Friday, August 21, 2009

U.S. Population Getting Older....

...despite our best efforts to get younger. This cool animated graph shows that demographics are switching to a higher percentage of people over 65.

Can we say "health care cost ramifications"?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You, Too, Can Analyze Campaign Finance Reports

A commenter on a previous post suggested that "some ambitious blogger with an economics degree" take the time to review the campaign finance reports recently submitted by the mayoral candidates*.

(*This is not an exact quote...I didn't bother to look it up. Because I don't have to. Because this is a blog. Not NBC.)

I am happy to inform you that almost anyone, regardless of the level of economics accomplishment you've achieved, can successfully analyze a campaign finance report--and I'm here to tell you how.

You don't really need intelligence--what you really need is time. and a cynical attitude. Every person who donates to a campaign has a motive. The most romantic of the motives is altruism--some people donate to campaigns because they truly believe that candidate will be the best for the city. Some donate because they think they will indirectly benefit from the candidate, such as a builder donating to a pro-development candidate. And some people plan to benefit directly, in the form of a job with the incoming administration or some type of business steered their way. Sometimes it's hard to tell one type of donor from another, but here's what you can look for:

-amount of donation. the maximum donation to a mayoral candidate is $2500, and this is typically done by businesses hoping to recoup this cost and then some. If you've got a donor for more than $2500, you've got a violation. If you've got an odd business, you might have a candidate with interests different than those of the citizens of Annapolis.

-type of donors. Individual donors typically represent a grassroots campaign, and business donors typically represent a stakeholder campaign. This is highly generalized but can be a useful tool.

-location of donors. One can assume that the amount of donors from the city proper can be used as proxy for votes, whereas the amount of donors outside of the city proxies either the level of business ties or the amount of friends of that candidate.

-amount of money raised. People like to support a winner, and it can be argued that the amount of money raised by each candidate sets rough odds as to who is the favorite. The caveat is that the people who don't donate money may not vote for candidates proportionate to the amount of donations those candidates receive.

-ending cash on hand. Pretty logical: the more money a candidate has in the bank, the more propaganda they can promulgate between now and the election.

That's about it I think. I'm confident that anyone reading this could look at the campaign reports and come to the same conclusions I would. Hopefully you have more time to do it than me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Re: Last Post

Seems implausible.

Gilbert Renaut said...
Total rubbish. We've had serial "rumors," first that I would withdraw and endorse McFall, then that I would withdraw and support Pierre, and now this one. They're all made up.

Renaut & Taylor To Withdraw and Endorse Cohen**

**High level rumor alert.

People confirming or denying would be helpful, particularly any of the 3 people named in the post's title.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Legacy Damage Control: Mayor to (Possibly?) Host Market House Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Annapolis, MD (8-10-09) - Mayor Ellen Moyer announced today, the Market House
will host a special Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 11
a.m. to celebrate the new businesses that have joined the community. At this
event, the Market House will officially welcome Atwater’s, Flowers by Donna’s,
Homestead Market and Maryland Federation of the Arts who are joining Vaccaro’s
and BankAnnapolis.

WHAT: Market House Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

WHEN: Friday, August 14 at 11 a.m.

WHERE: Market House
25 Market Space
Annapolis, MD 21401

Market House is a 220-year-old landmark in the center of historic downtown Annapolis’ business district whose prime mission is to provide a gathering and shopping destination for those visiting the center city. Today, Market House is in the midst of an ongoing transformation to better meet the needs of those who shop, work, and visit Annapolis offering a variety of goods and services from locally-owned
businesses. For more information about Market House, please visit

The Mayor, by all allegations, has been on a quest to establish her legacy. Here are the 2 things she has been trying to get people to remember:

1. Green-ness
2. Not the Market House

It has been speculated that she will attempt to use her green "credibility" to obtain some green-related cupcake employment at the state level after her term expires.

Now, the press release states that the Market House itself will host this event. Being a building, the Market House will probably have a problem identifying with the audience, which leads me to believe that a city official or at least some sort of animal will assist with hosting duties. I'm interested to see if the Mayor herself will host the event.

If she does, I can inform that the correct emotion to feel is anger. Notwithstanding the joy of new risk-taking businesses displaying capitalism at work, Ellen Moyer celebrating the success of the Market House is an oxymoron on the same scale of "mainstream blogger". The press release describes the city's continuous mismanagement of the Market House as an "ongoing transformation", a joke on the same scale as "financially successful blogger".

Cohen to Announce Endorsement

....From the police.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cohen To Make "Special Announcement" on Tuesday


Please join Councilman Josh Cohen, candidate for Mayor of
Annapolis, for a special announcement this Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 12 NOON
at the Court House, 7 Church Circle, Annapolis. Take a lunch break and
show your support for Josh! Please let us know if you
can join us.

I once made an off-color joke to Mrs. Politics that she didn't find so funny, prompting her to deliver a "special announcement" of quite another sort. Let's hope Josh has better luck.

I'll try and report on what he says.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

City Finally Admits Sister City Program Isn't Free

If the Department Of Economic Affairs is the pinnacle of needless government expansion, then the Sister City Program is the definition of misplaced priorities. The city is spending $5052 to teach 3 French students how to sail a 36 foot sailboat, part of the Sister City program with one of our sister cities in France.

The mayor visited France in the summer of 2007, when she went to Europe for 2 months, by boat, and learned about cognac and bicycles.

I have come to expect that money will be spent without regard to the economic circumstance of the city. I'm not surprised and I don't have much more to say about the arrogance and ignorance displayed by the administration. I don't care if it was "scheduled far in advance" or "part of a reciprocal program".

