Election in a Can
We sweat. We toiled. We tried to frame questions so mayoral candidates would give us something other than the polished nuggets espoused on their websites. But if this election cycle had one theme for me, it's this: The sound bites win again.
More police on the street. Planned growth is the future. Jobs are coming. That's what Mayor Martin Chavez, Richard Romero and R.J. Berry said. When we're talking about Mesa murders, increased domestic violence and rising violent crime in the city, how can more police be the only answer? And when we're looking at seas of rooftops without sidewalks or parks on the Westside, what does "planned growth" mean? As more Burqueños lose jobs, factories leave town and long-courted industry fails to move in, what jobs are we talking about and when are they coming?
Never mind that none of the three—not one of them—had even the start of a plan for tackling the rising homeless rates in this city. Though Berry, Chavez and Romero all acknowledge homelessness is a problem.
But if this election cycle had one theme for me, it's this: The sound bites win again.
By the time you read this column, you'll either know who your next mayor is, or the city will be dealing with a runoff if any one candidate failed to capture 40 percent of the vote. (The Alibi's print deadline is, frustratingly, Tuesday afternoon.)
But what will you really know about your next mayor? You heard the lines, spit-shined and coached by some campaign manager or spokesperson. You know (as you knew going into this cycle) that crime is a serious problem here, as is sprawl, as is unemployment. But unless you dug, really dug, through campaign websites, will you know what the plans are and whether they're being implemented? Or will next year and the year after seem a lot like 2009, no matter who takes the Mayor's Office?
It's just one more reason the word "change" got tarnished, as mayoral write-in Donna Rowe noted. (Rowe, by the way, was one of few candidates I spoke with who had original things to say. Not polished, but not the worse for it, either.) Municipal elections don't usually bring out the voters in droves. People don't know, or don't care, that much about them. Maybe upping the ante by talking specifics—rather than variations on the theme—would help those numbers.