Friday, February 27, 2009

District 4 Council Race – Questions to Ponder

By Sharon Dooley.

There have been quite a few discussions about candidates running in District 4. I do not live in that District, so I will watch closely the evolution of the campaign. I have heard that the candidate list is not totally settled. Is there someone out there who is deeply involved in any portion of the District, someone who has made a particular community better? Who, in each neighborhood has spoken out for sidewalks or safe streets, worked for the school addition or neighborhood center? Who stood tall for the environment or cleaning up the local creek? Who, by being there for any area, has made a difference? Does this District have a community organizer?

The county has been the beneficiary of much wisdom and guidance from Marilyn and Don Praisner over the years, so I know their footsteps will be hard to follow. The library and recreation center in her community were named in honor of Marilyn – not some grand building – but rather, buildings that touch the people living there - every day. This Praisner example should be a map for future success. A council hearing is often perfunctory, but with Marilyn there, the petitioner knew that she had read the packet of materials prepared by staff and been briefed on the latest concerning the matter at hand – even though she might not agree with you or vote your way, one left feeling that their words had been fairly heard. A council member should want to work for you – the constituent.

Who will be elected that can step in ready to go? Who will be able to address issues knowledgeably? What about the split on the council, now fairly well divided 4-4 on philosophical issues of growth, social concerns and spending? From which direction will the newly elected council member come? Is there a progressive in the race? What role do development interests and labor forces have to play in this election? Where will the environmental community stand? Is a particular candidate a surrogate for special interests, if so – which ones? There is going to be a frantic period of activity between now and the April 21st Primary as candidates struggle to get the attention of the voters and the media. And – lest anyone forget, the Primary is the big battle in this most Democratic County. In the brief pre-primary period last year, there were multiple candidate forums as the voters struggled to learn about the candidates and while the candidates, in many cases, struggled to learn about the issues and nuanced concerns. To my way of thinking, this seat is not owed to any particular person or school of thought, but should rather go to the person who has been out there for this District in many ways, day after day. Who is that person of the people, the man or woman from the community who made things happen, who is ready to learn more? Who is the candidate who has listened to the voters?

Do I have a wish for a person who cares about development, affordable housing and the environment, who speaks up for safe streets, good schools, clean air, clear water and healthcare, who looks out for the mundane concerns such as jobs, so important to the neighborhoods in which we all live in? Absolutely!! If that person is out there – please come forward – you are my kind of candidate.

Personally, I hope that the person who is elected will work hard to assume the mantle that Don Praisner chose to wear, the one with social and community concerns, for fiscal responsibility, moderate growth and practical considerations of what can and should be done. I request that the person to be elected learns the entire District, which is developed and urban, forested and rural, dense with apartments and town houses and sparse with sprawling farmlands. (Note: Adam’s earlier posting and demographics). I advise learning about the people who range from retired and current government workers, mansion dwellers, entrepreneurs, and new immigrants to descendants of freed slaves and original settlers still living on family lands. The people are the vibrant mix seen in this diverse county and they bring the music, languages and foods of many cultures. I sincerely wish that the person elected cares more about this county than their own ambition. If so, we will all be served well. I know the residents of District 4 have a daunting task ahead of them. I hope, for the sake of our county, that their choice is well made.