Monday, March 25, 2013

Let's Put on a Show!

As a kid, I watched my share of The Little Rascals.

I watched your share, too.  And then some.

Somewhere along the way, the gang usually ran into problems that could be solved by the phrase, "Let's Put on a Show!"

These shows would raise a few pennies and save the day.  There never was much money involved with those kids.

I've often written here how elections are pieced together with very little money.  Sure, it's taxpayer money, so prudence is good, but election workers are paid near minimum wage, polling places are usually secured for free, and often we barely have two coins to scrape together before tossing them to decide winners in tied races.

So, at times, I feel like we're working a script from Our Gang.

This past week of election worker training definitely felt like that.

We utilize a church for what we call refresher training--training for those who have worked an election.  Usually, this training brings in about 300 workers, auditorium style, and we cover key things related to the election and brush up on procedures.

The church is a polling place and has been an outstanding partner.  The people there are terrific.

But, the venue can be hit or miss, and it missed twice last week.

Our training a week ago Saturday came a day after the nicest day of the year--an 80 degree Friday.  Saturday, it was back to reality, with a high of about 45 degrees, with a wind chill much colder.

Halfway through the training, though, I'd clearly lost the audience.

Usually, it takes a little longer for me to bore everyone, but in this case, I was losing them because the temperature felt like it was 45 degrees inside as well.

People started covering themselves with coats blanket-style.  Husbands and wives began cuddling.

It was cold.

The only thing on their minds concerning training was the thought that it might possibly end, allowing them to go outside and warm up.

This has happened at the church before, actually, so it was very frustrating to experience it again.

That wasn't nearly as frustrating as last Thursday's training, where no microphone could produce sufficient volume.  They were all charged, but after moving from a lavaliere to a handheld microphone, I had to press my lips and teeth against the metal with my hand cupped, hoping for a small echo that would allow people to hear me.

I felt like an election rapper.  Training was compromised again.  With the microphone in one hand and the PowerPoint remote in the other, it was nearly impossible to hold up different envelope and form examples.  I had to hold the microphone upside down, at a 45-degree angle, looking like a very confused gerbil.  I also pity the clergy member who used the microphone next.

As I did my best Slim Shady, all I could think about was the disaster this would have been if the echo went away and we had gathered 300 workers for training, yet we were unable to get them to hear us.  I'm still not sure those in the back did hear me, actually.

We need contingency plans for so many things in elections, but we shouldn't have to have contingency plans for something WE plan.  Yet, we can't go through this again.

Our county needs a training facility, something I've been advocating for years.  We would be a primary user of this facility, but with so many financial needs, it is unlikely to be built.

But we have to punt this Little Rascal routine.  There's a level of professionalism that we're missing with this set-up.  Plus, our success is reliant on our election workers.  The training is vital.

Today we looked into pricing for a place called The Ritz Charles, an odd place in Johnson County that can best be described as a hotel without any hotel rooms.  It's as though the ballroom was built securely but Dorothy and all of the other guests in the Tower blew away.

The Ritz Charles is a meeting and banquet facility.  That's all they do.  We looked into it today and I was surprised that the pricing for a full day is only a couple of thousand dollars more than what we pay the church.  The cost of the church has risen steadily over the last few years.

We're not sure we will use the facility for all of our 2014 training needs, but we reserved a couple of days for next October.

Hopefully, that means my rapping days are over.  That's a show even the Little Rascals wouldn't have have put on with pride.