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June 3, 2003


Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Thou shalt have early polling places!
-- John Arntz (Elections Director for the next five years, sealing the fate of IRV)

I told you idiots so! I told you 3 years ago when Willie bought the Eagle II machines that there was probably some backdoor way to cheat on them and that any real reform in the Department of Elections would have to include dumping ES&S (the machine & ballot company, owned by a Republican senator who lied about being CEO while his company’s machines were used to tabulate his own close election which, not so surprisingly, he won).

More on that later.

The aforementioned Arntz has been showing his disdain for the Board of Supervisors now that he is insulated with a six-figure contract for the next five years. Who the hell did they interview? Let me guess. Uh, seeings as I was there when Arntz nearly fainted in his first election night appearance as acting director cause a few polls got ballots late, seeings as the new Elections Commission said Arntz tested high on a “mock” election night interview (for God’s sake, didn’t they see the real one!?) and was some “300 points” above his closest competitor … hmmmm, who could he have beaten by that kind of margin (and who scored the test - ES&S?)? I’d guess he beat out Sylvia Johnson, Frederick Hobson, Amos Brown, and Warren Hinckle. Personally, I’d have gone with Hobson as the new head of the outfit as it requires long hours in the basement, sitting among stacks of paper while brooding and sorting lawsuits. All the better if he did the gig as “Miss Kitty” and sat in an open window to meet her public à la Amsterdam.

I mean, I’m the only one with the balls to say that the San Francisco Department of Elections is obviously under a curse from God Almighty (in whatever form you deem her). C’mon, think about the last two Directors of Election. Remember our own Dr. Phil? He, like, brought an exotic masseuse to be his assistant. (Copying Da Mayor?) He got popped for raising money for the mayor. Then, do we really need to talk about the ballad of Tammy Haygood?

Face it, folks, our elections may as well be run by three witches with kettles burning on Twin Peaks. And every election should be on Halloween!

We should be so lucky. But what we get instead is a contract for $1.6 million to ES&S when the work can be done, say industry insiders, for a third that with room to spare. And the contract will never be fulfilled. The contract, that is, to alter the city’s three-year-old Eagle voting machines to work for “Ranked Candidate Voting,” or IRV, as it was passed on election day (“Instant Run-off,” as it was sold, cause it eliminates the need for run-off elections).

Sandoval and A. Phillip Randolph

Then, here comes Gerardo Sandoval (give this man a raise so he can clean up his act, pleeeease!). Here comes Sandoval carrying a 2.5 million dollar special appropriation to a bunch of the mayor’s cronies for “Outreach” to teach the people the system Da Mayor hates. “Pretend you’re at the track. You hedge your bet by covering Win, Place & Show. You understand? We got 2.5 million if you want to go to the track and try it out first hand.”

Yup, uh huh. Got you. Except for the part with Sandoval carrying Willie’s numbers receipts. This work will make you cynical if you don’t drink heavily and smoke the best of ganja daily. Fortunately, I’m covered on both fronts.

So, the Board’s “reformed” Elections Commission creates Arntz, who rises from the table and starts kicking some ass on his creators. Yeah, his bit about not wanting to create more early polling places was a precursor (my personal guess only), what my buddy Adriel Hampton said on Comcast’s “City Desk” on Cable 23 last week: “The canary in the mine. The warning before the great event.”

OK, I’m being too eloquent. Hmmmm, how important are clean elections? Hell, we never had them before and did just fine.

Anyway, I’m betting (my experts tell me) that Arntz, as a former computer teacher and law school graduate, should know better than anyone that the alteration of the ES&S program to accommodate IRV is a piece of cake. He’s pretending it’s nuclear physics. I see him leading an obstructionist effort within the department to see that IRV never happens. The boy is not dumb. For a computer lawyer to suggest a Florida-type hand count for our first IRV when a simple programming remedy could easily be had reeks of Willie Brown. Obstruct. Obstruct. Obstruct.

Soooo, prove me wrong John Arntz. Let an outside consultant look at the ES&S software.

It ain’t gonna happen though, is it, boy? Nope, not for 1.6 million. Not for 100 million. Because it has national ramifications and could lead to honest elections. The kind of elections the ES&S equipment clearly compromises. You were there when they bought that equipment, right? Hmmmm.

Enuff: sobone@juno.com