The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

David Knepper

October 3, 2010

Straight talk on campaign reform

— The political “oratory” has already begun to warm the crisp autumn air with the candidates promising to make the tough choices to fix the economy (create jobs), to hold the line on taxes, and to end deficit spending.

Promises that even the voters know (or should) are merely sound bites that help to grease the wheels of a successful campaign. 

Perhaps, it’s time to ask “where’s the beef” or where is the candidates’ plan – the “nuts and bolts” on making good on the promises if elected.

Voters would find reassuring if candidates would share some scribbled notes written on the back of a discarded envelope stuffed in the candidate’s jacket for a starter.

And then there are the candidates’ signs that greet me along the roadside, sometimes so thick that they become a blur as I pass by, with one blocking out the other so I can’t catch the candidates’ names, as if I had to be reminded.

After weeks of newspaper and television coverage and that incessant stream of political flyers that choke my mailbox or flood the post office trash can, including those irritating political phone solicitations, I just wish that “it” would stop and that I could cast my vote over the Internet rather than wait until Election Day. 

Speaking of which, the reason why we vote on Tuesday is that in 19th century America, people had to travel to get to the polls, so Monday was allotted as a travel day because Sunday was a day of worship. 

Voting from the privacy of our homes, with certain safeguards, could significantly result in a higher turnout of voters, which is a cornerstone of our democratic system.    

The predisposition by voters to cast their ballots along party lines may now suggest that political banners and signs have relevancy today. Displaying just the party’s name or logo with the appropriate background color: Red sign (Republican Party)  or blue sign (Democratic Party) or a white sign (Independent Party) could even compliment the fall foliage. 

Flags might even be a better choice than all that cardboard signage that clutters our region.      

Some memories of campaigns past still stir my imagination and give me pause to wonder why this new crop of candidates seems to ignore our youth when on the campaign trail. That is, what a lesson for our youth if candidates would stage live debates in our local schools that could encourage these 18-year-old voters to go to the polls. 

I recall such a debate occurring at Forest Hills when then-state Sen. W. Louis Coppersmith and his opponent,  Mark Singel, appeared on stage to present their views and to take questions from our students. 

What an impression this day had on both our students and staff.

Candidates should be eager to energize this group of new voters to cast their first vote in this midterm election.

One of my pet peeves is directed toward all the negativity that has so dominated elections. Will the candidates themselves ever pledge to end this form of political “roller derby” or “mud wrestling.”

One candidate throws a verbal salvo and his opponent retaliates with a wad of mud himself. 

Running a political campaign is expensive and voters have to wonder why a candidate would spend in excess of what the job pays. 

In California, for example, former head of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina, has already spent $6.7 million on her bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxler. 

What a shocker if candidates were to donate even a portion of their campaign funds – if current election laws permit – to charity.

Candidates, heed the admonition from the late senator from West Virginia, Robert C. Byrd: “Do not run a campaign that would embarrass your mother”

David A. Knepper is president of Allegheny Development Group LLC and is currently the executive director of the Forest Hills Regional Alliance. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Penn State. His column appears the first Sunday of each month.

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