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Our View: ARD director’s actions not doing service to district

Our View
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If the rhetoric and mudslinging of the governor’s race seem so distant, just look to your friendly, local neighborhood park district for a healthy dose of slimy politics. Four candidates are running for two open slots on the Auburn Recreation District board of directors on Nov. 2. None of them is director Gordon Ainsleigh, but Ainsleigh’s has been the loudest voice, discrediting incumbents Scott Holbrook and Curt Smith in a series of letters and e-mails. Gordy being Gordy, or something more? Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was criticized for “going rogue,” or going off-message in her attempt to communicate her political positions. While she didn’t win the election with John McCain, Palin leveraged her independent, folksy rogue-side into a best-selling book and a prominent role in tea party politics. In a smaller way Ainsleigh is going rogue as well, but it’s neither folksy nor charming, as some see Palin. Ainsleigh’s approach is just strange, like when he ate cat chow at an ARD meeting, saying the pet food was more nutritious than the offerings at ARD events and programs. While Ainsleigh has the right to enthusiastically support the candidates of his choice, actively campaigning against candidates — incumbents or challengers — is out of line for a sitting park district board member. The battle began a few weeks ago with a letter to the Auburn Journal from Ainsleigh. Iconic for his lead role in starting the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the longtime parks director routinely expresses his love for open space and trails. In his letter, Ainsleigh put himself front and center in an election he’s not part of. Claiming Holbrook and Smith are denying the will of the people by not supporting trail construction on the 28-acre Shockley property, Ainsleigh publicly criticized them as self-centered. “Take back control of your parks and your tax money. Vote out incumbents Smith and Holbrook,” Ainsleigh wrote. The Journal published the letter just as it would other letters of criticism or endorsement, but Ainsleigh’s words showed a lack of respect and decorum. Such politics may be commonplace in state or federal elections, but we’re talking about ballfields, swimming pools, youth programs and senior activities. Open space and trails are important, but so is treating other directors with respect. It’s one thing for Ainsleigh to support his relentless passion for trails and open space, but quite another to inject himself into the board election, disgrace the work of his fellow board members and dredge up past perceptions of a dysfunctional park district that has made tremendous strides over the last five years. Indirectly, Ainsleigh is injuring the reputation of ARD’s hard-working staff. ARD has a competent, professional team that is working well with local governments, businesses and schools, Ainsleigh’s approach to this election only makes their jobs tougher. With the election a little more than a month away, voters should focus on the candidates and the issues, not on the antics of a rogue board member who feels the timing is right to use the media as his platform for change. Rather than listen to us, maybe Ainsleigh should take his instruction from the signs found on any Little League field: Sportsmanship begins with you.