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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, October 09, 2009

Candidates' Nights: Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

On Wednesday, ten Northampton County Council and three judicial candidates answered a series of very tough questions posed by The Pen Argyl Area Concerned Citizens. Council candidates, three of whom are teachers, were even forced to take a pop quiz!

Allentown city council and mayoral hopefuls may have been spared the pop quiz last night, but were still peppered throughout the night with some very well-considered questions prepared by the Allentown Crime Watch Presidents' Council.

It's been an amazing two nights. On Wednesday, the best Northampton Council prospect was actually sitting in the audience. He's Ralph Stampone, an auto mechanic who incessantly follows county government. Every year, he teams up with fellow Pen Argyl Area Concerned Citizens to give us a true debate in which no one has the home team advantage. Let me give you an example. Judge Zito is a lifelong Slate Belt resident. In his younger years, he raced cars with some of the people in the peanut gallery. He nevertheless had to acknowledge he'll be unable to serve a full term in response to one of those tough questions. This is thanks to the hard work that Ralph and his fellow Pen Argyl Area Concerned Citizens do in making an effort to be fair to one and all, including the visiting Koury and Hollenbach teams.

It was no different in Allentown. The person acknowledged by both parties as indisputably the best person for Allentown city council member, Tom Burke, was the time keeper. Tony Phillips was forced to acknowledge he was once cited for high weeds, whuich I suppose is better than being coted for weed. Edwin Pawlowski was called to task repeatedly on city finances. Whether King Edwin or Lou Hershman, no one could exceed time limits. Moderator Carlos Bernardi had pages of typed questions that were obviously discussed and prepared in advance.

In Allentown, aside from the city council and mayoral candidates, I saw candidates for other offices in the audience. Lehigh County Commissioner Dan McCarthy sat in the peanut gallery. So did magisterial candidates Walter "Juni" Felton and Ron Manescu.

In addition to the candidates, elected and appointed officials dropped in on both events simply because they care about their government. On Wednesday night, it was the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle. Last night, it was Allentown City Council member Jeanette Eichenwald, who has proven herself as a leader interested in both transparency and accountability.

But what about the general public? In Wind Gap, maybe thirty-five people saw Council member Charles Dertinger refuse to state what he is doing in front of a grand jury investigating deceptive campaign practices. At the Lehigh Valley Senior Center, maybe sixty people heard Lou Hershman claim that city council rubber stamps so much their pad must be out of ink.

Bloggers and newspapers did cover both events. But whether we are objective or biased, there is simply no way we can replace the experience you'll have if you're there yourself. I once heard Ralph Nader listen as a young college student told him he's not "into" government. Nader responded that "if you are not into government, government has a way of being into you, and in most disagreeable ways."

No matter who you like, try to attend one of these events. Bad government officials count on your lack of interest.

I will post links to video clips from both events on Saturday.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the last election Stampone had a chance but his connection to Angle proved toxic.

LVCI said...

Concerning Pen Argyl Area Concerned Citizens- I noticed the 'Bingo' board was covered by their banner.

A Navel Term- "bingo" • An order to an aircraft to switch immediately to another field.

I hope that wasn't subtle hint!

lighthouse said...

looking forward to the video clips. There are three candidates I have long ago decided on, but uncertain about who, or even if, I will settle for (I mean vote for) the other two spots. Maybe something in your clips will shed some light, though as you say, "there is simply no way we can replace the experience you'll have if you're there yourself"...

Anonymous said...

It was a good show