I think that my best ideas come to me when I am shaving. There is something about getting rid of that morning beard that just makes things come into focus. Writer Jack London, one of my favorites, used to tape twenty vocabulary words per morning on the mirror in his bathroom and recite the words until he was satisfied that he had gotten a handle on them. One morning, I was thinking about all of the hoopla that goes with a small thing, like running for the School Committee. You do something because your conscience says that you should do it, for myriad reasons, and you turn over a thousand “new leafs.”
I am puzzled by the chagrin associated with running for a relatively small office. In my opinion, wanting to do it is a good enough reason for igniting the flames of political necessity and make a stand on issues of the day. I told my Campaign Manager that I was going to run a different campaign. I was going to publish small newsletters that answered many of the basic questions associated with why you run. I was going to use my voice to enunciate things that needed to be clarified. I was going to control the amount of money that was spent, and spend less than the average campaign. We both looked on this as a good tactic. Things could only get brighter. Right? Well not exactly. People use their own measurements for analyzing a run for office. How many people attended your fundraiser(s)? How many signs did you put out? How much money did you raise? Those types of questions.
Well, not enough people attended my one fundraiser and I came to the conclusion that that was my fault. I did not phone people and ask them to come. I did not realize that you had to do that. Signs deserve their own analysis and I am going to try to stick to that a little later in this blog. How much money did you raise? Well, more than I expected, that much is certain. I had enough to print my literature. I had enough to print my signs. I had enough to pay off my debts. All in all, I was pleased with my fundraising. I need to have another soon, and I intend to do that. Something literally “homey” as it will be about having a fundraiser in the confines of my house. Hopefully, people with want to see how I live and come for what I hope is a good time. The last time we had a big party at home was when my daughter, Chloe, graduated from college. We had many people here on that day. My good friend, Gerry Durkin, was the man of the hour because, without his help, that graduation would not have happened. He guided me through UMASS-Lowell’s many contretemps and Chloe was the winner.
But back to signs. I remember when Councillor and Mayor Murphy put up over seven hundred in one campaign that bordered on the most intelligent effort in local campaigning up until that time. At the current cost of $12.00 per sign and the cost of putting them on their Erector Set legs, which was about $8.00 per set, the cost of one sign is about twenty dollars. Putting out a sign costs roughly $20.00. When the campaign is finished the signs are generally recycled, if you have an environmentally savvy candidate and the $20.00 cost is lost in the wind.
Let us say that one of the School Committee challengers put most of his effort into getting signs on lawns. Now, I could go back and put an equal amount of effort into getting my signs on lawns, and instead of costing $20.00 for each sign, it cost $40.00 because I went out and got signs on many of the lawns he had already hit. There are, of course, six slots in the race for School Committee. A well-fashioned lawn would be able to hold six signs at 20.00 dollars each. That totals out to a whopping $20.00 times six persons, or $120.00 per fully stocked lawn. If people did 100 signs each, it would cost each campaign $2,000.00 to keeping up with the next door sign holders, the Jones’ as it were. Six signs per lawn costs $120.00. All of those 600 signs would cost $12,000.00. Just to wage a full sign campaign. After all, no one would question whether or not it was prudent to have signs for each of their six candidates. It would be deemed prudent.
What’s my point? Well let’s go back to Mayor Murphy. He put out over 700 signs at $20.00 each. That totals out to, and I believe that I have this right, $14,000.00 in signs for his campaign. That is a lot of money. A person putting out 100 signs would spend $2,000.00. Money that may have gone into an analysis of the best books available to hedge against reading problems. Money that might have gone towards a new and better study of mathematical equations. Something new in Social Studies, perhaps. A new site for a new television studio. Something that turns a loss into a gain.
Signs don’t vote, they say. But actually, they do. Not the signs themselves but the people who put signs on their lawns do vote. And, it is probable that they vote for the people whose names are on their lawns. So we emphasize signs, to the point that we must de-emphasize them. There are nine people running for each seat, and only six of them will win. Wouldn’t it be nice if each of those people determined that they would be better off financing something that will make a difference in each classroom?
I question why many of us are enamored with our chances? Many candidates are running to get on the ballot. Some are running because they are running for love of the children. Some are running to make a change. The voter has the difficult task of determing which candidate is running for which reason? My doctor told me that it would be difficult because I am doing an issues campaign. I forgot that, in the sign wars, cost does not matter. The guy or gal who gets the most signs up wins. I have been fairly successful in getting my signs up. Maybe that is good for me.