Monday, November 24, 2008

Color War (Article# 97) 11/20/08

Well, the Israeli municipal elections are now a thing of the past. Having now experienced the whole process from beginning to end, I cannot believe how utterly sophomoric it is. From the posing and strutting of the candidates as if they are Peacocks looking for a Peahen to the 18th century manner in which votes are cast and tabulated (hanging chads have nothing on us), the democratic process is certainly approached in a much different way in our new home than in our old.

In the days running up to the election, the spin doctoring was at a maximum. “We are poised for victory!” is a cry that each mayoral campaign cried several times. In the last week of the campaign the incumbent mayor (who many wanted to throw out) released a new slogan….”vote for me or Bet Shemesh will become a Chareidi city”, a message clearly designed to frighten the Dati Leumi candidate’s supporters into unifying behind him. Cars with megaphones broadcast electioneering messages through the streets; posters and flyers appeared in mailboxes, on cars and all over the streetpoles and fences. Finally, the big day arrived.

We had been warned to expect a blizzard of campaign materials to hit the streets. Those warnings were insufficient. The streets looked as if it had snowed paper the night before. Papers were strewn EVERYWHERE with instructions on how to vote and for whom. It is apparently something that is commonplace here and is frowned upon by the people, but viewed as an important campaign tactic by the candidates.

In the USA I had once served as a poll volunteer for the NY Democratic Party (sorry). One of the organizations I worked with was supporting a specific local candidate and I had been asked to help on Election Day. I stood at the proscribed spot and very quietly passed out small placards asking for the voters’ support (I think our guy lost that day). This was nothing compared to a Bet Shemesh election worker.

Our daughter Chaya spent practically the entire Election Day electioneering for our candidate (Shalom Lerner) at the polls. Her entire grade was given the day off and assigned to various polling places throughout Bet Shemesh. They were given T-shirts to wear and then spent the day passing out ballot instructions, singing songs and cheers to the passers by as they went in to vote and at the very end, cleaning up some of the mess.

She told me afterward that the entire time it felt as if she was in a camp “Color War” with the various teams each cheering and shouting for attention and support. While there were definitely a few confrontations, on the whole she said that she enjoyed the festive atmosphere and had a tremendously fun time while doing it.

Before I clue you in on the results, I want to share the thought that bothered me throughout the campaigning. “WHY?” I do not understand the motivation behind all the commotion. Is it possible that the candidates believe that people are so stupid that they are going to walk out of their homes on election day, pick a piece of paper up off of the floor and declare “AHA – NOW I know who to vote for”? Or maybe they believe that harassing people and accosting them as they approach the voting area is the best way to snare those sneaky undecided voters?

Maybe they only do it because that is what the other guy is doing. After all, how would it look if the other candidates were having their victory motorcades and my candidate didn’t? Does he think he isn’t going to win? It is almost as if some candidate many years ago did all these things and ended up winning and this led to copycats and more copycats and now, they all do these things because “this is the way things are done.”

Maybe it really works? It just might be that the average Israeli DOES respond to such tactics and this is how elections are one here. I am, after all, still a foreign born oleh, with all my prejudices and attitudes that worked for me in the USA – so who’s to day I am right and they are wrong?

Goldie and I work in Yerushalayim, and we wanted to have the little kids see how voting is done, so we chose to vote at the end of the day. We had been provided with multiple sets of instructions; via email, phone call and paper blizzard on how to make sure our votes count. There are tons of rules.

As I noted last week, municipal elections are conducted on two levels. There is an election for the Mayor (who is usually also number one on his party’s city council list) and an election for parties to sit in the city council. Each voter is handed two envelopes (each one a different color), one for each election and goes into the voting area to vote.

When I say voting area what I mean is either a school desk or a table that has a posterboard 3 fold divider (similar to what your kids use for a display for their science projects in school) on the desk, behind which are the ballots. The ballots (color coded – 1 group for mayor the other for city council) are on the desk in wooden organizers that are clearly built to hold the ballots. The voter takes two papers, one with the name of his choice for mayor on it and the other with the party letter and party name of his choice for the city council, puts the papers in the appropriate envelope, seals the envelope and then drops the envelopes into the ballot box. At the end of the day, they rip open the envelopes and count the votes.

Simple, right? WRONG!!!

