Editor: Recently, the League of Women Voters hosted its Leesburg candidate forum. As in previous years, I was greatly disappointed.
No one asked the tough questions that need to be asked. The local newspapers and the LWV only present information that comes from the mouths of the candidates. Local reporters do not conduct interviews where they ask questions with follow up. The newspapers publish, shortly before an election, candidate statements. Because these statements are never provided in advance, there is no opportunity to challenge a statement as false or misleading.
Because of the “debate” format, no one challenged Ron Campbell’s inaccurate portrayal of his role on the Westpark issue or the efforts to work with the NAACP. Nor was he challenged when he attacked divisiveness given that he is the one responsible for some of the worst divisiveness on the Council. This is what happens when no one asks tough or follow-up questions.
Often, local news will report that a provision passed with a 4-3 vote without stating who voted for or against. Voters may want to know who supported or opposed a measure. Local news does little to interview council members to uncover the reason for their votes. This would help residents to decide who is best representing them when members are up for re-election
When I first moved here, I despaired at being able to learn about local candidates. As I became involved in local politics, I got to know many candidates personally and could thus make informed judgments. Whenever I talk with Mayor Burk, I learn the breadth and depth of her knowledge. I have confidence that she makes decisions based on a thorough study of the issues and on knowing the residents of our town. Not everyone has the opportunity to speak at length with our representatives and candidates.
So, how is a voter to decide?
Many speak against partisanship in local elections but the truth is that unless there is an effort to present in-depth views of candidates, the best guide that many of us have is whether candidates identify as Republican or Democrat. When candidates receive party endorsements, we know something about their priorities because we know something about what each party stands for. Until the local newspapers improve their reporting about local government and local elections, party identification may be the most useful information that we can get.
Local newspapers can also elevate the level of discussion by moderating comments and prohibiting the use of aliases. Comments that present hate and lies ought not to be allowed. I have always posted under my name. Several years ago, in response to a comment I posted, I was attacked by people using aliases. From that point on, my choice was to use an alias or to not post comments. I chose the latter. Some never read comments because they have tired of the nasty rants.
I call on our local newspapers to take responsibility for improving our local government and our local discourse.
Patti Maslinoff, Leesburg