The Special Election and Opportunity Cost

Grandma Advertiser reported yesterday on candidate spending in today’s special election to succeed Martha Roby in representing District 7 on the Montgomery City Council. We were just plain shocked — shocked to see the sheer amounts spent by Jenny Ives ($48,784) and Arch Lee ($36,725), and shocked to note the disparity between the top of the money pile and the bottom (Grayson White: $3,250, Kenny J. Smith: less than $1,000). All of this for basically five months in office and the chance to get an incumbent’s advantage in the upcoming August election?

At least Arch Lee was quoted in the article as saying it’s an absurd amount of money. But that’s easy for him to say – he almost won the money race. I went to vote today and talked to one of the candidates who ranked low on the money list. He said he was afraid the election would end up being bought, and thought that was a sad state of affairs. And I think he’s right about the sad state of affairs part.

Together, Arch Lee and Jenny Ives spent a whopping $85,509 on this special election for a single city council seat. If this money had been spent differently here in Montgomery, it could have provided the following services:

  • 13 one-year Head Start slots for poor children, or
  • 1 year of VA care for 13 military veterans, or
  • 555,809 pounds of food distributed to needy residents through the Montgomery Area Food Bank (that is 118,257 days worth of food for adults according to the USDA’s numbers, or food for one year for 323 people), or
  • 1 year in an animal shelter for 20 dogs.

When you add in the cost to the city of holding the special election ($168,200, according to the Advertiser), this whole adventure is looking pretty expensive. And for what? We’re not saying the City Council is not important; on the contrary, its doings affect the day to day living of Montgomery citizens in ways that most folks don’t even consider. But these numbers should give pause to anyone who has ever put a dog to sleep or fed a hungry person. Or, really, anyone who has a conscience.

This kind of spending is despicable, whether it is for a local or national election. We’re sure it’s easy for big money donors and recipients (a category that certainly includes Martha Roby) to rationalize this kind of cash flow (hell, the Supreme Court says it’s free speech), but at the same time we can’t help but think it says something quite negative about the ethical compass of those who give and receive these kind of donations, not to mention about the health of our ever-fragile democracy.

(Trade off figures from the National Priorities Project, Montgomery Area Food Bank and Montgomery Humane Society)

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3 responses to “The Special Election and Opportunity Cost

  1. Amen!

    And I’m still befuddled about any difference between the winners of this primary. They have access to money and both seem to be fans of Martha Roby.

  2. Jay, I was hoping to find an answer to that as well. Jenny Ives has only taken the bold position that we need better schools and less crime. Couple that with the fact that she makes it a point to be photographed with African Americans as if she has something to prove, and I can’t get a read on where her politics really are. I know even less about Arch Lee.

  3. So, I’m making modest contributions to Isaiah Sankey’s campaign for the August election. I’ve stored the two yard signs he gave me and will put them back up in time for the August campaign.

    Mr. Sankey is a decent, hard-working person. He knows what it’s like to be a working man. He is serious about improving areas of the city that have seen better days. Plus, his restaurant is excellent!

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