Believe it or not, sometimes local politics can be exciting. I’m excited, for example, to cast votes for Lisa Middleman for Allegheny County DA, Bethany Hallam for Allegheny County Council, and Chelsa Wagner for Allegheny County Controller. Sometimes local politics can be depressing. I’m not casting a vote in many of these races because less than two people bothered to run.
The corporate media doesn’t give a shit about local elections unless it’s paid to. In real life, local politics are more important than national politics if people truly want to change things. The citizenry has direct access and more influence in what happens, if they choose to participate. That’s why corporations never talk about local politics in their media. Nobody wants you to get together with your neighbors and change things. That would be dangerous. They want you to sit at home and go on Twitter and show what a good person you are by how much you bitch about bad politicians. Don’t you dare go knock on the door of your local representative’s office and bitch about potholes right in his face. That’ll cut into his time receiving money from rich people.
It would be nice if we would receive daily, adult-level discussion about local candidates and issues, moderated by hot local news ladies and handsome local news men. Even if you enjoy practicing the ancient art of literacy, goddamned newspapers barely write about local elections. Journalism is dead, stomped out and replaced by sensationalism and paid advertising, the only forms of information delivery allowed by corporate media. I use the term information loosely. Bullshit was once food… for a bull — and it’s still technically edible. But would you call it food? The corporate media feeds you shit, and, especially if you watch Fox News or MSNBC or CNN, you eat it.
Citizens who want to be informed before entering the ballot box, especially in odd-numbered years, have to dig for information online and do hours of research themselves. Many citizens don’t have the time or skills.
So once again I’m volunteering this public service to my neighbors.
How to Find Out About Your Local Elections
1. Enter your home address into Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup. You will then get a list of all the elections, ballot referendums, and candidates you’ll have to choose from on your upcoming election day
2. You can click on the candidates’ names for a brief summary
3. Most likely you will have to Google the candidate to get enough information, such as their campaign website. That’s where some candidates tell you where they stand on issues
4. Google the issues on the off-chance that a journalist wrote an article about them for an ailing publication
Statewide: Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment (2019)
My vote: No
Reasons: This measure is on the ballot in the first place because a billionaire wants it to be there. He spent $6 million to pay for this. Even if I agreed with it, the fact that a ballot measure gets to happen because guy with a mountain of cash wants it is a dumb way to run a democracy. The billionaire is Henry Nicholas and he’s well intended. This law won’t make him richer as far as I can tell. His sister Marsy was tragically shot to death by a psycho ex boyfriend in 1983. The text of the ballot measure reads:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to grant certain rights to crime victims, including to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity; considering their safety in bail proceedings; timely notice and opportunity to take part in public proceedings; reasonable protection from the accused; right to refuse discovery requests made by the accused; restitution and return of property; proceedings free from delay; and to be informed of these rights, so they can enforce them?[
Of course this thing is going to pass with language like that. The only problem is, this will have unintended consequences that possibly go against the US Constitution and the rights of the accused, the language is too vague which will tie up the courts, and it increases the likelihood that someone falsely accused could be convicted. It could also have the opposite effect from the intention and make the legal system even more tangled and sluggish. The ACLU opposes it. Andy Hoover explains:
The proposed Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment runs afoul of the protections granted to those subject to the power of the state. The new guarantees in this proposal include a victim’s right to refuse “an interview, deposition or other discovery request” sought by counsel for a defendant. Think about that: A person’s freedom is on the line in a trial, and Marsy’s Law would prohibit them from having the necessary information that could prove their innocence or mitigate the severity of their sentence. That person’s right to a fair trial would be lost, and with it, the chances for grave miscarriages of justice to occur increase.
If lawmakers truly cared about victims’ rights, they’d take their time to craft a law that adheres to the US Constitution, instead of pushing through some vaguely worded decree from a billionaire.
Citywide: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Home Rule Charter Amendment for Parks Trust Fund
For a more in-depth look at this issue, see this Pittsburgh Current article by Charlie Dietch, an actual journalist who knows more than me about things.
Shall the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter be amended to establish a dedicated Parks Trust Fund beginning in 2020 to: improve, maintain, create and operate public parks; improve park safety; equitably fund parks in underserved neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh; be funded with an additional 0.5 mill levy ($50 on each $100,000 of assessed real estate value); secure matching funds and services from a charitable city parks conservancy; and assure citizen participation and full public disclosure of spending?
My vote: I GUESS.. (yes) **update 11/2/19: Fuck it I changed my mind.. NO
Reasons: I’m happy that my tax dollars go to parks. I like to hike and sit and read, and by just doing that make super whitebread people worry that I’m a drug-addled homeless guy who wants to eat their children. But the city never spends the money the way they say they’re going to. I like that last part, “assure citizen participation and full public disclosure of spending”. It’s probably bullshit, but curiosity as to how they’re going to skirt that part is killing me,
so I’m voting Yes. I’m voting No. Property is getting too expensive too fast around here anyway, and this will give landlords an excuse to raise rent. Plus, when they inevitably squander the funds on other bullshit, it’ll give me something to bitch about. I’m keeping an eye on the parks if this passes. I can’t wait to complain on Twitter to Mayor Peduto, who I’m pretty sure muted me years ago.
Candidates for Pennsylvania Superior Court (choose 2)
My vote: the two Democrats
Reasons: Dan McCaffery grew up in a union house and he’s endorsed by all the unions. By law, candidates for judge can’t be all political and make speeches, so you have to go by who is endorsing them and whether or not you like the endorser’s politics. I hesitate to vote for Amanda Green-Hawkins because she was a Clinton Superdelegate, but her and my county, Allegheny, picked Clinton in the primary, so that’s how she should have cast her vote anyway. I love how every Clinton “stan” (I hate that stupid word) says the electoral college sucks, but the shitty oligarchical DNC Superdelegate system is just fine. But Amanda Green-Hawkins is more than qualified, and she’s endorsed by unions and Planned Parenthood, so she gets my vote.