The ballots have to each be in PERFECT condition for them to be counted. A ballot that has been folded, torn, bent, written upon or has any other type of damage to it is invalid and therefore thrown out. This leads to a tremendous amount of ballot tampering. A supporter of one candidate enters the voting area to vote. While he is in there, he marks, slightly tears, bends or otherwise disqualifies a stack of the opponent’s ballots – but leaves them in the ballot tray. When the voters come to vote for the opponent, they unwittingly use these invalid ballots and their votes are then disqualified!

You don’t even need fraud. I am not sure if the ballot trays were all the same size. However, I do know that the slot holding the ballots for my choice for mayor was so small that I had a very hard time getting the paper out of the tray without bending it. Had I not known in advance that this was an issue I would certainly have invalidated my own vote.

Of course, by the time the elections are over the accusations of ballot tampering and voter fraud are made by the various supporters. (Finally, something that is the SAME as the USA). Interestingly, I am not aware of the campaigns or candidates themselves making accusations; the gentlemanly way the parties conducted the post election business was a pleasure to see.

Polls are open until 10 PM here, so the counting begins quite late in the day. Only the big cities have exit polling, so even though we knew what was going on in Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv right away, we went to bed without having an idea who won in Bet Shemesh. The whole process seems archaic.

Why is it that Israel, the country that is a major high tech innovator, the place where Instant Messaging was developed, the place where cellphone innovations happen every day, the place where the computing giants ALL have research and development facilities and major investments in product development as well, how is it that this country cannot figure out a way to make computer balloting an easy and efficient way to conduct an election? I just don’t get it – it should NOT be this hard.

So the municipal elections are finally over and now we have new elections to look forward to. We choose new leaders for our country (or maybe the same ones) in a few short months. They will each make passionate pleas for our support in making their vision of Israel’s future come true. I am sure that what we have witnessed so far will be dwarfed by comparison to a National election and am quite eagerly looking forward to seeing it all unfold (GO BIBI!!).

The results? The Chareidi candidate took 52% of the vote to claim an outright victory. Voter turnout was dismal – less than 50% of the residents cared to voice their opinion (turnout Israel wide was below 40% and the Attorney General bemoaned that fact on National TV in the middle of the elections).

I have serious concerns about the new mayor and city council (ultra religious parties won 9 of 19 seats – short of having an absolute majority by only 1 seat and they will definitely find coalition partners). Will they continue to support the growth of our community and our schools? Will we be subject to even more harassment?

While I am happy we “threw the bum out” as he clearly needed to go, I am not sure that this choice is for the good. Only time will tell.

Radio Too (Article# 96) 11/13/08

As the US elections neared, the frenzy over absentee balloting among Americans reached a fever pitch. For months we had been seeing email postings from various people either looking for information or posting information on how to register for absentee ballots. It wasn’t really that difficult to do. There was one form to fill out and mail.

Goldie, being the more organized of the two of us, had signed us up for our NY ballots very early. However, when our ballots had not arrived by September we began to worry that we had made some error on the forms. Especially when we saw some people from other states getting their ballots in the mail. One of the local money changers (Cheerfully Changed) ran a campaign to file for absentee ballots, so we resubmitted our forms and hoped for the best.

Our ballots arrived less than a month before the election and we filled them out and mailed them in just after the chaggim. As we have in the past, Goldie and I voted independently from each other. I refused to disclose my vote and told anyone who asked that I had voted for Ralph Nader. Hey – why not?

Here in Israel, the interest in the American elections was very high. The voting systems are radically different and even the approach and attitudes of the electorate to the entire election process are different. Having not yet experienced a national election here, we can not really compare the two, but we have been able to glean bits and pieces of what to expect come this February.

On the morning of the USA elections I got a call from a PR firm working with Nefesh B’Nefesh. They had gotten a request from Galei Tzahal, one of the Army radio stations (news) for olim with a specific demographic. They wanted to interview new olim who had i) older kids, ii) had been living in America for the last USA Presidential election and iii) had voted by absentee ballot. We agreed to be interviewed and met a soldier/reporter (a very nice Russian immigrant who had emigrated with her family as a child) in our house that evening.

