Our candidates have spoken, a few more eloquently than others.
So stop me if you’ve heard this recently.
“I support our schools.”
“We need a vision.”
“I WILL NOT VOTE TO RAISE YOUR TAXES.”
“We must have a plan.”
“I believe in (insert city here.)”
“We have to spend our money wisely.”
“I will bring in jobs.”
“I WILL NOT VOTE TO RAISE YOUR TAXES.”
Good to know.
None of that, mind you, will get anyone elected.
Of course candidates support our schools.
Of course cities need a vision.
Of course candidates want to help lower unemployment rates and recruit industries that pay their workers top-dollar salaries.
Of course cities should spend their money wisely — “wisely” being a subjective term that Democrats and Republicans can argue over until the end of time.
And, this being Alabama, where tax increases are as popular as Ebola, of course candidates promise to shun any notion of raising taxes. Anything else would equate to political suicide.
Count me as one who wish he’d heard a candidate stand up at one of the county’s forums and say, “Our mayor’s ineffective, our schools aren’t performing well, so I don’t support them in their current state, and if we don’t raise taxes to pay for substantive improvements, we’re stuck going down the same pitiful road that we’ve been on the last four years. Wake up, people! Don’t you see what I see? Are you blind?”
True or not, that would have shaken things up.
Maybe in 2016.
It’s not true that political cream always rises to the top. History disproves that. Knuckleheads can get elected — particularly in municipal elections — because low voter turnouts and a dearth of information are a deadly mix. All you have to do is contrast the Aug. 28 elections with the November presidential vote.
By this fall, we’ll know everything about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney except their shoe size. We’ll tire of their commercials, their photo-ops and their 24-hour-a-day coverage on cable news. If you want to know what Romney thinks about health-care reform or how Obama intends to deal with Iran, it’s easy to find.
As for our candidates, well, not so much.
The forums have helped. The Star’s coverage is invaluable. Face-to-face meetings with candidates are golden, when they happen. Word-of-mouth recommendations often rule the day.
But it’s scary to think of what’s at stake in Calhoun County’s towns — particularly in Anniston and Oxford — and realize how many voters will mark their ballots despite having a hazy, incomplete understanding of what their favored candidates will do if elected. Who has the best-looking campaign sign? That’s my man!
Half of Anniston is running for mayor, including Gene Robinson, the incumbent. Oxford Mayor Leon Smith faces a formidable opponent, Christy Humphries. Anniston’s much-maligned City Council could take on a completely different look. Two Oxford council members aren’t running for re-election, so who knows what that body’s roster will resemble this fall? And that says nothing about several other important mayoral races, particularly in Weaver and Jacksonville.
The makeup of Calhoun County politics could be completely remade in less than two weeks.
So, I ask:
What do you know about your favored candidates?
How will they respond to pressure?
How will they handle criticism?
When they ask for your vote, do they speak in banal generalities — “I will bring in jobs!” — or do they give you specific, detailed examples of what they stand for and what they propose to do?
Do they pass the smell test: Are they smart? Do they represent well? If your town makes national news — think of the horror the mayor of Aurora, Colo., had to deal with this summer — do you want them interviewed on CNN?
There are big things and little things in politics. All matter. Big things earn headlines. Little things are just as important, the lion’s share of local matters. Competence is required with each.
It’s up to Calhoun County’s voters to decide what matters to them on Aug. 28. Have you heard what you need to know?
Phillip Tutor — firstname.lastname@example.org — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.