2014 Elections - How to pick credible candidates for public office

An informed vote is not a mindless endeavor.  Do your homework.
An informed vote is not a mindless endeavor. Do your homework.

Recently I authored a report called “How not to run for city council”, in which the example thereof was the arrest of Mayor Alan Long of Murrieta, California on charges of causing an accident while driving under the influence, CVC 23153(a) .

Murrieta had gained national notoriety earlier in the year by being the first community to successfully reject a plan by the Department of Homeland Security to process illegal immigrants from the Central America border surge there.

Mayor Long did a reasonably credible job of straddling the line between appeasing angry citizens who rejected the Border Patrol’s plans and maintaining a veneer of political correctness. It was the field sobriety test that he flunked that has thrown his future political aspirations in a tailspin.

That, and a dubious circumstance involving Long and two other members of the city council who appear to be attempting to impose inequitable demands on a property owner conditional to favorable decisions on commercial development. Job creation is apparently not the priority it is stated to be in their campaign material.

Realizing that we are coming up on elections in just a little over a week in every town, city, county, state as well as voting for Congress, I thought it might be valuable to share some insight on how to better evaluate individuals who are asking for your vote and in so doing, make more informed choices.

It’s not easy. Many voters employ guesswork based on signs along the roadway, television and radio commercials, partisan voter slates and candidate mailings – all of which are attempting to leverage the most effective marketing techniques and mass psychology designed to hit certain emotional hot buttons.

There is a standard sales pitch for the aspiring office holder and for the established incumbent. It’s the bold promise of how the candidate is going to support job growth, maintain or improve the quality of life, provide expanded public services and amenities, buttress public safety, cut taxes, manage public funds and promote businesses.

Depending on whether you are talking about a city council seat or a seat in Congress, you might have some variable elements at play, but the general theme of competency, experience, and integrity are universal.

The question then, for any thinking person, is how do we wind up with so many Barack Obamas, Hillary Clintons, [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ]s, Chris Christies, [mc_name name=’Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000197′ ]s, [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ]s, Bob Filners, Leland Yees and locally, Alan Longs? Much can be attributed to low information voters and beyond that, misinformed voters.

The rest is a factor of well-oiled political machines with special interest money behind the curtain. Image over substance.

Here is a campaign flyer touting Mayor Long’s public safety bonafides. This showed up in the mailbox after his arrest for DUI and injuring four local high school students in a rear end collision!

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If you see a public official that is caught in wrongdoing and attempts to cling to office after being publicly discrediting themselves, you can assume this person has been collecting graft and is addicted to it.

The best measure and prime indicator of what a candidate is likely to do in office is what they’ve done as a citizen, in their professional or work life and in the community or their record of service in the armed forces. Those factors are your best measuring sticks.

So, as an illustration of this, I present to you Ms. Diana Serafin, a candidate for city council in Murrieta. Ms. Sarafin was the prime organizing force behind the elimination of a very insidious form of corruption in the city known as the Red Light Camera scam.

A Tempe, Arizona firm, American Traffic Solutions had inveigled its influence peddling into a lucrative contract in Murrieta in which in return for placing the cameras at intersections, they in turn received a large percentage of each citation issued by the city.

When the scheme was brought to light, the company spent thousands of dollars in legal challenges to the grass roots citizen initiative headed by Ms. Serafin to have the cameras, an actual safety hazard removed.

It was the classic David versus Goliath story and thanks to Ms. Sarafin’s ability to mobilize community awareness, Goliath came out of it with a massive head wound. Red Light cameras removed. It is a nationwide movement.

Diana also was instrumental in putting the brakes on abusive code enforcement, exposing the nascent city plans to incorporate the use of drones and is actively leading opposition to proposed low income housing units to be built on land shown to be in the footprint of an earthquake fault that runs through the Lake Elsinore, Murrieta, Temecula corridor.

None of this activity involved special interest money or influence, just grass roots community activism. Ms. Serafin is also out walking the neighborhoods talking with residents and exchanging ideas about what good, responsive and transparent government looks like.

People are responding favorably, because in most cases they have never had a personal engagement with any city leaders before or during their term of office. All it takes to begin the process of cleaning up corruption at any level of politics is a candidate that is dedicated to speaking truth to power and calling fowl when others attempt to game the system at the expense of taxpayers.

That’s what you’re looking for. It’s almost as hard as finding an honest car mechanic, but not impossible. You just need to be eyes wide open and paying attention.