“The mayor is King,” answered the most experienced one.
It didn’t take me 10 years to figure out the truth of that statement. It didn’t take me 10 months. I did stay in politics long after that, serving as the chair of the local branch of Shinui, with 3 city council members.
With the elections coming up tomorrow, I thought I’d give you voters some perspective on local elections.
First of all, your vote really, really, really counts. Most people don’t bother to vote in municipal elections, and 300-500 votes gets you a seat on the council. In my town, 8,000 votes gets you into office as the mayor. Yes, really. So vote. It impacts the streets you drive on, the shops you buy in, and the parks you go to every day.
Now that you know you’re going to vote, and you know the Mayor is King, how do you pick the mayor?
You pick the mayor by predicting what he will be like the day after the election. And I can almost guarantee that he will be different the day after than the day before.
I’ll tell you about my first experience why I say that. Our party supported the current Mayor, Hai Adiv. He’s a congenial guy and he had brought in a group of very competent and intelligent people to support him during the campaign. It was very convincing. Soon after winning the elections, though, he began to become suspicious, though. Who can blame him? Lots of people suddenly wanted to “cash in” after having supported him. Within a few weeks, it was clear he trusted only certain family members. Within a few months, he’d rid himself of almost all the intelligent and competent people and was relying only on yes-men and those family members. I don’t think he’s a bad man. I just think that he is someone who relies heavily on family when he is under pressure. The mayor is always under pressure.
I’ve seen this pattern over and over. As a party member, I witnessed first-hand how the leadership of the Shinui party worked. There was a certain group of leaders and they trusted one another very much. Unfortunately, they didn’t open up their ranks to the other competent people in the party. But by and large, they did a good job, because they had a high level of professional respect for one another, though they weren’t related. However, when it came time to expand the party, they were overly protective, and the party eventually imploded because of it.
So, now that I’m looking at who to elect, I’m thinking primarily about character, not about ideas, platform, or popularity. Because at the end of the day, the person’s character will make all the difference. The day after he gets elected, the mayor can get rid of every single person who supported him if he wants, or he can elevate them higher. Residents will get good or bad service based on the people who the mayor brings in. The policy decisions aren’t horribly complex. We all want the same things. Competent and caring appointments will lead to good service. So all I care about is competence and character.
In our elections there’s been quite a bit of borderline campaigning. Posters littering the city or stapled on trees — legit or not? Paying the newspaper to replace the front page story with sponsored advertisements with just a tiny symbol in the corner to indicate it’s paid… very borderline. In fact, anywhere I see a huge poster or ad, I ask myself who is paying for that, and why that particular landowner has a ton of ads plastered over his field.
These borderline activities truly bother me, because they show that someone already has weak character. They have weak character when faced with the fact that if they don’t win, at this point, they’ll be faced with huge debt. They have weak character when they are so close to a win they can taste it. They have weak character precisely at the moment when strong character is needed.
My appeal to you, voters everywhere, is to trust yourself and pick the best character. In the end, really, Fortunately, as humans, we are evolved and trained to pick up subtleties about other humans. We have a radar for knowing when someone is telling a half-truth, is likely to cheat later, or is coming from an honest place. Power corrupts, and even a strong character may fail us the day after elections. But if you are feeling queasy about anything someone did before the elections, I encourage you to choose a different candidate.
Queasiness turns to full-fledged nausea on October 23.