Sunday, August 4, 2013

Council endorsements show thin thinking

The history of the Courier editorial board's election picks does not lend itself to much credibility, but today's endorsements are interesting not for what they say about the candidates, but rather how they illuminate the psyches of the editors.

There is a theme to these endorsements, including that of insurgent progressive Jean Wilcox, and that is political experience. The editors say they value experience and institutional memory even over competence or the ability to form a rational thought, as seen in their continuing support for Councilman Steve Blair, who has done more than any single person ever to make a laughingstock of our town, or at least its Council.

Experience does have its limits for the editors, as we see in the snub to Councilman Len Scamardo, the eldest of the candidates and arguably with the most time in the government saddle, in favor of Greg Lazell. But the editors' praise for Lazell still centers on experience, not ideas.  The editors clearly believe that more time on the job produces better results from the office, and readers know I generally agree with that.

Yet the editors have spent miles of editorial ink touting the wonderfulness of legislative and executive term limits, asserting exactly the opposite; that more time in office leads to corruption and less effective governance. They can't have it both ways.

The truth is that experience can lead in either direction, depending on the character of the officeholder, and the purpose of periodic elections is to reevaluate that experience in the context of what the constituency needs now.

What experience has given us over the past several councils is a devotion to small-time thinking and reactionary emotionalism. What Prescott needs is a return to the robust, visionary positivism that is our true heritage.

Mayor Kuykendall has taken pride in being the still center of a stagnant pool, while former Councilwoman Lindsay Bell has been working steadily for positive change here for decades, both in and outside government. The choice there is easy.

Councilman Blair is long past his sell-by date and an embarrassment to all of us for his big mouth and small mind. Any of the candidates is easily a better choice.

I agree with the editors on Ms Wilcox, who stands out both for her government smarts and her vision for the future. Her experience also leads me to expect she has the grit to see it through and stay on mission as the details of office inevitably peck away at her attention.

I'm less impressed with Mr Lazzell's public statements, which in aggregate seem to reflect the sort of overcautious uncommitment that has so consistently got us nowhere (and which the Courier editors call "realistic"). So far I see in him a younger version of Mr Scamardo.

Ellie Laumark's positions and bearing are more attractive, though I'm concerned about her buy-in on the idea that group recovery homes are an important problem, and while she expresses little understanding of our water issues, she seems to get the picture better than Mr Lazzell.

Alan Dubiel has made a personal mission of close attention to City issues and governance for years, and while I'm sure he'll agree he's not the greatest public speaker, I'm confident that he is dedicated to detailed understanding of the ins and outs of every issue he would confront on Council and is not committed to any ideology. He also knows more about our water issues than anyone on Council now. I think it should be Alan's turn at bat this time.

In any case, this election presents us with an opportunity to repudiate the know-nothing reactionism of our recent past and elect a new majority to Council that wants to move Prescott forward. The sooner the better, I say.