Campaigning for a city council position should be a fairly straightforward matter. Candidates present their opinions, visions, qualifications and experience so voters can decide who will best represent their interests. While each candidate may have a solution for world peace, the price of gas, the national debt or other national and world issues, such matters are well outside an elected city official’s sphere of influence.
So the task at hand for any candidate is to present his or her position on matters that can be influenced by a member of the city council. Those typically include property taxes, city services (public safety/police, preparation for emergencies, trash collection, street maintenance and repair) and future plans and visions.
Of course, campaigns and elections in Snellville rarely resemble anything close to typical, and this election season is true to form. The first head-scratcher was a series of mailings from someone who lives well outside the city and has no connection to it, other than what appears to be being the recipient of payment to sling mud.
The mailings, clearly designed to disparage myself and mayoral candidate Tom Witts, were fairly typical of the sleazy approach taken by desperate candidates and their backers. What wasn’t typical, was that they contained my personal cell phone number as well as that of Mr. Witts. I’m still struggling to determine the logic behind that, but I certainly appreciate the effort. I have included my phone number in social media posts and in written communications for the past four years, but I have never before had someone else pay to publish my number so voters could more easily contact me. I wonder if that qualifies as an “in kind” campaign donation.
The next strange turn of events was a proposed candidate debate that was shunned by three city council candidates and two mayoral candidates. My response to an e-mail asking me if I would participate was, “any time, any place”. I think it’s important for voters to have the opportunity to ask questions and have candidates respond directly. It’s even better when candidates running for the same position are present at the same time so voters can hear and compare their responses.
Consequently, I’m mystified as to the reason any candidate would avoid taking advantage of an opportunity to present his or her ideas in front of an audience filled with voters. None of the myriad excuses provided by the declining candidates have any semblance of legitimacy. They ranged from claims that the last debate was filled with “undemocratic, unprofessional behavior”, (odd, since there was in fact no debate- three candidates refused to participate) to a demand that the debate be held in a closed room, devoid of any life forms other than the candidates and a moderator. Viewing of this hermetically-sealed debate was to be solely through closed circuit television.
The underlying objection expressed in the negative responses was that the debate would unfair and biased, in spite of the fact that each candidate could have a representative review questions before they were asked by the moderator. The only legitimate reason I can think of for a candidate to refuse to participate in the proposed debate/forum is fear of having to answer a question with a deafening silence—or something that sounds far worse. And in some cases I can picture a candidate struggling to find an answer to a rhetorical question.
The refusal of some candidates to participate in the proposed debate, does not eliminate the desire of other candidates to present their ideas in a forum in which voters have the opportunity to ask questions. To that end, Tom Witts, Roger Marmol, Cristy Lenski and I eagerly agreed to a Town Hall-style meeting. (7:00 PM, October 20th, at Summit Chase Country Club. All candidates are invited as is anyone else who cares to attend. It should be an interesting evening, and if events thus far are any indication, one that will be filled with more than a few strange questions.