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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bohl and Giles Stand out in County Commission Candidates Forum

After Tuesday night's Chamber forum, one of the Lake County commission candidates said to me, "I hate this s---. I just want to do the job."

Note to all commissioners: this "stuff"—public forums, answering questions, taking the stage and laying out your ideas for the county—is a central part of doing the job. Tuesday night, Chris Giles and Dan Bohl showed they are the best at that part of the job. Of the five candidates, Giles and Bohl were clearly the most at ease at the podium. They offered the most thorough and most direct answers. Giles demonstrates solid confidence in the public spotlight. Bohl can be a bit of a screwball, cracking jokes regularly, but his humor shows he truly enjoys the business of campaigning and governing. And if I'm conducting interviews for a job (and that's what we're doing here), I'd like the interviewees to demonstrate confidence and a love of the job.

You can compare the candidates yourself by checking out the video of their opening and closing statements. In the Q&A, I found it telling that Hageman found a way in three of the four questions to say, one way or another, that he wasn't sure or didn't know or didn't have any thoughts on a given topic. Such Socratic wisdom isn't a great selling point for a candidate; voters generally prefer candidates to have at least some answers figured out before we vote for them.

On specifics, I do have to ding Bohl on his response to the question on health insurance for commissioners. He did answer directly—"No. For commissioners, no way." He said he would take the $3,600 the county gives commissioners who opt out of health coverage (good) and donate that money to the Madison Public Library (great!) and the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce?! Dan, Dan, Dan—you have money to give, money you can help people in need with, and you give it to an organization consisting of the wealthiest individuals in town? Let's talk about some alternatives....

I was surprised to hear unanimous support for creating a county building inspector. Anderson and Hageman tried really hard to throw a lifeline to country folks who might not want bureaucrats to come snooping around their property or tell them how to build a shed. Anderson said creating the new position might not be feasible within our budget, and Hageman agreed with him that maybe we should just have a part-time inspector (Hageman's favorite words seem to be maybe and could be). But Johannsen and Giles talked about specific ways to make the position happen (increasing fees, partnering with the city, combining the position with other duties), and Bohl said the position would pay for itself in the long-run. So get ready for one more government official to get involved with your building projects.

On government openness, I was pleased to hear Bohl say we should move meetings to the evening, as the city does to make it possible for more working folks to attend. Hageman fretted that we might not be able to cover everything in the evening, but I notice the city and the school board manage to cover their agendae just fine in the evening.

I was also very pleased to hear Giles say that we need to "reduce and minimize" the commission's use of executive session. Hear hear!

Bohl and Giles gave the best answers at the forum. Johannsen's commission experience helped him keep up, although I was disappointed to hear him say on the health insurance question that he would "go along with whatever the rest of the board wants to do" (folks who go along with the crowd don't generally make the top of my voting list). Neither Anderson and Hageman sounded like they were terribly excited to be interviewing for the job.

I know some of you are thinking, "Oh, but that Cory, he just like big talkers. After all, he is voting for Obama." Quite right: I like a good speech. But speaking well in public isn't just "stuff" to be gotten done with; it's a key part of the job. It's how a politician demonstrates the skills, ideas, and values he or she will bring to the job. And Tuesday night, Chris Giles and Dan Bohl showed their skills, ideas, and values the best.


  1. I think Dan Bohl was taking a jab at the current County Commissioners when he said he would donate his $3600 to the Madison Public Library and Chamber of Commerce. The current County Commissioners, including Craig Johannsen, cut funding to those two entities the past couple of years even though their services benefit the entire county, not just Madison residents. Dan was probably making a point about the current County Commissioner's lack of foresight, lack of participation and unwillingness to work with the City on funding issues.

  2. If you are true to your words, Cory, I can assume you are supporting Joel Dykstra for US Senate?

    Your exact words in this posting are, "But speaking well in public isn't just "stuff" to be gotten done with; it's a key part of the job. It's how a politician demonstrates the skills, ideas, and values he or she will bring to the job."

    Why people in South Dakota would even consider returning Tim Johnson to the US Senate for another six years when he is unable to walk (takes community bus tours), is unable to talk effectively (won't debate or even be interviewed by KELO TV), and will be unable to speak with any sort of authority in Washington, DC or in his home state is beyond me.

    An excellent Letter to the Editor in today's Argus Leader compares an injured professional athlete to Tim Johnson's situation very well. When a teammate is injured, they should step aside for the good of the team and let someone else lead. That doesn't mean let your staff lead. We're not electing his staff. We're electing Tim to represent us.

    Since communication is the most critical ability of a United States Senator, people need to set sympathy aside and consider what six years of paying Tim Johnson's salary and his full staff will actually cost us in lost influence and dollars for South Dakota.

    I feel bad for Tim Johnson and his family, that their lives have changed dramatically, but he will receive his full Senate Pension for the rest of his life if defeated in November. That is what is best for South Dakota's taxpayers.

  3. Hey, Anon 10:35, I'm just talking about county commission here... but I'll bite anyway: indeed, Senator Johnson is not talking to the public as much as I want him to. But at least when he does, he offers policies, ideas, and values that are good for South Dakota and the country, rather than the recycled-beyond-usefulness rhetoric of laissez-faire and trickle-down economics. Communication is important... but even a loudmouth like me knows communication without good ideas gets us nowhere.

    Fortunately, we're not having such a philosophical battle at the county level. We have five decent guys who are mostly on the same page about the issues discussed Tuesday night. In that limited forum, Giles and Bohl performed best. Does that mean they're the best choice for the commission?

  4. Tim Johnson is what SD needs.....

    Leave it to SD to vote out another political figure w/clout.

  5. Cory said, "But speaking well in public isn't just "stuff" to be gotten done with; it's a key part of the job. It's how a politician demonstrates the skills, ideas, and values he or she will bring to the job."

    Am going to echo the excellent post above asking whether Cory would by his own reasoning be supporting Dykstra. Cory tried to spin his way out of the above reasoning in a later post, but sorry, it doesn't wash.

    Dykstra is a good candidate and will do a great job.


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