27 Oct


The problem with politics today is that people are too quick to categorize and dismiss instead of engaging in open, honest dialogue. That’s why, as a member of LOCAL’s leadership, I was disappointed that two candidates were no-shows to our sponsored debate – mayoral candidate Jon Gustafson and city council candidate Theresa Kohlhoff. In the case of Gustafson, his Facebook post makes the reason for his absence clear:

“I’ve had a few people ask why I am not participating in the “debate” being hosted by the Political Action Committee called LOCAL. While they claim to be a non-partisan group, LOCAL has a history of almost exclusively supporting Republican candidates. They also have a history of misrepresenting my positions. (To be fair, they did get one point right. I supported Streetcar and Foothills) For that reason, I don’t consider them an impartial organization… I’m going to skip this debate and knock-on-doors instead. Just wish me luck, because LOCAL took the last mayoral candidate with a vision for the future and had his head severed and placed on the back of bicycle that was about to be hit by a streetcar. Yikes!”

As a member of LOCAL’s leadership I’ve been trolled and labeled a part of the Tea Party, the L.O. Taliban, and a right-winged whacko by people who hide behind anonymity on the Internet and don’t know me. In reality I’ve voted for both Democrats and Republicans and did so on the current ballot. Furthermore, Gustafson might be surprised to discover that the satirical postcard that alarmed him – which involved something called Photoshop vs. a guillotine – was the brainchild of a registered Democrat.

When the Review characterizes Gustafson as “a constant reminder of the need to make sure that every one of us is heard” they ought to consider the addendum “so long as you agree with him.” In Kholhoff’s campaign literature she asserts she will “lead with an open heart to the needs of all citizens.” What about the needs of the audience faced with an empty stage?

My position is simple: that the most important issues facing our community involve fiscal responsibility and basic infrastructure – issues which are party-neutral. I agree with Gustafson on the importance of schools – but with a $187 million school bond looming, I am bewildered by his support for a streetcar, Foothills, and a fiber optic network. These are expensive, risky projects that will layer additional, untold tax burden on our citizens, including those on fixed incomes. I’d rather see the focus on so-called “affordable housing” – which Kholhoff also identifies as an area of concern – be directed towards the citizens who already live here by controlling the cost of living.

Jon is right about another thing: intolerance has no place in our City Hall. That’s why I hope voters will send a clear message to politicians whose “vision” excludes those not in lockstep with their positions. You’ll be receiving a lot of literature in the coming weeks filled with platitudes and beaming smiles, but what you won’t see are the cast down faces of those some would like to shut out of the process. We’ve already been to that movie and it was nothing short of a tragedy. It’s up to the voters to decide whether we go backwards or forwards between now and November 8th.

Rick Petry