Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fighting Untruth and Distortion

How to lead a local election campaign and get done all the other little things one must do!
by Charlie Leck

The city election, here in my town, is now two weeks away. I’m trying to lead this campaign for one of the candidates and help, as much as I can, another person who deserves to be elected.

Two city council seats are up for grabs. This whole thing has become very personal with me. I believe deeply that our adversaries do not deserve to be elected. More emphatically, I believe the two opponents would be dangerous in office.

What turns out to be so difficult to counter is the distortions of the truth that the opponents use to gather support. It isn’t just a matter of counter attacking and trying to get the truth out to voters who’ve already become convinced to vote against us, but it is the boiling anger that these untruths and factual distortions cause to rise up inside me.

I never dreamed a little campaign for 600 or 700 votes could be so time consuming and wear so on my nerves and energy. I lay awake at night trying to dream up some way of communicating to the entire village that the opposition is using disgusting scare tactics to garner votes.

They especially like to hearken back to an Open Spaces Study that was conducted here in town by a volunteer committee. It was a worthy task. It just didn’t turn out well because so many people didn’t understand what it was. It was meant to be a tool to provoke discussion about how we could set aside large sections of land in our town and protect those spaces from future development. Unfortunately, the plan included a map that showed one possible example of what might be done. Public trails were drawn into the map, showing my property and many neighbors’ property being crossed and cut up by these hiking and biking paths.

Now, the opponents in this campaign refer to this study as an attempt to grab land away from residents without either permission or compensation. Those who are now saying this know it is darn-well not true. There was never any idea of taking land from people, with or without payment. The idea was presented by some eager and enthusiastic residents of the community in order to look at one possible way our community could look in the future.

The two candidates I support had nothing to do with the plan. They were never in a position to vote on the plan because no vote was ever taken. The Planning Commission in the community shelves the whole idea as too ambitious and expensive. The plan was never presented to any official body for a vote. Yet, the entire community was riled up by this idea of a “land grab.”

Nevertheless, ouropponents in this campaign have taken this unsuccessful study and they are trying to attach it to the candidates I support. They do this knowing it is entirely untrue. No land in the community – mine or anyone else’s – was ever under threat from eminent domain. It is an absolute lie to now insinuate that it was.

I can think of nothing worse for a community than to elect to office a couple of out and out liars. And that is exactly what these guys are.

And, they are worse! Both are selfish, paranoid and warped individuals. One – the incumbent – can be seen on video tape, in council meetings – making the most outlandish and ridiculous statements that leave the audience both aghast and tittering at his foolishness.

The other has a history of lying to the city about development plans on his property and doing things to the land that were flat-out unlawful. He has no concern for the community at large, for his geographic neighbors or for the health and vitality of the land on which he lives. His behavior has shown him to be an ultimately selfish person.

Just this morning, a friend sent along a copy of a letter he is submitting to the local newspaper about these candidates who I so disfavor.

Dear Sirs:

On November 3rd, Independence will fill two open Council positions, choosing from four candidates.

Brad Spencer and Lynn Betts have proven themselves to be dedicated public servants. They were willing to appear at a candidates' forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and submit their positions to public scrutiny.

By contrast, the other two candidates refused to appear, resulting in the forum's cancellation.

Lance Gyllenblad has proven himself unworthy to hold representative office, as evidenced by his outbursts in City Council meetings, fueled by conspiracy theories and captured on video for all to see on the City's web site. Chris Stephans has a history of flouting City ordinances and resorting to litigation against the City when held to account. The example he has "set" has cost Independence taxpayers thousands of dollars in enforcement costs. His candidacy is a mockery of representative government, save for anarchists.

Voters should remember that the election of local officials has more impact on their day to day lives than any other choice at the polls. I urge everyone to vote on November 3rd and to support candidates with demonstrated experience in promoting the public good who are not afraid to be judged on the merits.

Vote for Spencer and Betts.

Here are five claims the opposition is making among voters that are absolutely false. Here also is the truth about those claims:
1. West Hennepin Public Safety (WHPS) has part time employees receiving full time enefits. FALSE. 10 full time authorized, 9 full time officers employed (1 is deployed to Iraq so actually 8 working) 2 admin full time staff/ NO PART TIME OFFICERS.
Benefits are prorated if would have PT. When we did have a part time officer, no benefits were paid and their hours capped at 1040 per year.

2. The cost comparison vs. Sheriff number quoted at $3.75/month savings (May 12, 2009 City Council meeting minutes) was for a home of about $500K value, Brad Spencer used “less than $50/year for an average 500,000 home in Independence” in my letter. Opposition saying the number is bogus. Here are the numbers, and we'll send them to anyone who wants to argue them. Chief McCoy calculated that number.

3. We are paying more than our fair share of the WHPS cost (versus what Maple Plain pays). Interesting argument that has never before been an issue to our knowledge. The formula is pretty standard, calculating call history, size of patrol area, number of homes, etc.. We would argue the split look s pretty fair to us but should the objector have a specific rational for their argument we'll look into it.

4. Lynn Betts is in favor of seizing property from private owners without (or even with) compensation for trails, open spaces preservation, protection or preservation of hardwoods, etc. FALSE. Lynn has never voted in favor of any property acquisition via eminent domain or similar. Much of the “proof” is from maps created as talking/discussion points during the Parks, Trails, Open Space plan that was scrapped several years ago. Also, that poorly labeled DRAFT plan was being created by consultants working with the Parks Commission which Lynn was not on at the time.

5. Consistently hearing about (and in one of “their” candidate statements from The Eagle) a huge pile of debt coming due in the next couple of years that will blow the budget away. FALSE. We could provide the actual debt outstanding and maturity dates as soon as we get them from the budget notes. The city issues serial maturity debt so it comes due in smaller amounts spread fairly equally over several years like most prudent cities do. There are no unusually large principal payments due in any upcoming year.
How am I expected to sleep at night for the next two weeks when the opposition is roaming around town telling whoppers like that? How shall I sleep in the future should these nare-do-wells get elected? How I love my town! How I hate to see selfish people take advantage of it.

And, it is so difficult to get to the other things I ought to be doing, though this morning I decided to take the time to get some short ribs browned and on the stove to cook for several hours. Perhaps a decent dinner tonight.

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