Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gigi McClure didn't do well enough in Jeff Davis' territory to win


Other than Renata Rollins winning a seat on the Olympia City Council, Gigi McClure doing so poorly is probably the most surprising result of the last election. Her military logistics background easily translated into an argument for an institutionalist kind of candidate that would bring peace to the port commission. From one angle she looked like a sort of proto Bill McGregor, whose decades in port operations across western Washington is the main element of his campaigns.

But, as McGregor seems to be squeezing out a close win in his race, McClure was beaten handily by incumbent E.J. Zita. While Zita herself had a close race against institutionalist Joe Downing Jerry Farmer (who is also this guy) two years ago, two years on the commission obviously gave her at least a small incumbents edge.

But, most interesting is the geography of where McClure essentially lost this race, where she did a poor job recreating McGregor's map.




On this map, the darkest colors are where McClure did worse compared to McGregor. When you zoom in you see a lot of the same precincts that McClure did the poorest in compared to McGregor are the same ones that Jeff Davis won in against Sue Gunn four years ago. In the same way that McClure was the institutionalist against Zita, Davis was the institutionalist against Gunn in 2013.

Davis' best precincts were in a band of suburban neighborhoods around the more dense areas in northern Thurston County, these are the areas around Yelm Highway and College that make a broad loop around the older parts of the county.

During the recent episode of The Olympia Standard, I made a quick assessment of why McClure didn't match McGregor, but I'm not totally sure I was right. I said that her penchant to equate port protestors with terrorists probably didn't play very well in the suburbs. I think this is still true and I'm also sure that Zita's incumbency had some play in results too. But I'm expanding my thinking. I'll let you know when I get back anything interesting.

Monday, November 13, 2017

2017 election lesson number 2: How the Oly Progressives boxed them in


This post will play off my last one where I talked about how the power elites (a term coined by Steve Salmi at Green Pages to describe non-progressive or transactional candidates) could not expand their geography after the August primary. What was the most important geography for the slate of progressive candidates in Olympia, especially compared to other recent progressive candidates?

Before I start (again), here is some deeper reading for you (again):

Here are all the spreadsheets and map I've been working from. The data is from only a day or two after the election, so as counts march on, things will change obviously. But in terms of making maps, I think these will more or less stand pat.

For further reference, Adam Peterson did some really great shapefile based maps that he posted to Thurston Progressives.

Marco Ross ran for mayor against Cheryl Selby in 2015. He is the most recent progressive candidate for city council and I'm using his results to compare to this year's successful slate.

Literally, the answer to where they did better is: everywhere in Olympia. The smallest margin of difference between the average progressive percentage two years ago and this year was 14 percent. But even taking that into consideration, there is still a geographic story to tell.


So what I did with this map was isolate the top 14 of 57 precincts (in total) by how much better they did this year than two years ago:




What I see is a band of precincts above the SE Olympia core along the highway on the Eastside (extending to a couple on the westside. Then a series of precincts running up the spine of the upper Eastside and then a few out on the rim of the city.

Progressive candidates this year did do well everywhere, but where they did best was not in their core areas along the water or inside the SE Olympia bubble of their opponents. They carved out their greatest success between the two geographic powerbases along the interstate and then in far outside neighborhoods.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

2017 election lesson 1: Olympia power elites really were boxed in

Where atmforcouncil failed
After Tuesday's election, I did my typical copy and paste job on the precinct-level data and came up with a handful of lessons on local Thurston County politics. I talked about these maps in the latest episode of The Olympia Standard. But because visuals like maps don't play well over the podcast, I'm putting them up here.

Before I start, here is some deeper reading for you:

Here are all the spreadsheets and map I've been working from. The data is from only a day or two after the election, so as counts march on, things will change obviously. But in terms of making maps, I think these will more or less stand pat.

For further reference, Adam Peterson did some really great shapefile based maps that he posted to Thurston Progressives.

