Monday, February 11, 2008

VP Administration post of awesomeness

Candidate analysis, random thoughts, EA deprecation, and who Maayan is voting for all rolled into one glorious post.

Well, voting is now on for the re-vote for the fifth AMS executive position. The VP Administration race was cancelled in mid-campaign two weeks ago. Despite the fact that this cancellation was not allowed by AMS code, and caused confusion and inconvenience, this second round of elections seems to have elicited a better crop of candidates. This race is actually the most competitive, with four strong contenders. I've read all the platforms in detail, and I know three of the four serious candidates in varying degrees. Here's my analysis on each.

Yian Messoloras - Yian ran in the first race, and is the apparent reason it was cancelled (due to bad campaigning), though this was never officially confirmed by EA Brendan Piovesan. Yian doesn't seem to understand terribly much about the AMS. His answers at Thursday's debate were a little painful. His main plan is to execute SUB Renew gradually, sutainably, and without increasing student fees at all (of course, that's what happens in the SUB every year when there's small-scale renovations). His experience in construction is to help him with this, and he wants student and faculty involvement in the design process itself. He believes consultations to be a waste of money. While Yian has his heart in the right place with his promise not to increase student fees for a new SUB, the extent of unmet need revealed through the SUB renew consultations indicates that pretty large project is what students want. The university, donors, and government are unlikely to give us money if they're not matching a contribution form students.

Tristan Markle - Tristan has put together a very comprehensive platform - maybe too comprehensive. He's got plans for just about everything from stopping the underground bus loop (which is already under construction), to sourcing ethical food, to giving clubs anti-oppression training. Tristan is thoughtful and very ambitious about this position. Unfortunately, half of his platform (the half he seems more interested in) isn't actually the chief concern of the VP Admin portfolio. As an active organizer of Trek Park and last year's anti-U blvd development petition, Tristan is the most interested in development issues. The internally-focused half of the portfolio isn't addressed very thoroughly. Though SUB Renew certainly has a link to the plans for U-Square, since the U-Blvd plan revision, Tristan's assertion that SUB renew makes U-Square irrelevant is pure fantasy. There’s no indication whatsoever that the SUB renew process will cancel other plans for the area. Moreover, it is not remotely within the VP Admin's power to "stop" the underground bus-loop construction. If you read his platform carefully, you'll notice repeatedly that Tristan presents things he hopes will be true, or plans to do, as irrevocable fact. This is quite misleading (especially if you don't know abut this stuff to begin with). The VP Admin this year will have to work fairly closely with Campus and Community Planning, and the UBC administration to make SUB Renew a physical and financial reality. I fear that Tristan's principled lack of respect for these people will not help him serve students in these interactions. Also, stepping on the VP Academic's toes constantly about development issues would make the executive team dynamics awkward. Don't get me wrong, I like alot of Tristan's ideas (the real-time sustainability counter, rooftop garden, and social justice audit are all great) but I have doubts that he'll be able to pull of even a fraction of the platform without pissing everyone off.

Steve McCarthy - Steve is the UBC debate society president, former residence advisor, and scribbler for our esteemed VFM rival/partner in awesome, The Devil's Advocate. Incumbent VP Academic Sarah Naiman actually convinced Steve to run - make your own conclusions from that. Steve's platform is focused and pragmatic, covering the three main categories of the VP Admin portfolio: SUB Renew, SAC & Clubs, and Student Life. He's on the right track for all of them. His idea for modeling a once a month activities night after Waterloo's "warrior weekend" is pretty cool. He plans to restructure SAC into less, better-paid positions, and aims to use AMS Link as an administrative tool as opposed to marketing it as a sub-par social networking tool. He wants to make groups that can't qualify as clubs into "affiliate groups", who would have booking privileges, to foster better connections with the AMS. Steve isn't afraid to say "I don't know" - which will help him, since he has alot to learn. Many of the ideas here are fairly mainstream, and they're all practical. Focusing on one special project (as opposed to Tristan's bazillion) is wise. Also, he's a got a great personality for this job, and is really smart.

Shawn Stewart - Shawn was a SAC Commissioner this year, so he's got the most thorough insight into the workings of the VP Admin portfolio. I don't know Shawn personally, but I'm impressed by much of his platform, despite the silly organization of his website into vague headers like "community" and "efficiency" (and the fact that you have to download word documents to view the full platform. grr). His plans for SAC reorganization, (specifically the creation of a Student Life commissioner) are detailed and make alot of sense. His discussion of SUB consultations and what will happen if this year's referendum fails was helpful. He's got generally good ideas about better consultation and engagement with Residence Life and other campus groups, and wants to create an AMS Frosh program for first years. I don't get how this differs from AMS Firstweeek, but meh. A good emphasis in Shawn's platform is the "gateway positions" section. Both students and the organization can benefit hugely from having volunteers work on interesting projects in the events and design departments in the AMS. These types of projects are fun; volunteers that enjoy what they're doing are some of the most committed and valuable members of a society. AMS Connect was supped to promote volunteerism in the AMS - I don’t' know how successful it's been. Anyway, Shawn seems pretty good. My main criticisms are that he annoyingly ends every sentence like he's asking a question, and he's ruined the future careers of lots of people in his outrageous "Let them Eat Cake" blog.

Mike Kushnir - Mike has been involved in ACF and AUS for years. He decided to go serious after his first bid for this position as "scary" Mike "the rabbi". Mike's platform is the shortest, and not very comprehensive, but most of the ideas that are there are quite concrete. He doesn't address the issues of Clubs and SAC at all. Go read it yourself, it's short. I think Mike comes from a good place, but he's ambivalent about SUB Renew, which will need immediate and detailed attention right off the bat. I feel like I need to see more here.

The two non-serious candidates, Aaron Palm and Stephanie Ryan have very different schticks. Aaron quotes fitting bible verses, and Steph spouts off her personal desire for slates to be re-instituted. Weird. I'll probably vote for Steve McCarthy in this election. He's pretty awesome, incredibly personable, and I know that he'll work well with the other executives. Shawn would probably be good too. To me, this race is between them.

Something that's come up in this race is the realization that the SUB Renew timeline is incredibly short. Choosing one of the three floorplans from Cannon Design to be placed on the referendum ballot through widespread consultation, and then promoting the referendum in about a month is pretty nuts. Maybe a post on SUB Renew is in order. Oh, and Mike and Steve's posters are way awesome.

Also, EA Brendan Piovesan managed to fuck up again (imagine that). One candidate's name wasn't on the electronic ballot for the first 12 hours of voting (see below post). It's fixed now, but wow. Just wow.

EDIT: This wasn't actually Brendan's fault at all. There was some communication problem with the university, which runs the WebVote system