The Campaign Mailbag

With the election now less than two months away, Kish and I are getting bombarded with campaign mailings.  Everybody wants money, of course — even candidates running for office in faraway states.  (How do these people get our names?)  In any case, here are a few splenetic Webner House reactions to the campaign literature we’ve received over the last few days:

1.  We’re not stupid. I hate it when somebody tries to design a mass-produced mailing to look like it was hand-written.  We received one yesterday with a faux hand-written address on the envelope and a faux hand-written post-it note inside.  Does even the most credulous voter actually think that another human wrote the address and note?  It’s insulting to think that politicians trolling for money consider us to be so gullible. Why would I want to give money to someone who evidently believes I am easily duped?  How about showing minimal respect for our intelligence instead?

2.  Please don’t order us around. More and more, political fliers seem to issue edicts, rather than simply trying to educate voters on the different positions of the candidates on pertinent issues.  For example, we received a mailing from the Kasich-Taylor campaign that criticized Governor Ted Strickland’s approach to balancing the state budget, which has involved use of Ohio’s “rainy day” fund and federal “stimulus” dollars.  A fair point to make during a campaign, I think — but the envelope for the mailing commands:  “Tell Ted Strickland . . . “No More Band-Aids!”  My initial response to that directive is:  “Bite me!  Tell him yourself!  I’ve got better things to do!”

3.  Don’t pretend. Our state representative, Marian Harris, recently sent us a mailer focusing on voter frustration with the responsiveness of government and touting her Saturday office hours and regular town hall meetings, both of which are commendable.  But then the mailer says:  “Marian Harris is One of Us — Not a Politician.”  I’m sorry, but by definition a state representative who is currently serving in that capacity is a “politician.”  Why treat your current profession like it is a dirty word?

A Visit To Oakland

Work took me to Oakland, California this past week.  It’s the first time I’ve visited that fair city.

The marina at Jack London Square

I stayed at a downtown hotel and had a chance to walk around a bit.  I visited Jack London Square, which is a development on the waterfront.  Unfortunately, a walk down Broadway from the center of downtown to Jack London Square takes you through a sketchy neighborhood and under a highway overpass, through a dark area that is liberally coated with bird droppings and probably is a haven for homeless people at night. From a city planning standpoint, it is unfortunate that visitors can’t simply walk from downtown to what is intended to be a destination area without seeing the underside of the city.

"Cheemah, Mother of the Spirit-Fire"

Jack London Square itself is nice, with a boat docking area, a marina, and an interesting view of the industrial docks nearby.  It has the kind of restaurants and entertainment options you would expect, as well as some curious public art.  (The piece shown in the photograph at right, called “Cheemah, Mother of the Spirit-Fire,” seems a bit over-the-top in its overt symbolism.)  I found myself wondering how well the area is doing, however.  I was there shortly before lunch on a Thursday, and the Square was pretty much deserted.  In fairness, though, the middle of September probably isn’t the high tourist season in Oakland.

Oakland also has a colorful and very interesting “Old Oakland” section that features some beautiful buildings that look like they date from the turn of the century.  The architecture of the area is replete with the distinct touches and flourishes you would expect in buildings constructed in a vibrant, rapidly growing city of that era.  It appears that modern-day Oakland is trying to rejuvenate the area.  From my walk-through, I’d say it is worth the effort — but I think establishing a feeling of personal security among visitors will be an issue in that area as well.

One of the interesting buildings in Old Oakland

My exploration also took me through Oakland’s “Chinatown” section, which seems to be a vibrant area where lots of people were out and about, and around the newer part of downtown, which features memorable structures like the Oakland Tribune clock tower, the municipal building, and a lavish complex of new federal buildings.  The area near the federal buildings includes a pedestrian mall with an outdoor eating area, restaurants, and shops.  It was a busy place Thursday afternoon, but was pretty much deserted when I walked by Wednesday night at around 7 p.m.

Oakland reminded me of many cities in the Midwest: a once thriving blue-collar city that is trying to deal with an aging downtown, the departure of businesses to greener pastures, a considerable homeless population, and tough economic times.

Make Room For Ducks

The neighborhood duck gang, on the lookout for food this morning

The earthbound ducks that patrol our neighborhood have had a successful summer.  A brood of ducklings was successfully hatched and reared, and our brace of ducks (as opposed to a gaggle of geese, a clutch of chickens, or a covey of quail) now numbers eight individuals.

According to our neighbors, the ducks spend the night in a shallow depression behind a nearby home.  When morning comes, they are on the prowl, looking for food.  When I see their little band on my morning walk, they quack quietly, making a comical noise that sounds like the duck equivalent of the background murmurs of an expectant crowd before a performance.

Whatever the ducks have been doing, it seems to be agreeing with them, as they have fattened up considerably.  Will these ducks head south for the winter?  If so, will they get off their considerable feathered duffs and fly, or will they just waddle into the sunset, quacking all the while?