Saturday, May 18, 2013

Local Elections: a rant and a wish

On Saturday mornings, when we don't have some event or trip planned, we like to let the kids sleep in. Their growth spurts need it, and I need time to start gathering the dirty laundry and going through the pile of weekly mail droppings.

And what a mail dropping I had to sort through today! In two days, eleven 11x8.5 inch full color mailers; six of them from one mayoral candidate, two of which had been mailed (and recycled) previously, five of them negative. The other five were from candidates for other local positions; county executive, a judge and one city council member. 

I'm also getting daily emails from one county executive candidate that I don't read: they're too long. It's not that I have a short attention span. When does a candidate really have my attention? When I'm in a conversation with them.

Motivated by a post written by a friend and colleague that I respect, and also by the political insight of another highly respected local blogger, I wish to make my vote of a few candidates public. But before I launch into the opinion of an academic doctorate, university employee, and a pretty dedicated citizen - I need to state for the record that my opinion does not reflect those of my employer or of any social organizations with whom I associate. I also don't reflect the opinion of my husband. Forgive him, he actually allows me to have my own opinion - he's kind of evolved that way. 

When I was a kid, my mom would bring me to the voting booth, but wouldn't tell me who she voted for because she said, "It's private." I'm sure it's because she was afraid of engaging a 7 year old in political discourse. I was exhausting as a child. Imagine that. 

I also remember being shut out of adult conversations; always sent into a room far away from the grown ups so that I couldn't hear anything. I'm pretty sure it was for my own protection. My uncles didn't argue well. Political arguments never came to a conclusion, and they often pulled verbal punches that weren't part of the issue. They were meant to hurt feelings. But even as a kid - I didn't want to be excluded.

Negative campaigns are so over. I'm not interested in seeing them, and I won't be scared into voting for any candidate who chooses this method of campaigning. My vote goes to the candidates who engages me in their conversation. They answer my questions and seem to be glad that I am a citizen who cares enough to ask a question. 

I actually read local news. I'm hungry for more. I'm glad that there are reliable reporters who will share as much information about the candidates for the local elections as they can prior to the Tuesday primary vote. In fact, I'm counting on some well- curated pieces. Crap, even a single post with active links to all the candidate websites would be enough. I also read local bloggers. I care to read other opinions. I can also determine fact from rhetoric. Don't bullshit me. Give me answers, even if I might not like them. I want to know where each candidate stands on issues that impact our daily life. Local politics are a big deal.

You see, even though I'm a registered Democrat, I don't vote party line. I'm a Catholic, but I don't let my religion sway my vote. Public law and church law are separate for a reason. Public laws keep citizens safe. Church laws are between me and my maker, and nobody else's business. I won't push my Church law on anyone else. I vote for the candidate who best reflects my views on where I wish to see the community move forward. I vote for the candidate who is fair in decisions for all citizens he/she represents. I vote for the candidate I have seen engage with citizens, and works WITH others in government. Successful leaders aren't a success on their own merit. They empower others to contribute to progress.

I vote for the candidate who seeks solutions through exploration of multiple ideas. If through that exploration, their direction changes or evolves, I would applaud the elected official for responding to new information. This doesn't always mean "waffling." Goodness, if politicians didn't evolve we would have progress.

Three candidates have spoken to me directly about what their vision for the future of Bethlehem and Northampton County. One of them actually came to my home, and talked with me for 10 minutes. He told me he raised $8,000 for his campaign. He told me about his background, and his greatest concerns for county government. 10 minutes and he won my vote.

The campaign resource that is more valuable to me than dollars raised, is time spent talking/communicating with me. If not to my face and in person, through social media or through well informed and empowered campaign workers; not scare tactics. I prefer a campaign that engages in conversation about issues; not politics. A few candidates ran this kind of campaign. They give me hope for the future of our city, and county. They are also smart enough to work with a great team; and engage personally in our community. 

My vote also comes from my own time well spent. I read as many local news stories as I could, followed as many trusted bloggers and "twitteratti" as I have come to know through years of social media engagement. I look forward to reading a summary of all the local candidates. I hear from a local news writer that she's working on one that we can all read before Tuesday. I'm counting on you, Lynn. We all are. (update from Sunday morning: here is a link to Lynn's article on Bethlehem City Council candidates)

The three votes that I'll be casting on Tuesday are John B. Callahan for Northampton County Executive, Bill Wallace for Northampton County Council and William Reynolds for Mayor of Bethlehem. I made you read all the way to the bottom. Thanks for your time. Now give your time to the election be doing due diligence and reading the campaign issues of all the candidates you will be voting for in your local precinct. You owe it to yourself to know what kind of city you helped shape through your vote.


  1. Well done you!

    I think it's odd that a candidate would tell you how much they raised but I am all for full disclosure.

    I was usually at the polls before my parents came to vote but even as a very little child voting was important to my parents and that clearly impressed their three children because we rarely miss a vote. Only one of obsesses over politics but we all are engaged in our own way. My parents always told us who they voted for even if it was not for the candidate I was standing in front of the polling place supporting.

    This primary has engaged me in a way that I have not been engaged in many years. I have been lulled out of my comfort zone when the reality struck me that John Callahan was longer going to be my Mayor & we better not mess up replacing him and that he was running for an important office that needed his skills and talents.

    I am also engaged because of how negative 3 campaigns are, I fully understand why these 3 men had to go negative but it so unrelenting on the part of 2 of them that I'm not sure I would even be able to shake their hand if I saw them in public.

    Thank you Dr. White for joining the conversation in this way. I know that you are always part of this communities conversations but to put it in print is a meaningful & permanent contribution.

  2. "No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
    Edmund Burke

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about voting. I agree with you. I am a registered Republican and a Catholic, but I vote for the candidates whom I believe most closely represent my POLITICAL views, not my religious ones, as I strongly believe in the separation of church and state. But I will also vote for a candidate with whom I may disagree on some issues when I believe that, on the whole, they are the best candidate because I believe we need elected leaders who have character and integrity, whether I agree with them on every issue or not. I would rather vote for someone I disagree with on a particular issue than for someone I agree with if I believe that one would do what is best for his or her constituents and the other would not.