Allegheny County Treasurer
My vote: abstaining
Reason: There’s only one guy running. I don’t vote for candidates who don’t have challengers. It’s dumb. Although I have a prediction for you: Democratic Incumbent John Weinstein will be re-elected.
Allegheny County Executive
- Rich Fitzgerald (D) (Incumbent)
Matt Drozd (R)
My vote: abstaining
Reasons: This is a perfect example of why 21st century American elections are depressing and why people don’t vote. We have on the “left”, a fossil fuel corporate whore Democrat. And his opponent, a right-wing nutcase.
Let’s examine the right wing nutcase first. When Matt Drozd ran for the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States in New Hampshire in 2016, among 30 other candidates, he didn’t expect to win. According to his campaign website that consists of a single graphic with pics of him and his kids, he’s not expecting to now. Drozd is a former member of the Allegheny County council where he became famous for proposing that Western Pennsylvania secede from the state and become its own state. He’s going to lose because he’s a shithead and he’s not even trying.
Rich Fitzgerald is why I hate the Democratic Party The guy spends half his time helping the fossil fuel industry plunder our resources and send the planet into climate catastrophe through fracking. Then he goes on TV with his slick little campaign commercial and talks about “cutting carbon emissions” with a straight face. That’s reason enough for me never to cast a vote for him. Climate change is real, and we have to stop these companies from burning more fossil fuels. To heck with Rich Fitzgerald, gosh darn it, and to heck with this farce of an election. But “Vote Blue no Matter Who” rapes the environment and helps usher in the destruction of the species. Greta Thunberg should choke Rich Fitzgerald out with her Swiss Miss braids.
Allegheny County District Attorney
My vote: Lisa Middleman
Reasons: Unlike the above sham election, this one has an actual human being running. Zappala has to go. People had to march in the streets to get him to bring criminal homicide charges against East Pittsburgh Officer Michael Rosfeld after he shot 17 year old Antwon Rose in the back and killed him (Rosefeld was later acquitted, of course). The ethically challenged incumbent DA threw four teenagers in jail, ranging in age from 15-18, for 15 months before their names were cleared in a murder case. So he basically kidnapped four children, the dick. And this is just the tip of the iceberg with this guy.
Lisa Middleman is running as an Independent so YAY that’s one less Democrat I have to vote for. She’s endorsed by Democracy For America, an organization that endorsed Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, and backed “The Squad” as well as other young, sane candidates across the USA who are sick of this bullshit. She’s also endorsed by Pittsburgh NORML, SEIU, and UE. The first item on her platform, as a prosecutor, is END MASS INCARCERATION.
Allegheny County Council (Choose 2)
Candidates: (there are only 2 to choose from)
My vote: Bethany Hallam only
Reasons: Right on her frickin bio she tells you she was an opiate addict who was locked up in Allegheny County jail for 5 months. She primaried the old Dem guard by running an honest campaign where she used her past to talk about the opioid crisis and other issues like transit access, criminal justice reform, taking on UPMC and Highmark, and environmental issues. Here is her entire opinion on one environmental issue.
Hopefully one day she’ll unseat the fossil fuel whore and become County Executive. Bethany Hallam is the Yinzer AOC. Check out her appearance on the Pittsburgh Current Podcast. I’m glad we have her.
Allegheny County Controller
My vote: Chelsa Wagner
Reasons: Because Chelsa Wagner is awesome. There’s no way I’m not voting for her. Wagner was elected in 2012, the year I moved back home to Pittsburgh from North Carolina. Trying to catch up on local politics, I watched a couple of her hearings and I was like, who the fuck is this badass lady? She did what a County Controller is supposed to do, get in there and kick everyone’s ass. Chelsa went after UPMC for the fact that they’re an empire weaseling out of property and other taxes by acting like a charity. She released a report called “Property Tax Exemptions” that detailed how much money UPMC is sucking out of the region. (Check out Carnegie Steel and UPMC: Philanthropy and Social Control by me). And more reasons from Wikipedia:
Wagner made her office the first in Allegheny County government to provide paid family leave, an example which was followed by the County administration and the City of Pittsburgh, and instituted a $15 per hour minimum wage for her employees.
Note: the Pittsburgh Public School District I’m in, #9, is not up for grabs this year. But I decided to write about them for the benefit of my neighbors. There’s only one real contested seat out of the 4 anyway.
Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors District 8
I would vote: abstaining
Reason: one guy running
Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors District 6
I would vote: abstaining
Reason: one guy running
Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors District 4
I would vote: abstaining
Reason: one lady running against herself (this is due to the fact that you can cross register to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries for School Board, and she won both primaries)
Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors District 2
- Devon Taliaferro (D)
- Kirk Rys
I would vote: Devon Taliaferro
Reasons: Like the above lady running against herself, Kirk Rys ran in both primaries and lost against Devon Taliaferro on the (D) side, but won on the (R) side. Rys is a transplant who works at BNY Mellon, has degrees from Pitt in Law and Public Policy, and sits on the boards of an affordable housing organization and a soup kitchen He seems like a great dude. The reason I would vote for Devon is she was born, raised, and lives in this district. She has plenty of community credentials. While Rys perspective shouldn’t be ignored, and will probably help the district’s schools, I would just trust a grass roots perspective more than an outside one if this was my neighborhood.
Pittsburgh City Controller
My vote: abstaining
Reason: one guy running