Tuesday, July 29, 2008

THE OMISSION OF DAN DUNHAM: And Other Endorsement Doozies

by Mike Martin

I was reading Columbia Daily Tribune publisher Hank Waters' endorsement editorial about the two
candidates for Boone County public administrator and I noticed something missing: one of the candidates!

No other public office is like that of public administrator, Ol' Hankory starts out. But if it's that important, why not analyze both candidates -- if just to let voters know that the editor knows more than one candidate is on the ballot! Letting voters know you carefully weighed both candidates would make the editorial all the more persuasive.

It always takes my news junkie breath away when Hank omits. He omitted school board candidate
Michael Tan one year, then ended up endorsing Tan the next year (Tan lost).

What people may not realize is that Hank's endorsement interviews come at a tough time during a campaign -- toward the end, and for conscientious candidates who prepare, take tons of time. It also strikes me as rude not to even mention a person who takes the time to sit down for a nearly two hour interview.

But alas, the whole endorsement was marred when a
group of judges pounded their pens, forcing Waters to print a partial retraction. (Italicized words are Hank's).

On Saturday in this column, I endorsed Cathy Richards for the office of public administrator, saying she 'has the support of the local judiciary. In fact, as all the sitting judges in the 13th Judicial Circuit have stated in a letter published by this newspaper yesterday, judges are forbidden from making such endorsements by Supreme Court rules and have made no such choice in this race. Sorry.

With assessor candidate Barbara Bishop, Hank made her case point by point -- then endorsed her opponent! Talk about a wild editorial ride on a hot summer's day!

Give Barbara Bishop of Ashland credit...Because of her campaign voters have a much better opportunity...After 19 years in office, Schauwecker has a lot of incumbency...Schauwecker dissidents say he sometimes is less than patient...
This is a valid charge...Schauwecker can become animated...sometimes not keeping his temper in check...Holders of public office should never yell at constituents....

So far, so good. Bishop is the candidate for change. Her campaign has raised several valid points. The incumbent has been in office for a helluva long time. He has a bad temper and yells at constituents.

Only caveat: the anecdotes critical of Schauwecker are few enough to be noted and forgotten by voters.

But what about all the news stories?

Critics can point to occasions when certain assessments seemed out of line with reasonable neighborhood valuations...They disagree with Schauwecker’s long-held support for a state certificate of value law... They were critical of his defense of equipment property valuations at the 3M factory, which he eventually lost. Bishop said he failed to give adequate notice to auto owners when he began using Vehicle Identification Number information, which resulted in higher assessments for some....These are all perfectly reasonable points of contention...

But forget all that, Hank says, and vote Schauwecker for Assessor!

Finally, I disliked this paragraph about 25th district statehouse candidate Bob Pund:

Paralyzed from the neck down, he is naturally concerned about health care and medical research issues but has informed himself much more broadly than that. He’s smart and able, considering his disability. We’ve learned from the service of Sen. Chuck Graham a person in a wheelchair can perform well in public office.

I found it old school, condescending, and presumptuous, along the lines of when Hank
pines for the good ol' days of racial segregation.

Knowing from family experience and from Bob Pund himself, He's smart and able would have been quite adequate, And here's what I would have said if I were Hank for a Day:

In my office during our interview, Pund told me he wanted to....and that he would introduce legislation to....and that he believed state government should....I was particularly impressed with his proactive approach to a draconian suggestion by city government to shutter a comparatively inexpensive recreational program at Paquin Towers. I've also been pleased that Pund has spent considerable time sending my reporters press releases about the issues he holds dear to his heart and that he wants to support in Jefferson City. Pund clearly believes in keeping his constituents well-informed.

But then too, I'm just a pundit, so what do I know? (And don't you dare say no pund intended).

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