Here’s my current favorite campaign promise, from at least two West Chester Borough Council candidates’ mailers: Balanced budgets without raising taxes (their emphasis).
Well, great. Who could oppose that? If anyone knew that secret, think how much better things would go in Harrisburg and Washington!
Some candidates promise to secure outside funding for important local projects. If anyone knew that secret, think how much better things would go in every county and municipality across the country!
Then candidates promise “openness” and “transparency”; I’m not quite sure how that goes beyond the state’s excellent Sunshine Act and Right to Know regulations.
It’s already illegal for an elected body to make decisions in secret (with some limited exceptions like personnel matters). The public can already contact their officials, attend meetings, and make comments at the meetings before a vote is taken. Transparency and openness are strongly in place; the public just has to care.
And of course candidates are all going to meet regularly with their future constituents, respect all opinions, and answer all emails. All I can say is: winners who don’t follow through deserve public critique.
And they are all trustworthy, public-spirited folks who want to make a difference and give back to their community (two of my least favorite expressions).
In many cases, someone in a party office or outside organization (thanks to the wisdom of the Roberts court) writes these flyers up and sends out variants on behalf of their favored candidates.
But very few candidates mention their party affiliation or what outside organizations support them. Some, after they win the election, truly listen to constituents, learn on the job, and exercise independent judgment; some (as we see all too often in Washington) don’t know how, don’t care, or don’t dare.
I’m a detail person myself. In my view:
1) Comparison shop, and if 2+ candidates use the same wording, it’s probably not their own;
2) In a local election, candidates are often at the polls asking for your vote. And they should be! Their mailers and flyers have told you what they want to do; now ask them how they are going to carry out their promises and where the money is going to come from–before you go in to vote.
3) Ask candidates if they agree or disagree with their own party’s standard positions on issues important to you.