Plunks, planks and Otto Von Bismarck

Will you plunk on Election Day? The instruction on the election ballot will read “For Member of Council-at-Large (Vote for not more than four).” Not more than four? That means you have options—you may vote for none, one, two, three or four candidates.

The bullet tactical-voting strategy, or “plunking,” as University Heights politicians call it, is when a voter casts a ballot for just one candidate, despite having the option to vote for more than one. By plunking, a voter helps his or her preferred candidate while withholding votes from potential rivals.

Special interest politicians in University Heights suggest plunking to get a candidate elected. It works if enough people plunk for the same candidate.

Baseball fans may do it for their all-star dream team. Major shareholders do it to ensure that a specific person is elected to the board. Withholding votes? If you have a candidate you want to win, plunking may just do it.

Two candidates are running their own independent races for a seat on the University Heights City Council. They are Al August and Steven Bennett. Each has his own position on the issues.

Two groups are also running. Groups, by definition, have common views and may be expected to vote in unison. The first group includes two council incumbents—Kevin Murphy and Steven Sims—who are joined by Daniel Hanna and Conor McLaughlin. The second group comprises Pamela Cameron, Tom Cozzens and Adele Zucker. The names of all nine candidates will appear individually on the ballot. You may vote for up to four on the list.

According to the voting instructions, you may plunk. Will you? While a dream team for council may be just that, we should demand specific action plans from each candidate.

Politicians tell me that people vote for familiar names and the feel-good promises they make. One candidate even justified an impossible campaign promise by quoting a remark made by Otto Von Bismarck in 1867: “Politics is the art of the possible.”

Some candidates suggest that it is OK to say, agree, or do things against their better judgement—in order to get elected. These “end-justifies-the-means” candidates argue that once elected, they will do the right thing.

After years of covering city council, and talking with thousands of University Heights residents from all areas of our city, I came up with a few action plans. Consider these planks in a campaign platform we want for University Heights.

When a candidate comes to your door asking for your support, find out where he or she really stands on the issues, especially when you hear vague political rhetoric. Here are some questions to ask:

Fire Department Will you assure UH residents that our Silsby Road fire station will not be downsized or eliminated without taxpayer meetings?
Backyard garbage pick-up
Will you post the results of the $10,000 garbage study on the city’s website for an informed conversation with residents on the fate of backyard pick-up?
Capital budget
Will you create and fund one, however small?
$83,000 worth of dormant studies
Will you agree to review and resolve the aging studies in a public forum before you commission new ones?
Committee meeting minutes
Will you agree to write your own?
Council committee meetings
Will you schedule regular meetings at the start of the year and invite public participation?
Town hall meetings
Will you and the mayor agree to hold semi-annual meetings for question-and-answer opportunities for residents?
9.87 percent pay raise
Will you vote to rescind the council raises received over the past four years, as allowed by charter?
Office hours
Will you agree to hold regularly scheduled hours at least once a month for walk-in meetings with residents?
Will you agree to post council and committee agendas and minutes on the city’s website in a timely manner?
Committee reformation
Will you consider reforming committees to make them more relevant for our times? Suggestions include community development; economic development; technology in government; public safety; housing and building; finance; regionalism and collaborations.
Promotion of the city
Will you agree to implement a marketing program to promote University Heights to prospective home buyers (a proposal I have requested for years)?
CH-UH schools
What will you do about the 300-pound canary—the school system—that both council and the administration say is not within their purview? It, coupled with a high tax rate, is the single biggest reason young families give for moving away. What single concrete idea do you have, as a community leader, to address this?

From my meetings with you in July and August, many of you already know my answers. Together, we will do our best to help our elected officials stay on track. I look forward to your e-mails.

Anita Kazarian

Anita Kazarian is a marketing professional, president of Noah’s Landing, LLC and a longtime resident of UH. Contact her at

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Volume 4, Issue 10, Posted 9:22 AM, 10.04.2011