They had asked for the entire family to be available and we spent a very pleasant half hour discussing the USA election process, what Election Day is like in the USA (VERY different from Israel), why we had both voted for McCain (I mean NADER) and what we thought about the historical significance of an Obama presidency. Each kid was offered the chance to speak (when asked what he thought of the elections Mordechai responded, “I am voting for Shalom Lerner” – a candidate in the Bet Shemesh mayoral race) and we had a very nice time.

We were also apparently on the radio the next morning. I got an email from a friend telling me that she was listening to the radio the next morning when she heard “I am sitting with the Katz family from Bet Shemesh” and the next thing she knew, she was hearing our voices. I have not yet heard the report and am trying to get a recording from the station.

Batya (Age 9 – Grade 4) came home one night last week with a special request from her teacher. Her grade had learned the pesukim containing the words of Birchat Kohanim and the teacher wanted me to come speak to the grade about being a Kohain. That night, at a school ceremony we met the teacher and I accepted, assuming that I would come in for 15 minutes a say a few brief words to the girls.

I told her that I was only available on Fridays and she asked me to come in that week. We agreed upon a time and I asked her how long she wanted me to speak for. Her response? FORTY FIVE MINUTES!

I was in shock. A forty five minute speech in front of ninety fourth grade girls? In Hebrew? I began to panic as I wondered how I was going to possibly find enough things to say that had simple concepts so that I could translate them into Hebrew. I can speak Hebrew well enough to get by and be understood, but our kids regularly laugh at my Hebrew and I knew that a technical speech for that long would really be a stretch.

Thankfully I had a few days to prepare. I was able to jot down a few notes and then translate the more difficult words to Hebrew in advance (I use a terrific online Hebrew/English translation website: Milon Morphix). I also decided to ask the girls as many questions as I could along the way, forcing them to speak instead of me.

It was a long forty five minutes, but I got through it. Batya was thrilled to have me do something special for her and I was just as happy to make her proud. As a person who has worked in his sons’ schools over the years, I know that my daughters have always felt that I do not give them as much attention and I seized the opportunity to spend time with Batya in school at a time when the teachers were not giving her a grade.

By the time you read this, the Bet Shemesh municipal elections will be over and I will be packing my bags for a 10 day trip to your side of the ocean. I am usually in the USA earlier in the Fall but I will be representing the Yeshiva this year at several informational programs, including the Israel Night being hosted at Rambam Mesivta for High School Seniors and Parents on November 17th. If you happen to be there, feel free to come by and say hi.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Early and Often? (Article# 95) 11/6/08

As an old Chicago boy, I find politics and elections to be fascinating – especially trying to figure out the “spin” and what the real truth is. Although we have known that municipal elections would be coming in November, my lack of understanding of the Israeli electoral process, combined with my innate curiosity as an American, led me to follow the USA presidential elections much more closely than our local elections.

As I have said in the past, we really don’t like the current mayor. His prime talent is his policy of non-confrontation. He hates any publicity or focus upon Bet Shemesh as anything other than an idyllic town in the Jerusalem region. In order to keep things quiet, he has spent the past several years giving the chareidim of Bet Shemesh anything they wanted – especially once they start to riot.

As we have seen with other forms of terrorism, appeasing your opponent is the best way to encourage them to continue their belligerent behavior. As such, the violent element of the chareidim love nothing better than terrorizing their neighbors here, since they know that it is the most effective way to achieve their goals. (PLEASE NOTE: I am speaking of the very visible minority of the local chareidim who are actually violent and not about the invisible majority of chareidim who do nothing to stop them)

One of our neighbors across the street was spat upon several weeks ago while waiting at a bus stop. Speaking of bus stops, several of them within a few blocks of our house have been graffitied by our local chareidi “artist” who is also quite willing to share his thoughts with us on the sidewalk of our neighborhood as well. The list goes on and on.

Since our current mayor has not stood up to the hooliganism and violence, there has been a major push within our community (the Dati Leumi) to replace him. Additionally, the chareidi community (with its 40,000 Bet Shemesh residents) would love to replace him with a chareidi mayor.

Shalom Lerner, a Dati Leumi deputy mayor, born in Brazil but educated (through High School) in America before moving to Israel announced his candidacy several months ago. Moshe Abutbol, who is on the city council (I don’t think he is a Deputy Mayor – but may be wrong) representing the chareidi faction announced that he is running as well. And then the fun began.

