of habitual losers into a political powerhouse! Darn shame he wasn't our nominee in '04.

Dean was in top form, and gave an inspirational talk about Democratic politics, the presidential race, and the DNC's new Neighborhood Leadership Program. You can listen to Dean's speech with the player below (click twice if you have IE), or download an mp3 (7 MB) by right-clicking on this link and saving. The speech is 22 minutes long.

The funniest moment of the night was right before the end of Dean's speech. A 9/11 truther came up in front of the stage and unfolded a sign saying something like "9/11 was an inside job". I helped move the guy out, he was quite nice about it, but when he got to the door he started making a lot of noise and then yelled "Don't tase me, bro!". Everyone cracked up!

The picture above is courtesy of Jim S. Be sure to scroll down and check out the rest of the pictures from the event as well. Click on any of the pics for bigger versions.

Mayor Dave and Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, both of whom spoke at the event.

DPW Chair Joe Wineke and DNC member Jason Rae

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why He's Called Dick

On the occasion of the 4,000th American death in Iraq, ABC News asked Vice President Dick Cheney to comment on the war:
"Noting the burden placed on military families, the vice president said the biggest burden is carried by President George W. Bush, who made the decision to commit US troops to war, and reminded the public that U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan volunteered for duty."

It would be easier to take the Vice President seriously if both he and the President hadn't actively avoided serving in Vietnam, or if any of their family members were even in the military. And, as someone who lost his father to the war that Bush and Cheney refused to fight, I can assure the Vice President that George Bush is not carrying a bigger burden than the military families who have sacrificed a loved one to the neocon fantasy in Iraq.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama, Clinton, & McCain in the 110th Congress

How liberal are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and how conservative is John McCain? Believe it or not, there is an objective mathematical method, called Optimal Classification (OC), that lets you calculate such things if you have enough data to work with. UCSD political scientist Keith Poole, who developed OC, just finished ranking the US Senate based on the roll call votes from the first half of the 110th Congress,and the results are quite interesting.

So, where do the presidential candidates stand? Turns out that Obama is the about the 10th most liberal Senator (Feingold is the most liberal), Clinton is the 20th, and McCain is the 94th.

This isn't just another opinion. As odd as it may seem, it's actually hard science. OC is purely mathematical; there are no value judgments or subjective decisions involved. It's not often that you can separate the underlying truth from all the BS in politics, but this is one exceptions.

When I get a chance I'll graph how the presidential candidates' rankings have changed over time. For a self-proclaimed straight talker, McCain has had some particularly intriguing ideological swings during critical periods of his long political career.

OC is a unique tool that deserves to be more far widely understood and applied, and I'll be writing more about it in the future.