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Can You Fulfill Your Campaign Promises?

Monday, Apr. 25, 2011

I don’t know any of the candidates in the upcoming race for mayor of Chillicothe, Ohio, but I’ve learned of their experiences and campaign platforms thanks to their local newspaper.

One essay that stood out for me was from a lifelong resident who has spent his entire adult life operating a couple of local businesses, serving on the city council, and involving himself in things like going on a ride-along with the police and fire departments. Candidate Joe Sharp also writes about enrolling in ethics, leadership, and grant-writing workshops, and even highlights his tour of the storm drain runoff system. Along the way he has also volunteered as a school crossing guard, and it sounds as though he has attended just about every meeting held at city hall.

I was pretty impressed with his candidate’s statement until I came to the last part.I liked the part about ensuring fiscal oversight, and his generous offer to take a 20 percent pay cut. But as the list of reforms grew longer I became more concerned.

Speaking in the first person, Sharp pledges, “I would personally evaluate the operation of every department to ensure efficiency and accountability. I would take inventory of all buildings and land to ensure they are being used to their fullest potential by combining, relocating, selling or leasing.” This “I” mentality could slip into dangerous territory, leading to council interference in the daily operations of the city. Can he even fulfill these promises?

Despite his good intentions I had to draw the line on his pledge to the voters to “remove the mayor’s office door and make sure you have my cell phone number. I want open, honest, and accurate communication. I will be your mayor 24 hours per day, seven days per week.”

In a town of 22,000 it may be tempting to be the “go-to” mayor on every issue, but there are structures set up in government to allow city departments to operate without the direct involvement of the mayor. And the mayor can only be as effective as the cooperation he or she shares with council colleagues.

While every campaign is filled with energy, ambitious ideas, and promises to the voters, it is wise to remember the local government is still a collaborative, interactive process, and we should try to preserve that.

Tags: campaigns, elections, Ohio

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