Campaign season in high gear


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File-This July 18, 2018, file photo shows Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaking during a Democratic gubernatorial debate held at Florida Gulf Coast University's Cohen Center in Fort Myers, Fla. The man who could become Florida’s first black governor on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, called on his opponent to refrain from name-calling and to focus on the issues. Gillum, was asked about comments Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made after Tuesday’s primary. DeSantis said voters aren’t going to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

File-This July 18, 2018, file photo shows Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaking during a Democratic gubernatorial debate held at Florida Gulf Coast University's Cohen Center in Fort Myers, Fla. The man who could become Florida’s first black governor on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, called on his opponent to refrain from name-calling and to focus on the issues. Gillum, was asked about comments Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made after Tuesday’s primary. DeSantis said voters aren’t going to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)


Gillum tells opponent to focus on issues, not insults

Monday, September 3

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The man who could become Florida’s first black governor on Sunday called on his opponent to refrain from name-calling and to focus on the issues.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor, was asked about comments Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made after Tuesday’s primary. DeSantis said voters aren’t going to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum.

“He’s gotten accustomed to calling names. He’s a Harvard-educated man, surely he knows his way around the U.S. vocabulary,” Gillum told MSNBC’s Joy Reid. “But he chooses rather to embrace these kinds of dog whistles and bullhorns.”

While saying he wouldn’t engage in name-calling, Gillum also said he wasn’t going to compete in a “pig fight” with DeSantis and President Donald Trump, who endorsed DeSantis and has used Twitter to criticize Gillum.

“I’m not going to follow him and Donald Trump down into the swamp of politics. My grandmother used to say, ‘When you wrestle with pigs, you both get dirty, but the pig likes it,’” Gillum said. “I’m not going to be able to compete and win in a pig fight with these guys.”

Also Sunday, DeSantis said in an interview with John Catsimatidis of 970 AM radio in New York that Gillum “will turn Florida into Venezuela.”

“Florida’s a great place to be, to live, to do business, to retire. We need to build off the success that Florida’s enjoyed, and if you have a guy like this — and that being a socialist-style agenda — that’s going to absolutely destroy all the progress that Florida’s made.”

DeSantis and Gillum are competing for the seat held by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who can’t seek re-election due to term limits and is instead challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Conversation

Campaign season is moving into high gear – your vote may not count as much as you think

September 5, 2018

Author

John Rennie Short

John Rennie Short is a Friend of The Conversation. Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Disclosure statement

John Rennie Short does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

As we enter the traditional, post-Labor Day sprint in the campaign season, voters may want to consider how much their vote really counts. In the United States, the difference between the popular will and political representation is growing and some votes count more than others.

When voters wield unequal power, that is a problem for democracy.

I’m a social scientist and public policy scholar who studies sources of stress in the U.S. political system. Here are three sources of a growing deficit of democracy.

The Senate

In the U.S. Senate, some voters count more than others.

This began in the earliest days of the Republic when each state, despite differing population size, was allocated two senators.

The Senate in 1874. Each state, regardless of size, has two senators. Harpers Weekly/US Senate collection

At the time of the First Congress in 1789, the population of the largest and smallest state, respectively Virginia and Delaware was 110,936 and 11,783. Those counts only include include free white males over 16, because that’s who got to vote at the time. Virginia had roughly nine times the population of Delaware.

But by the time of the 2016 presidential election, the population of the most and least populous states, California and Wyoming, was respectively 39,254,503 and 585,501. The most populous state had 67 times the population of the least populous state.

This system puts disproportionate influence in the hands of small states. Long-term senators from small states can amass seniority that bestows enormous power beyond their demographic significance.

The current leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, represents Kentucky – a state with a total population of only just over 4 million. And while the U.S. population of 325 million is 72 percent white and 13 percent foreign-born, Kentucky is 89 percent white with only 3 percent foreign-born.

