Democratic Government… “We The People”

Judith Cannon

Help build a better community, country and world not merely inhabit it!  Public service is not easy.  As citizens we have to do our part, not sit back and be dictated to by self anointed saviors and media commercials.  Claim our civic duty as responsible citizens to engage in civic education and activities.  Learn from the wisdom and errors of our national, state and local history and profit from the lessons learned.  Learn to make critical judgment on matters of public policy for our own sake and the sake of future generations.

A growing feeling among the general public is that government at all levels is irrelevant to their lives.  We are at a critical point locally, statewide and nationally.  We do not have to look far to see the consequences when the democratic process is ignored or high-jacked.  The selection of the best candidates who stand for sound public policy is entrusted to us in a democratic form of government through a democratic process.

Just as we have a fair and consistent criteria to hire public or private managers and to select directors to corporate boards, so too should we have a fair and consistent criteria to rate candidates for elected public office and judge them worthy to serve us. We urgently need to utilize all the tools available to encourage and engage citizens and residents in promotion and participation in a civil society. Ultimately, “we the people” hold the burden of responsibility and accountability for the representatives and the policies we choose.

Become civic education ambassadors and facilitate workshops in your own homeowner and community organizations; and most of all, promote Civic Involvement.

Criteria for Measuring all Candidates

1.  Leadership Skills

Is the candidate open to adjusting her/his vision based on thorough input from all constituent groups?

Has the candidate developed a sound track record of solid, consistent and open leadership on past positions?

Has the candidate received any awards for outstanding leadership; especially seeing some project through to completion with impressive results?

Does the candidate know when to lead and when to follow?  It may not be healthy if someone must always lead.

Does the candidate exhibit humility in the leadership situations she or he has accepted?  Strength and humility are very desirable partners.

2.  Communication Skills

Does the candidate speak candidly and specifically about the issues avoiding excessive rhetoric or emotional pleas?

Is the candidate consistent with a minimum of significant changes in opinion depending on whom he or she is talking to?

Does the candidate use all available communication techniques, including the internet, and provide useful and accurate information on a wide range of campaign issues?

Does the candidate tell the whole truth, not only what is not so good about the track record of his/her opponent, but also what is good about them and what is lacking in their own record?  This level of honesty may seem unrealistic but some politicians have actually been able to achieve it.

3.  Legislative Skills

Do you feel this candidate is a cooperative person based on his/her experience with other groups or the way he/she present their ideas?

Does this person come across as someone who really listens and seems sincere in his/her willingness to incorporate other people’s ideas with their own?

Is this candidate a true collaborator trying to find the best solution for everyone as opposed to taking a hard line all of the time?

Does this person have a record of addressing issues in a timely manner and not using the legislative process to delay action on important issues?

Does this person exhibit an interest in how things get resolved with attention to research, open discussion and the use of facts more than just emotional considerations?

Does the candidate respect the policy-making responsibility and avoid jumping over to get too involved in administrative affairs?

4.  Issues

Does the candidate have a specific position on all important issues and exhibit a willingness to defend his/her views as well as adjust them when good new ideas are put forward?

Is the candidate fixated on one issue with little to offer on the other important issues of the campaign?

4.  Issues cont.

Does the candidate have a track record of consistency on most issues as well as a proven ability to get results with the assistance of people from many walks of life?

Does the candidate base her/his positions on solid facts and figures with due consideration of the long-term impact of her/his positions?

Does the candidate exhibit a willingness to debate the issues in a fair and open way at forums held throughout the election?

5.  Election Behavior

Does the candidate pledge to run a positive campaign with no negative or misleading advertisements and has he/she lived up to that promise?

Has the candidate promised to clean up campaign laws and has he/she lived up to that promise in the past?

Does the candidate get financial support from sources you respect and trust, and will these sources not try to overly influence this person if they are elected?

Is this candidate trying to buy this election with his/her personal fortune or someone else’s fortune?

6.  Vision

Does the candidate have a clear vision and does it basically agree with your personal vision for the community, state or nation?

Is the candidate’s vision realistic and does it avoid using the tired platitudes of past political campaigns?

Does the candidate have specific goals and objectives as well as a realistic plan to achieve them?

Is the candidate’s vision and plan consistent with existing plans that have been established via consensus of a cross-section of interest groups and individuals?

Is the candidate’s vision affordable and does it actually help to reduce future costs by preventing problems that are already occurring or could occur in the future?

Is the candidate’s vision consistent with other members of his/her party so there is a reasonable chance it can be pursued collectively?

7.  Personal Attributes

Does the candidate have a history of telling the truth and being open in all previous business dealings and public endeavors?

Is the candidate free of obligations to special interest groups or individuals who could put undue pressure on them if they are elected?

Has the candidate ever spoken disparagingly about any minority person or group or supported a law or policy that could be construed as discrimination?

Has the candidate earned the respect and endorsement of a cross-section of people who live within the election district?

Does the candidate have a track record of treating people fairly, with compassion and no sign of abuse or unhealthy behavior?

8.  Promises

Is the candidate making promises that seem to be within the realm of possibility for the office she/he is seeking?

8.  Promises cont.

Are the promises specific enough that you will be able to hold her/him accountable for their successful implementation?

Has the candidate provided realistic cost estimates based on both short- and long-term calculations?  Have these figures withstood media and expert scrutiny?

Has the candidate made unreasonable promises to cut taxes without explaining how this will be accomplished without hurting anyone or causing other costs to increase?

Has the candidate put her/his promises in writing and shared them with the entire constituency via the media, the internet and other communication vehicles?

Does the candidate have a history of keeping the promises she/he makes?

9.  Bureaucracy Aptitude

Has the candidate made derogatory comments about the public service or threats that are not based on solid facts?

Has the candidate made positive statements about the need to work with the public service and find ways to better utilize their talents?

Has the candidate exhibited a sound knowledge of how the various departments function as well as what some of the areas of possible improvement might be?

Has the candidate expressed support for sound planning and displayed knowledge about the best practice planning efforts of similar jurisdictions to the one he/she is trying to represent?

Has the candidate spoken of the need for accountability, not only for the bureaucracy but also for themselves in order to hold elected persons accountable for their actions?

10.  Accountability

Has the candidate indicated that he or she has used input from various groups and a variety of techniques to formulate his or her platform?

Has the candidate expressly indicated his/her willingness to receive feedback on their performance between elections and have they offered specific proposals for how this will be done?

Does the candidate have a track record of encouraging accountability in the past such as actual surveys from people who have worked for him/her, speak out sessions from customers if he/she is in business or public forums if he/she is in public office?

When the candidate has been criticized in the past, either in the media or by groups who do evaluations of politician performance, has this person responded with acceptance and promised correction of legitimate concerns?

Does the candidate give good explanations to defend his/her previous actions or his/her proposed policies or programs?

Adapted from the 2001 booklet, Electing Better Politicians….A Citizen’s Guide written by Charles K. Bens. 

There are 12 chapters in the booklet from Criteria for Measuring All Candidates to Issues by Level of Government to How to Become a Better Citizen.

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