Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tim Rowland’s Thoughts on Voting

Photo by John Warren.I voted for the first time as a New Yorker this month, mainly to vote against the constitutional convention, which might have opened the door to wholesale changes in the forest preserve, and, conversely, for a land bank that will allow small, common sense changes in the forest preserve.

I have to hand it to New York voters. Back in West Virginia, we never would have figured that out. As dearly as I love my home state, it is safe to say that the color gray simply does not exist. You’re either fer-it or agin-it, and the idea that fine tuning is not dependent on wholesale destruction, as a concept, simply does not exist.

I was also fascinated by Question 2 on the ballot, which effectively asked, Is corruption in government a good thing or a bad thing? Here too, voters made the distinction, approving an incremental reform over the convention, whose supporters promised would lead to wholesale change.

It warms my soul to think that there are people out there who believe that influence peddling and money-politics can be erased with a few strokes of a pen, and that with a better state constitution, corruption would cease. Having covered state legislatures for years, the one thing I can say with confidence is that it takes the system-riggers about six seconds to find a way around any new reform law.

Maryland at least tried. They would throw a lobbyist in jail about every other year, a sentence that the offender would sit out with the same stoic sense of duty as a baseball player sits out a 60-day suspension after being popped for taking performance enhancing drugs. Some would even be disbarred, but it didn’t matter; in a couple of years they’d be back in the lineup hitting home runs for their seedy clients.

West Virginia on the other hand — well, never mind. Their greatest, and perhaps only, reform of the past 50 years was removing the kegs of whiskey from the Senate cloakroom.

But as a newbie, what was really of interest in this election was the revelation that New York voters are asked to select a highway superintendent — which to my mind is a little like electing someone to be a paramedic. (They tried that in the Civil War; it didn’t work out.) One of the candidates here in Jay was named “Sleepy” — he would have been rejected in West Virginia for being overly ambitious — and another effectively called for the elimination of the highway department itself. Nice to see people thinking outside the box.

It also made me feel at home, because I am used to highways being a political pawn. Until the courts made them stop, highway superintendents in West Virginia were the product of pure political patronage. I grew up on a road that at the time had no name, other than it’s postal designation of Route 2. The Post Office recognized only one other network of roads, which it thoughtfully named — wait for it — Route 1. The pavement gave out right at our driveway, and only two people lived further back, one of them being a congenial, leathery man named Mack Swaim (pronounced “Swim”).

Mack and his wife Aldine lived in a white clapboard house in the shade of a monstrous mulberry tree. Early each summer the birds would descend to gorge on gallons of mulberries, and the home, streaked with varying shades of cream and purple, would become unspeakably picturesque until it could be cleansed by July thunderstorms.

Mack was the Democratic Party boss in the county, which affected our lives in ways we couldn’t have foreseen when our family moved there from Minnesota in 1962. When a Democrat was elected governor in the state, Mack would immediately be appointed highway superintendent for the county. When a Republican was elected governor he stayed home and raised cantaloupes, or as we called them (can’t understand why this name didn’t catch on) musk-melons.

The upshot was that when Democrats controlled Charleston, our dinky little road was the first to be plowed after a snowstorm. But when the Republicans were in charge, we wouldn’t get plowed out for a week. Thus we became collateral damage in the patronage system, and for my first decade as an adult I voted Republican in appreciation for all the winter days I missed school because the bus couldn’t get through.

Anyway, thanks to candidate profiles in a wonderful little e-publication called the Jay Community News, I was able to become an informed voter in my new locale. For highway superintendent, I voted for the ultimate winner, Kevin Zaumetzer (yes, one guy is Sleepy, and another has two zz’s in his name), because I liked his platform. As roads superintendent, he wants to improve the roads. Sounds reasonable. But as campaign promises go, I wouldn’t try using that kind of logic in West Virginia.

Photo of voting booth courtesy John Warren.

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Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.




17 Responses

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    Dear author; Please write more articles.

  2. joe says:

    welcome to the adirondacks Tim ! I look forward to reading more articles in the almanac…

    joe

  3. adkDreamer says:

    Quote: “…vote against the constitutional convention, which might have opened the door to wholesale changes in the forest preserve…”

    Hmmm. I have heard that argument before. Seems quite odd to me that folks would give up one legal right, the right to hold a constitutional convention as so chosen, for the alternative – the status quote.

