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.
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