Thursday, April 12, 2007

Politics gets ugly

"If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will have no answer except slanging or silence." - What's Wrong With The World

In the last couple of months I’ve talked with a few people who had either run for office in the Town of Gates – where I live - or who considered running for office here.

None of them planned to run this year, or any time soon.

They gave a variety of reasons, but one kept surfacing.

That reason is well illustrated by the recent exchange between Gates Supervisor Ralph Esposito (a republican) and Douglas Ross, treasurer of the Gates Democratic Committee.

The debate began over the issue of property taxes in Gates.

There are many ways to interpret the property tax data. One is to look at the average taxes paid by Gates homeowners. Another is to compare the taxes paid by a homeowner on his house compared to the amount paid on a comparably valued house in another town.

Both ways produce different results. Neither way is inaccurate. Each has its uses. There maybe times when one way is the best way, and others where the other way is better.

What would be great then would be to see discussion of which way is most useful for Gates and under what circumstances.

Unfortunately, two camps have developed, with each one picking an interpretation, and digging in. What we are being treated to is a Gates version of WW I trench warfare, with both side lobbing labels, insults and insinuations at each other. For good measure folks who belong to neither camp, but who make the mistake of saying something that sounds like they belong to one side, get targeted.

Beginning with Supervisor Esposito’s column in the March 7 Gates-Chili Post and continuing through a series of letters and opinion pieces by Ross and Esposito in that newspaper, we have read a lively debate that long ago left reasoned discussion behind.

Instead, we get “”political rants,” “out of touch,” “attack mode,” “talks out of both sides of his mouth,” and more loaded words and phrases scattered about. The police department, public safety and the town car the supervisor uses get dragged in. The other side’s motives and concern for the people of Gates get questioned.

To be fair, for the most part Ross did try to discuss the issues, and Esposito lobbed most of the verbal shells

Still, in the midst of this the issue of property taxes gets lost.

In one of his letters, Esposito uses the word “nasty.”

Nasty indeed.

In fact, that’s one of the words that kept popping up in those conversations I mentioned.

Politics in Gates is repeatedly described as “nasty,” and they want no part of it.

So good, caring, qualified people choose not to get involved in runs for elected offices or even in town committees and boards because of the political climate.

That’s embarrassing.

Chesterton once observed, "All government is an ugly necessity.” (A Short History of England).

Here, it has become very ugly indeed.

Given the political climate here, I find myself thinking of something else GKC said: "It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged."

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