Asking Them to Calculate: and watching them squirm
It's a lazy September afternoon and your doorbell rings. You open the door to a nervous, yet cocky, smartly dressed man wearing an American flag on his lapel. One look and you realize it's that time of year in Ohio: It's the beginning of the local election cycle.
The beauty of this season is that the candidate at your door is begging for your vote. And because of that, he will attempt to answer any question you pose -- with a smile, nonetheless.
My favorite question for the wanna-be township trustee is this: When the fire chief comes to your meeting with a study purporting to show that the correct number of firefighters per 1000 residents is x, and the current staffing level is y per 1000 residents (with y being necessarily less than x), what are you going to do? 
Ask the question and watch him squirm. Of course, you have to keep the wanna-be from spinning off subject, so be prepared to ask follow up questions in order to get to the answer.
But you already knew the answer. You are simply trying to get him to recognize and accept that which is anathema to him: Calculation is impossible for government. 
Oh, sure, the wanna-be will insist that, based on his experience, he will ask harder, more probing questions than his opponent. But he will never be able to give you a bottom line to evaluate against.
He cannot calculate. And he now knows it.
1. Here is a truism of local politics that you will need to know: Bureaucrats build the strawman proposal that becomes the starting point for all discussions and debates. Anything less than the strawman proposal is a reduction in service, anything greater is a benefit to the taxpayer.
2. The same holds for the candidate looking to be a school board member or county commissioner. Despite what they claim, they cannot calculate and cannot provide a solution to the problem that is government.