Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Give voters something to go on

    Today marks the halfway point in the off-year political season. Which candidates get elected in the November election for City Council seats in Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley will make a huge difference in what happens here for years to come.
    The first public Pizza and Politics event is tonight in Hailey at 6:30 p.m. at the Old Blaine County Courthouse top-floor meeting room. Others are scheduled in Ketchum and Sun Valley next Wednesday and Thursday.
    Sponsored by this newspaper, the forums provide opportunities for voters to meet, hear and question candidates running for contested seats about their positions on various issues facing the cities—and there are plenty of them. Voters shouldn’t miss them.
    The forums are structured to encourage candidates to present their platforms and face questioning so that voters can compare and contrast their views.
    For voters to do that, however, candidates must bring thoughtful and well-articulated positions to the table.
    Sometimes by design or sometimes through neglect, candidates often say they haven’t studied local issues enough to answer questions about where they want to lead, what changes they want to make, if any, or what projects they want to initiate.
    Over and over again, voters hear candidates say they “want to give back” or “help the city” or “provide leadership” or “be fiscally responsible”—all fine sentiments. But what do they mean?
    Candidates should let voters know in advance what they want to do. “I’ll study the issue” isn’t a satisfactory response to questions about what they want to do.
    Grover Norquist, arch conservative and anti-tax strategist, left no question about his priorities in 2004 when he told The Nation magazine, “My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
    Love him or hate him, politicians who sought support from the founder of Americans for Tax Reform knew clearly where he stood. Voters who cast ballots for candidates backed by Norquist’s group knew where those candidates stood.
    There should not be a local issue candidates cannot or will not address, whether it’s city staff organization, taxes, the city’s relationship to business, the airport, public facilities, development, recreation, emergency services, law enforcement, marketing or urban renewal.
    Candidates shouldn’t make voters cast ballots in the dark. Saying, “I’m a nice person and I’ll do my best” is a good start for any campaign, but it isn’t a political platform. To make it one does a disservice to the very people candidates are vying to serve.

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