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San Francisco, USA

 

Ranked Choice Voting Is Great - the Problem Is the Commentators

I'm disappointed to see another article from Chronicle to decry Ranked-choice voting complicates S.F. mayor's race. What is it so complicated about RCV? It is too complicated for voters? for candidates? or for commentators?

Let set the record straight. RCV is very simple for voters. You put in your ranked choice of number 1, number 2 and number 3 candidates. This is as straight forward as it can be. We often make similar choices in other siutation in life. That's no justified reason to call it complicated.

How the winner is decided may need more explanation. But this should not affect how they vote. A lot of voters may not know the exact detail of US presidential election either or to be able to explain why a candidate who gets the most vote do may necessary wins. Nevertheless this hardly become a issue for voters. It is more a problem for the election campaign for strategizing.

Still I want to bust the myth the RCV is hard to understand. It is simply a tournament. In each round the weakest candidates is eliminated. Whose vote is then assigned to the next ranked candidates if any is left on a ballot. The tournament keep running until a winner with the majority vote is found. Even last year's epic 21 candidates races in district 10 can be followed with a well organized chart. The old run off election system can be understand as a tournament with two rounds at most. With the first round eliminated everyone but the top two candidates.

RCV has greater stake for candidates who need to use perhaps a different strategy. The old way is just to admonish your opponents. Negative campaigns, though despised by voters, are found to be effective. In RCV they have to rely less on admonishing the opponents and to appeal to a large base of voters instead. In many ways, this is one of biggest improvement RCV brings.

The article cites the shocking defeat of Don Perata in Oakland's mayoral race. Don Perata does not understand RCV. That's one thing the article and I agree. I think Don Perata is a sad sad example. It is not because he lost the race, which is fair and square. It is sad because we elect officials precisely to understand and make decision on complex issues that we ordinary citizens do not have enough expertise or diligence. That's the essence of representative democracy. If Don Perata do no understand a simple game like RCV, how can we trust him with big issues like balancing budget, which is infinitely more complex?

The journalists do not help either. Instead of writing about many great improvement under RCV, they often throw doubt on the system. One issue they brought up is the election becomes a more unpredictable system. I agree. I think in many ways this is like saying the stock market is an unpredictable system. This is the nature of having a lot of individuals each making their own choice. The result is going to be unpredictable. When the "leading" candidate Don Perata loses to Jean Quan, it shocks a lot of commentators. Similarly a lot of times stock trend defies the prediction of "expert" analysts. Rather than doubting the market, perhaps we should be more humble in our knowledge and to re-examine how our prediction go wrong instead.

2011.10.23 [] - comments

 

Quote of The Day - New York Times on The Mosque

There is this controversy about a proposed Islamic cultural center building near the World Trade Center site. I don't feel I should have much of a voice as I'm not a New York citizen. Nevertheless I cannot find any justification in good conscience to oppose such idea. Secretly I hope if there is no controversy to start with it will be easier for everyone.

The New York Times have ran a survey and dismayed to find a full 67% percent say that the mosque should be built on "a less controversial location", a position that betrayed the New Yorker's diverse, tolerant and cosmopolitan identity. Unyielding to public and political opposition, they reassert their belief in the editorial. I find it so courageous that I've to quote them:

"We stand with the poll’s minority: the 27 percent who say the mosque should be built in Lower Manhattan because moving it would compromise American values."

2010.09.04 [, ] - comments

 

Your Tax Dollar At Work

Last night I was in this unfortunate incident. I was walking in Mission when a young man behind me suddenly fell down, knocked himself unconscious and was bleeding on the street. I called 911 for an ambulance. This was perhaps the first time I use the emergency service. I gave the dispatcher my location. It was an small alley, those name I only come to know for the first time despite having walked by it many times. Nevertheless, the dispatcher immediately identified the street. This is all more impressive because I have mispronounced the street name. She sent an ambulance to the scene. It takes less than 5 minutes from the time I picked up the phone to the arrival of the ambulance. I saw the young man was getting help. I hope he was only drunk and suffer no more than a bruise on his face.

The professionalism of the personnel in the emergency services deserves my praise. It gives me a warm feeling that whoever run into trouble, help is always at hand. I also happen to know this is a hot button budget issue beacause each time this team is dispatched, it costs the city a good deal of money. And certain population with chronic issue is abusing the service disproportionately.

This brings to the question, how much do citizen willing to pay in tax and what level of service do they expect. I am disappointed that people seems unwilling to acknowledge the connection between the two. Government are facing a lot of budget issues lately. People are adamantly against tax raise. On the other hand they also react strongly to any service cut, be it for school, transit or parks and recreation. There are always a constituent to claim the service is essential and to fight vigorously for the cut.

So what should the government do? Cut waste! They said. I am certain that the government is not working nearly as efficiency as it should be. But it is also a huge bureaucrat resistant to change. Its hands are tied in many ways, often by the rules set by the constituents themselves. But the fatal fault is the thinking that budget problem has an easy solution. People expect this to be painless. "Waste" is something that shouldn't be there in the first place. And it is the only thing that stop people from getting what they are entitled.

Cut waste was the popular solution Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed in his bid for the California Governor in 2003. But how much waste has he managed to cut? A quick glance at the State Budget document shows that the total budget has raised 30% during his term to the peak in 2007, only to be forced down sharply due to the plummet in revenue after 2007. As the Schwarzenegger government themselves have acknowledged, "for much of the last decade, state spending grew faster than population and inflation." So much for the cut waste fantasy.

Many people believe that our government is broken. It probably is. But I believe the democratic process being practiced is also broken. After all it is our process that created this government.

2009.10.07 [] - comments

 

New Day in DC

President Barack Obama ordered the government Monday to re-examine whether California and other states should be allowed to have tougher auto emission standards. Within just one week, Obama has managed to roll back many bad policies set by the Bush administration. We have grown used to the top government being brain dead on science and other issues. When we finally hear a president who say things that actually make sense, and that they actually understand issues, it is so refreshing that it is almost unbelievable.

"Year after year, decade after decade, we've chosen delay over decisive action," Obama said. "Rigid ideology has overruled sound science. Special interests have overshadowed common sense. Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results — and our leaders raise their voices each time there's a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump."

I think the world's issues are inherently complex. So I was cynical about whether we can turn things around just by choosing a different president. But ever since he was elected, Obama has shown much charisma and the will to break from the past. He has brings so much positive energy that makes me feel really hopeful.

Finally I like it that he gave Bush a well deserved slap on the face.

"The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts; we will be guided by them" Obama said.

2009.01.26 [] - comments

 

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