More than a quarter of the entire U.S. population lives in just 10 metropolitan areas across only 16 states. Yet Senate representation still reflects the political realities of the largely rural 18th century, when population was spread more evenly throughout the country, rather than the demographic realities of the metropolitan 21st century.

The opinions of the metropolitan majority on such issues as gun control, abortion rights or immigration policy are often overruled in the Senate by the preferences of voters in small, rural states.

To be sure, the U.S. was never designed as a direct democracy but as a republic, where multiple sources of governmental power were to be a check on power. But is it democratic when one of the other branches of government, the Supreme Court, can be appointed by a majority of senators who represent a minority of the U.S. population?

The House

Seats in the House of Representatives are, unlike the Senate, allocated on the basis of population, but since the 1960s Democratic voters are pooling into dense areas. That lessens their overall effectiveness as they tend to win big in a few districts while Republicans have a wider national spread.

The current system of winner-takes-all elections – where even the narrowest of winners is the people’s only representative – gives the Republicans an advantage over Democrats.

And that does not factor in partisan gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of voting boundaries to engineer specific political outcomes.

The U.S. Constitution requires each state to establish new congressional districts every 10 years to reflect the population changes measured by the census.

This congressional redistricting is freighted with partisan political interests. Take the case of Utah. The results of the 2010 Census revealed enough population increase in that state to justify increasing the number of congressional districts from three to four.

The Republicans control the Utah state legislature and thus the redistricting.

The Utah Republicans’ redistricting created gerrymandered districts that favored GOP voters. That neutered voters in the more Democratic-leaning Salt Lake City, and in the 2016 congressional election Republicans won just 66 percent of all votes but still swept all four congressional seats. The Democrats picked up over a third of all votes in the state but won no congressional seats.

Gerrymandering also occurred in Democratic-controlled Maryland, where the post-2010 redistricting packed Republican voters into a few districts.

Over a third of all votes cast in the state in the 2016 congressional races were for Republican Party candidates but Republicans won only one out of eight districts.

According to a 2017 Associated Press analysis, current gerrymandering favors Republicans across the country. Gerrymandered districts produce safe seats and lock politicians into political postures that promote ideological purity and party loyalty over bipartisan negotiation.

Primary voters in gerrymandered districts thus count more than the general voting public.

The Electoral College

The president is elected by the Electoral College. There are 538 electors with each state allocated one each for their congressional representatives and senators. California has 55 and Wyoming has three.

All the electors in a state are pledged to the presidential candidate with the majority of votes. Only Maine and Nebraska allow proportional representation. A successful campaign needs to get over 270 Electoral College votes.

After 1888, when Republican Benjamin Harrison won the Electoral College 233 to 168 but lost the popular vote, the system worked well. The popular vote and the Electoral College were in sync for over a century.

However, in both 2000 and 2016, a candidate won the presidency without obtaining a majority of popular votes. If presidents were elected by a simple and obvious popular vote we would have had President Albert Gore and President Hillary Clinton.

The Electoral College overvalues voters in key swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and devalues voters in other states.

By not reflecting the popular vote, the Electoral College does not transmit the will of the people. Instead, I believe it is starting to undermine it.

The system is also vulnerable to manipulation. There is mounting evidence that Russian operatives concentrated their cybertactics in 2016 in states where key Electoral College votes were in play.

This suggests that the Electoral College is now identified as a weak point by our enemies.

While there is much talk about the fiscal deficit or the infrastructure deficit, less attention is paid to the mounting democratic deficit. The more undemocratic tendencies of the U.S. electoral system are growing stronger.

The U.S. system faces this deficit because, while all voters get to exercise political choice, only some get to exercise real political power.

Asking customers to donate when they buy stuff may be good for business

September 5, 2018

Author

Benjamin Lawrence

Aziz Hashim Professor of Franchise Entrepreneurship and Associate Professor of Hospitality, Georgia State University

Disclosure statement

Benjamin Lawrence does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

Georgia State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Cashiers asking customers to donate small sums to charity while they’re at cash registers, known as checkout charity, is becoming a big business.

