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Campaign primer for early local candidates

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills. One man gathers what another man spills.

— Grateful Dead

It is, perhaps, a sign of the political times that two Albany City Commission candidates — B.J. Fletcher in Ward III and Bobby Coleman In Ward II — announced a full four months ahead of Aug. 26-30 qualifying for the city's municipal elections their intention to run for office.

We have presidential and congressional candidates campaigning for office a good two and a half to three years out, so it stands to reason that trend would eventually trickle down to local elections.

While Fletcher has been there, done that before, losing the city's mayoral race to current Mayor Dorothy Hubbard in a runoff, Coleman is a first-time candidate. Rumors are swirling that others are considering runs for the wards II, III and V seats currently held by Ivey Hines, Christopher Pike and Bob Langstaff, respectively, which will be contested in the Nov. 5 election.

Surely none of the declared or would-be candidates will go into the campaign unaware of the issues facing the city: crime, unemployment, poverty, aging infrastructure, a dwindling fund balance and a budget that must be trimmed, to name a few. Yet I can't help but wonder if the political hopefuls are prepared for the reality of holding office in a community that likes to use its political leaders as whipping boys (and girls).

Here, then, a few questions for all local candidates hoping to become an active part of the city government:

  • Do you consider yourself competent? If so, are you prepared to have people you've never met before call your competency into question?
  • Do you have any skeletons hidden in your closet? You may think some small (or large) indiscretion from your past is safely buried away, never to be heard from again. If you really believe that, you're probably too naive to be running for office in the first place.
  • Have you ever been accused of being racist? If not, get ready, because it's coming. It doesn't matter if you make decisions based on community input or personal perspective, your vote is going to be perceived as either part of a racial agenda or pandering to a race different from your own. Sorry, no middle ground here.
  • Are you going to solicit the support of local citizens who have the means to help finance your campaign? If so, be prepared to have that relationship called into question any time you vote on an issue that might impact those citizens.
  • Can you take constructive criticism? Forget the mean-spirited swipes that will come your way from people who don't like you or don't like the fact that you won the election or who have heard something bad said about you by an opponent. Some of your harshest critics will be sitting with you at the commission table.
  • Do you have a short attention span? If you're not prepared to stay awake while listening to someone drone on for a half-hour or more about some of the most asinine topics ever dreamt up — say, how parallel parking on someone's property impacts the "integrity" of a neighborhood or how someone's business is going to lead to the downfall of western civilization — you probably need to rethink your plan to run.
  • Can you handle close scrutiny? There's nothing like having words you've said, sometimes even in jest, staring back at you in 60-point headlines or coming through loud and clear among TV sound bites.
  • Do you have at least a basic understanding of finance? If you've had trouble balancing your home budget on income of $50,000 to $100,000, try getting your head around the fact that you'll be dealing with more than 100 million dollars in other people's money ... people who, by the way, are going to question every dollar you spend.
  • Do you have the guts to say "No" to a group of angry citizens who could care less about your "best for the entire community" claims, who care only about what's best for them? (If you do, by the way, you'll apparently be the only one on the commission with that capacity.)

Take a few moments to answer these questions honestly, and you'll have a clearer understanding of what you're getting yourself into. Best of luck ... you're going to need it.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

Abytaxpayer 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Do you have at least a basic understanding of finance?..... Now that would be refreshing to see!

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RedEric 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Sshhhhhhhh. I think Fletch is talking about himself. I am going to back slowly out of the room.

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KaosinAlbany 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Love this!! These really are things to consider before running but I know some on the commission that do not qualify

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Tonto 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Enjoyed this one! The laugh is that everyone that enters politics has had this told to them at some point yet they still seem personnaly surprised and hurt when it happens.

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