Signs of election times by
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I don’t have any political buttons in my possession, so at first I thought I wouldn’t write a story this week. However, the pandemic has afforded an opportunity to walk frequently in my neighborhood in Santa Clara, California. For the past month I have watched campaign signs sprout. The signs practically butt up against the homes; it’s the Bay Area, so the yards are postage-stamp size. And the neighborhood is completely blue. Trump signs are thankfully MIA, and Biden signs are relatively rare, since this preference is assumed.

Trump signs are thankfully MIA, and Biden signs are relatively rare, since this preference is assumed.

Most signs, like the politics, are local: city council and school board candidates. Based on the number of signs, the neighborhood is engaged, which is great. I confess that I normally don’t vote in the school races, leaving that choice to the area’s well informed parents. This year, the city council elections mean a lot, and alas, are fraught with issues of diversity, money, and a monster offspring of an 800-pound gorilla and the elephant in the room: Levi’s Stadium and the San Francisco 49ers football team.

In this place where there is no majority ethnicity (we are about 1/3 white, 1/3 East Asian, and 1/3 South Asian), the council has been all white for almost a generation. After many legal battles, last year the court agreed that the city, which had elected council members at-large, was not being represented fairly. It ordered that district elections be put in place. For the first time, we are voting in six districts, and now several well qualified “minority” candidate challengers have a real chance of winning. So far, so good.

Alas, the current city council has been in a pitched battle with the 49ers, the issues too intricate to describe here, and the 49er owners are backing the challengers–with a lot of cash. About a week ago the campaigns turned negative, hit mail started arriving, and TV ads (really, for the city council?) became ubiquitous. Despite the 49er owners’ backing, I voted for the challenger in my district because she is well qualified and she is willing work with the team, but not cave into their demands, to straighten out some of the issues.

This morning I received a robocall from a local PAC that stated that $3 million has been spent on city races. Oh, what that $3 million could do to help people who are at the local food bank! I wish we could just read the yard signs and candidate statements, but the era of simplicity is gone and big money has arrived. Who will win I can’t predict. But these elections, national and local, money aside, really matter in 2020.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    I am in total agreement about the role of money in politics, Marian. Even for local elections like yours, candidates have to raise a ridiculous amount of money. I don’t think corporations are people — that was a huge mistake by our supreme court that made a bad thing even worse.

    • Marian says:

      Yes, that decision has turned out to be tragic. The city election process was doing OK until the money started pouring in, and now the material and ads generated have been very misleading on both sides.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Fully agree about money in politics. Don’t get me started about Citizens United — including the fact that one of my First Amendment heroes from my old law firm, Floyd Abrams, represented Citizens United. He took the preposterous (to me) position that money = free speech. Sorry, Floyd, it ain’t.

    That said, so long as money remains so important, I’m glad to see Biden and the Democrats have raised so much and have so much left for the home stretch, while Trump and the equally psychopathic Brad Pascale have run through all of theirs.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Until her move last December, my daughter lived a mile from the stadium. She said it was just awful on game day. I don’t really know the issues, but I’m sure a vast amount of money is pouring in. We saw Joe Kennedy give up his Congressional seat to try to unseat Ed Markey in the Senate. That race got crazy too – two good liberal candidates, with very few differences, taking money away from other important races. It was galling to watch.

    • Marian says:

      Isn’t that awful, Betsy? I wish the liberal candidates could have been more strategic, and if nothing else, distributed funds to other worthy candidates to help them. Think how much better off we’d all be! I feel for your daughter. We live on the southwest side of the stadium and aren’t that impacted, fortunately, but all the traffic is funneled in from the northeast, and the residents on that side really hurt during game days and concerts.

  4. Suzy says:

    I totally agree with you, Marian, about the ridiculous amount of money being spent on these campaigns that could be used for so many better purposes. The ads for and against Prop 22, regarding whether Uber and Lyft drivers should be independent contractors or get employee benefits, have been a constant barrage, both in the mail and on TV.

    I’ve been to one concert at Levi’s Stadium and swore I would never go back. Everything about that place is dreadful. But leaving the parking lot afterwards was the worst part. (No, we didn’t fork over $40 for parking, but the friend who picked us up made the mistake of driving into the parking lot to get us, and it took an hour to get back out.) I would certainly not want to live anywhere close.

    • Marian says:

      I know, Suzy, the prop that bothers me the most is the one about kidney dialysis clinics, as if the average person has the expertise to decide what should be a medical issue. I agree about Levi’s (I dislike the stadium because you either broil in the sun or freeze in the shade), but in the unlikely event post-Covid you want to go to a concert, let me know. We have a “secret” method of helping our friends get in and out a whole lot faster and easier.

  5. Marian, I confess I’ve often been uninformed about local issues and when in doubt would vote for my party down the ballot – or vote for the women as my mother taught me.

    No need to say this time around voting down the ballot is a must!
    Cautiously optimistic I’m holding my breath!

    • Marian says:

      Yes, down ballot will be critical. Ironically, the existing city council in Santa Clara is mostly women, but fortunately half of the candidates running against them are women as well, so it will work out.

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