Democracy a spectacle for all of us

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN
Posted Oct. 23, 2009, at 7:08 p.m.

It is the time of year when one’s gratitude for democracy can be tested.

Political ads get tiresome, political signs clutter our streets, and advocates on either side of referendum issues can get nasty and boorish.

But, alas, it is the result of a democratic process fought for long and hard and with much sacrifice.

Beyond the often circus-type hype that surrounds it, there is serious business afoot. As a citizen, a voter, a parent and a taxpayer, I am well aware of that.

But to be perfectly honest it also can be quite a spectacle, and for those in the media on the front lines of the debate and the rhetoric it can be a season speckled with moments of intense boredom mixed with flashes of great awe, inspiration and sometimes amusement.

Some of the most colorful election-season moments occur on the local level, where people of all types vie for seats on councils and school boards.

Those who eventually get elected, of course, will have important business to attend to, perhaps most importantly being conscientious stewards of taxpayers’ money.

Some of those candidates are more colorful and controversial than others. Some are more mainstream and stoic. Some like to shake things up, while others take a quieter, more traditional approach.

Some are seasoned politicians with years of service and experience. Some are newcomers touting fresh ideas.

This diversity was evident this week in the news coverage on the candidates running for seats on the Bangor City Council.

While following that coverage, I was struck by how I may be compelled to vote as a taxpayer and how I may be compelled to vote as a columnist.

In Bangor, for example, there are three seasoned incumbents seeking re-election. Patricia Blanchette has served 12 years on the City Council and eight years in the Maine House of Representatives.

Her answers to a reporter’s queries as to her goals for another term were not surprising. She wants to keep taxes stable and encourage job growth and business development.

Peter D’Errico has served two terms on the City Council and wants to continue to improve the growth of the economy and help identify resources that offer job growth and increase nonresidential taxes. He also supports an east-west highway and the return of passenger rail service.

Geoff Gratwick, has spent six years on the City Council, is a fiscal conservative and believes Bangor must live within its means. He says Bangor must strengthen its unique competitive assets and infrastructure and bolster its creative economy.

All are admirable and sensible goals, clearly combined with the willingness to invest the time needed to do the people’s work.

Then there are Paul Lodgek and Cary Weston.

Lodgek is an engineer by trade and a seasoned community volunteer who would like to use his cost-containment experience with a global manufacturing corporation to benefit Bangor’s taxpayers. He, too, wants to explore new job opportunities and would encourage the council to explore partnerships with educational, political and regional entities.

Weston is part owner of a public relations firm and also volunteered in many community capacities. He’s young and ambitious and a fiscal conservative who believes in embracing the ideas of residents and the younger generation as Bangor moves forward.

OK. Either man would clearly bring a new voice to the council.

Then there is Marco Antonio Almodovar.

Almodovar wants the council to incorporate the voices of the average person into its decision making.

He’s concerned with the city’s homeless population and would like to reuse vacant Bangor buildings to house them. He also would like to chemically castrate suspects who go against the law and would place pedophiles in their own community where they could be monitored to ensure the safety of Bangor’s residents. It’s an idea that is a bit unorthodox, I suppose.

A candidate who had proposed building a replica of the Seattle Space Needle in town to boost tourism has since dropped out of the race.

I’m not sure what the higher courts might say to the idea of forcing pedophiles to live in one particular section of the city — but I’m guessing Almodovar would lend a certain new and controversial voice to the City Council and most likely some interesting fodder for the reporters attending the meetings.

So there you have it. A local political election at its best — experience vs. new and ambitious vs. the just plain unusual — and to think you get to pick.

For that, I suspect, we should all have great gratitude.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/10/23/news/democracy-a-spectacle-for-all-of-us/ printed on October 1, 2014