What I'm more interested in is that the city admits to spending money on the program. For a long time, the Mayor claimed that she and Aldermen traveled across the world on their own dime, which nobody believed. It was thought that the 'education and training' budget was tapped for the sister city program.

The article claimed that the trip was funded through the 'Sister City Program', but I could find no such program in the budget. What I did find in the budget was that the Mayor's personnel budget is up by 11%, and the Mayor's "other operating expenditures" were up 29% ($80,000)!!

You may also be interested to know that the Public Information budget is up 86%. The personnel budget for that office is more than $192,000....and there's only 1 full time employee.

Umm...are we being punked?!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Controversy Over Partisan City Manager Piece On City Web Site

Occasionally you will hear me reference "email chatter". What happens is that various people appear on email distribution lists--some who are concerned about issues, some who like to hear themselves speak, and some who are elected and feel they need to provide inside information. Many issues of the day are debated over email chatter. Typically these emails are only good for clogging in-boxes and making people think that I'm important because my blackberry goes off all the time. But, at their best, these email exchanges actually produce enough annoyance to prompt action by a government official.

The other day, somebody involved in this email ring noticed a piece on the city Web Site by Alderwoman Finlayson defending the strong-mayor philosophy and condemning the city manager philosophy. "Facts" from supporters of the city manager were allegedly misrepresented, and the supporters (who are organized and have financial resources) were pissed. The city Web Site, they argued, should be for facts, and a response to this political trick was needed.

The next 20 emails or so were a combination of "this is only the beginning from this bunch" and "here's what you should do about the problem". Some pointed out that Finlayson was lying. Others said a pro-city-manager piece should be put on the web site. Others excused themselves, opting to pour and consume a Canadian Whisky with ice.

Yesterday's emails started out decrying the lack of democracy. Some pointed out the city web site is not supposed to be a giant press release. Others suggested the matter should go to the attorney general for ruling. I poured another glass of whisky.

I then missed some of the propaganda, because I was bidding for an item on Ebay, which I lost. Minor disappointment. When I returned to neglecting work and following emails, Alderman Arnett had agreed to post an opposition piece on the city web site. Unbelievably, somebody found a web site policy from De Pere, Wisconsin, and Alderman Cordle promised to introduce legislation proposing the city adopt the "De Pere model"! I immediately predicted an increase in worldwide whisky demand.

Greg Stiverson ascertained that the post on the web site was in violation of the following city web site policy:

The city maintains the website as a vehicle to communicate information to
citizens and visitors. The website is not maintained as a public forum for
debate of public policy issues.

So, now the piece has been moved off the city web site and onto the city Let's Talk "blog". Alderman Cordle still plans to draft legislation. Aren't you glad you read this post?

Here is the Let's Talk blog post and Finlayson's dubious presentation.

Renaut To Possibly Withdraw, Would Support McFall**

**Super rumor alert. From this blog.

Hard to say how much weight this carries. Gil was a relative latecomer to the Democrat race, if I remember correctly. I could envision a scenario where he ran on behalf of his Ward 1 comrades to broker such a (city-manager-supporting) deal as this, and I could also envision a scenario where he ran because he knew he would have the Ward 1 votes, which just might be enough to win in a diluted primary race.

Edit: THIS says the rumor is fake.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Violent Crimes Down, Pristoop Deserves Credit

The Capital reports that violent (type 1) crimes are down by 44% when comparing the first 6 months of 2009 with the same months of 2008. Type 1 crimes include murder, rape, assault, robbery, and reading blogs with advertisements on them. Just kidding.

So, why has this happened? Admittedly I'm not a keen enough observer to offer a detailed explanation, but I've got to believe it's because of Chief Pristoop. The Mayor offers little guidance:
It doesn't happen overnight. We've been trying to develop a willingness to
partner with police, especially where the inclination is not to partner with
The results might not happen overnight, but it seems the trend did. At the end of Chief Johnson's tenure, crime went nowhere but up. A search of "crime" or "police chief" on this blog would give you more of a picture, but it goes something as follows. Crime was steadily increasing, but when a series of particularly disturbing crimes happened (in tourist areas), stuff started hitting the fan. The police department was famously understaffed, and while there was criticism for Chief Johnson, many attributed the problem to a lack of leadership by the Mayor. Rather than address problems brought up by HACA President Brown, Mayor Moyer identified what she thought was the problem: "I guess he doesn't know how to read".


Moyer is still the Mayor...and crime is going down. And it started going down pretty much as soon as Pristoop took over. In economics, changes are often analyzed ceteris paribus, which means that every other variable stays the same except the one at which you are looking. It's one of the most improbably scenarios ever, but I'll tell you how it applies here. The assumption is that the 2 people most capable of reducing crime are the Mayor and the Chief. The Mayor stayed the same, the chief changed, and the level of crime changed. Conclusion: the chief is doing a good job. Chief Pristoop would agree:
This crime reduction is not an anomaly. We work very hard every day
... and we are going to continue to work very hard at reducing the exposure of
the community to violent and property crimes.

People are hearing less gunfire and seeing fewer people out there doing
street-level nuisance crimes. That is a true measure of a safer city. People
honestly believe and see improvement. I am hearing that every day.
I hope he keeps it up.

The World's Biggest Companies

By market capitalization.

In case the print is too small:

1. PetroChina

2. Exxon Mobil

3. Industry and Commerce Bank of China

4. China Mobile

5. Microsoft

6. Walmart

7. China Construction Bank

8. Johnson and Johnson

9. Proctor and Gamble

10. Royal Dutch Shell

11. HSBC

12. PetroBras