Are you interested in living in a City with a connected bike network? Would you like to have a city with streets so safe an eight year old can ride her bike to school unaccompanied?
There is only one way we get from where we are now to where we’d like to be: registering people interested in a livable city to vote and then voting for candidates who will make this a more livable city.
Sure, we can DIY a community garden or a bike path here and there – but nothing compares to the resources of the state. The good news is that we don’t need an armed insurrection to depose the people in power who like LA as a car-only hellscape – we only need a couple hundred people to help Bike The Vote.
Let me break it down for you.
In May of 2013 the City of Los Angeles held an election. It was, as is the norm these days, a pretty low turnout affair – a city that is home to 3.8 million people only saw 1.8 million register to vote and only 419,000 of that group actually cast a ballot. Horrible news, right? Sure, it is bad. It has been the same dismal story about local election turnout going back as far as I can remember.
For those who voted, though, this is great news!
Each voter in that election cast a ballot that represented 9 people who didn’t vote. Imagine that. You register to vote and when you get your vote-by-mail ballot it has 8 extra ballots inside the envelope! Hell yes!
In Los Angeles’ 1st council district, Gil Cedillo won his election in 2013 with 10,152 votes to his opponents 9,389. That is a difference of 763 votes! Out of the approximately 250,000 people in LA’s 1st council district only 81,787 registered to vote and only 20,953 showed at the polls. Each voter that cast a ballot was voting for 11 people in the district!
Gil Cedillo spent about $2.3 million in his winning campaign (including all his campaign money and the so-called independent expenditures) – which means each vote cost him about $225 per vote.
Here is where it is interesting. Anyone can see how voting in these low turnout elections magnifies the voice of a voter to represent 8 to 10 non-voters voices. Imagine if a few of us spent time getting our friends and relatives registered to vote and made sure they mailed in their ballot or went to the polls. Let’s optimistically say you got 9 friends and neighbors to vote in the March election for the councilman of your choice. Now you are speaking for 100 non-voters in the district. You have provided $225 x 10 worth of savings to the candidate of your choice – that is a “donation” of effort that is was worth $2,250 in the election that Cedillo won. The legal limit for cash and in-kind contributions is $700 per person per election. Your speech equals thousands of dollars and hundred other people if you can only vote and get 9 friends to do the same for the candidate of your choice.
In races for the local school board, the LAUSD, with even lower numbers of ballots cast, our votes and those we influence can equal twice as many people and twice as much money. For those of you who play role playing games, that is voting with 20x hit bonus.
What difference will this make? Well, take a look again at LA’s 1st council district: since taking office Gil Cedillo has squashed the Figueroa bike lane project (a shovel ready plan that was funded, designed, and approved by the full council), approved several over-sized buildings in Echo Park despite local opposition, closed off pedestrian tunnel access to residents in Solano Canyon despite residents protests, kept a Cypress Park community center staffed with a non-performing rent seeking non-profit, fought to allow a mechanized car wash in the heart of a Transit Oriented District, and generally wasted thousands on PR blitz special events that leave his district as poorly manged as it has always been. All this because of 763 votes.
If you can speak for 100 voices by getting 9 of your friends to join you in the March election, imagine what would happen if even a few of the people in your bike crew, your jogging posse, your hiking buddies, your strap-hanger pals, or dog walking friends did the same. With a very small number of people in each city council district we can have an outsized impact on what will surely be one of the lowest turnout elections in local history. We will represent a block of votes that candidates cannot out-spend, cannot drown out, and must respect – and for those of us walking and biking throughout the day and across this city I think I am speaking for all of us when I say, “All we ever wanted was a little respect”.
Let’s get out there and get some.
If you’re interested in getting out the vote for a slate of Los Angeles city council candidates and LAUSD school board members in the upcoming election, log in to Facebook and join the #BikeTheVote Facebook Group. You can also get up to date information about volunteering opportunities for livable-streets friendly candidates at Bike The Vote’s web-site.
The deadline to register to vote is February 17, 2015! Get on it! #BIKETHEVOTE!