October 27, 2007

Why the Republicans need mud this year

Imagine that you're a Dryden political party, say the Republican party, that's facing a tough Town Board election:

  • You, the Republican party, had a really hard time finding candidates.

  • When you finally do have candidates, your Supervisor candidate, Cheryl Nelson, has a full-time job she'd like to keep on the west edge of Ithaca, and the new Town Hall is on the eastern edge of Dryden - a half-hour drive away.

  • Not only that, Cheryl reports to the County Planning Commissioner, and the largest project the Town Supervisor needs to lead is, well, planning and zoning - something the Town and County tend to have very different views about.

  • Her public works focus at her job shares territory with Town projects as well.

You could try to run on issues and experience, but there's a problem, actually several:

  • The opposing Supervisor candidate, Mary Ann Sumner, has the time needed to focus on the job.

  • Mary Ann and one of the Town Board candidates, David Makar, are incumbents with a reputation for getting things done.

  • Mary Ann worked hard to solve a zoning issue that was preventing people from building windmills to power their homes.

  • Mary Ann and David found development money the Town was letting sit around (without even collecting interest!) and moved forward with plans to use it.

  • They finally put into action a budget line that was supposed to help community centers, creating a process for distributing that money, something the previous one-party board just couldn't figure out.

  • All of the Democratic candidates have experience immediately relevant to the work of the board.

I can see where that might be intimidating. There is, however, another option that dodges all of these obstacles: assault your opponents' patriotism.

  1. Have your Republican supporters ask leading questions at debates about the Pledge, God, and the POW/MIA flag. (Don't have your candidates push on these issues directly - personal involvement could backfire.)

  2. Push hardest on the issue that is just plain false, claims that your opponent wants to remove the POW/MIA flag. If you repeat a lie constantly, enough people may think it's true.

  3. Have your candidate claim the mantle of patriotism, announcing that "she considers herself patriotic and considers family values to be of the utmost importance."

That last step appears in this morning's Journal article profiling Republican Cheryl Nelson and Democrat Mary Ann Sumner, the two candidates for Dryden Supervisor.

The entire article is worth reading, though at least one of Cheryl Nelson's claims is misleading at best:

"On the conflict-of-interest question, Nelson produced a letter from the Office of the U.S. Special Counsel saying her employment is not an ethical problem and that she is eligible to serve."

That letter doesn't mean that there are no ethical problems with conflict of interest, only that there are no ethical problems involving federal funds. That letter says that she doesn't work for an office that receives enough federal funds for her to be ineligible to run, as specified by the Hatch Act.

Perhaps it's not surprising, but I find Mary Ann Sumner's comments a lot more useful for evaluating her strengths as a candidate:

While she wants to focus on farmland preservation and other efforts to retain Dryden's rural character, Sumner said, "bringing more business to Dryden is a high priority."

"It will happen whether or not we plan it. So, let's plan it. Let's take care to maximize the number of jobs available to Dryden residents and opportunities to buy local products from local retailers. Let's minimize environmental impact by encouraging commercial development in areas close to existing infrastructure and by promoting sustainable energy buildings and storm-water runoff controls," Sumner added.

During her time as a board member, Sumner said she worked with the conservation board to draft a law allowing construction of residential solar and wind energy projects and worked with the town board to pass the law; established working committees to help Republican Steven Trumbull, the current town supervisor, delegate responsibilities among town board members; and worked "extensively" with fire departments, eliminating the need for a paid fire coordinator this year and incorporating fire department board members into the Town Board Emergency Services Committee "to give continuity to town-wide planning for emergency services."

"I'm now working with the planning board, conservation board, building department and town attorney to assure that the proposed Stormwater Runoff Mitigation ordinance addresses erosion and sedimentation control to preserve our watersheds without undue burden on the town or on subdivision and building permit applicants," Sumner said.

I can see why the Republicans would prefer not to run against that. There's tremendous competence there, experience that has already produced great results.