The first visible signs of the campaign are just that, signs. Vinyl signs (there are no lawns here to put a USA style lawn sign on) began to appear on people’s fences and hanging out windows. Some of the signs have pictures of the candidate and some just have a tagline. Apparently, the amount of signs a candidate can display really means something here, it is a show of support and (or so we are told) can actually influence the voters.

On the English language newsgroup, emails began to fly. I support X candidate and here is why you need to support him as well. X candidate is the ONLY choice for Bet Shemesh. Since most of the Anglos want change but not a chareidi mayor, almost all of the English postings have been in support of our local candidate. Interestingly, many of them encourage their readers to go out and encourage our Israeli, Russian and Ethiopian friends to support Shalom Lerner as well.

I can’t speak for the rest of the Anglo community and I am sure that there are many people who are not like me, but I don’t have ANY Russian friends, I know ONE Ethiopian family (they daven with us in Rav Rosner’s shul) and I know maybe five or six Israeli families. All of these families have lived in Israel much, much longer than we have and if there were any “voting advice” to be dispensed between us, I would expect that they – knowing the system a lot more than I do – would have better advice for me than I would for them. They know how things work here and probably know who stands a better chance of making a difference for the city and a better life for my family. I don’t really have a clue.

As a voting novice here, I sent an email to the Lerner campaign asking them to kindly send an email with information for the new olim on how to vote and what we are voting for. I am not sure if it was them, but information began to appear. It wasn’t incredibly clear, but I did learn that we are voting for two different things. One vote is for Mayor of the City and the other vote is for City Council.

Similarly to Knesset elections, each party puts out a full list of candidates for City Council. Their list is long enough to cover all the seats on the council (in the unlikely event a single party carries 100% of the vote). After the election, each party is granted seats on the council based on their percentage representation in the City Council election. This explained why some of the parties were running in the elections but did not have a candidate for Mayor (I think there are 5 or 6 actual candidates for Mayor).

As the campaign moved forward, we began to see emails from the Lerner campaign. Each time a poll was conducted or something new happened, the local spin doctor was ready to explain how this was “awesome news for us”. They also warned us “not to believe the other campaigns” who were spreading news that Lerner had joined their ticket in a unity campaign, while at the same time informing us that all communities were welcome to sign on to support the Lerner campaign and be part of the winning team.

I had no idea what this meant, until a few days after the campaign announced that the Gerrer Chassidim had “signed up” with the Lerner campaign and would be “delivering” all their votes that would normally have gone to the chareidi candidate. Apparently responding to several inquiries about having chareidi association with the campaign, an email was sent out explaining that this faction of chareidim were anti violence and that their representative who would be serving as a deputy mayor in the new administration has been involved in such efforts.

“Deputy Mayor?” I thought, “Where did that come from?” Then I realized that it was a simple deal that was cut. They deliver their votes to help win the election and in return they get a seat at the table and a voice in running the city. Finally – something I can actually understand. The next day when I saw that another Dati Leumi party was “negotiating” with the campaign for their official endorsement, I understood that “negotiating” was simply a euphemism for “waiting to see what the best deal they can get is.”

With barely a week to go before the elections, the last ten days have been very busy. The election signs have multiplied. And the disturbances of the peace have also multiplied.

We are used to cars driving by with a megaphone on their roofs blaring some message. These messages are usually chareidi calls to either give tzedaka or attend some event (or perhaps funeral). So the addition of the “elect so and so” announcements isn’t a big deal. It is the “victory motorcade” that has become the supreme annoyance in our house.

Our house is the last house on a “dead end” street. However, on the other side of the fence at the end of the street (bordering our house) is a major street that connects Ramat Bet Shemesh to Bet Shemesh.

One night we were all at home when we suddenly heard a cacophony of car horns blaring. We assumed that there was some horrific accident or perhaps something blocking traffic and rushed to the windows to see what was going on. We saw what appeared to be a parade of cars all covered with campaign signs and driving down the street ever so slowly while honking their horns. Apparently, this type of “victory motorcade” is a regular part of Bet Shemesh politics and, like advertising, is viewed as a great way to publicize the candidate and inform the public that he will indeed prevail during elections.

I just think it is a nuisance and a major disturbance of my right to enjoy my evening in peace. To make matters worse, the parades have begun to take place after bedtime for our youngest boys and have woken them up. If I didn’t already have reason enough to not support the chareidi candidate, his waking up Moshe twice this week and the resulting aggravation he caused Goldie would suffice.

