What’s Up With the Muni Rider Voter Guide?

Muni_Avatar-1.gifOur deadline has long since passed, and so now I thought I’d take a moment to re-introduce you to the Muni Rider Voter Guide I’ve been working on since August. It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least, being the one giving out the questionnaires instead of being one of the people assigned to help answer them.
Based on that (often painful) experience, the idea was to make something simple that would allow candidates to talk about Muni openly, and not have to worry about trying to make the answers fit in order to get some endorsement. Instead, candidates were asked a short list of questions that try to find out how they use Muni (if at all), and get a better idea of how they see things, so you, the voters, could pick out candidates you think might have something useful to do if elected.
This was also a practice run for 2011, when we’ll have a very open Mayoral campaign, and will have a chance to elect someone who might actually think their job is to make Muni better, not take a sledgehammer to it, or steal from it. In the process I’ve learned a few things:
– Because we were not offering an endorsement, some candidates took the questionnaire less seriously than others. I can understand that (given that they’re under a pile of literally dozens of these things) but one thing we asked candidates to do if they didn’t want to participate was to simply email in and say so, rather than ignoring it.
It was especially disappointing to see so many candidates in District 10 not participate – this being a district that will see many changes in the next 4 years and will have continued issues with Muni service as a new neighborhood is literally built out there.
That said, most candidates participated and got their work on time (even if I coudln’t post them right away!) and we should note that Jim Meko was the first candidate to return one to us, and he is now the winner of a Pre-December 2009 Muni map, sans cuts. (And a shout out to Judson True, formerly of the SFMTA for being so kind as to get us a stash of these last Christmas. Yay Judson!)
– We gave people too much time to answer six simple questions. Instead, we should have instead given people maybe 2 weeks tops to return it, instead of almost a month. If nothing else it would have been easier to manage the flow of returned questionnaires.
– Generally people seemed to like the questionnaire format, as it avoided the “when did you stop beating your dog” variety, or the questions that ask about arcane pieces of information at the expense of a real discussion of the issues. At their recent endorsement meeting, Rescue Muni used copies of our questionnaire to discuss amongst themselves as they met with candidates. Yay Rescue Muni!
Finally, one last word about how I came up with these questions. With the assistance of local bloggers Matt Baume and Jamison Wieser, the idea as said earlier was to get a better sense of how candidates perceive Muni and its problems, and what they think their role is. Overall I have to say the great majority of people answering these provided honest, thoughtful answers, and it’s clear voters have some distinct choices in districts around the City.
In particular, to lighten the mood, each candidate was asked to tell a funny or interesting story about their experiences with Muni. I found the responses to these questions to be incredibly diverse, and incredibly revealing about each candidate and what they’re all about. Go check out the responses for yourself, and if you have suggestions for how to improve or add to the Muni Rider Voter Guide for the Mayoral campaign in 2011, feel free to email me with your ideas.

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