Record editorial: Criticize candidates — but don’t lose sight of civility
Parkites should demand a lot from candidates vying to represent us at City Hall.
The people we elect to serve in the mayor’s office and on the City Council wield significant power. Their values and priorities chart our community’s direction. The decisions they make shape our future and can be the difference between success and failure for our town.
It is imperative, then, that voters press candidates on the important issues, scrutinize their track records and examine their strengths and weaknesses through a critical lens. The community dialogue that takes place each election season is an important part of that process, with Parkites offering their own input about the slate of candidates. It happens in coffee shops throughout town, on The Park Record’s letters to the editor page and, increasingly, on social media.
That community conversation has veered off course.
Even more than in other local elections in recent memory, the discourse has been injected with hearsay, outright falsehoods and personal attacks, most often targeted at the incumbents in both the mayoral and City Council contests. Plenty of Parkites have offered thoughtful criticisms and reasonable arguments, but those have been drowned out to some extent by the vitriol.
That’s unacceptable, particularly given that all five remaining candidates in the races have demonstrated that they are well intentioned and passionate about serving the community.
The problem, though more pronounced this election season, is not necessarily new. It seems to be an extension of the way we too often interact with one another these days, especially online. It mirrors trends in the national discourse, where outrage and volume are valued more than nuance and civility. We’ve become far too comfortable lobbing insults from the cheap seats without understanding — or caring — how it affects the person on the receiving end.
As a community, we should commit to reversing course and regaining a balance where criticisms are made in good faith and where we can vehemently disagree without being disrespectful.
Parkites who are invested in our town’s future should not hesitate to weigh in on the election, even if they have a negative view of some of the hopefuls. Elections are supposed to challenge candidates. And they should expect their ideas and viewpoints to be criticized. It’s what people seeking office sign up for, and the rigor is an essential component of a representative democracy.
Yet there’s a difference between presenting a rational argument meant to demonstrate that a candidate doesn’t have what it takes for the position they seek and alleging, for instance, that they are hell bent on destroying the community.
For their part, the candidates themselves appear to largely be staying above the fray. They have made their differences clear but have not resorted to the kind of mudslinging others have engaged in.
The rest of us would do well to follow their example.
When well-meaning people step up to serve our community, we must give them the respect they’ve earned — regardless of whether we intend to give them our votes.
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Our view: Here’s to hoping the mid-October snowfall is a sign of things to come. After last winter’s subpar conditions, we could use a winter that arrives early, drops an unbelievable amount of powder and doesn’t let up until mid-April or so.