Back in August, after some concern that the progressive candidates really wouldn't have a good time in November, I predicted that "power elite" candidates like Allen Miller and Jeanine Roe (and likely Max Brown) wouldn't be able to break out of their friendly SE Olympia neighborhoods to find a majority in November. By "power elite," I'm borrowing a phrase coined by Steve Salmi over at Green Pages when he described the August results.

And, this happened because most of the places were Miller in particular picked up better percentages in November were places he already did well, as illustrated by this map.



Miller picked up more votes along the edges of town, places similar and including his SE Olympia power base. He lost support as a percentage throughout most of Olympia, towards the center of town in older, more walkable neighborhoods.


Compared to Brown and Miller, Jeanine Roe did better, but still not well enough to keep her seat. This map shows where she did better than Miller and Brown, which was slightly further in than the edge of town, making second ring neighborhoods more competitive.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The academic background of why you should hold a ballot party


On the most recent edition of the Olympia Standard (the local politics podcast I host with Dani Madrone) we introduce our ballot party challenge. Basically we want to get as many people interested in local politics to invite their non-political friends to a house party where everyone fills out their ballots.

On the surface, this is meant to be a fun, social way to get people civically involved. But there is a real world, political science backing to this challenge. I am convinced that ballot parties, especially in vote by mail states, can be the most effective tool to boosting local election turnout.

In Thurston County, turnout for local elections is depressingly and not-uncommonly low. In the last primary in August, Thurston County turnout was only just over 22 percent. That's bad.

Study #1 Impact of media on local knowledge

In the past sixty years or so turnout in local elections has been decreasing nationwide. At least one paper I found attributes this trend to the influence of television on the local information system. In short, television has been forcing out local radio and newspapers from the attention span of media consumers. While television is good at covering national news and providing entertainment, it is horrible at doing what local radio and newspapers used to do, provide meaningful local coverage.

I'd also lump in the contraction of newspapers overall and the consolidation of radio ownership as well. Outside the influence of television, radio and newspapers aren't doing the same work they used to.

But this doesn't mean that informed people don't exist. You may know some folks that know a lot about local politics. I mean, I write a blog and co-host a podcast. It is just a matter of getting those people together with folks who may not know much and therefore won't vote.

Study #2 You'll vote if you know your friends are voting

Or, if there is social pressure to vote, you'll vote. In one of the largest studies on voting, researchers in 2008 figured out that when voters realized that there was social shame to not voting, it had an impact. They theorized that the decline in voting had a lot to do with how our political culture has changed since the 19th century:
From an historical vantage point, one could argue that the sharp declines in turnout rates that occurred in the United States after the 1880s reflect social forces, such as rapid population growth and mobility, coupled with institutional changes, such as the introduction of secret balloting and rules requiring that party officials remain a long distance away from where ballots are cast, that diminished both the surveillance of voters and their sense that their voting behavior was being monitored. Concomitant changes, such as the decline of party machines, membership organizations, and party aligned newspapers that openly excoriated nonvoters, also may have contributed to the erosion of social pressure.
Heap on top of these trends the addition of vote by mail. While it made vote by mail much easier to vote than schlepping down to the Church of Christ, it also took away the last social aspect of voting we had.

Study #3 Big surprise, make voting fun and people will vote

More than direct mail, more than calling people on the phone. It was free food, music and family fun that drives up voting.
Researchers partnered with local community groups and Working Assets, a phone company that funds political campaigns, to organize and advertise Election Day festivals. In the week leading up to the elections, they advertised the festivals through local newspapers, fliers, posters, lawn signs, and pre-recorded phone calls. All festivals were open to the public, family friendly, and featured music and free food. The festivals occurred under large tents near polling places. While advertisements described the events as election festivals, attendance was not contingent on voting.
... 
Voters in precincts where a festival occurred were significantly more likely to vote than voters in precincts without a festival. Researchers estimate that in precincts with voter turnout of 50 percent—turnout typical in major US elections—holding an election festival would increase turnout by 6.5 percentage points. In precincts with a 10 percent voter turnout—typical turnout in precincts in this evaluation—election festivals are expected to increase turnout by 2.6 percentage points.

