Travis Credit Union
Travis Credit Union

Revealing thoughts on our Concord home

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With 232 responses, and not much variation by resident vs. non-resident, there are some interesting aspects to my latest poll.

I expect to live in Concord for the rest of my life.

Some 43 percent agree or strongly agree, and another 8 percent do not know but hope to stay. The do not knows are at 21 percent, and 28 percent disagree. That is a fairly good declaration of community support. In the past, one of the knocks on Concord was that it was a transient city where people would live for a while and then move on. This indicates that a close majority plan to stay put.

Is Concord undergoing gentrification?

  • 20 percent yes, and it is improving neighborhoods and our economic vibrancy and is a good thing.
  • 24 percent yes, but it is causing lost community culture, displacing residents and businesses and is a bad thing.
  • 29 percent no, it is just a buzzword with no application to Concord.
  • 10 percent do not know what gentrification means as it relates to the current state of Concord.
  • 17 percent, no opinion.

This shows an interesting split between those who think it is good or bad, but half the people will not agree with either of the polar opposites. It is a simplification to say that conservatives favor it and liberals/progressives oppose it, but that is the image. When it is discussed in terms of slums, the view from the left is that they should be upgraded and repaired but the original people should remain there. The right adds the caveat: “Well, if they can afford the new market rate.” Sometimes there is a cry of racism attached to gentrification, but it is also a matter of class.

Do campaign contributions influence a change in City Council votes?

  • 36 percent yes, donors pay for their votes.
  • 32 percent yes, but I am not sure of the extent.
  • 21 percent, not sure.
  • 4 percent no, the contributions are for what they have done or promised.
  • 4 percent no, most contributions are based on the people they are.

The results infuriate me. These reflect the negative image of the political process at the local level, which is being poisoned by the perception and some action on the national and state levels of dysfunction.

Let us look at the two aspects: change and influence.

I have not seen a single case on the City Council where I would say that money caused a change in a vote, and I have been on a lot of minority votes and strongly opposed to my colleagues on a bunch of things. In the past local elections, I could point to large ($70,000-$100,000) donations being channeled to a candidate from a single source or business group in the form of direct contributions and indirect funds through independent expenditures, but in each case it is because the candidate aligns with the contributor group. I cannot say that I have seen any individual alter a position because of donor intervention. Would you send money to political opponents with the idea that they would change their minds? At a local level in our council, what is basically bribery is not the case.

A matter of alignment

As for influence, it is again a matter of alignment. Some people believe that influence is automatic with a donation. When you donate to a candidate, are you trying to influence them or reward them?

There has been a valid argument that candidate access has been enhanced by donations. I say enhanced only. In my case, I have made it one of my key features to be accessible to everyone regardless of their status. I have not seen a single case of a council person refusing to talk to someone on account of donation status. I have heard of it at the governor’s level with one distant past governor, but not locally.

So please, at the local level, do not think that your elected officials are being bribed. For the overwhelming part, they are being supported by big contributions either because of their positions, inclinations and alignments or it is mostly a matter of personal interaction or likeability. I should only wish that the national and state level would be the same.
For the rest of the results, write to me at EdiBirsan@gmail.com or go to my Facebook page Pulse of Concord.

The statements, questions, information and opinions herein are those of Edi E. Birsan personally and do not purport to reflect any policies or opinions of the city of Concord, including without limitation the Concord City Council, city staff, or any other people, institutions or organizations associated with the city, the National Football League or the tooth fairy.

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