–The community mailboxes for my tiny condo are located at the end of a functional horseshoe parking area. Open to USPS and the elements, it is a perfect gathering place to find unsolicited advice and controversial social commentary. When looking out my front door, the mailboxes are blocked by trees so it’s hard to tell if people are already there until it’s too late and the first run-on sentence hits me before I can fish out my key or make up an excuse not to join in.
“Hey, how ya doin’ how much did your HOA go up?” Or, “Did your Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes prize come from Ed McMahon today (this tired 1970s reference is supposed to be funny) and how much did they get in that crazy bidding war for unit number three (this question is serious).
Although the people are mostly nice and neighborly, I typically find myself in no mood to chat. For a while, I’d bring the dog before her walk so it would appear I was on a mission of sorts, but that backfired because she wanted to linger for the ear scratches and belly rubs. Then, I tried wearing my noise-blocking headphones which worked for a while since I’d point at them while mouthing, “Important work call…” I abandoned that tactic when the new person who paid well over three-hundred-thousand dollars for unit number three mouthed back, “It’s Saturday.”
My urge to avoid the mailbox was back-shelved last week when I was expecting a long-overdue important communication. (OK, It wasn’t from Publisher’s Clearing House, but it was a check.) The check wasn’t in the mail that day but a very heavy packet, both literally and figuratively, was there instead. It had a return address of: OFFICE OF THE CITY CLERK and a postage meter stamp of $1.92. The packet contained 42 pages of supplemental language for the City’s referendum questions on the ballet. Also in the mail and also from the same return address was my official absentee balloting material. This envelope had a first class postage price of 81 cents.
As much as I like to get an “I VOTED!” sticker and being in the thick of polling in person, I opted to vote by mail this upcoming November 8 election. I don’t fully understand the citizen initiatives which is bad since I work for this very newspaper which has given it a lot of coverage. I also attended an Eggs and Issues event held by the Portland Chamber of Commerce, with a panel of people holding areas of expertise on the different issues. I thought if I voted by mail, I’d have time to review and understand the questions in detail. But this is information overload and as much as I want to care about everything, I have to focus on what seems most meaningful.
But guess what else?
I’d rather listen to gossip in run-on sentences than read the twenty-four pages of double-sided, 8 point font attempting to outline the referendum questions. It has language like “any natural person” and is full of redacted, underlined, and redacted and underlined text. I’m a fairly intelligent person who loves to read, but this is overwhelming and I cannot imagine what election day is going to look like.
If diligent Portlanders actually stand in the little voting cubby and read this document from cover to cover, it will take hours for each person to cast their votes. My guess is their eyes will glaze over and they’ll need to lean on what they heard from their friends and what they may have retained from the paper, or other news.
Think about this – Maybe you don’t care about short-term rentals, but you do care about affordable housing and reasonably priced hotel rooms. Logic shows these things are related and that’s just one thing on the agenda of things to care about and vote on.
Sigh. So, maybe I’ll hold off and will read this beast in small doses.
That said, I do know from my own experience and valued influence that the tip credit must stay. My friend Bruno (from the restaurant of the same name) abhors political discussion at his bar, but he has beseeched me to speak up on this.
“This honestly worries the hell out of me,” he messaged.
I agree with him on this one because I share his viewpoint, because he makes the best Cosmos north of Boston, and because I fully understand the issue. Now, I want to understand the others. The questions, the referendums, all of it.
Taking the time to do so is a lot better than trying to ditch my neighbors. And I want to be sure my tax dollars that make up the many, many $1.92 packets goes to good, caring, informed use, no matter how hard that may be.
Natalie Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at [email protected].