Answering our ballot-casting call
Elections are a lot like British movies — an abundance of intriguing plot twists with endings that often are less than satisfying.
The cast for our local electoral drama this fall is big enough to allow for multiple dramatic themes.
There’s grave danger, however, that this year’s city and county elections both will turn on single issues. And that, in turn, may leave us mired in politics and yearning for a return to the relative sanity and civility of our current cast of officials.
In Marion, two candidates are running for mayor and three for two council seats. In a twist worthy of a British movie plot, one mayoral candidate and two council candidates appear to be running on the same ticket. The other two are associated with the same business.
Most of the five appear to be fine people, and all should be lauded for volunteering to subject themselves to public service and scrutiny. But coattails appear to be reversed in this race, with support for council candidates seen as a way to sweep a mayoral candidate into office.
The unprecedented ticket of strange bedfellows, who share almost no views in common, appears united behind a single cause — repudiation of current elected and appointed officials.
We have more than a few bones to pick with those officials ourselves, but running a campaign almost solely on the basis of throwing the rascals out is short-sighted in the extreme.
Whoever wins this election, we’ll automatically have a new mayor. Renewal of appointments for other top officials will be the new council’s first order of business. Whether they are retained or dismissed, the issue will be moot by the second or third meeting. Then what?
About the only thing the three strange bedfellows running together share is that, at one time or another, each has been a lone voice arguing for or against various actions.
The ticket consists of well-meaning people with radically different approaches: a stickler for rules and careful investigator of details, a person who sometimes has overstepped authority for expediency’s sake, and a hale fellow well met who seems interested mainly in keeping everyone happy.
Good as any of the three might be as individuals — and the two others may be equally as good — if you think they as a group are going to agree on anything once new issues begin to surface, we’d like to sell you a quit-claim deed to the Main St. bridge over Luta Creek.
The problem with the city and county campaigns is that almost all the rhetoric has been about what candidates oppose.
Visions of the future are vague at best, and solutions to current problems almost never are followed up with how government is going to pay for them.
Recycling, for example, is a huge mess. Everyone loves it politically, but both the city and the county are spending huge sums collecting recyclables that they don’t get paid for and that sometimes aren’t even recycled.
Saying that government workers need to do a better job grading or mowing is fine, but perhaps the real problem is excessively repetitive garbage collection routes or the administrative overhead of an ever-growing parks and recreation department.
At least we have heard from some candidates in the county race about the penchant for constantly hiring costly consultants and managers who aren’t trained to do the job they were hired for but still get repeated, automatic raises in an economy in which government jobs are almost always the best paying.
The danger with our newly gerrymandered county commissioner districts — which no one seems to be able to figure out the boundaries for — is not that any of the four are bad candidates.
All — Republican, Democrat, independent, and write-in — seem to be capable individuals. But with such a large field to split the vote of people who aren’t single-issue crusaders, there’s a very strong possibility that forces opposed to a wind farm in southern Marion County will unite to steal the election.
A vote for or against a commissioner candidate solely on the basis of his or her stance on the wind farm is a vote against good government.
The wind farm is a done deal. Commissioners cannot rescind conditional use permits without exposing the county to even more costly lawsuits.
The first thing new commissioners need to un-do is the gerrymandering that created the current confusing districts, in which islands within both Marion and Hillsboro are attached to other districts with which they share no borders.
The gerrymandering was a crass attempt to preserve the seats of existing commissioners and to guarantee a disproportionately large voice for rural voters.
But these are just a few of the issues that generally aren’t being talked about. Let these and other issues become topics of daily discussion for the final weeks of campaigning, and insist that candidates offer not just views of what’s wrong but also views of what’s right — and exactly how to get there.
Then — regardless of ticket, party, stance, or ballot status — go to the polls and vote for the candidates you think will be the most likely to exercise good judgment — not on those specific issues but on whatever new issues emerge in the next two to four years.
In a republic such as ours, we don’t vote for people because of what they say about any one issue. We vote for those we think are best equipped to handle new, unexpected issues as they arise.
Give the candidates an opportunity to show you how they examine issues, not just a forum for them to spout off about what’s unpopular in the here and now. Then vote accordingly.
If you do, perhaps we’ll get a more fulfilling American ending to our movie, not a British one that leaves us scratching our heads.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified Oct. 16, 2019