Before you vote, know your candidates

Election season is upon us and this Nov. 4 Sweet Home voters will have a rare opportunity – to actually make a choice.

There haven’t been too many recent elections in which that’s happened. Oh, we’ve had an occasional extra name or two beyond the number of seats being filled on some ballots, but much of the time it hasn’t been very competitive.

Not so for this year’s City Council race. We have seven candidates for four seats, which is a nice field to select from. Not only that, these come acros as intelligent people who don’t appear to be running just because they’re mad about something or they have a bone to pick, which is sometimes the case.

They clearly have thought about the issues and have reasoned responses to the questions we asked them for our candidates article which begins on page 13 of today’s issue.

We asked the candidates questions about topics that have stirred the populace in some way in recent months or that we believe otherwise deserve their attention and ours – ranging from water bills to homelessness, from the proposed county park along the river to extended RV stays.

For some time our staff has been concerned about the lack of public communication between candidates and the public in local elections. Although we attempt to provide opportunities for candidates to tell us what they think, as we’re doing today, we don’t really get to see them in action.

We elect officials and then we go to meetings and watch some who seem to say very little of substance in public discussion of issues and who seem to often have their proverbial fingers in the air, testing the wind before making decisions. We wonder, why are they there? What are they doing to make a difference?

Now we’re certainly not advocating anarchy here, but we would like to see elected officials who have agendas and are constructively working to accomplish them – in a diplomatic way. We’re looking for people who set goals, then convince their fellow board or council members to buy in. Those who don’t agree with where the momentum is going need to mount calculated opposition to protect what they deem important. That’s good politics, the way it’s supposed to work for us.

We know that the 13 questions in our candidates article aren’t the only issues on people’s minds and that’s why we’ve decided to take things to a new level this year. The New Era has decided to hold a forum that will include most, if not all the candidates at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday evening, Oct. 7, at the Police Station community room.

This is an opportunity for the public to hear what the candidates have to say about their vision for Sweet Home, where they’d like to see us go in the next decade. It will be an opportunity to ask them about any issues you find compelling. It’s free and it’s your chance to size up these folks before you vote.

We know it’s tough sometimes to get motivated after a long day, but some big opportunities may await our community in the near future and these are the people who want to guide us through all that. There will be food and if that isn’t sufficient, well, McDonald’s is 150 feet away.

Join us and hear what our candidates have to say. We appreciate the fact that they’ve taken the initiative to register to run for office, that they’re willing to serve their community in this way. There’s only room for four, so let’s figure out which four would be the best fit for helping us get to where Sweet Home needs to be.

On a related note, we need to appreciate those serving and those running for office for their time and effort on behalf of their community, including the ones alluded to earlier in a negative tone.

None of these people receive much for their service. They’re not congressmen or even state legislators. They make about enough to buy a nice meal at a decent restaurant each month.

Instead of a fat paycheck, they catch a lot of flak from us and from other members of the public, although most of these folks actually have ideas that don’t differ substantially from those of the complaining public.

They attend often-boring meetings to help ensure our city runs as smoothly as possible. They have learned just how much power – or how little – a councilor can wield, and why things are the way they are and often cannot easily change.

Even when we disagree with their decisions, we recognize the courage and commitment it takes to sit in those seats. We recognize that they are our neighbors, friends and fellow citizens and really do want to make the best decisions for our community, and we appreciate them.

We also thank former Councilor Scott McKee Jr. (see article on page 1), for his willingness to serve. It’s not easy, and he knows personally just how much commitment it takes to get the job done. He has been able to attend meetings much this year, and he stepped down because he could not make that commitment any longer.

We wish him the best and thank him for his efforts on our behalf.