Multi-Party Local Elections?

I had an idea, read­ing an arti­cle on why nobody votes in local elec­tions, and how some of it is that those elec­tions are non-par­ti­san, and there­fore vague, dif­fi­cult, or unim­por­tant to vot­ers.

What if, when or if local elec­tions became par­ti­san, the sys­tem was set up to accom­mo­date more than two par­ties? What if then, once in office, peo­ple could explore what it means to gath­er with like minds around like ideas, and then work togeth­er and com­pro­mise? What if peo­ple could iden­ti­fy with some­thing oth­er than D or R when they ran?

We have a lot of issues in this coun­try with the two-par­ty sys­tem, and I have often tried to under­stand it—to explain it, to frame it—as two coali­tions of peo­ple of many dif­fer­ent “par­ties.” Greens and social­ists and lib­er­als and blue dogs and the lot gath­er and gov­ern as the “Democ­rats.” But it is not set up that way, and the bar­ri­ers to real mul­ti-par­ty elec­tions are many, like­ly impos­si­ble to over­come at the Fed­er­al lev­el. But what if we could explore it at the local lev­el?

My objec­tions to hav­ing par­ti­san local elec­tions are all about peo­ple vot­ing Par­ty-line with­out look­ing at can­di­dates or issues. At the local lev­el, a par­ty machine could over­whelm the mea­ger resources of local oppo­nents. It would make pol­i­tics even more polit­i­cal, if you can imag­ine. It would prob­a­bly take some elec­tion reform the likes of which we have been unable to attain. But again, we’ve looked at that at the Fed­er­al lev­el. What could we do at the local lev­el?

Would this be a way for con­ser­v­a­tives who are aghast at Trump to leave the Repub­li­can Par­ty with­out hav­ing to become Democ­rats? Yes, clear­ly.

I know there are a myr­i­ad of prob­lems with this idea. I grew up in Europe, so I have no rose-col­ored view of a many-par­ty par­lia­men­tary style gov­ern­ment. But what if?

Could this just be a sort of grass­roots thing? “I’m Joe and I’m run­ning for May­or in line with the plat­form of the Green Thumb Par­ty.” Could this be a way for con­ser­v­a­tives to decry Trump and the Repub­li­can Par­ty with­out hav­ing to become a Demo­c­rat? I know lots of them would like an option to do that.

Thought­ful com­ments only, please?

Farmers Market Strawberries (and Shortcake, and Morels, and Salad)

Like a month ago now (maybe more?) we went to the farm­ers mar­ket here in Over­land Park for the first time. We bought straw­ber­ries and morels and greens more stuff, and went home and had a most fab­u­lous din­ner. We cooked the morels, added them to pas­ta, had a light greens sal­ad, and made straw­ber­ry short­cake (with real­ly whipped real cream). And I took pic­tures.

Strawberry shortcake, yo
Straw­ber­ry short­cake, yo

At the Huff n Puff

We are at the Huff n Puff, a hot air bal­loon ral­ly in Tope­ka. Did this last year, and liked it enough to come back. We see them launch and float away, then they dri­ve back in, set up again, and do a light show as the sun goes down.  Big hit with the kids.

Will post more pic­tures if they come out.

Phone pix of the Huff n Puff
Phone pix of the Huff n Puff

Riding the rails from Lawrence

When I was a wee boy, grow­ing up in Argenti­na, we used to take the train all the time.  We’d walk to the sta­tion, wait for the train, get on, and go places.  I don’t remem­ber where we’d go, and frankly, I don’t think that was too impor­tant at the time.  I was on a train.

Years lat­er, in Madrid and New York, I’d take the sub­way all sorts of places.  When I came out to the Mid­west, I met peo­ple who had nev­er been on a train, much less com­mut­ed on one.  It was for­eign to me.  And to them, I guess.

But now that I’ve lived here for more than a decade, I real­ize that I’ve been on trains… well, I can count the times on one hand.  More impor­tant­ly, my chil­dren have been on two trains in their lives, nei­ther of which real­ly count.  One was fake Thomas at Thomas the Tank Engine Days in Bald­win, KS.  The oth­er was the light rail in Den­ver, CO.

Last night I found out the Lawrence has a work­ing Amtrak Sta­tion.  It gets vis­it­ed by the South­west Chief (video) twice a day, once on its way to Los Ange­les, and once on its way back to Chica­go.  Even bet­ter, it stops in New­ton, KS, which is a half hour from Wichi­ta, where Grand­ma lives.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, a trip to New­ton would have to start at 12:32 am, arriv­ing at 3:25 am.  And the return trip picks up at 3:01 am, arriv­ing back home at 5:49 am.

Not exact­ly the trip to take a five-year-old on.

Oth­er stops on the way include Chica­go and KC in one direc­tion, and Las Vegas, Flagstaff, and Los Ange­les in the oth­er direc­tion.  It might be a fun trip to make when the boys are old­er, and we can bud­get for a vaca­tion (the trip to Grand­ma’s would cost $162!).

Or, I could wish real­ly hard for Amtrak to start anoth­er train on a 12 hour off­set from the first.  That’s right, Con­gress, dou­ble Amtrak’s bud­get!  Please?

