Columns 2012

Hold your nose and vote

I grew up on the East Coast where political traditions seemed a little different than here. Our politicians were expected to be jovial, convivial, able to walk into a Sons of Italy Hall and know half the people there while shaking the hands of everyone they’d yet to meet. Being honest ran a distant second to being charming, friendly, approachable, and able to get the potholes filled on your street for a simple donation to the campaign.

Politicians from my youth did all that despite the fact that the election had probably been bought long before the first vote was ever cast. Ah, good times.

Alaskan politicians apparently are not from that tradition. For starts, they usually haven’t bought the office before the vote. Or, at least that hasn’t happened since those heady days when Bill Allen sat in during legislative votes in Juneau sending messages to elected representatives on the floor as to whether he gave the bill a thumbs up or thumbs down.  And if what I saw recently with Mayor Sullivan is any indication, the handshaking tradition has certainly also fallen by the wayside.

I was at Bean’s Café for a “press moment” to celebrate a new coat of paint that had considerably brightened up the interior. The paint had been donated by Benjamin Moore.  The actually painting had been done by some local painting companies that had donated the time and labor needed to get the job done. It was one of those can’t miss moments. The men around the room doing the painting were almost uniformly of Hispanic origin, as were the names of their companies. The gentleman filling up the huge coffee pot for everyone was a Bean’s regular who helped out around the place. The spirit of general good will that arises when everyone pitches in to make our community a little nicer place to be was palpable.

The mayor came in and did his “media moment”. He shook hands with the head of Bean’s and stood in front of a white screen while conducting an interview. And then he left. I was dumbfounded. How long would it have taken him to make a circuit of the room and shake the hands of those men donating their time and energy to making Bean’s a brighter, happier spot for those who often have little of either in their lives?  Why would any politician, especially one facing re-election in a few months, not bet on the side of safety and assume the people painting those walls, despite their last names, could very well be voters in his city and make a little effort to win over their support? And even if they weren’t voters, why would you not do what some of us would view as the basically human thing and thank them for their donated labor. But Sullivan just did his media moment and left. I knew without a doubt at that point that this was not the politics of my youth.

I’m honestly not feeling very good about my either of my choices in this mayoral race. I don’t hold the snow piles against Sullivan – I’m not sure the Archangel Gabriel himself would have been able to do much better against our winter onslaught. But I do have to wonder about a mayor who feels no need to work a room full of volunteers and thank them for their efforts.

As for Paul Honeman, he seems to be offering the same explanation for his actions in reporting Officer Rollins as Penn State offered for the multiple people aware of the allegations against Sandusky who did nothing. The defense can be simply summed up as, “I saw it, it seemed wrong, I reported it. What else did you expect me to do?”

I didn’t buy that when Penn State was selling it and I’m not sure I buy it now that Honeman is selling it. In both cases the result of that explanation was the exploitation of many more victims before the criminal (or, in Sandusky’s case, alleged criminal) was finally stopped. That is simply unacceptable.

So come April 3, I’m going to have a heckuva problem choosing. I’m going to be wishing there was a third name to mark. Absent that, I’ll probably have to hold my nose while I cast my vote.