David R. Henderson  

We Won!

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The Decline of Creative Destru... Happiness for All...

"David, what's wrong?" said my wife Rena last night as she heard me gasping for air shortly after opening my computer while on the couch last night. She thought I might be having a stroke.

"I can't believe it," I said. "We won!"

What did we win? And who is "we"? We are my friend Carl Mounteer, three women in Pacific Grove, and I. We beat back a bond issue with an associated tax increase of $30 per $100,000 in assessed value. The money was to be used by the Pacific Grove government schools for computer technology. One possible use of the funds was to buy iPads for the students.

We were outspent. Going by the number of signs I saw, a mailer the "Yes on G" people sent out, and a web site they had, I would guess that the other side spent at least $5,000. I spent $23 and one woman on our side spent about $160. That was about it. So, if my estimates are right, they outspent us by over 25 to 1.

With other tax increases where the funds are earmarked for specific categories of expenditure, the pro-tax side needs 2/3 of the vote. But for bond issues for government schools in California, the taxers need only 55%. My allies and I have generally been successful in helping prevent tax increases when the 2/3 threshold is required. But we have done so with votes of 34 to 38 percent. I went into this pretty much positive that we would lose, but committed to trying to get our total to the low 40s so as to make a statement.

Thus my surprise when, 35 minutes after the polls closed, the count of absentee voters showed the pro-taxers with 50.05% of the vote and us with 49.95% of the vote. Their vote total exceeded ours by half of the number of people who signed up for ObamaCare on the first day. That's right: they had 3 more votes than we had.

When I woke up this morning the margin had widened slightly. We had 48.5% and they had 51.5%.

I've purposely avoided posting on this until the election was over because it could have been taken as an attempt to influence the vote. You know--all those Pacific Grove residents who read this site.

Why post at all? Partly to celebrate, but also to make a point about celebration. My friend and fellow blogger Alex Tabarrok recently wrote:

I feel fortunate to have never been emotionally invested in the winner of any election. It's all a carnival of buncombe to me-a giant robbers cave experiment for the amusement of those in the know.

Now, if Alex's point is about winners in elections between people, I totally get it. It's hard to think of a politician I was emotionally invested in where I wasn't sorely disappointed whether he won or lost. If he lost, I was disappointed in the moment. If he won, I was disappointed when I saw him in office doing the things he did.

But fighting against tax measures is different. When you win, you know that that tax won't actually be imposed. I'm still bubbling over from that. I highly recommend the experience.


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COMMENTS (21 to date)
paulanz writes:

congratulations - that's fantastic. $ for schools taken from property owners is usually a landslide in favor of the tax. Happened here - the principal, teachers and parents at our school were all for it, even organized signs, getting the word out in support.

Why do you think you won? Any tips on how to cut through and convince people that yes does not equal "i support education"...

J writes:

What is the reasoning to support/oppose funding for school computers?

How much in non-financial resources did you devote to the cause?

David R. Henderson writes:

@paulanz,
Thanks.
Why do you think you won? Any tips on how to cut through and convince people that yes does not equal "i support education"...
I think Carl and I have won every tax increase we've fought against. Eight keys:
1. Have a supermajority requirement, as we have in Pacific Grove. (If you don't have one, it's hard to do much about getting one.)
2. Emphasize that it's a new tax. So our signs, that I've been able to use again and again without new expenditures, say:
NO New Taxes
No on [letter of initiative.]
3. Talk to the people who would be losers. This was a property tax: we tried to focus on property owners.
4. Talk about how wastefully they've spent such money in the past. We have ample evidence on this.
5. Write the ballot argument. [Although that's probably unique to California.}
6. Write an op/ed making the case in your local newspaper.
7. Have a table up in front of the Post Office on Saturday mornings. Have little handouts to give people. When people are nasty, ignore them, or, as I do, have fun with them.
8. Have allies. Don't try to do it all yourself.

David R. Henderson writes:

@J,
What is the reasoning to support/oppose funding for school computers?
Here's part of it.
How much in non-financial resources did you devote to the cause?
Helping the ballot argument, distributing signs, standing in front of the Post Office, helping write the op/ed, I would say 10 to 15 hours, all of it on weekends or evenings.

cynic writes:

Cynic says: Unfortunately, this vote resulted in the wrong answer. We will try and re-try until the right answer is discovered. So we progress.

But still, keep standing athwart.

Philo writes:

“When you win, you know that that tax won't actually be imposed.” At least, not *right away*! (And maybe what will be imposed eventually will be some *slightly different* tax.)

Glen Smith writes:

Cynic,

I'm sure Apple has some very deep pockets.

S writes:

Congrats

We lost ours, and it took me a day to get over it. The first thought I experienced was an image of the city counsel and "affordable housing" creatures celebrating. It is a team sport, whatever else it may be.

Bostonian writes:

There is a difference between the political philosophy of an Obama and a Romney or a De Blasio (just elected mayor of New York City) and a Lhota.
I don't think much of too-pure libertarians who fail to vote against socialism when given a chance.

David R. Henderson writes:

@S,
In what city was yours?

Yancey Ward writes:

David,

I predict you actually end up losing. Do you know for certain the counting is over with?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Yancey Ward,
I predict you actually end up losing.
Thanks for your vote of confidence, Yancey.
Do you know for certain the counting is over with?
Yes.

Yancey Ward writes:

Ok, fair enough. I have gotten accustomed to supposedly finished vote counts mysteriously changing numbers right up until the outcome changes, then suddenly stopping.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Yancey,
No problem.
I loved the previous registrar of voters. I have good evidence, from a recount story last year, of her integrity. Unfortunately, she left the job in July. I don't know about the new one. But I would give 50 to 1 odds that even if there is a recount, the numbers won't change enough to affect the outcome.

ChrisW writes:

In my personal experience, such victories are temporary. The other side will continue to re-submit the referendum, and eventually resort to changing polling times to enhance the desired demographics, and sending an outright lie in a mailer the day before the vote, when it's too late to rebut.

And through all these referenda they can carry on, because they're using *your* own money to finance them.

This part of the system really sucks.

Aaron Zierman writes:

@ Yancey

You must be from Minnesota like me!

@ David Henderson

This is absolutely worth celebrating. Congratulations.

@ All the cynics and pessimists out there

Yes, we all see a lot of losses. There are many things wrong. It looks bleak. But if we don't keep our heads up, fight the good fight, and celebrate the small victories, then all is truly already lost.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Aaron Zierman,
Thanks. BTW, I would have celebrated had we broken above our usual ceiling of 38%. Just less of a celebration.

S writes:

David,

This was in Austin.

The real depressing thing is that we defeated the same, or essentially the same, proposal last election. I believe the first bond proposal Austin has said no to in, like, 10 years. So the city counsel just shakes it off and proposes another one. Thats the rough thing, it doesn't matter how many times you defeat these things, loose once and it has to be paid for. :)

James writes:

David,

Just wanted to let you know that I am also a PG resident and I do read this blog, so your precaution is warranted (except I vote absentee and did so well before Tuesday).

David R. Henderson writes:

@James,
Thanks. If you run into me at the supermarket (SaveMart, Safeway, or Trader Joe's" or at the Starbuck's (on Cannery Row), introduce yourself.

John T. Kennedy writes:

I'm not following this bit:

"I've purposely avoided posting on this until the election was over because it could have been taken as an attempt to influence the vote."

Why wouldn't you want to influence the vote? You were working to do so.

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