I was able to attend the first candidates forum for DeKalb City Council races last week with about 25 other citizens, most of whom are regulars at city meetings and political gatherings.
Mike Embrey and his DeKalb County Online sponsored and moderated the discussion. He posed several questions he knew the candidates likely could not answer, so answered them himself. But it did give those running some food for thought.
Unfortunately, only one seat is contested; candidates Carolyn Morris, Scott McAdams and incumbent Tony Faivre are running unopposed. Incumbent Kate Noreiko dropped out after the forum which she was unable to attend.
A city the size of DeKalb should generate at least two people for every race, whether it be county board, school board or city offices. Apathy like this gives candidates a free ride and they don’t have to answer to their constituents or even the news media if they decide not to.
I hope this is not the case and that they all continue to appear at public forums council meetings and press interviews.
Some 20 years ago, I was an elected official when I ran for a seat on a community college district board in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was able to defeat the 20-year incumbent the first time and won re-election for a second and third term. Then I retired.
I believe in term limits for all levels of government – city, county, school districts and statewide offices. I found that some others on the college board thought they should stay on forever. It seems to me that the long-termers become so cozy with management that they no longer represent the best interests of the public, but just want to maintain the status quo.
Getting back to the local candidates night, it was a bit disconcerting when the two contenders for the ward in which I reside were asked to describe their geographical area and never even mentioned the Oak Crest retirement community, which they would be representing.
There are some 200 voters in this one location and they turn out in big numbers since they reside in the same complex where the polling place is located.
Listening to the candidates, I found one who will most likely be climbing the political ladder in the years ahead. Carolyn Morris, who ran unsuccessfully for county clerk on the Democrat’s ticket last time, has her sights set on more than city council, I would predict.
A career combat veteran in the Marine Corps, she has only lived in DeKalb a short time while pursuing a degree at NIU, but has jumped into politics very quickly.
It would be quite a lively race if she decides to run for mayor in two years and might have to compete with Misty Haji-Sheikh, if Misty decides to run again. But in any case, don’t be surprised if Morris seeks higher office in the state before too long.
Overall, the candidates seemed to agree on the issues raised last week, so it will be interesting to see how they distinguish themselves from each other when they appear at the DeKalb Chamber forum March 19 at the Egyptian.
I certainly hope the turnout is much better as people need to know how our elected officials plan to attract new business and industry, spend our tax money wisely, decide on the value of tax increment financing districts, and even how they would do better at fixing potholes.
As a primer, I will share three tips for a successful campaign: (1) visit the homes of as many voters in your ward as time allows for one-on-one contact, raise enough money for newspaper ads and a mailer, giving your background and goals; (3) show that you are a serious candidate by attending all the council meetings (for months before the election), studying the city budget, and getting up to speed on other issues so you can answer legitimate questions at forums and from reporters.