It's time for city council elections again in the medium-sized suburban sprawl of my residence, and since I don't go to council meetings myself - I'm not that masochistic - and the local newspapers are of no help for smaller-scale local politics, I'm at the mercy of cryptic ballot statements and the glossy flyers that about half the candidates send out in profusion.
Unless I attend the candidates' forum, which is where I was last night. We have four seats up, all at large, one with only an incumbent running, the other three all open seats with 2-3 candidates each. It became clear very quickly that there are two kinds of candidates: the establishment candidates (these are the ones who send out the glossy flyers), who offer their experience rather than their policies as their selling point, and who think that our problems are easily dealt with if we just get good people to put their heads together and solve them, and the insurgents, who are full of dire specifics, and who think that the sky is falling and everyone but them is corrupted and in the pockets of the big developers. (They may be right.)
Actually, there was a third type. Sitting at the far end of the table was the only candidate who hadn't submitted a ballot statement, and when she spoke I could see why. Had she been J. Random Citizen dragged up with no warning and told to act like a Council candidate, I'd have given her pretty good marks for faking it, but I think she was there on purpose, so: no credit.
But though there were strong differences of opinion on some issues, like how to restart the long-stalled downtown redevelopment whose developer was recently foreclosed on by the bank (good grief), leaving pretty much the same hole in the ground we've had for 15 years now, on some they're in agreement. All of the candidates think our budget should be balanced on the backs of our greedy civil servants, who have the gall to demand a middle-class salary in return for, if they're police and firefighters, risking their lives in our service. So, no workers' advocates in this town. To the question of their stands on a misconceived ballot measure to give us a separately-elected mayor (instead of the rotating council chair we have now), all the candidates, both establishment and insurgent, said no, except for J. Random who was, no surprise, undecided, and one establishment candidate with a particular knack for meaningless blither, who talked but never revealed his position. Amazing.
The problem with the insurgents is that they tend towards incoherence. The ones who've run before are less so than they were last time, which I consider an encouraging sign. The one neo insurgent still has a ways to go. I asked him afterwards about the bit in his ballot statement to the effect that a notorious murder here a year ago (the victim was found in a trash bag by a homeowner in his front yard) was the result of inconsistent city code enforcement - what? - and finished no less baffled than when I started. But even though I find some of his positions questionable, his kick in the city's pants might do some good. Besides, he's so pure he's taking no contributions from anybody, and as a result is hardly campaigning and so will never win.
Time to ruminate.