Can you really call it a debate when everyone involved seems to be on the same page on every issue?
Well, that’s what 4 of the 8 Republican Schuylkill County Commissioners participated in Tuesday night in Frackville. A “debate” moderated by the hosts of A-106/WPPA-1360’s Step Up to the Mic program featured just half of the candidates field vying for the GOP nomination next month.
Larry Padora, Maria Casey, Jeff Dunkel, and Ray Jones all attended the 2-hour long event. However, 4 did not, including current Commissioners Boots Hetherington and George Halcovage, Mary Jo Moss, and Dan Evans.
On just about every issue raised during Tuesday night’s debate, the 4 in attendance were practically in lock step. Topics of debate ranged from Schuylkill County government’s fiscal crisis (even if some – namely the current Commissioners chairman – don’t want to admit one exists), county government employee pay, and property tax reassessment to their plans for economic development.
On every issue, there were zero disagreements. So, it wasn’t so much a debate as it was a discussion or a forum.
Questions for the debate were either provided by the moderators, emailed to the radio station prior to Tuesday’s event, or submitted by the 40 or so people in attendance.
A Political Trend that Must End
What was said on Tuesday, specifically, can wait for a follow-up report or reports. But for now, let’s look at the fact that 4 of the candidates didn’t feel it was necessary for them to face their potential voters with their questions and concerns.
If you want to seek public office, avoiding the public can not be a strategy. And voters should consider not rewarding these candidates with votes.
Now, we don’t know the real reasons why the 4 who didn’t attend decided to opt out of Tuesday’s event. Maybe they believe their big money backers will be enough to springboard their campaigns into November’s General Election. Or maybe they just didn’t want to face the public. But you’ll likely learn that there was a “scheduling conflict” because that’s become the vogue cop-out excuse for avoiding such things.
Either way, skipping a debate – even if it’s not sanctioned by their political party – must not be an option. But it’s something we’re seeing more and more with people seeking public office.
It’s not only something we see with people seeking public office but those holding public office, especially Schuylkill County Commissioner.
Debate is dead. Open discussion is dead.
The public seems to only hear about new projects and initiatives locally after they’ve been agreed upon behind closed doors. That leaves no room for debate. And that needs to end.