CANDIDATES SHOULD BE MORE SPECIFIC
Tuesday's candidates forum at the La Grande Middle School commons provided a good opportunity for citizens to hear from some of the people who are seeking elected office. The forum gave candidates a chance to share their views. Some did, some just waffled. But that's the nature of politics.
INCUMBENTS LISTED their accomplishments. Challengers expressed their reasons for running and in a few cases challenged their opponents' records. But when it came to the issue of Wal-Mart building a supercenter in La Grande and Island City, most especially the incumbents ducked the issue on the grounds that pending land-use decisions require neutrality.
Balderdash! In the first place, an application hasn't been filed. Everyone is free to have an opinion especially during a campaign when voters need to distinguish where candidates stand on issues. Secondly, pending applications prohibit members of ruling bodies from having pre-hearing contact with people seeking land-use decisions. Rules don't prohibit candidates from voicing opinions.
FEW OF THE CANDIDATES for the La Grande City Council were willing to voice an opinion about a Wal-Mart superstore in La Grande pro or con. Only one, Steve Clements, had the guts to say a superstore wouldn't be good for the community. Several voiced concerns, but most hid behind the fact that the decision would have to be based on land-use rules. Most said they don't want to see the downtown hurt. No one, however, came right out and said the superstore would be good for the community. Mayor Colleen Johnson, who is unopposed, ventured that there are "pros and cons'' to the issue.
Whatever happened to the days when candidates and elected officials had opinions and expressed them, and would let votes fall as they may based on those opinions? Straddlers used to stick to the fence. Nowadays they get elected. No wonder voters are dismayed with the process.
CANDIDATES, EVEN THOSE for local office, need a platform. They need a reason for running. And they need to share those with voters. Somewhere in the mix of the commitment to community service and caring about their community needs to be where they stand on issues.
What about streets? Sidewalks? Higher fees for services like garbage and recycling?
What about growth and economic development? Land-use planning? And even contentious issues like Wal-Mart?
Doesn't anyone have an opinion? How are voters to decide beyond name familiarity and lawn signs if candidates don't express where they stand on issues important to voters.
It's great to see so many people seeking local office. But let's hear how they stand on the issues.