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Info Graphics: Advocacy Ads

I’m doing an advocacy Ad mockup for an Elected School Board in East Chicago, using my daughter as a model. Besides the blurred picture, the need for young models that reflect East Chicago’s population and a little word smith-ing, I think this could be pretty cool. I can graph any data into the hands of our children, including graduation rates and pollution levels – etc. If necessary, I can also do comparisons with other communities.

 

 

On the issue of Elected School Boards:

It appears to me what we are seeking is a system that locates accountability better and more efficiently. Currently, just seven major cities have full mayoral control of education. There has been a nation wide trend toward more centralized control into the hands of chief elected officials e.g., President, Governors and Mayors. This places a greater interest in these central figures making it more difficult to remove them for poor performance or abuses of power in any single sector of their concentrated power. When you keep multiplying areas of responsibility under a single figure you diffuse accountability in any one area and increase opportunities for patronage. Sure this my make for a more stable system, and mitigate against dead-locked disputes, but it also insulates these figures from accountability and removal from office. 

We can look at the Bush administration as a recent example of concentrating power in a chief executive and the problem of seeking accountability, but lets instead look at a smaller example. East Chicago has had a Strong Mayor system with all of its abuses clearly expressed since the beginning of time. With an unemployment rate well above 20%, 28% of its households, or nearly 40% of the electorate, receive a paycheck from the Mayor. This single fact makes it impossible to remove the Mayor from office using the electoral process – too many workers with their jobs on-the-line will not risk voting against the Mayor no matter how tyrannical his behavior is perceived.

The only other alternative for removal would be for prosecution of abuses. And yet, with a justice system so fully politicized as we have in the U.S., the Federal prosecutors office has become a barter system between up-stream political cultures. At the local level Federal prosecutors seem to have been relegated to identifying discontent and collecting whistle blower information on behalf of public executives. Instead of being an arm of the peoples justice they have become an arm of entrenched power. Instead of investigating improprieties rumors have it that they share this information with these executives and only offer mere verbal slaps on the wrist. Unless you have a reach into the oval office this alternative does not appear very realistic. 

Based on my fatalistic example of East Chicago, it appears to me that locating accountability in a strong chief executive is not the way to go.  

But then their are those who would beg to differ. 

  1. Bloomberg:

“Schools Can’t Be ‘Patronage Mills Or ‘Run For The Benefit Of The People Who Work In Them… And when you have these school boards that are fundamentally controlled by special interests, the truth of the matter is the students come last, if at all.”

<wtf>
The irony in this argument is that it is machine politics that is known for taking advantage of patronage. Such as in East Chicago.
</wtf>
 

  1. Matt Yglesias 

“I think this is part of a larger issue about getting democracy right in the United States. There was an assumption, at one time, that you could make government more democratic and accountable by, in essence, multiplying the number of elected officials.

In retrospect, I think this was based on flawed logic and faulty assumptions that forgot to account for the fact that people have a limited amount of time they’re realistically going to spend monitoring public officials. If you live in New York City you’re voting for the President of the United States, two United States Senators, one member of congress, the Governor, the state Attorney-General, the state Lieutenant Governor, the state Comptroller, a mayor, a District Attorney, a city Comptroller, a Borough President, and a city council member in addition to a variety of state and local judges. And that’s entirely typical for the United States. Add a school board member into the mix and the situation gets even more out of control.

The result of this sort of process is the absence of meaningful accountability rather than its presence. The result is that special interests—the people with strong self-interested motives to pay attention—wind up exerting wildly disproportionate influence.

Needless to say, special interests get a lot of influence one way or another. But when it comes to a President or a Governor or a Mayor it is realistic to expect the broad mass of people to form a meaningful opinion and register it at the polls. When you keep multiplying offices and diffusing responsibility, you play into the hands of folks looking to game the system and make it hard for voters to understand what’s happening. I think part of the answer is that states should probably adopt unicameral legislatures and consider cutting down on the number of independently elected statewide officials. But cutting down on the quantity and influence of hyper-local electeds and putting responsibility in the hands of visible figures like the mayor and city council is crucial.”

Although I would generally agree with Matt about the difficulty for citizens to actually participate in the democratic process in any meaningful and informed way, I think the actual loss of accountability in any single area and the potential for abuses of power far outweigh information overload on the part of the citizen. Granted America lacks a good education system and thus a well informed citizenry, but to propose that America needs structural changes that concentrates more power in a few leaders as the answer is beyond me.

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