We hate to throw a wet blanket on the election campaign, but we’ve just about had enough with some of the earnest handwringing by some the candidates.
Just this week, we heard candidates say—again and again—there was a disconnect between the town government and the citizenry.
The residents need to be more involved, they say, and it’s up to the Town Council to make sure they are.
Somehow, the argument goes, the past Town Councils have built a wall around the government and we are all left out, ill-informed mushrooms in the dark.
This is all very naïve.
It implies the citizens don’t have access to the newspapers; they can’t turn on the radio; they cannot sign on to the dozens of emails inviting anyone and everyone to meeting after meeting, on everything from budget hearings at the county level, to presentations about the proposed new geothermal power plant, ad infinitum.
There are comment periods, open council meetings, open commission and committee meetings, many of them accessible via Internet on the town’s website.
Even so, some of the candidates are playing a card from the blame game, presumably under the impression that voters will not notice that the candidates themselves are not taking a lot of responsibility for presenting specific plans, goals and the steps they would take to make those goals real.
It’s much easier to blame those who came before, or those that are there now, for the way things really are.
We know that many of the candidates are relatively new—or completely new—to being involved in policy-making and campaign politics.
That doesn’t excuse the lack of specifics, however, particularly when the specifics have been so accessible to them all.
Candidates who choose to run for office should have every single issue well researched and thought out, long before they get to a candidates forum.
We hope they have picked up the Town of Mammoth Lakes or Mono County’s general plans, along with recent budgets, vision statements, minutes of past meetings, and so on.
We hope they have picked the brains of everyone they can think of who might have expertise in issues like Measures R and U, economic sustainability or whatever other issue with which they are confronted.
It’s not too much to ask of someone who could soon be spending at least the same amount of time they are using to run for office doing the same research once they are elected.
We know most candidates already have full-time jobs and at least for the Town Council candidates, the pay for the job is meager.
But we still think the candidates owe us specifics, not platitudes, and we think the public has a responsibility in this, too.
But we don’t think there is much a Town Council can do to “get the public involved,” especially if they simply don’t want to.
And believe us, there are plenty of people who just don’t care.
As newspaper people, we know what is available to both the voters and candidates, and how easy it is to acquire on-the-record policy decisions, workshop information, and who, exactly, is involved in what decision, and by what vote count.
Claiming there’s a “disconnect” between government and the public (which is subjective) is naïve, not to mention insulting to the many people, businesses, and organizations who work hard to make such information public on a daily basis.