Based on these findings, researchers found that the festivals were a relatively cost-effective way of increasing voter turnout. The festivals increased turnout by 960 voters in total. Organizing and advertising for the festivals cost a total of US $26,630 (in 2006 dollars). This implies that the program spent approximately US $28 on each additional person who voted. If the baseline voter turnout had been 50 percent, the results suggest that 2,339 additional people would have voted and the per-voter cost of the program would be US $11. In comparison, research finds that direct mail campaigns increase voting by US $60 per additional voter and door-to-door campaigns cost roughly US$20 per additional voter.
Now, in this study, it was a polling place festival and we don't have polling places in Washington State. Literally every kitchen counter is a polling place here. So, we devolve to the idea of a ballot party.

What's a ballot party?

While if you google "how to throw a ballot party," you don't come up with very much, WEC Protects put together a timely one pager on everything you'd ever need to think of. But in my experience, ballot parties are pretty simple. You need to:

a) Do all the things you'd do to bring your friend together and have fun. This may include beer. Or pizza. Or music.  Or meet at a bar. Or whatever. I'm not your social director.

b) Make sure everyone brings their ballot. It's like the price of admission.

c) Bring Pens. You. The organizer, bring pens. It's like your one job. People will need them.

d) Bring knowledge. Voter pamphlets, your brain. That kind of thing.

e) Everyone fills out their ballot.

I wish there was a non-profit in town, or this was a regular aspect of campaign or party organizing. But it is not, at least yet. I'm hoping we get there.

For this round of voting, Dani and I are throwing down the challenge. Get your parties going and make sure your friends are all voting. But in the future for a vote by mail place like Olympia, I hope going to a ballot party becomes a regular staple of voting season.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cascadia would have qualified for the World Cup



People are dealing with the USMNT crashing out of World Cup qualification in different ways. This is just one way, but it is my way. So, if you came here to criticize my back-of-the-napkin pining then just keep that in mind. This isn't really a serious analysis of economics or world soccer. This is just me doing what I can to process the loss.

One of the most interesting books I've read in the past 10 years has been Soccernomics, a sort of Moneyball-centered book on world soccer. The authors attempt to boil down the essence of national team success to a handful of factors: total population, per capita income and experience in international soccer. While this doesn't really explain Brazil (poor and really good) or the United States (big, rich and bad) very well, it does explain the difference between Germany and England.

Before I go on, a few notes:

As you might tell, I'm not going to go through the practice of listing players born or somehow connected to Cascadia (Jordan Morris! Kelyn Rowe! DeAndre Yedlin!) and making the bold claim that they'd beat Trinidad and Tobago. We all know they would have. Also I've done that before and that's boring.

The map of Cascadia I'm using is not the bioregional one, but more of the Chile shaped one that Colin Woodard used in American Nations to described the Left Coast. I'm happier with this one, it seems more like a "nation." And if you came here to tell me that I'm wrong, well, this is all made up anyway and this is my blog. I've done this before also.

So, back to soccer and bad math.

So, would a totally fantasy Cascadian Republic have qualified for the World Cup? Short answer: yes. Hurray! I hate you Bruce Arena!

Long answer: absolutely. But we would have had a hard time beating the rest of the United States and Mexico. 

So, first things first, I only took the countries that were in this year's final qualifying round for North America (sorry Canada, punch your weight already) and added in Cascadia. For Cascadia I took all the counties on the west side of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington and added a bunch in California down to include most of the Bay Area (my map, my rules). I also didn't include the Cascadian parts of Canada because even though they'd be part of my Republic, I thought why make the napkin more complicated?

So, population and per capita income were pretty easy to figure out once I decided on geography. 

In terms of soccer experience I decided on World Cup games played since it was the first metric I could find. For Cascadia I decided it would be easier to just average the number of games played of every other team. That seemed fair.  Also, in this fantasy world, Cascadia has had decades of independence and developed a strong league system with well-rooted club teams in nearly all their communities. And promotion/relegation Also, don't tell me how this decades old history would have made my populations and per capita income figures meaningless. 