    Do those of us that hold the sanctity of the Adirondacks and Article 14 really believe that a constitutional convention is a threat to the forest preserve? Was this perceived threat the sole reason to vote against a constitutional convention? Is it possible that Question #2 was provided as a placebo that essentially undermined the will to vote for a constitutional convention?

    I thought that a constitutional convention would allow the State and all the folks to review ALL of the state constitution, not just one specific Article. Seems like a lot of rights to give up for a perceived threat. If the threat is true and real – that folks really believe that the forest preserve and the Adirondacks would be somehow dismantled by the people of New York, then it stands to reason that the following might also be true:

    1. The majority of the people of New York would vote to somehow dismantle Article 14, and
    2. Proponents of Article 14 are having difficulty getting their message to the people.

    Are we as New Yorkers saying that we will not produce a better, stronger constitution so let’s not take that chance? And as far as Article 14 is concerned, didn’t we just give up an opportunity to strengthen Article 14?

    Just saying, by giving up a right because of fear, we have shown unequivocally that we have no fight left in us, that we cannot make things constitutionally better, that all is lost.

    To me it is a sad state of affairs. I must certainly have missed something fundamental as I voted for the constitutional convention.

    • Tom Payne says:

      Well said. The status quo in the Albany swamp continues,”Forever Corrupt”.

    • Dave Nethaway says:

      Quote… “Are we as New Yorkers saying that we will not produce a better, stronger constitution so let’s not take that chance?”

      What we as New Yorkers overwhelmingly said is that we already have the ability to change the constitution when needed, and that we prefer a more intentional and systematic approach to doing so.

      • adkDreamer says:

        +Dave Nethaway

        Thanks for your reply. Please help me with this question: If we already have the ability to change the constitution when needed, and that we prefer a more intentional and systematic approach to doing so, what would a constitutional convention provide that is different and why is it not intentional, and not a systematic approach?

        Could it be that a constitutional convention is like using a front-end loader when a shovel will do?

        I appreciate any help on this topic.

  4. Charlie S says:

    “for my first decade as an adult I voted Republican in appreciation for all the winter days I missed school because the bus couldn’t get through.”

    Very good Tim! I like your witty wisdom.

  5. Charlie S says:

    adkDreamer says: “Are we as New Yorkers saying that we will not produce a better, stronger constitution so let’s not take that chance?”

    I believe what New Yawker’s said in this vote was that at the very least our government is not to be trusted Dreamer! And rightly so wouldn’t you agree?

    • adkDreamer says:

      +Charlie S+

      I’m not sure about trust and New York State government. I’ll say this and I have said it before, perhaps in a different way:

      New York State government is factually a corporation. Under this corporation exists many departments and agencies including the DEC and the APA. Therefore the corporation controls the agenda and the opposition hence always has the potential to leverage the Hegelian Dialectic.

      When a corporation has full control over any ‘problem, reaction, solution’ scenario, those that are subject the the corporations’ will are somewhat disadvantaged, unrepresented and essentially disenfranchised over time as the goal of a corporation is to exist in perpetuity in any manner that suits them.

      • Charlie S says:

        The sole purpose of a corporation is the earning of profits Dreamer. Herein lies the problem with most of this world’s and societies woes.

        • adkDreamer says:

          +Charlie S

          When I stated the ‘…goal of a corporation is to exist in perpetuity in any manner that suits them’ that includes ‘profits’ and a whole lot more.

          My site handle is adkDreamer not Dreamer.

          • Charlie S says:

            adkdreamer. It is unusual for me to abbreviate names and/or words when communicating through letters, emails, whatnot. Matter of fact it usually irks me when others do it. Here I do it for the first time and you put me in my place for that. I learned something just now, Thanks for the reminder.

  6. JohnL says:

    Wow. If I were from West Virginia, I’d be terribly offended with the repeated negative Appalachia stereotyping in this article. And, I don’t think it really helps to say they’re stupid, but you love them anyway. That’s not funny.

  7. Charlie S says:

    I take it humor eludes you hey John? Only insecure people would get offended by what was written above.

    • JohnL says:

      I wasn’t really addressing you Charlie S, but thanks for weighing in. As always, your opinion is registered and filed safely away for use in one of your future rants.

  8. Charlie S says:

    Just responding to what you publicly wrote JohnL. Seems odd that anyone would be offended by what Tim wrote! No hard feelings. Humor is good you know.

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