Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brain Dump 4-18-06

I was able to visit the elections office last week and gather some information. For elections run by the county, you can request a copy of campaign finance reports with a written request. You will pay 10 cents per copy. You may also purchase a list of candidates in an election run by the county. This eliminates city and school district elections.

For the May election, Hidalgo County has been contracted to run elections for Mission, Sharyland, and McAllen school districts and the City of San Juan.

Other available information from the County Elections Office are lists of contributors. You can request lists of registered voters, which include certificate number, name, and address. No other personal information will be included.

You can also buy a CD of voter history in various formats. They can provide you with printed reports, but with several hundred pages each, you are better off paying $17.95 for the CD.

The elections office also provides maps of the counties with delineated precincts and school district boundaries. The maps are available for purchase in whatever configuration you need that they can manage.

The elections office has recently started working with GIS (Geographic Information System) which is a great new information technology that uses maps. Cities use GIS to map resources like water lines, sewer lines, and other infrastructure. In addition, it can be used to track things like crime density or other demographic information. I know that the City of Mission has started working on GIS in addition to McAllen and some other cities. Unfortunately, not all cities are on board with the technology. Going back to the elections office, they are using GIS to code voter cards more accurately. One problem this is designed to solve is one my wife and I have had. We both lived at the same address, of course, but we had to vote in different precincts. Using GIS, the county wants to fix that sort of thing.

One important note is that it is important for the 911 system to be fully implemented so that the county can really implement GIS. In the meantime, whenever they have the chance, they go in and manually input the additional coding on voter records.

I learned that McAllen is the only city that does not hold city elections by precinct. They have elected to hold elections by district, which can span multiple adjacent precincts in whole or in part.

Unrelated to all of that, I also got a chance to talk to an old Edinburg political observer and have learned much about the history of the current crop of politicians. I have learned why the Palacios family is considered influential. I have learned about the factions involved in the power struggle for the city. Of course, the education I have gained is based on readily available public information that has been gathered by this veteran observer.

I don't have a dog in the Edinburg fight as I am a resident of Mission and cannot vote in Edinburg. Still, as there is plenty of blog representation of Edinburg, I would like to fuel the fire by doing what I did during the primaries and going out to meet the candidates. I'm working on getting an interview with Mayor Garcia. I haven't a clue how to get a hold of Joe Ochoa, his signs don't have a contact number. If anybody has a clue on how I can reach the former Mayor, please comment. Of course, I'll try to get the interviews on MP3.

For residents of Mission, I'll work on getting Mission election information. I do have a stake in at least the school election. There is still plenty of time before May 13, but I will be worrying about exams and finals over the coming weeks, so I want to get as much groundwork laid before then.

On another front, I went to visit Jason, my former concurrent boss at China Wok. I had a beer to take the edge off today's frustration and chatted. I have an open invitation to be a waiter there if I need some cash in the future. After work at the store, I used to hang out with him at the restaurant and bus tables, chop veggies, and other stuff for fun. I've learned a few things about Chinese cooking over the years. Of course, without the secret brown sauce recipe, it never tastes the same.

And finally, biking through the backroads and canals around Mission is on my radar screen again. I really missed biking. I'll take pictures of my trips to share with RGV Life readers. That is all. Good night.

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