Heroes at the Board of Elections

It took me three tries, but I finally voted last week. While my wife and I marked our vote-by-mail ballots at the kitchen table, something distracted me and I misvoted. I remembered seeing some instructions about what to do if you ruined your ballot, and decided to try that route. The result was instructive and unexpectedly positive.

The instructions provide a phone number to call if you mess up your ballot. A million and a quarter people live in our county, and I expected a bureaucratic nightmare. But eventually a lady named Georgia answered. She told me to bring my spoiled ballot to the Board of Elections. She gave me the hours I could do that and assured me that I would have no difficulty finding her.

When I got there two days later, I found Georgia right inside the door. “Oh, you’re Mr. Lavezzi,” she said. “See, I have your name right here.” (Holds up a note that she had taken when we talked.) “We’ll get you taken care of right away.”

What I hadn’t realized is that under these situations, you don’t get a new mail ballot: you get a new ballot to vote in person at the Board of Elections. And a lot of people vote there early in person–probably a couple of dozen or so while I was there, in a rather large room with several voting stations. A poll-worker took my spoiled ballot, brought me a new ballot, and showed me to a voting station where I filled out my ballot. I was back in my car in ten minutes.

It was a busy room, with a lot of people going in and out. In this particular encounter, I probably met a half dozen election workers, and every single one was as helpful as they could be.

Our democracy is strained and political tribes are at each other’s throats. A lot of people question the legitimacy of the election process; but that doesn’t match my experience. Whether as a candidate or a voter, every encounter has been positive and professional. “Stop the steal”? I don’t think so.

When you vote, thank the election workers. Just try not to let your attention wander as you fill out your ballot.

For STRS Board, Support Rita Walters for Retired Seat

If you are an Ohio teacher, or if you care about someone who is, this post may be of interest. If not, feel free to move on to cat videos or what passes for political discourse these days.

Members of STRS–the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio–are currently electing three members of the STRS Board: two active seats and one retired seat. The election has attracted candidates, and those candidates have attracted a lot of attention.

A number of friends and acquaintances have honored me by asking for my view of these elections. I cast my ballot for Rita Walters today.

For Ohio educators–particularly career educators–STRS plays the role that Social Security plays for others. When Social Security was set up in 1935, public employees in many states were excluded from the program. Nationally, 6.6 million public employees nationally derive their retirement benefits from plans like STRS.

For decades, these plans chugged along pretty well. However, as Baby Boomers aged, the number of benefit recipients ballooned, largely due to increases in life expectancy. In 2012, the Ohio General Assembly ordered changes to Ohio’s public pension plans that resulted in changes that have affected both active and retired public employees. 1

The financial picture has improved: some of those 2012 austerity measures are being eased, and the fiscal position of STRS is better than it has been in a very long time.

That hasn’t prevented the injection of a fair amount of demagoguery into the STRS elections. Rival candidates have been attacking incumbents, implying that they have solutions that elude the incumbents. The fact is that there are no magic bullets. STRS Board members have fiduciary responsibilities, and a Board member elected with a predetermined agenda has already breached those responsibilities.

The platform statement of Rita’s challenger makes it clear that she has such an agenda, and it demonstrates a dangerous misunderstanding of the role of STRS Board members. The challenger appears to promise what she can’t deliver, and she confuses the role of legislators with that of the Board.

Rita Walters has the training and experience needed to continue to make sound decisions for Ohio’s retired teachers; she’s been doing that. The fund is doing better than it has for years, the COLA has started back, and for actives, the age 60 requirement for retirement has been eliminated.

My advice to my friends and colleagues is to vote to re-elect the incumbents. For retirees, that’s Rita Walters. For actives, those are Jeff Rhodes and Rob McFee.

Votes are due Monday, May 2.

Notes:

  1. As a young teacher, I assumed that my retirement, like Social Security, was supported by the full faith and credit of my fellow citizens. Turns out that wasn’t true: the 2012 legislation sent the message that teachers would have to figure out, and pay for, the solution.

Busy Night at the Open Mic

My last post about the Twinsburg Public Library Open Mic Nights mentioned the irony that in February, with bad weather expected, we actually had a big turnout. It was even busier in March, with 21 participants.

We had a bit more audience as well as more performers, and with each of us performing two numbers, audience members were there for three hours. Still, all seemed to enjoy the evening. (Or if not, they left.)

We had a flutist join us, performing a Bach air and a folk song, which added quite a variety to the performances.

Lately, I have been scheduled last (at my request) in the interest of reducing setup time. But now that I’m using my own mic and amp separate from the guitars, setup time isn’t an issue. I’m being encouraged to go back to taking my regular spot in the order we sign in at. I won’t mind that, and it will permit Tom Honsa to finish up the evening, which is fitting.

For my own numbers, I selected the challenge calling for the “Worst or Best Song for a Father-Daughter wedding dance,” and actually offered one of each.

  • For my first number, I chose “Unforgettable.” Nat King Cole recorded the classic version in 1951. I figure that the “virtual duet” released forty years later by his daughter Natalie qualifies it as among the best songs for a father-daughter wedding dance.
  • Since my second number would be the last of the night, I wanted something more lively. I offered “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love,” from the 1947 musical Finian’s Rainbow, which is both uptempo AND thoroughly inappropriate as a father-daughter dance number. (You’ll have to listen to find out why.)

The challenges for April 6 are:

  • Teen Idol (Laura says, “anyone from Frank Sinatra to Leif Garrett! I’ll even allow a Backstreet Boys Cover!”);
  • Songs about rain-or rain in the title; and
  • Neil Diamond.

In case you missed it, the library has published this short video about Open Mic Nights, which gives a good idea what they’re like and also explores the origins of the event at TPL.

‘Bye for now.