All that spare change, taken together with donations solicited through e-commerce, collectively raised at least US$440 billion in 2016 from retailers like Petco, Walmart and eBay. According to Engage for Good, a cause-related commerce group, roughly 3 out of 4 Americans have been asked to donate to charities ranging from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to local foodbanks while buying stuff.

Franchisees often say they are reluctant to participate in this practice based on an assumption that consumers dislike donating at checkout and that these campaigns will negatively impact sales. Because I do research about franchising, I wanted to see if those concerns are valid.

Is reluctance warranted?

To get a clearer picture of how customers feel about checkout charity appeals and if it makes them less likely to return to its restaurants, I was on a research team that looked into how checkout charity may affect sales at retailers, restaurants and supermarkets – plus the public’s perception of those brands.

We partnered with a national fast-food restaurant chain that provided data in exchange for an analysis of their checkout charity campaign and declined to be identified.

Marketing professors and experts in consumer behavior and marketing strategy Michael Gibelhausen, Helen Chun, Liwu Hsu and I conducted multiple studies including a restaurant field study where we intercepted customers in the restaurant to get their feedback immediately after they were asked to donate.

Three controlled online experiments investigated the underlying psychological processes at play. We also reviewed sales and checkout charity data provided by the fast-food chain, which has approximately 1,000 U.S. locations.

A warm glow

As we explained in the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, an academic journal, we found that such campaigns can benefit a franchise’s bottom line. This occurs because checkout charity can make consumers feel what economist James Andreoni calls a “warm glow” from their giving. These positive feelings, we believe, can lead customers to spend more money in the future at the same restaurant chain.

We found that asking customers who refuse to donate had no effect on their emotional response to the brand or their willingness to return for another meal.

However, the customers who donated felt good about it. Based on our analysis of sales data, we believe they also felt better about the chain we studied and were more likely to return.

In short, raising money for causes through checkout charity may increase sales without costing businesses anything in terms of customer satisfaction.

Drones to track one of the largest dam removals on the Eastern Seaboard

September 5, 2018

Author

Matthew E. Baker

Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Disclosure statement

Matthew E. Baker receives funding from American Rivers and Maryland SeaGrant to support work on the project described in this article.

Partners

University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

This month, the Bloede Dam will be removed from the Lower Patapsco River near Ilchester, Maryland.

The restoration is a one-of-a-kind natural experiment that will help test how relatively inexpensive drones can help scientists like me understand the integrity of streams and rivers.

My collaborators include students and researchers from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Maryland Geological Survey, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Geological Survey.

If our approach works, it will allow us to track sediment movement more completely and accurately than ever before, at a fraction of the expense.

What will change

Completed in 1907 and operational for 30 years, the Bloede Dam contained the first submerged hydroelectric plant in the U.S. At 26.5 feet high, it represents one of the largest dam removals on the Eastern Seaboard.

Why remove the dam? The state, federal agencies and nonprofit American Rivers hope to eliminate a derelict public safety hazard.

Taking out the dam will also complement restoration from previous dam removals upstream and expand connected habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures. The Patapsco once hosted major freshwater runs of shad, alewife and American eel, which were blocked by the dam. A fish ladder has proven ineffective at connecting upstream sections of the river with the downstream estuary and the Chesapeake Bay.

Despite a prominent role in early U.S. manufacturing, the Patapsco Valley has suffered its share of environmental challenges. Colonial shipping was forced to relocate to Baltimore after the original port at Elkridge Landing was choked by sediment from shipping ballast, river bank mining and upstream forest clearing. Once a 10-foot channel surrounded by a saltwater marsh, today the site is fresh and the channel less than two feet deep.

