Friday, February 12, 2010

And the Chronicle responds...

Because I am a firm believer in presenting responses to my occasional incoherent ranting, here is a response from Michael King, the News Editor of the Austin Chronicle, which was posted on the Chronicle website 90 minutes after my comments.


"P*** E***, who modestly neglects to identify himself as a policy aide to a county commissioner, couldn't possibly have any 'political' reasons (horrors!) for supporting Daniel Bradford. As for the Chronicle, since we didn't endorse E's choice, the only possible explanations are ignorance, recklessness, or ill motives. It couldn't possibly be that we simply disagree. This line of argument may be emotionally satisfying to E, but it hardly serves his candidate, 'Daniel.'"


I find several things of note in this reply. First, it was very fast and very defensive! Second, he refers to me as modest and those of you that know me I think would agree that modest isn't a word that describes me very well. I did not hide my identity. My username on the Chronicle is "peinhorn" after all (it doesn't take Robert Langdon to unlock that secret code). I did not state my occupation because I was not speaking in an official capacity. I, like most Americans, would like to believe that I am capable and allowed to form opinions of my own that I can, when not at work, contribute to the body politic.

I don't ever speak for Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt on politics (or anything else) to the press. This is because, first, she speaks forcefully and capably for herself. In addition, as her Policy Director I don't work on politics, but rather on issues (something Mr. King scorns as "pompous" in his explanation of how the Chronicle decides who to endorse). I am not naive. I concede that there is politics involved in what I do, but it absolutely never includes electoral politics. Never. A journalist worth their paycheck would probably know that about me, since he bothered to determine who I am (investigative reporting at its most crafty, since I gave my name and phone number when I submitted my comments).

No, my comments weren't some super secret way of communicating Commissioner Eckhardt's support for Daniel Bradford, or mine really (since I live in JP Precinct 3). My comments were more focused on a badly written and badly justified endorsement. If those comments offended Mr. King, I certainly do apologize. If they stung, then there must be some level of truth in them.

My comments, bitchy in their own right, were me sticking up for a friend. A friend that I believe ought to win, but I believe that determination should be made by the men and women of Precinct 1 based on issues, not cynical rhetoric. I did it and I would never hesitate to do it again!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Letter to the Editor of the Austin Chronicle on their endorsements

It seems that the Chronicle is not fully informed on the issues that Justices of the Peace face. In your endorsement of Ms. Williams (JP 1) you reference her experience in civil litigation and her experience as an associate municipal judge, but make no reference to whether she has a grasp of the issues facing the office for which she is running.

Meanwhile Daniel’s experience is belittled, but he is the only candidate who actually works for Travis County, knows the idiosyncratic inner workings of the odd beast which is county government, knows how the county budget process works, and understands (as a former Commissioners Court staffer) how to foster cooperation between the counties many players. Your endorsement references a statement from his website where he refers to “being a young lawyer among ‘entrenched bureaucrats.’” It is unfortunate that this quote is left dangling there. The point, which is completed in the next sentence is: “I have made a place for myself as someone who gets things done, success that I owe to being able to think outside the box, by having a solid knowledge of the law and the good humor to overcome old-school beliefs to get my ideas heard.”

On the campaign trail Daniel routinely discusses the need for technological innovation in an office that is regarded as the least technologically savvy of the JP offices. The case management system used by the JPs, called FACTS, faces massive challenges. Perhaps it would have been worth considering which candidate was better placed to oversee the updates and upgrades to this vital system.

I never hear Yvonne Williams discussing any original ideas for innovation and thus find your statement that both represent “some of the best young energy of Austin…” to be doubly odd when Daniel Bradford (35) is visibly more at ease discussing technological solutions than Yvonne Williams (55).

I think that when endorsing for more political offices it might be acceptable to rate candidates on intangibles, but when one is dealing with a judicial office like JPs (because it is very much an administrative position), I believe it is important to understand the issues fully or you risk being reckless in your endorsements. You wield immense influence over a segment of the voting population. Instead of pretending that you understand the issues or endorsing based on politics, you should simply not endorse.