The Numbers Game

(Originally published 6/12/11)

Believe it or not, I started out in life as a numbers person and not a wordsmith.  Growing up, my real passions were football, math and science.  In that order.  My original career choice (and, no, you’re not gonna believe this) was neurosurgery.  My game plan was to become a very famous, very successful brain surgeon.  Two events derailed that ambition:  (a) The first time I fainted at the sight of blood, and (b) the day I entered Mrs. Rasmussen’s tenth grade chemistry class.  I finally overcame my propensity to swoon from a paper cut, but I never did get over my fear of the Periodic Table of Elements.  Needless to say, I did not go to medical school, possibly sparing the lives of any number of patients I never treated, all of whom should be eternally grateful to Mrs. Rasmussen even if they don’t know it.

Having barely escaped chemistry with a still passable GPA, I quickly dropped eleventh grade physics for Jay Jensen’s drama class, and added a typing class for job insurance.  Being the yenta that I am, I love to tell people that Mr. Jenson also taught Mickey Rourke and Andy Garcia at my alma mater, who both went on to be famous actors.  I, on the other hand, embarked on a career as a frustrated stage actress slash legal secretary slash bookkeeper.  You have yet to see me star on Broadway, but the one thing I took away from yet another derailed career choice was a passion for words.  The rest is history.  I now write this blog.  If this is as close to fame as I’ll ever get, it’ll have to do.  The moral of this story is:  When you write the script for your life story in advance, be prepared to have it heavily edited.  Or scrapped altogether.

But, enough about me.  Even though I am really my favorite topic, the point I started out making was about numbers, which continue to fascinate me. Ironically, although I studied the results of the 2011 North Miami Beach election pretty thoroughly, I was only focusing on the percentages by which the candidates won their seats.  As I mentioned in my column yesterday, You squawkin’ at me? (, Phyllis Smith beat her opponent, Hillel Hellinger in Group 3, by getting 58% to his 42% of the vote.  On the surface, 58% of the votes seems like a clear mandate.  HOWEVER, what I overlooked, and what is REALLY telling, is that Phyllis won her seat with the LEAST AMOUNT OF VOTES OF ANY CANDIDATE!

2011 NMB Run Off Election Results 


If it weren’t for resident Bert Kehren, who pointed this out to me, this little statistic would have gone completely unnoticed.  Of a possible total of 3,454 votes, Phyllis only won 1,705 of them, which was 44 votes shy of fifty percent of the total ballots cast on May 17, 2011.  Since Mr. Hellinger won 1,235, between the both of them only 2,940 folks even bothered to vote for this seat.  As Mr. Kehren noted, while lots of people end up voting for the candidate they consider to be the “lesser of two evils,” 514 of North Miami Beach voters, nearly 15% of them, decided that in this particular race there was no “lesser of two evils” and simply didn’t even cast a vote in Group 3.

By contrast, 3,383 votes were cast for the mayoral race between incumbent Myron Rosner and the awesome George Vallejo in Group 1.  Seriously? Seventy one people didn’t even vote for the mayor?  In the race for Group 4 between incumbent Beth Spiegel and challenger Hans Mardy, a total of 3,297 votes were cast, with 157 abstainers, drawing an even larger vote count than that for the mayoral seat!  The race between incumbent Frantz Pierre and challenger Michael Joseph Casey for Group 5 garnered 3,269 votes, with 185 people abstaining from voting.  In Group 7 between McKenzie Fleurimond and Marlen Martel, there was a total vote count of 3,254, which was 200 short of the total 3,454 votes cast, making this race the second least amount of folks even bothering to weigh in.  But, if you think about it, even 200 abstainers is a far cry from 514 of them.  This should really give you pause.  Or, it should give Phyllis pause anyway.

On top of the astronomical number of people who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for either Phyllis Smith or her challenger, at a grand total of 1,705 votes, Phyllis also had the dubious honor of winning a race with the least amount of ballots cast in her favor.  With 1,796 votes, Frantz Pierre scared up the second least number of supporters.  Marlen Martell garnered a respectable 1,829 votes.  Beth Spiegel easily defeated her opponent with 1,865 votes in her favor.  The candidate who reeled in the most number of votes was none other than our new Mayor, George Vallejo, with 1,940 people weighing in on his behalf, a full 535 more votes that Phyllis scraped by with to keep her seat.

To say that Phyllis Smith is the least liked of all the elected North Miami Beach council members would be an understatement.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this blog.  Or anything else on the internet, I’m told, since she is technologically illiterate.  But I’m also pretty sure that someone has at least let her know she’s been my favorite topic du jour since Myron hasn’t been publicly making an idiot of himself these days.  If she did read this blog and some of the comments it has generated, she’d know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s next in line for ousting.  Those posted comments don’t even include the emails I get almost daily poking fun of her and her antics.  In fact, Mr. Kehren told me this morning he thinks she’s ripe for recalling!  I’m not quite sure if she’s done something heinous enough to warrant an actual recall (and, no, being a pox on the residents doesn’t count), but with four years of our sentence to go, er, I mean her term, there’s still time.

Whether or not Mr. Kehren follows through with his desire for a recall of Phyllis Smith (and I personally think this is do-able!), in the meantime, it would certainly be in Phyllis’ best interest to take heed.

With only 49.363057 percent of the voters’ approval, she’s still under .500.  In baseball, a team with that record won’t make it to the playoffs.  Being under .500 in terms of voter approval, it means she’d better watch her step.

By challenging Mayor Vallejo over such a trivial matter as seating assignment, she’s in serious danger of committing political suicide.  I suggest she put a picture of one of Myron’s campaign bus benches on her refrigerator as a reminder of what happens when elected officials do stupid things.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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