Lawrence has been Street Viewed!

So, Google, pur­vey­ors of “what com­put­ers were sup­posed to do for us,” have this Google Maps fea­ture called Street View. Cars with cam­eras on top cruise around the coun­try, tak­ing pic­tures of… well, of every­thing. Then they load them up online, and when you vis­it Google Maps, you can see actu­al pic­tures of the loca­tion you’re look­ing for.

They start­ed with five cities, broad­ened that to fif­teen, now they are up to some­thing like thir­ty (Wikipedia says 35). While Kansas City got Street Viewed a lit­tle while ago, I was resigned to nev­er get­ting it in Lawrence, a town of only about 140,000, for good­ness sake.

I was wrong.

Look­ing for direc­tions to my tax attor­ney today, I dis­cov­ered that Lawrence had been Street Viewed. Appar­ent­ly Lawrence was includ­ed in the KC update this past Feb­ru­ary, though I dis­tinct­ly remem­ber look­ing for it when I heard it came to KC, but what­ev­er. Take that, Tope­ka! And it is awe­some. Scary, but awe­some. If you know where I live, you can go look at my house! (Please don’t be creepy.) The pic­ture is from last sum­mer, judg­ing from the plant­i­ngs and the rock in the dri­ve­way.

The wife, when told of this Intar­web cool­ness, gave a lit­tle bit of a shriek (okay, it was more of a polite mur­mur) and imme­di­ate­ly point­ed out what this would do for Real Estate… not that we’re look­ing mind you. And she was right.

Has your street’s pri­va­cy been invad­ed yet?

The Lawrence Festival of Trees

This was a while ago… about a month now (the end of Novem­ber) but still fun. Every year (we’re only get­ting to know the hol­i­day events) The Shel­ter (a local kids and fam­i­ly char­i­ty) hosts the Lawrence Fes­ti­val of Trees. Peo­ple dec­o­rate trees and donate them, then oth­er peo­ple (most­ly busi­ness­es) bid on them at auc­tion, and the pro­ceeds go to The Shel­ter.

There is a sug­gest­ed dona­tion for the pub­lic to come and see the trees, which we did. Our baby was prob­a­bly over­whelmed (if you can’t keep ’em qui­et, daz­zle them with crowds and flash­ing lights), but our four-year-old thought it was pret­ty fun. He espe­cial­ly liked the upside down tree. Next year, we hope to see the gin­ger­bread house com­pe­ti­tion across the street, too.

Some of the trees were very gaudy, and some of them were espe­cial­ly clever. I took pho­tos of the ones that caught my eye, and you can see them below. One in par­tic­u­lar, a carousel themed tree, was very cool. The movie below is of that tree.


The pho­tos on Flickr

Local Sugar Cane Cola

I grew up with cola and soft drinks sweet­ened with actu­al sug­ar (from actu­al sug­ar cane), as opposed to the over­ly sweet high fruc­tose corn syrup used here. While I have nev­er been a real fan of the cola fla­vor, I espe­cial­ly detest cola drinks in this coun­try.

Every so often we have got­ten a bot­tle of Mex­i­can Coca-Cola from a local restau­rant, just to taste the dif­fer­ence. When we do, it brings back mem­o­ries of grow­ing up over­seas, and I invari­ably think, this is what coke is sup­posed to taste like.

Well, the oth­er day, at our local food coop­er­a­tive ((Our local food coop is The Com­mu­ni­ty Mer­can­tile, in Lawrence, KS.)), I found this:

Lost Trail Sugar Cane Cola

Made in KS It is the real deal. Expen­sive, yes, but no more­so than your Jones Soda or your Extra Gin­ger Brew. It tastes like cola should. And, it is made just about six­ty miles from here, in Louis­burg, KS (where, inci­den­tal­ly, my wife’s uncle lives). The Louis­burg Cider Mill ((The Louis­burg Cider Mill, in Louis­burg, KS, has a pret­ty impres­sive web site.)) is most­ly an apple cider and root beer brew­er (and aren’t those a dime a dozen nowa­days) but they also make this stuff.

Now, there’s a lot of stuff out there about high fruc­tose corn syrup ((High Fruc­tose Corn Syrup at Wikipedia, not a bad arti­cle but a lit­tle left of cen­ter.)), the sug­ar lob­by ((Sug­ar at Wikipedia, though this is an cau­tion­ary exer­cise in Wikipedi­at­ing… wow this arti­cle is a mess.)), and sug­ar alter­na­tives ((Ste­via, a sug­ar alter­na­tive at Wikipedia. Pret­ty inter­est­ing, espe­cial­ly the part about Cargill and Coca-Cola.)). The health food­ies have their angle, the naftites have their angle, indus­try has their angle, even the Japan­ese have their angle. The pol­i­tics are fas­ci­nat­ing, too ((Sug­ar in the 2007 Farm Bill, skip down to the sec­tion on sug­ar.)).

I’m not going to get into it, except to say this: I like the idea of actu­al sug­ar. And, it tastes bet­ter, too. So there.