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October 12, 2004 > Editorial: The Great Debates

Editorial: The Great Debates

The political season has arrived! Debates at the national level have almost run their course, while the local scene is filled with forums, debates and fundraising parties by a myriad of candidates. It is almost impossible to keep up with all the gatherings, but the important thing is to focus on issues and, for incumbents, what has been accomplished during their tenure. Do challengers offer something better? Is it time for a change? It is easier to focus on the issue of the day, but it can be helpful to remember past problems and triumphs too.

While current fiscal issues are considered paramount at this time, it is helpful to ask incumbents how we got to this position. Can everything be blamed on the big, bad State of California? Can these folks honestly say that they practiced prudent money management while watching the California legislative train come down the takeaway track?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Have incumbents sought public input? Have incumbents suggested practical solutions without using fear tactics? Have incumbents been honest with the voters about when this crisis began and what might have been done earlier? Do incumbents understand how pension programs have impacted their bottom line? Did they prepare? Do they lead cities, schools and colleges [or simply listen to staff and follow]?

If so, rehire them; if not fire them.

When the Silicon Valley "oil well" of financial plenty ran dry, did incumbents broaden the economic base and adjust to weather the storm? Are incumbents refraining from using the politics of fear to override and obscure past failures? Have present councilmembers been honest about when they knew about the problems and how they were addressed? Were these bold leaders who faced a crisis and found solutions [or are they waiting for the public to "coalesce" around a tax strategy that offers the least public resistance]?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Are citizens being appraised of past mistakes and ideas of how to change? Are alternative remedies being offered to handle problems at their root cause?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Have representatives listened to constituents and responded in a thoughtful and respectful manner? Have they been active in their community during the years between elections? Are these people able to comprehend and make decisions about technical issues? Can they understand and make clear, well-founded decisions if presented with information from staff, advisors or consultants?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Can incumbents bring about consensus [or simply argue, bully, demand, pontificate and study pet projects without finding community solutions to larger issues]? Is there a sincere effort to listen to the community and respond to concerns and issues even if these are not the first priority of the incumbent? Do incumbents understand their role and explain to others the powers and limitations of that role? Do incumbents clearly define the policies set for administrators and take rapid note when signs of staff and/or public discontent appear? Do incumbents demand accountability from senior staff?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Are incumbents people who form working relationships within their own group and with other public entities? Are incumbents able to be creative, understanding that with difficulties come challenges and opportunity?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Are incumbents trustworthy? If you disagree with their decisions, can you understand their reasoning? Do you think incumbents understand the issues?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Can incumbents point to successes and quality discussions with constituents? Have incumbents clearly demonstrated leadership qualities? Would you gladly work with an incumbent if the or she was your boss in a private enterprise? Would you trust his or her judgment?

If so, rehire them; if not, fire them.

Campaign signs, promises and rhetoric are often a function of financial resources. This is a poor substitute for knowledge and a clear understanding of and commitment to how government should operate. There is nothing inherently evil or wrong with government. This is the way we, as citizens, are able to create general security and social entities that ensure the perpetuation of our lifestyle. However, attention to issues and sincerity of purpose are essential for this system to work.

Unfortunately, money and political favors can quickly corrupt this process and often do at higher levels of government. We, the citizens of the Tri-Cities, have the opportunity to understand and face issues without fear or regard to political labels that have little meaning at the local level. Let's let go of national party labels and elect those who have our community's best interest at heart.

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