The signs of the Spring election season are upon us, even when the signs of spring tantalize us one day only to dash our hopes the next. In many ways, my mood regarding my campaign reflects that of our fickle Wisconsin spring this year. I have been agonizing about several aspects of my campaign for the last week or so, where I felt brave and confident before. As a result, I've lost a lot of sleep over this second-guessing process. Always one to use my time wisely, in those sleepless hours I generated a list of the top ten signs that the Spring election season is upon us.
1 Signs, signs everywhere the signs! This is a natural for #1. I put up my signs this weekend, with more to come. Thank you so much to all my supporters for agreeing to let me put a sign in their yards. These poor old beat up signs have been through 7 years and four elections. Nobody can accuse me of not using my signs to their maximum life expectancy, which seems to be about 7 years. A number of my wires have lost their welds as I've tried to insert them into the frozen tundra. I've seen a few of Amanda Koenecke's newly minted signs as well, but nothing from the other four candidates. One told me they don't have any signs.
2 Political ads. Even though I only ran last year, I didn't remember ad costs being so high, even in the Review. The Gazette prices were astronomical for a cheapskate such as myself. Holy politics Batman! I'm sticking with the Review even though I haven't figured out how to reach the outlying precincts at all.
3 Political computer spam: I'm not even going there, but some candidates in larger, more statewide platforms, are.
4 Political mass mailings: I'm considering this venue, but have not yet researched the costs. I would consider this as an alternative to accessing the rural outlying areas with fliers destined to litter the landscape once they manage to escape the rubber bands to which I have attached them in past years.
5 Surprise School Board vote: There was recently a very contentious subject brought before the school board in which only one of the three candidates up for reelection held firm to previously stated remarks and rationale.
6 Campaign Schmoozing: There's always a component of this happening and it's one I don't do so well. Any suggestions about improving this aspect of my campaign would be greatly appreciated!
7 Grossly Exaggerated Claims in TV Commercials: At least none of us ECSD BOE candidates have to worry about this problem! Unless somebody has unlimited wealth they've been hiding until the last minute! The outrage of the Republicans about Mary Burke's stretching the truth in her ad regarding economic indicators this spring was equally matched by the Democratic outrage regarding the Republican ads using unstated tiny print disclaimers in their ads last fall.
8 Rampant Use of the "R" Word. For somebody who was not even willing to say the word "referendum" prior to the survey, Mr. Roth has certainly changed his tune. In fact, the entire survey seemed to have too much focus on referendum when I first took it. However, there is a depth of information to be plumbed from this data if one knows that averages only tells you one part of the story and if you want the whole story, you're going to have to ask for and receive the raw data in order to create an effective strategic plan. Just a little word to the wise: Stoughton. Here is a district which obviously has an amazing new fabrications lab to boast (one of only two HS in the US to have won this lab grant by the manufacturer), went to referendum in 2010 and is going back to referendum again this year. You see, they seem to have become dependent on those funds by using them for more than one-time only expenditures. Without them, they have predicted dire lay-offs and class size increases. If they had been using referendum dollars how they are intended to be used, the end of the short term referendum should not signal the need for massive lay-offs and the resultant class-size increases. No referendum money should ever be used for recurring costs.
The problem became very clear to me when I helped put together the financial portion of the 4K presentation. Ms. Treuden, business manager extraordinaire, came up with the idea of putting a side by side comparison of budget impact with and without 4K using the Baird Budget Forecast model the BOE is used to reviewing. One of the assumptions she used was a 1.1% wage and benefits increase annually and the other was the maximum revenue cap increase schools have gotten the last two years ($75 per kid, which for our district is about $135,000). Assuming all other factors remain the same, the "Without 4K" column, which started at a balanced budget, was at nearly a $400,000 deficit by year 5. The lesson I came away from that was that the maximum increase in the revenue cap will not even sustain an annual 1% salary/benefit increase. This seems so minimal and yet is not sustainable. I don't know what minuscule increase would be sustainable, but I'm thinking it would be well below a half percent. How in the world does this show staff they are valued? The hands of the BOE and the district are tied unless other changes are made in how the budget is done, which can't be done effectively until a strategic plan is in place. They are stuck on some evil merry-go-round in which they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
9 Jockeying for Position I haven't ever been very good at this part of campaigning either, being similar to, but not the same as Schmoozing. There is an alpha human component to this portion of a campaign in which candidates claim their experience A makes them best suited for the job because of B. I am not shy about taking credit for my strengths, or even admitting areas that challenge me. But my marketing consultant (freely advising me) tells me I need to relate more to the regular Joe on the street. I really appreciate the feedback and have been wracking my brain to come up with concrete ways in which to demonstrate what a fun character I am! It's true, I am a barrel of monkeys, but that's hard to convey when demonstrating my strengths. I guess I need to be more present in the joy of the moment, to which my yoga practice has helped me remain aware. If my readers have more suggestions in this department, I'm all ears!
10 Spring Break is Nearly Here! In fact, our UW-Madison child has already returned for that annual week-long sleep-fest, bringing with them their homework and the flu. It has so happened that election day and spring break have coincided for several of the last spring elections wherein I have pleaded with my readers to make sure they have filled out their absentee ballots and mailed them before they go away to a tropical climate. This year, the ECSD has their spring break March 21-30. Everyone should be back in plenty of time to vote so my only plea is that you take me with you to the tropical climate so my feet can defrost in time for the election. But if you ARE planning to be gone on April 1st (it still cracks me up that election day is April Fools Day), please please please get your absentee ballot in before you go! Especially if you plan to vote for me...