Ruffalo: Auburn voters show soft spot for incumbents

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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A couple of observations from Tuesday’s election ... The local elections were just about everything the national elections were not, namely that in this little corner of the world, we seem to love our incumbents. One great example of that premise is the Auburn City Council elections. Unlike many recent council elections, there were plenty of candidates and, arguably, all of them had track records from which the electorate could make value judgments before casting a vote. The result? All three incumbents cruised to victory, despite having Bob Snyder as a challenger. Don’t know about you, gentle readers, but this scribe considers Snyder worthy of the pantheon of better council members, at least during my two-plus decades of watching such machinations. Still, the incumbents won, which has to suggest that the good citizens of Auburn are more than happy with the way the village is being run these days. By the way, Snyder and fellow candidate Dan Sokol deserve the thanks of a grateful citizenry. Snyder not only previously served on the council with distinction, but also currently keeps what in the past was a contentious city planning commission from coming unglued. He also shows up for nearly every volunteer project, and then there’s his U.S. Navy service. As for Sokol, I’m well aware of his reputation as a sort of gadfly, but to be honest, that’s precisely what local government needs, especially these days. After all, there aren’t that many of us who take time to study the minutia that all governmental levels continually drop upon us, so when he alerts us of the latest tax scheme, we need to thank him. ... Another example: The Auburn Recreation District (ARD) apparently also had a set of incumbents able to make their constituents warm and fuzzy all over, although there were more sub-plots to this storyline. Foremost among those had to be the pre-election day pronouncements and writings of current ARD board member Gordon Ainsleigh, who made it known that fellow board members Scott Holbrook and Curtis Smith probably weren’t his very close friends. Still, Holbrook and Smith prevailed, which means the next ARD board meeting might be a rather intriguing event. ... Measure L: You’ll get no argument from me that the Auburn Union School District’s Measure L was a needed source of finance for the cash-starved organization, but I must admit to being a bit pleased it failed. No, I am not anti-school, although I confess to being anti-teachers’ unions and anti-top-heavy district administration. To be candid, I found Measure L — for the most part — a well-crafted proposal, and earlier admitted to being pleased with the part that prevented the state from stealing any of the new money. Nevertheless, I was more than a bit miffed by the part that allowed senior citizens to opt out of paying the new parcel charge. This republic of ours has a large problem these days from the balkanization of our citizenry. Like it or not, the current political process has resulted in on-going class warfare. It’s not just Democrats vs. Republicans. Instead, it’s liberal vs. conservative, different racial groups mad at one another, rich battling poor, and don’t get me started on religion or sexual preference. So when the Measure L authors decided to try to buy votes from the seniors by allowing them to approve the measure without having a skin in the game, I found that reprehensible. How much so? Well, I’ll be contacting some friendly state legislators to see about making such shenanigans illegal in future elections. ... A question: What would have happened if somebody came up to you prior to the election and offered you $180 million to finance a single statewide race? Why, you’d jump at the chance, knowing full well that Big Daddy Unruh was only partly correct when he said money was the mother’s milk of politics. What Jess left out was that it’s also the chaser. But wait! What if that generous soul then said with all of that cash, you’d have to run against Jerry Brown? Being the sport that I am, had the proposition been poised to me, I would have immediately given at least half the money back, because Brown easily could be beaten, especially with his political history. However, we now know that there’s at least one previously successful businesswoman who could not pull off the possible. ... Final note: Don’t know about you, but I believe that the Proposition 19 backers were counting upon a high turnout. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at