I saw Mark Remily at the bank this morning. He was running an errand before returning to knocking on doors to remind people to get out and vote in tomorrow’s Aberdeen City Council election… and, preferably, to vote for him.
I don’t get to vote for Mark; he’s councilman for the northeast district—east of Main downtown, east of State north of the tracks—and I’m in the northwest. I would vote for Mark, though, as I would vote for Mike Olson if we’d stayed in the southeast district, and as I will vote tomorrow for northwest district candidate Tom Black.
Why would I endorse those three out of ten men running in four separate races?
- They know their stuff (see, most impressively, how Tom Black refuted a false question about crime by reading statistics that he got from Aberdeen’s police chief).
- They focus on practical city governance (with something more than the inconsistencies I hear from other candidates whose tired regurgitations of Reagany/Trumpy formulas don’t have much to do with the practical business of running a city government).
- They talked to me.
I invited every candidate on the ballot to appear on the Dakota Free Press Podcast. Twenty minutes or more, no gotcha questions, no editing answers down to 15-second soundbites, just a chance to speak at length about their policy agendas.
Black, Remily, and Olson took me up on the offer and provided intelligent, spirited answers to my and co-host Spencer Dobson’s questions. Black, Remily, and Olson all acquitted themselves well in our podcasts, talking about water, infrastructure, workforce, and other practical aspects of making Aberdeen a welcoming, functioning community.
The other seven candidates avoided the opportunity to express their views on the podcast. Given a month to reply to my invitations, six of the seven candidates didn’t even respond. Only Mike Olson’s opponent, Tim Prater, bothered to reply with as much as a “respectfully decline.”
When citizens call with questions, I expect city councillors to call back. Even if I won’t like the answer, I want an answer. If you serve in elected office or are asking to serve in elected office, you owe citizens an answer. If you don’t have time to talk to me when you are asking for power, you give me cause to worry that you won’t make time to talk to me when you have power.
To ignore requests for comment from the media is all the more irresponsible. Dakota Free Press was the only media outlet that offered candidates the opportunity to have the mic to themselves. KSDN’s Don Briscoe invited all ten city council candidates to his radio show, but those were group interviews. When a local media outlet offers you a microphone all to yourself, to produce content that will be freely available and sharable online throughout the campaign, you take that mic and sell your candidacy for as long as the interviewers will allow.
It wasn’t just my blog that got the cold shoulder. Southeast district candidate Kaleb Weis refused to appear The Don Briscoe Show as well. Briscoe’s feelings about candidates who won’t talk to the public via mass media match mine:
If you’re gonna run, I want you to come out and tell me why I should vote for you. And if Kaleb decided he didn’t want to come out here and tell you why you should vote for him, I guess I wouldn’t be voting for him [Don Briscoe, radio broadcast, 2017.05.19].
I can go through my policy and delivery notes from the May 6 League of Women Voters Forum to offer more detailed guidance on candidates. But in a nonpartisan race, in a small town where we all have to live with each other, I feel comfortable putting conversation and openness first. I want city councillors who will talk to me. Tom Black, Mark Remily, and Mike Olson have talked to me. Tom Black, Mark Remily, and Mike Olson are the best choices for the Aberdeen City Council.