Thankfully, life continues to go on – despite the municipal elections. Last week Goldie and I renewed our “temporary” passports. This travel document is issued to new citizens (who are not eligible for a full passport until they have lived in Israel for at least one year). With the exception of Israeli Border Control, we travel on our US passports, so having a full Israeli passport is no great necessity for us.

We weren’t sure if we should bite the bullet and get the full passport or just renew the documents we had, until we heard the price. Getting a full passport costs over $100. Renewing our current document for another two years? FREE! Not only that, but they renewed them on the spot within 2 minutes of our getting to the service counter at the Ministry of the Interior (Misrad HaPnim).

A few days later we were back at their offices as we reached a major milestone in our Aliyah. Chaya, our oldest daughter, will be turning sixteen at the end of the month, the age at which Israeli youth (of which she is one) get their citizen’s ID card or Teudat Zehut. We got a special form in the mail and brought the form in with a couple of pictures of her (getting the pictures was a whole story in itself – she did not like the first set and paid for a second set of photos – after the hair and makeup were in place) to the Misrad HaPnim offices where they instantly issued her a (free) Teudat Zehut.

I wished her a Mazal Tov and got a funny look in response. Goldie of course cried when we told her that the card was issued (even I was a bit choked up as it was being processed). For us, as American born olim, these kinds of milestones signify another step of achievement for our family’s integration into Israel. For our kids, it is just something that you do when you turn 16; they feel much more a part of society here than we do – I think we will always feel as if we are different and in some ways we always will be.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yom Tov 5769 (Article# 94) 10/30/08

With all the Yamim Tovim and a family simcha in the middle of them, it has been quite hectic here in the Katz household. We had all been looking forward to the beginning of the Yom Tov season with the arrival of Rosh Hashana and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

I am sure that you are as tired about seeing all the Nofei HaShemesh ads and announcements as are we. However, building anything new is always a source of excitement and beginning a new shul is certainly something to be excited about. With only a few weeks of minyanim under our belts, the new shul had Yamim Noraim davening for the first time and it was a joy to be a part of it.

Having lived in Bet Shemesh for two years now, it was also a bit gratifying to be part of something that had more roots in the 5 Towns than Teaneck (it seems like everyone has a Teaneck association here – especially on our block). With the Rabbi, the Rudoffs, the Paleys, the Eichlers and the Katzes (along with the West Hempsted Weiss’) a big chunk of our core group are former 5 Towners – something which is long overdue.

The response to the shul has also been quite overwhelming. We had anticipated that we would see twenty to thirty people each week, slowly gaining momentum as word got out. Unbelievably, we have not had a week with fewer than 60 people and have gone as high as 100 as well. We even set 110 seats for Rosh Hashana davening, filling 90% of them! The turnouts have been so strong that we are already trying to figure out what we are going to do long term.

Here is reason number 12,432 to move here: MOTZEI ROSH HASHANA garbage pickup. On my way home from cleaning up the shul’s room in the school where we daven I passed a garbage truck picking up the garbage. At 8 PM! Obviously, it is understood that there will be a lot of garbage after a 2 day chag (garbage is picked up several times a week here) and the garbage collectors get a head start on getting things picked up as soon as Yom Tov ends.

Yom Kippur was also quite uplifting. In consideration of Yom Kippur, we change our clocks on Motzei Shabbat Shuva each year herein Israel. With the late start to the chagim in October, this resulted in an extremely early start – and finish to the fast. Since the day was short, we only had a forty five minute break and not a single person felt that anything was shlepped out. Hopefully, as time goes on we will run more smoothly, but there is no substitute for being at “the first minyan” or “the first Rosh HaShana”, etc.

With no time to travel after Yom Kippur in order to make it here for Shabbat, my parents joined us for Yom Kippur (staying through the week after Sukkot) right before Yom Kippur in order to be here for a family simcha on Shabbat. Their arrival marker the beginning of family arrivals and for several weeks Goldie was quite busy with arranging the household, meals and activities for everyone (a job that she did awesomely – as usual).