Then I just ranked the teams by each factor and averaged the rank. Total back of the napkin. And while the United States finished first in this ranking (grumblegrumblegrumble), Cascadia finished near the top, tied with Mexico. 

-->
Average RankPopulationPer capita incomeExperience as WC matches played
United States (-Cascadia)1308,660,79858,03033
Mexico3124,574,79517,74053
Cascadia316,452,72934,75118
Costa Rica54,919,20215,75015
Honduras59,308,0424,4109
Trinidad and Tobago51,370,11130,8103
Panama64,116,68320,9900
This Cascadian Republic is bigger than any of the Central or Caribbean countries and also richer per capita than anyone except the United States. It really did surprise me how much poorer per head Cascadians would be than USers. But our mediocre size and better than average wealth and average experience put us right up there with Mexico.

Mexico, who actually finished at the top of the qualifying group this year. But I'm sure Cascadia would have given them a run for their money.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why downtown Olympia is more productive than the growing edge of Olympia (or Lacey or Tumwater)

Why would you want other parts of Thurston County (Lacey, westside Olympia and Tumwater) to become more like downtown Olympia? Because it is more valuable. Way more valuable.

Take two blocks, one nondescript block in downtown Olympia and another out in the westside.

Here's what you have in downtown Olympia:


These are about as nondescript as you can get in downtown. One story blocks, about six or so businesses. I'm looking only at the north end of this block between Capitol Way and Columbia Street, bounded on the north by 5th Avenue.

Taken together, these businesses cover about 30,000 square feet and pay over $38,000 in property taxes each year.

So, now let's move to the westside. This building is located at near the end of Harrison before it becomes Mud Bay:


In no way is this a new building. It was built in 1981 and the difference between it and the downtown half block is striking. The newest building in the downtown example dates to 1937. This westside building too is one story, but the lot it is one is dominated by road and parking. It was built in an era we're still living through when how you'd drive somewhere was the most important aspect in development. The need for parking makes this much larger parcel (at almost 45,000 feet), much less profitable with only $17,000 in property taxes.

This is a difference between $1.27 in taxes per square foot and $.37 per square foot. The price of providing space for cars and making neighborhoods unwalkable is real.

Strong Towns writes about this phenomenon, the older "blighted" areas of a community subsidizing the newer, shinier and automobile-centric developments. In the Strong Towns example, a series of closely packed buildings were leveled for a single Taco Johns, which removed much and the economic development from the land and replaced it with parking.

In an area like downtown Olympia, with even more housing coming on top of commercial activity, the need for large empty parking lots becomes less necessary. These aren't just people orientate places, but they're more productive by the acre.  

And, because even the dense part of downtown Olympia pays property taxes to both the city and the county, everyone benefits from the high density productivity of these blocks.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

How Olympia's schools rate for immunization rates and why Lincoln is a good candidate for whooping cough


With the pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak at Lincoln Elementary, it's time to take another periodic deep dive into vaccination data for Olympia School District.

The last two times I've written about this I've done much higher altitude views, comparing Olympia and Thurston County to other areas. Now I want to take a deeper dive into the information, and go school by school. The state Department of Health provides data on a school by school basis.

So, I took that data and began cutting it up into smaller pieces. Here's what I was working with.
That last spreadsheet is where I came up with this map:



This is a map that plots non-medical immunization exemptions on file at each school with more than 100 students by rate. No surprise, Lincoln is top of the list. It also isn't that big of a surprise then that Lincoln is near the top of the schools with exemptions specifically citing pertussis at 12 percent.

Here is an explanation on how those exemptions work.

If you're somewhat aware of this issue, you've heard about herd immunity, or how the vaccination rate in a group of people that protects people who can't receive a vaccine. This is why a 12 percent exemption rate at Lincoln is sort of scary.

According to the CDC, an immunization rate of 94 percent is necessary to prevent pertussis from persisting in a community. That is above the 88 percent that the exemption rate at Lincoln would indicate is that school's immunization rate.