The campaign season is officially underway, with 17 candidates lining up for contested seats, both at the town and county levels.
We have the can’t-waits for the candidates to get their campaigns going. We’re looking forward to hearing what they have to say, particularly because the context of the 2014 races is so wildly different than in 2012.
For the first time since we can remember, those races will not be fueled by gigantic crises at either town or county levels.
There are issues, to be sure. But issues are not synonymous with crises.
In Bridgeport, the crisis two years ago had to do with the staff morale, the exodus of qualified experts in almost every department, and a general sense that then-County Administrator Jim Arkens had lost his grip on the rudder.
In Mammoth, the context of the 2012 election season was almost totally fear-based. It was no wonder the town could not come up with more than two candidates for two seats, and that the town as a result simply called off the elections altogether.
Who would want to sit on a council that had taken the town into bankruptcy with its past incompetency, whose finances were in such a tangle that hardly anyone could figure them out, and whose staff was finding it hard to have a good reason to even get up in the morning?
The police department took a big hit for town budget shortfalls; the town’s infrastructure, particularly its roads, took big hits, too; and there were layoffs and walkoffs all over the place.
Today, both county and town situations seem as if they were merely bad dreams, which is why we’re so eager for the June 3 election.
This time, our decision-making can be based on careful consideration of what is possible, rather than on panic, finger pointing, and anger.
Naturally, the candidates so far have offered only predictable platitudes, with the exception of Ingrid Braun in the Mono Sheriff’s race, who is running aggressively in her attempt to unseat Ralph Obenberger.
Obenberger—who was appointed, not elected—is also a first time candidate.
As these and other campaigns move forward, though, we want to hear specifics, not generalities.
We want to know, specifically, how law enforcement should present itself to citizens and visitors alike; how Town Council candidates would move the municipality forward in imaginative and new ways.
What, specifically, can the candidates promise to bolster our public safety, public works, community economic development and public finance?
In Bridgeport, we want to know—specifically—how the county can move forward in balancing its tourism assets while still protecting its environmental obligations.
We want to know—specifically—where shared efforts in tourism, law enforcement, community development and long-term planning can be affected.
We voters find ourselves in unfamiliar territory in all these areas. The best-kept secret around here is that we’re not in crisis mode.
Things are tough, sure, but the violent storms of the recent past are behind us.
We’re looking for big ideas, new ways of moving forward, and a new spirit of cooperative thinking at both the town and the county levels.
So we say good luck to the 17 candidates, along with a heartfelt plea to all of them to not shortchange us with the same kinds of tired, vituperative, and fear-based campaign styles of the past.