At the start of October the election campaign has begun in earnest. Of course the presidential race has been going seemingly forever. In our corner of the world the campaigns have just gotten underway. We caution all candidates that voters in Keizer respond to civil campaigning styles.
Emotions will run high from now until Election Day as some see the city going down the wrong track, others seeing the current city council as being unresponsive to the residents of Keizer. Still others are happy with the ways things are going. In this atmosphere it’s understandable why some candidates might want to get in a dig here or there against one’s opponent. Political pundits say that campaigns turn nasty because negative tactics work. We don’t want that here in Keizer.
With the mayoral debate and council candidate forum coming next week what the public wants to hear are the candidates’ resumes and their visions of where Keizer should be heading.
Keizer campaigns have generally been fairly sedate (not counting the recent Clear Lake fire annexation campaign). Testimony at this week’s city council meeting turned testy as witnesses excoriated the sitting councilors for perceived actions on the naming of public structures or their inattention to the speaker.
The exchanges on both sides were uncalled for. Accusing the city council of acting when in fact they had not was based on an assumption of the speaker. It is hard to think that the city council would name a public structure without input from the public, which is what they were accused of doing. The assumption was wrong.
That brought a sharp response from Councilor Jim Taylor who demanded to know where the witness heard that information.
Another witness, unopposed council candidate Ken LeDuc, demanded to have the undivided attention paid to his testimony, which was aimed at Councilor Brandon Smith, who arguably keeps the most copious notes of any meeting he is part of.
A third witness, city council candidate Eamon Bishop, scolded Taylor for questioning a previous speaker.
Sharp exchanges between councilors and witnesses is nothing new, but this election year they have a decidedly political bent to them.
Free speech allows witnesses to say what they wish as they address the councilors. There is no law that says someone can’t make themselves look foolish, which is what happened at Monday’s council session. We don’t want to muzzle anyone who speaks, but just as councilors must adhere to decorum laid out in the rules, speakers before those councilors should do so with civility and respect.
Elections are about ideas and visions. Candidates for mayor and city council should expect to be asked tough questions about their goals for the city. Tough questions do not have to slip into disrespectful tirades. Reasonable people can disagree but it’s better if they do so with lowered voices.