Forward thinking: It’s election time again

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You might describe me as a vagabond…

Over the years, I have lived in four different states, eight different cities, and called twenty-one different houses home. In each community, I found a variety of community service organizations. They were all committed to doing “good” in one form or another, both locally and abroad.

One in particular caught my attention from the outset – Rotary International. I was impressed by their so-called Four-Way Test. Even if you are not a Rotarian, my guess is that you have read or heard it at least once over the years. It reads as follows:

Of all the things we say or do: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all
concerned?

I bring this to your attention because after considerable reflection, I have concluded that the Four-Way Test would be a good test for the upcoming political campaigns in South Snohomish County – especially Lynnwood.

What follows are several ideas for a better campaign arranged around the Four-Way Test. So, take a deep seat and a tight wrap as they would say in the panhandle of Texas.

“Is it the truth?” “Is it fair to all concerned?”

First, keep the candidates on the high road.

I am confident in saying that most of us have a strong dislike for dirty campaigns. Do you recall those smarmy radio and TV ads that attack not just the candidate but the whole system of self-government?

Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of candidates or campaign managers who believe it’s what you have to do to win an election today. There is almost no incentive to stay on the high road. Just win, baby win.

Second, keep the candidates on point.

Campaigns should be about the big issues even in smaller communities. Focus on those things that the broader community is most concerned about. Focus on the top three to five issues. The voters have every right to know what a candidate believes to be the BIG issues.

Third, keep the candidates on solutions.

Not only should the candidates focus on the big issues. The voters need to know 1) how the candidates would define and prioritize the big issues 2) offer their personal solutions, 3) identify what he/she is willing to do to achieve the solutions.

“Will it build goodwill and better friendships?”

Fourth, provide opportunities for the candidates to think out loud.

A new kind of campaign forum for discussing issues is long past due. We need to make more use of a facilitated discussion at a round table that includes both concerned citizens and candidates. Standing behind some stilted podium and having an anchor person offer up questions is sterile and too predictable.

Another option would be to stage a series of “conversations with the candidates” at various locations around town, like a coffee shop. Today’s politics has too often degenerated into shouting matches where no one is listening. Dare I suggest that candidates should be slow to speak, quick to listen and careful not to get angry.

“Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Fifth, the past is the past. What has been done has been done. A wholesale makeover of past decisions is highly unlikely – at best we might see some adjustments. We can, however, focus on the future and attempt to learn from the past – especially when it is increasingly evident that policy directions adopted were not in the long-term interest of the community.

There is wisdom and maturity in acknowledging when something is not working. How often have you heard the expression, “Why do you keep doing the same thing in the same way and expect a different results?”

Bottom line – Campaigns are an important part of our democracy. And what I have proposed will require a considerable amount of work – but most are worthwhile things do. It will require volunteer time involvement, some financial investment and a clear vision for our community’s future. Possibly even more.

However, doing something certainly beats looking on helplessly as another political campaign sinks to the low road and contributes nothing to the future benefit and welfare of our city.

I leave you with one simple, short question to ponder – ARE YOU IN?

Until next time…

Loren (1)–By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is currently a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Very well said Mr. Simmonds, I’m hopeful that we will have exactly that kind of campaign across the docket this year. The conversations with candidates is an excellent idea as well, as a candidate I would be pleased to partake in a series of such events.

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