Today's Journal also has a pretty good summary of the Town Board candidates' positions and background.

There's also a lot on the opinion page:

Briefly in Tompkins notes that the W. B. Strong Fire Company of Freeville is looking for pictures, memorabilia, and stories to help celebrate its 100th birthday in April 2008.

The Monitor records a DWI on Route 13 in Dryden.

Posted by simon at October 27, 2007 9:54 AM in
Note on photos


Linda Clougherty said:


Tim Woods said:

It's interesting that you consider a candidate"s personal perspectives on God, country, the military, the war, ecology, etc., as MUD. The electorate needs to know what each candidate's important personal beliefs are for that is what makes the candidate who they are. Personal belief systems will dictate how decisions and which decisions are to be made. The democrat candidate for town supervisor, Mary Ann Sumner, has repeatedly broadcast her fundamental beliefs on her own blog. That is public information. Too bad you don't think the citizens of this town need to know any of that public information about your candidate.

Now, your attempts at crediting your candidate with sound environmental wisdom is actually very laughable. As a member of the town conservation board at the time of the debates on and passing of the alternative energy ordinance, I can tell you that Mary Ann Sumner not only subverted the intent of the original ordinance constructed by the town conservation board, she wrote the scandously poorly written ordinance that she helped push through for passage. The law is so restrictive and ignorant of energy science that the individual families that the law was supposed to help with constructing their own windmills have given up on trying to do so in this township. To date, over the past year, there have been ZERO applications for windmill construction. Your candidate totally co-opted the passage of the well written, comprehensive, exhaustively debated, user friendly ordinance that the conservation board authored for the non-functional ordinance that she pushed through. Yea, that's the real truth about Mary Ann Sumner's ecological reecord. It's a complete joke on the citizens of our town.

Thanks, Tim. It's always good to hear more Republican perspectives on Living in Dryden.

Given your past comments about Mary Ann Sumner, I'm not terribly surprised that what I see as mud you see merely as fertile soil.

On the windmills, I don't think you ever quite felt the level of opposition to windmills generally that Cornell's Mount Pleasant wind farm proposal managed to create in Dryden.

I'm quite impressed that Sumner took on the windmill issue at all - I thought it was still glowing radioactive from the events of the previous year - and that she managed to get a law passed. Not just passed, but passed by a 5-0 unanimous vote from a board on which she was the only Democrat.

I agree that there are changes that would improve the law, and I share your disappointment that no one has yet built a new windmill in Dryden. (I'm not sure what happened to the project which initially got the law started.) I've contemplated building a vertical-axis wind turbine, something not provided for in the law, and Mary Ann encouraged me to bring that question to the Town Board when I'm ready.

I haven't seen anyone raise concerns about the law at a Town Board meeting. I've heard much more from the Democratic candidates, including Sumner, about revisiting and revising the law than I've heard from the Republicans, whether candidates or incumbents.

I can stand by my earlier comments comfortably.

KAZ said:

It's odd that the same people who would be the first to b*tch about Ithaca's passing a resolution about Iraq (which I agree is silly) are out there beating the bushes to uncover town candidates' feelings about a Congressional resolution from the early 1970s. It would be funny if it weren't so sad--and so indicative of the opposition's lack of credibility when it comes to town issues.

BTW, your readers might be interested to read about the POW/MIA flag, including the six days a year when it is supposed to fly. http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/powday/index.htm It should only fly daily at VA hospitals. Dryden, which flies both flags in rainstorms and at night, is being entirely disrespectful. If I thought this was anything other than a red herring, I would be sure to speak to Jack Bush, whose responsibility this is.

I guess I care more about what my elected officials do than what they believe. Many people in Dryden don't share my beliefs, but I don't feel compelled to point that out unless they're out there rubbing my nose in it and trying to force me to change. I think such polite reluctance to question others' beliefs is civilized, absolutely American, and--yes--Christian.