Thursday, March 18, 2021

Returning the Favor


The internet is full of unexpected moments that can provoke you, amuse you, or make you think. Yesterday I had one that hit all three when I saw this tweet:

Why, look at that! The Rouse Project’s social media team is recommending one of my blog posts as a part of their Columbia Association election campaign. That’s odd. I’m not a member of the Rouse Project nor have I endorsed them. I haven’t endorsed anyone or anything having to do with the upcoming election. I don’t even know the names of all the candidates yet, nor which ones are affiliated with the Rouse Project. But could this tweet make people think something that isn’t actually true?

In general, bloggers love to see their work shared but this one gave me a bit of a twinge. It’s important not to mislead people, especially where elections are concerned.

On the other hand, now I know that The Rouse Project is recommending me/my blog as a valuable source of information. I’m going to run with that. 

When I ran for CA Board I got some questions from friends of my opponent about how much money I was spending on my campaign. I told them. My immediate campaign team members each chipped in a certain amount*, and I got two donations from Columbians who didn’t live in Oakland Mills. This covered one-page photocopied fliers, signs, t-shirts, and stamps. Oh, and on Election Day a friend brought donuts, bagels and coffee. 

I could tell from their expressions that my answer was scandalous to them. But it was the truth and I had no difficulty sharing it. 

Since my blog has now been publicly recommended by The Rouse Project, I’d like to ask them the same question. How much money has been donated in total and who are the donors? It’s a simple question.

And it’s one they aren’t required to answer.

Unlike government elections, the CA elections are corporate elections and there aren’t any rules that I know of concerning monetary donations and the disclosure of same. Frankly, I think that’s a bad plan, but I guess once upon a time Columbia ran on the honor system. 

Ah...we were all innocent once.

All that being said, the fact remains that Columbia voters are curious about how much money is being invested in this year’s CA elections, and who is giving it. Being able to weigh such information is an expected part of other local elections. The fact that there are no rules and no accountability in CA elections makes some folks justifiably uneasy.

Is money the only issue in Columbia Association elections? Absolutely not. But it is a powerful force that should not be ignored.

I think it would be a bold act of transparency to make this information available to the public. It would show a willingness to do more than what is required in order to be deserving of the public trust. And it would allow Columbia voters to be able to make more informed decisions. 

That’s something we all want, right?

So I thank The Rouse Project for graciously sharing my blog with their followers, and I respectfully ask them to share their financial information just as publicly. I guarantee it will give us all something to think about.

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