Choosing elected officials is an important thing and each of us, regardless of our political leanings, or our desire/ability to research and really understand who the candidates are, need to be aware of who could potentially stand before a national audience and be interviewed by some sportscaster during an AlamoBowl, a Final Four event, or even be featured on a San Antonio tourism commercial. So even if you don't mind letting your vote move toward the fringe - just because that is your right - just remember, you could end up with some guy who makes our city skyrocket to the butt of Jay Leno jokes, and we don't need that.I bring this up because being the inclusive HOA that we are, our board invited all of the official candidates running for mayor to our Mayoral Debate (or forum, if you will). Of course, you have your standard candidates, all of whom are at least electable. That is to say, agree or disagree with their policies, you know that they can at least complete a sentence, base thier positions on reality and at least a small dose of background research, and if you put a camera and a microphone in front of them, they wouldn't say something that is likely to make most people scratch their heads. Oh sure, they may make some comments that are eye roll worthy, but for the most part, they are serious about all of the issues.
Then you have the people who run for office, just because this is America, and they can. Please don't misunderstand; I love the enthusiasm of some guy sitting on his couch in his underwear as Chris Marrou and Sarah Lucero tell it like it is, and the guy shakes his fist and says, "I'm mad as hell and I'm running for mayor." Bravo! As long as they first put on their pants, more power to them.
But forgive us voters if we don't take you seriously as a candidate when you say goofy things or seem to only have a single issue in mind, regardless of the questions asked. If you are asked about the different topics of Police, Animal Care Services, and Graffiti problems, and somehow or another, your answers all center around "getting our fair share of the stimulus money, prayer in front of abortion clinics and George Bush was a crappy president", I'm sorry, but I'm going to need a little more specificity in your plan.
Of the three fringe candidates at the Mayoral debate last evening, one, Mr. Lauro Bustamante stood out as the least crazy. In fact, if you read his questionnaire for the SA Current, he sounds like he could have a chance if he had gotten started a few years earlier. This gentleman simply wants to serve in some capacity, and though many of his responses to the issues presented were lacking in reality, he was at least able to provide lucid and well formulated responses. But in his closing remarks, it was clear to me anyway, that this fine man is just doing this to say he did it. I admire that. I hope someday to have the balls and the nerve to do something equally crazy.
Mr. Rhett Smith was another of the "not a snowballs chance in hell" candidates (though of the three, he has a better chance than the other two). He seems to be a very nice, retired military guy who has run for multiple offices and in fact received 200,000 votes in his most recent run for state senator. I'm thinking he might set his sites even a few steps lower, because he was short on meaningful, reality based responses to the questions. Thank you, sir, for your service, but when running for mayor of a city, it doesn't help your cause to run against the former president. Wouldn't it be funny if you and Mr. Bush ran into one another in front of a Planned Parenthood building, deep in prayer? Maybe he could help you out with the stimulus money you so desperately think will solve all of our problems.
And the craziest of all was a remarkably nice man, the Reverend Napoleon Madrid. Dressed in his best preachin' outfit, I at first thought he was somebody's crazy neighbor, dragged along to the debate so we would have enough people to fill the seats.As the candidates each took two minutes to introduce themselves, they remained seated at their positions where microphones had been provided for them. When it came time for Napoleon Madrid to speak, he jumped up out of his seat causing a visible reaction from the moderator and people in the audience. Okay, apparently none of us had seen this guy in action at previous debates.
Rev. Madrid enthusiastically reported that he was a Christian, a Reverend, and job number one as Mayor would be to put all the people in city hall in jail.
Thank you and goodnight.
No, he went on. Two minutes is a long time when you are enthusiastic and have lots of ideas. For instance, I think he said he would personally create 5 million jobs. On his web page, he says 3,000 to 5,000 as opposed to 5 million, but what's in a number. Oh, and on day one at city hall, he would have the entire city of San Antonio audited. Oops!
Look, all three of these candidates are nice people and they mean nothing but to be helpful citizens making San Antonio and Texas and the nation a better place. But at what point does someone say to them that they only make the other legitimate candidates, for all their faults, look that much better?
More importantly, how are organizations wanting a forum with the legitimate candidates supposed to hold an informative debate when, in between the sane, thoughtful, reality based ideas and positions, we have to take random two minute breaks to hear from one of the crazy people spouting off the same response regardless of what the question was?
In a response to the tagging problem, Mr. Bustamante felt that we should do more to help the little darlings understand that their behavior is destructive, but in no way should they be treated as criminals. Sorry sir. You may sit in your car for the rest of the evening while we continue the debate. And if you see any 14 year olds breaking into cars in the parking lot, I hope you can help them understand how hurtful their behavior is.
Mr. Smith's response? Of course; stimulus money, and a good dose of change you can count on now that the last administration has been replaced.
At least the Reverend Madrid recognized the problem. He said he used to be in the graffiti abatement business and wouldn't even get out of bed unless he was getting paid $1,000 to remove the taggers work. (Or was it one million?) His plan? Make everyone in jail get out (of jail) everyday and clean the city for free.
Okay, just the logistics of transporting 5,000 inmates around town would cost more in a month than we have budgeted for graffiti abatement in the entire year. This is what I mean by responses to questions that are not based on any sense of reality.
You and I could sit down over a beer and come up with lots of great ideas that would be fine. I say shoot taggers on site, then make fun of their crying mothers on KENS5 Eyewitness Newsreel. As fine an idea as that is, and as much as we might enjoy talking about it over a beer, it has no basis for a serious discussion regarding city policy.
Okay - I think I've made the point. I urge each of the not a snowballs chance in hades candidates to please, continue your efforts via the Internet or call into talk radio etc, but allow the serious candidates to participate in these community forums and debates without you making them just drag on and on.
On to the serious candidates.
- Shiela McNeal did not make it to our event
- Diane Cibrian will never get my vote for anything. One piece of advice for Ms. Cibrian: See if you can answer a single question without saying the name Phil Hardberger. I mean, really. When was the last time you went to a strip club? Phil Hardberger and I don't like strip clubs. When was the last time you went to Cancun (or wherever somebody paid for you to go)? Phil Hardberger and I blahbety, blah, blah... And your website is totally negative. Why not discuss your ideas and quit talking negative about the other candidates. Leave that for me.
- Julian Castro is clearly experienced and knows the issues and has many good ideas. I could live with him as mayor, I suppose.
- Trish DeBerry-Mejia, barring some wild scandal surfacing (and even possibly then) is getting my vote. I will tell you in all honesty that I had not made up my mind going into the debate. It was her responses during the debate that won the day. She was direct, to the point, not a single calculated feel-good response. She used her two minutes to cut right to the chase each time and tell you how she was going to respond as mayor.
UPDATE: Apparently the Express-News agrees with my assessment of the situation.