Periodic floods have also wreaked havoc in the narrow gorge, occasionally with catastrophic results. In the past few years, flash floods just upstream in Ellicott City have ruptured the sewer main that runs along the valley bottom and reorganized large quantities of sand, wood and rock in the downstream channel.

Today, the dam stores approximately 2.6 million cubic feet of stratified silt and sand less than eight miles from Chesapeake Bay tidewater. When the dam is removed, we want to know how this much sediment is going to move and how fast.

Why sediment movement?

Understanding sediment movement is critical for river management in every jurisdiction of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Sediment helps balance water flow to maintain channel shape and stable habitats for aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish. River sediment is necessary to help estuarine coastlines combat sea level rise. However, fine sediment can also be a pollutant in, or carry nutrients and heavy metals to, downstream estuaries.

Aerial image of the Patapsco River channel showing gravel, cobble and sand deposits. Matthew Baker/UMBC

Although it’s easy to observe evidence of sediment erosion from riverbanks or hillsides, it’s often unclear where and how much of that sediment is redeposited and stored. Management of sediment storage, particularly behind dams, can be somewhat controversial.

After studying several other dam removals, we expect sediment trapped behind the dam to rapidly evacuate and redistribute downstream over a period of several years.

However, there’s still much we don’t know. Floods following intense storms can move huge quantities of sediment, altering the valley bottom in just hours. Will such storms redeposit sediment elsewhere in the gorge or the coastal floodplain, or deliver it to the bay?

New ways to track changes

It’s logistically difficult to accurately measure large and potentially rapid channel changes.

In a typical field survey, technicians measure water depth, flow, bottom substrate and other information at specific locations. Though stream channels can vary tremendously over space as well as through time, we scientists are rarely able to represent such variability in our measurements. Instead, we collect isolated snapshots in time. That leaves us with less understanding of dynamic sediment movement, devastation wrought by flood waves or the diversity of conditions necessary to support aquatic life.

Gauging stations located upstream and downstream of the dam measure water flow and estimate suspended material like fine silts and clays, but not coarser sands and gravels moving along the channel bottom. Surveys of 30 cross-sections distributed over eight miles provide information about how channel shape and composition vary as one crosses the channel, but relatively little about the thousands of feet in between each transect.

What’s more, after a major flood, scientists must conduct new cross-sectional surveys, taking up to a month in occasionally in risky conditions.

Our team is attempting to add to our measurements by deploying small, off-the-shelf drones that photograph the entire valley bottom. Repeat photographs before, during and after removal can help us track the location of a sediment plume as it moves downstream. They also allow new perspectives of the river.

Relying solely on overlapping photos collected both before and after dam removal, we will create 3D computer models of the channel bottom and water depth – not just at the surveyed cross-sections, but every few inches along the channel. Although this technology works best in shallow water, our models should allow us to vastly improve estimates of both the amount and location of channel change as sediment moves downstream.

With the new approach, our team collects a photo set of all eight miles in just a few days, and further work occurs within a desktop computer. That means measurements can be repeated or made anew at any time using archived images.

Although we are certainly curious to see how this much sediment moves, we are especially interested in how well we can capture it. If it works, this technology will likely change the way scientists collect measurements and monitor rivers.

File-This July 18, 2018, file photo shows Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaking during a Democratic gubernatorial debate held at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Cohen Center in Fort Myers, Fla. The man who could become Florida’s first black governor on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, called on his opponent to refrain from name-calling and to focus on the issues. Gillum, was asked about comments Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made after Tuesday’s primary. DeSantis said voters aren’t going to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/09/web1_121289004-67ef616d28044332959936a5738fcb3a.jpgFile-This July 18, 2018, file photo shows Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaking during a Democratic gubernatorial debate held at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Cohen Center in Fort Myers, Fla. The man who could become Florida’s first black governor on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, called on his opponent to refrain from name-calling and to focus on the issues. Gillum, was asked about comments Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made after Tuesday’s primary. DeSantis said voters aren’t going to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

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