Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Editorial: Law judge decides correctly on water

The reader may notice something odd about the leader of the opinion page today: it doesn't offer an opinion.

Oh, there's an opinion of sorts in the headline, but there's no supporting argument in the text for characterizing the decision as "correct." There's only a recitation of the facts of the ruling.

The unnamed Courier editor's Barcalounger is hard at work again, turning in an echo of the front-page story, something that would better fit a breezy column on the business page. It's like he just wanted a little vacation today.

What it really means is that while the editor understands intuitively that the court result has some sort of meaning, he can't quite figure out what it is beyond an apparent win for the side he prefers in the contest. A reader would be excused for concluding that his grasp of the complexity of the pipeline issue is weak and shallow.

The facts are that this ruling was expected by everyone involved, ending a technical, preliminary bout that opens the doors for the brutal main events to come. The results there are far less clear, all we know for sure is that they'll be complex and very costly, involving many stakeholders beyond Prescott and SRP.

Challengers sweep election for Prescott City Council

These local results are in line with many other elections around the country this week. We see clearly once again that where conservatives are dogged about voting, progressives need inspiration, and our local slate was anything but inspiring. It also shows that for all the sturm und drang among those of us who pay attention, Prescott remains a sleepy place overall, and Prescott residents in general really don't think Council matters all that much. This is a self-fulfilling idea, I'm afraid, furnishing power over our lives directly into the hands of the developers and corporatists who will be most happy to exploit it to their advantage.

Okay, let's do our sums.

There were 13,093 Prescott voters this time.
Mr Hanna got 7,548 votes.
Ms Linn got 6,979.
Mr Blair, 6,708.
Mr Luzius, 5,888.
Mr Peters, 4,337.
Mr Katan, 2,104.

Notice something missing?

The total of that column is 33,564. At three votes for each of 13,093 voters, the available total for Council was 39,279, leaving 5,715 votes missing. In the vote trade we call that the undervote.

The final tallies will change slightly, but by any standard that's a big number relative to what would have been needed to alter the results substantially. Compare this to the results on the props:
400: 8,809 ayes + 3,329 nays = 12,138; undervote 955
401: 8,233 ayes + 4,183 nays = 12,416; undervote 677

It's academic to the result, of course, but it would be interesting to know how many of those undervoters were either protesting the weakness of the Council candidates or voting strategically, reducing the totals overall in favor of a single candidate. I'd bet five bucks their preferences are not evenly spread statistically.

It might also play into the idea that Prescott has grown beyond the current regime and we could be better served by a borough system, in which each Council member represents a specific area of the city.

Radio news

Regular 89.5 listeners will have already noticed our format change this week. This will be coming to 90.1 in Prescott once we jump a couple more bureaucratic hoops, bumping KJZZ off the air here.

Some listeners will not be happy about this, and I want to get the word out that it wasn't our idea. Rather, the boss tells me that KJZZ in Phoenix, our erstwhile partner for many years, unilaterally abrogated its contract with us.

Our new network partner is KAWC in Yuma, providing community-based programming as well as selections from PRI and other public media outlets. KJZA weekend programming will also start earlier on Saturday. If you're a member of KJZZ, we hope you'll also consider membership in KAWC to help support community radio here and across the state.

The new format is just the beginning, and you can expect to hear new shows and features coming online over the next few months. I hope you'll give it a try, tell your friends, and let me know what you think.

For you early birds I especially want to recommend The Takeaway weekdays 6-8am, produced and hosted live by my old school chum and bandmate John Hockenberry, who's found his way back to public radio after a long, storied career with NPR, ABC and NBC News. And on Saturday mornings we'll be hearing the familiar voice of Bob Edwards 8-10am. I hope you'll join us.

Talk of the Town: Teachers take multiple hits on pay

Barring unforeseen circumstances, along with an update on the deal to open a special legislative session, I'll be discussing Victoria Kendall's letter with Rep Mason this weekend on The People's Business (KJZA 89.5FM, Sat and Sun at 2pm).