Readers comments 8-31-18
Sharing our sorrow
Reflecting on news of the deaths, in rapid succession, of Velma McKelvey, Ann Copple, Sam Mowbray and Louise Bell.
Mid-July to Mid-August 2018
Death slips into ordinary life
In ordinary words and ways.
The news crops up in casual conversation—
“Oh! You didn’t know she’d died?”
Or from a story in the local paper—
“Donations may be made to the… .”
By email to a distribution list—
“It is with heavy heart that I…”
Or phone call from a loving daughter—
“Some sad news…But she died in peace,
With all of us around her.”
One by one the threads unravel
From the fabric we have woven
Over many years together.
Less fully does it shelter us,
Less softly does it cushion us.
No longer do I think I’m safe.
I beg to differ
The Democratic Club of Claremont (DCC) is pleased that the Claremont COURIER engages in the best traditions of journalism in reporting on and criticizing actors in the public arena. We have become the object of such criticism by the COURIER and wish to respond.
Let me quote the COURIER material:
“Political affiliations are personal and should remain so in Claremont life. That’s why it was a little disappointing to see our local Democratic Club ‘endorse’ four Democratic candidates this season without a formal interview process. Unfortunately, the endorsements weren’t decided upon through trying to determine what an individual might bring to the council, a process that is central to preserving the vitality of our community. Claremont city council elections have long been non-partisan. It’s a good policy we should work hard to maintain. Introducing party politics into local elections often results in our council dedicating too much time to symbolic ordinances that have no impact on our day-to-day life. Calling out candidates for their party affiliations goes against the best traditions in Claremont politics.”
It is not true that the endorsements were not arrived at through a formal interview process. The executive board of the club interviewed the candidates known to be Democrats running for the council in order to determine whether they are, in our eyes, qualified to serve and what values they would bring to the position.
People of any party can run for office who do not meet the standards for serving. Our interview process is designed to ensure that the people offering themselves up for public service and calling themselves Democrats actually have the capacity to be good public servants. The process can lead to rejection. In this case, we found that those we interviewed could make a good elected official in our city.
The executive board informed the club membership that those four candidates had passed the basic test for serving on the council. All were invited to a general membership meeting of the club, made their presentations there, and were subject to questions by the members. The members in attendance decided to offer club endorsements of them all (even though at the time there were more candidates than openings on the council.)
Nor were we done. All three remaining candidates have accepted an invitation to appear at the club membership meeting on September 29. They have been informed that the format will consist of a number of questions concerning council and community issues. They will be asked to respond to those questions. There will also be an opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions.
While this is a club meeting, every person in the community will be invited to attend that program and listen for themselves to what the candidates have to say about crucial council issues. Every individual in attendance will have an opportunity, upon hearing the candidates’ responses, to form for themselves an opinion as to whether they should vote for a given person or not.
Beyond mischaracterizing the process, the COURIER has two lines of criticism of our actions.
One is that we have invited only registered Democrats to be interviewed by the executive board and only registered Democrats have been invited to present their qualifications for being on the council and their views about important city issues.
Two things can be said in reply to that. One is that our charter requires us to give public time only to registered Democrats—the club is a branch of the Democratic Party of California and so it is entirely reasonable that we not allow members of another party to have a say at our own events.
Within the limits of what we are allowed to do, the DCC is serving the community as well as its own members by offering a serious investigation into the views of candidates who are running to govern our city.
Secondly, there are (should be) several other forums run by other organizations which have no restrictions on who they can invite. They can and will invite every person running for the council to make a presentation and should invite every member of the community to attend and learn. The Democratic Club welcomes those other events (and at least some members will and should attend them).
The other chief criticism of us by the COURIER is that the council positions are officially non-partisan and so the activities of a partisan organization are not appropriate.
It is desirable to have as wide a spectrum of investigations of the views of candidates as possible, as long as they are serious and conducted by people and organizations that have the well-being of this community at heart. It so happens that the DCC thinks it is playing an important role in the governance of this city by engaging in a public scrutiny of those candidates who represent our party.
While there is no sentiment in the DCC for partisan council elections, there is no escaping the fact that most people know what the party affiliation of the various candidates is. We, in our activities, are not revealing anything that is otherwise unknown to the electorate. In fact, it is to the best that party affiliations are known to the voters, something that leads on to the final point.
Elected officials, even in a modest sized community, are not technocrats, able to engage in considering the wide range of issues that they must be concerned without any thoughts about broader matters.
Just like the justices of the Supreme Court are not divorced from broad political views, so too council members reflect on matters from a perspective that includes all manner of ideas, including those of the party to which they are connected. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to determine in advance how candidates will perform if elected: will they be a good fit, able to work with others, create enough personal time to fully participate in deliberations? The best that can be done is to discover what their general political values are, and that is shown, as well what is learned by interview, by what political party they choose to affiliate with.
While we believe that the COURIER is mistaken in this matter of endorsements, we certainly welcome its engagement on this issue.
A free press is one of the pillars of our democracy and Claremont is most fortunate in having such a quality community paper. No fake news from these people.
Democratic Club of Claremont