••KEEP••Lee Pitts Mug
Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at leepitts@leepittsbooks.com.

After last year’s election, I just don’t trust the process anymore. I first got suspicious when a network reporter said, “With 150 percent of the vote counted, we can now project a winner.”

I think we need a voting system that is more transparent and honest, and instead of copying Venezuela’s election process, I think we ought to adopt the arrangement employed in the wonderful northern California town of Burney. This community is famous for its fishing, the fact that one of their citizens once appeared on the Price Is Right, and part of the movie “Stand By Me” was filmed in its environs. I keep up on the local news because for decades, the Northern California Traveler carried my column, and when they ceased publishing, The Intermountain News picked up my column. I have also been to the area countless times, and the skies were always blue, the air fresh, the water pure, and the fish were biting. I always thought it would be a great place to live. Unfortunately for me, when I looked in the classifieds, the only jobs available seemed to be for “strip and chain pullers,” and I have no idea what they are, let alone how to do it.

Years ago, I saved a clipping from the paper that detailed how Burney elected their honorary mayor, and I thought enough of it to save it for several years. In Burney’s honorary mayoral election, you can vote as many times and as often as you want. The catch is that every vote costs a dollar. Simply put, the election is more like an auction with the prize going to whoever collects the most cash. If we’re being honest, it’s very much like the way we run our elections now, only Burney gets rid of the middleman… the lobbyists.

The election is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, and the money raised goes to charity. The winner gets to designate 50 percent of what they collect to their favorite charity like Boy Scout Troop #38, the local 4H club, Make A Wish, an effort to “Bring Back the Swings” to the park or to paint a mural on the wall of a local building. The person placing second gets to donate 40 percent of their take to their cause, third place 30 percent, 4th place 20 percent and the remaining candidates get to donate 10 percent to their favorite charity. The rest of the money goes to the Chamber of Commerce to improve the community.


The candidates put up polling places wherever they want and collect the ballots, in this case in the form of cold hard cash. See how much more transparent Burney’s elections are? There is a candidates forum, usually at a park or Gepeto’s Pizza, where the locals can meet and greet the candidates and ask them piercing and probing questions like, “If you were on American Idol, which song would you sing?” Or, “What superhero would you like to be?”

Citizens can also hear the candidate’s platform. For example, one candidate wanted to “Stop the Crime,” but as far as I know, the only potential for crime in the wonderful place would be to steal an election by pilfering some ballot boxes. We know this happens in Chicago, but as far as I know, no one has yet been caught stealing an election in Burney.

Many of the candidates come up with catchy slogans like “Don’t be a schmuck; vote for Luck.” They put up signs around town, and some even have campaigns managers. The news clipping I saved introduced the candidates and their promises. For example, Dusty vowed to get Nike to move their international headquarters to Burney and then fully support the Burney Raiders athletic department. Katie, a waitress, promised, “If elected, I will bring a fashion mall to downtown Burney.” Brooke, a bank teller, said, “I would promise to put an end to all the gossip, drama, and rumors that spread through the intermountain area on a daily basis.”

Good luck with that.

Corey, a pastor, promised, “I would coordinate a strategy team that would work with existing businesses, government, and non-profit agencies to develop a long-range plan to increase and diversify the income stream coming into Burney.”

No offense, pastor, but you sound like the kind of politician we already have too many of.