On Yom Kippur, I had personally woken up with a bit of fever, which would eventually turn into a seventeen day stomach illness (bacterial). On the Shabbat between Yom Kippur and Sukkot my brother Ely and his wife Ilana made a Bar Mitzva for their son Yishai, and I barely made it. I was so sick that I needed 2 IV bags that Motzei Shabbat and really was not well the entire Sukkot.

I am quite thankful therefore that we have teenagers. Yes, they are noisy. Yes, they cost lots of money. No, they never listen. But they can build and decorate a Sukka without Abba’s supervision, which is a priceless thing. Although I did help, Chaim came home from Yeshiva right after the fast and did most of the work putting things together and Chaya charged full speed in leading the kids in decorating the Sukka.

Building a Sukka here is a real change for us. As a kid in Chicago, the fanciest thing you could think of having in a Sukka was HEAT! I remember sitting in the Sukka in a parka, totally freezing my fingers and toes in absolutely horrid conditions. Even in NY, Sukkot was a cool and chilly time of year (October) and jackets and sweaters were the norm – if not heavy coats.

Here in Israel, at least in Bet Shemesh things are so different. We know of a family that has A/C in their Sukka and it is needed. This year, I had expected that getting a mid October start to the chag, we would finally see some normal weather, but that was not to be. We had a fan in our Sukka for the first time (we ate out for lunch the first day of chag and our hosts had at least 6 fans in their Sukka) and we still shvitzed our heads off in there!

Goldie’s brother David and his family came to join us in Bet Shemesh staying in an apartment across the street from us. We consider ourselves very fortunate that they try to come for Sukkot each year, since Goldie and our kids would otherwise see very little of Goldie’s family (I get to see more of them when I travel to the USA several times each year). My siblings all live here in Israel, and I know that Goldie definitely misses her family (especially her parents).

This is the only time the kids spend together each year, so we try to arrange to go on tiyulim together so that they can all bond as much as possible. This year we only spent two days on formal “tiyulim”, spending one day touring the Herodian castle outside Efrat, the Gush Etzion winery and then going on the world’s second largest zipline (“Omega”) (the little kids went on a smaller version and climbed a rock wall) and a second day driving ATV’s in the farmland a few miles north of Ranana (and having an awesome time).

Our older kids spent two nights at the Bet Shemesh festival concert. Each year, the city of Bet Shemesh puts on a 3 day festival during Chol HaMoed Sukkot with hikes and tours during the day and 2 nights of open air concerts by multiple performers (Bet Shemesh resident Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock fame has performed the past few years). The kids have a great time and people come from all over Israel to be a part of it.

The other highlight of the week was a special seudat hoda’ah that we hosted in our Sukka for our family (and one other couple) in celebration of the one year anniversary of Goldie’s first cancer free scan. In anticipation of the Seuda, Mordechai and I had been learning Mishnayot Sukka and he made his very first ever Siyum on the Mishnayot in the Sukka during the Seuda in honor of Goldie.

It was an emotional evening, but it was not only an opportunity for us to thank H-shem for all he did for us in getting Goldie to this point – it was also our chance to thank my parents for dropping everything and moving into our house for two months while Goldie was being treated as well as thank Goldie’s brother David and his wife Marcia for opening their home to us and all their support with the doctors while Goldie underwent treatment.

Shmini Atzeret was a terrific culmination to the chaggim. We decided to encourage the dancing by giving out candies or treats only after each Hakafa. We were unsure what to expect, but in a shul full of kids – the kids really took center stage. The hakafot were entirely focused on the kids participation and it was incredible to see them rise to the occasion. Hakafot took fifteen minutes each and with only one Torah to lain from, davening was a bit stretched. But I think that everyone enjoyed and it was a great start.

After Yom Tov ended, Larry Gordon asked me how many 5 Towns pictures I had collected over Yom Tov. I was very surprised to have to tell him that for the first time I did not see a single family during the vacation. So instead, I will take the opportunity to include a 5 Towners picture that I took a couple of months ago.

In early September, our former neighbors Dovid and Faygie Meisels celebrated the Bar Mitzva of their son Yitzchak at the Kotel. Goldie and I were fortunate to attend and I had a group photo taken of all the former 5 Towners in attendance. I didn’t have an opportunity to wish them Mazal Tov in the paper – but now I have.

With the elections coming up (both the municipal elections in November and the national elections who knows when), I look forward to sharing the electoral process with you over the next several months. We have no idea what to expect, so it should definitely be interesting.