Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gene Weingarten: In voting, the name's the game

There are a few aspects of my life of which I am not proud and which I hesitate to share with readers for fear of being harshly judged. For example, I habitually dislodge food from between my molars with the stiff edge of a folded piece of paper. (See? That was probably a mistake.) Another source of shame is my lack of civic responsibility.

In elections, when I cast my down-ballot, local-only votes, I've seldom taken the time to familiarize myself with the candidates, a sin I then compound by not letting my ignorance deter me. Because it is childish, I won't use the eenie-meenie method; instead, I'll pick the candidate with the funniest name, or, if the names have an equal humor quotient, I will revert to the shameful method employed by my parents' generation (they, too, disdained eenie-meenie) and "pick the Jew." On the rare occasions when more than one name is Jewish, I pick the Jewiest. "Cohen" loses to "Rosenflutz."

I know, I know. I said I was ashamed. However, I recently had an opportunity to atone for all of this. I decided to attend a community meeting with my city councilman, at a neighborhood tavern. I am pretty sure I would have gone even if the first beer hadn't been on the house: There was a serious issue at stake, and I had a chance for once to be a Concerned and Responsible Engaged Citizen.

My home in Capitol Hill is across the street from venerable Eastern Market, which for some reason is a major, storied tourist attraction even though it is basically just a grocery store. I'm also two blocks away from an abandoned middle school that is being torn down and replaced by a huge condo-retail development that threatens to reduce the neighborhood's on-street parking. (This is a big deal, because parking is already a problem. On weekends, it is often so hard for residents to find parking spots that we wind up prowling our own neighborhood in our cars, as if we were serial killers — sullen, beady-eyed urban raptors, stalking pedestrians to their vehicles.)

My point is, I care about anything concerning the market or the school. I want a voice.

But The Man was conspiring to give me laryngitis. There was a new proposal to redistrict the area, making me officially part of a different neighborhood, with no influence over what happens right in my back yard; instead, I would have influence mostly over what happens on a restaurant-intensive commercial street a mile and a half away. The idea was to rectify an imbalance in the number of people per voting district, as though the hallowed American principle of one-man, one-vote is essential in decisions of the magnitude of whether restaurant bathrooms must have urinal deodorant cakes.

So, I came to the tavern enraged at The Man, whose name is Tommy Wells. He is the city councilman who had defended this evil plan. My wife urged me to remain calm and not make a fool of myself, advice to which I responded by practicing chants. ("Hell, no, we won't go!" "Atti-CA, Atti-CA!" etc.) This was a restaurant, I noted. Food can become an effective projectile.

Tommy showed up right on time, took one look at the sea of righteously aggrieved faces, and joked, "I guess this isn't a fundraiser for me, huh?" He allowed one guy to rant for a while, then stood up. I braced for combat. This was going to be good.

It wasn't. Tommy said, right away, that he had decided the plan was a bad idea and would rescind it. A roar erupted from the crowd, led by my wife, whose sense of relief seemed inappropriately vast. Grudgingly, even I had to admit Tommy handled this well. I'll probably vote for him, unless he is running against someone named Marvin Schlopnick.

© 2011 Washington Post Writers Group

Gene Weingarten: In voting, the name's the game 11/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 19, 2011 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    Music & Concerts

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, a publicist said. He was 69.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  2. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  3. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement


    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
  4. Gregg Allman dies at age 69


    From our friends at the Associated Press:

    Singer/Songwriter Gregg Allman performs during the 2010 BamaJam Music & Arts Festival at the corner of Hwy 167 and County Road 156 on June 5, 2010.
  5. Suspect arrested in fatal shooting of Virginia special agent


    RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia State Police special agent died Saturday after being shot by a man sitting in a car in Richmond, police said. The shooting suspect fled on foot, sparking an overnight manhunt that ended with the man's arrest about an hour after the agent's death.

    This image provided by the Virginia State Police shows law enforcement investigating the scene of a shooting early Saturday in Richmond, Va.   Special Agent Michael T. Walter, a Virginia State Police special agent died Saturday after being shot by a man sitting in a car in Richmond, police said. The shooting suspect fled on foot, sparking an overnight manhunt that ended with the man's arrest about an hour after the agent's death. Virginia State Police said in an emailed statement that Travis A. Ball of Richmond is being held without bond on charges that include malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. (Virginia State Police via AP)