Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes seem, by all accounts, to be well meaning public servants. They are, however, running campaigns so terrible in 2011, that the only explanation is either incompetence or hubris. And for the single biggest issue effecting Pike-residents – the proposal to dismantle the most popular bus service in the State, rip up the road that breathes life into this community for a half-baked trolley – the candidates have really fallen flat.
I’ll start with Mr. Tejada. First, a candidate is, quite fairly, judged by his website. Mr. Tejada lists four issues, all of them general platitudes (“Building a Strong Community,” really?). Sure he talks the talk of “smart growth,” and undoubtedly is committed to the needs of poor Alringtonians, but on the day-to-day needs of transit, expanding bike access, in particular to South Arlington, his plans are a lot of talk with few examples of how he is willing to take on the tough challenges and trade offs involved.
Further, the quickest, simplest, cheapest medium for a candidate to connect with voters (especially, younger, newer Arlingtonians) is Twitter. Neither he nor his campaign manager has seen fit to use it. Inexcusable and amateur.
As for Ms. Hynes, she’s at least on Twitter. But her website may be even less useful than Mr. Tejada’s (although it’s nicer looking). Each platitude (“issue”) is followed by a sentence or two of political spin.
To be clear, the Arlington GOP is as sophomoric as the national party, and the only other candidate in the race, Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, still could make better use of her Twitter account, and her website is also underwhelming. But then again, Ms. Clement is a third-party insurgent, and Mr. Tejada and Ms. Hynes are running on their experience and competence.
Back to the trolley: I’ve been wrestling with the planned streetcar since moving to the Pike. The news media has had a few good stories, but neither incumbent has seen fit to issue an explanation of their support of this project (“We made a commitment” is an insult to voters, Ms Hynes). This expensive, comprehensive project in the heart of Arlington and no mention, no press release from their campaign? No reason why BRT or longer buses aren’t a better option? No reason why they are choosing to spend money on this rather than expanding ART service on weekend, making Next Bus work, building sidewalks and crosswalks, increasing late night Pike Ride bus service?
I fully expect the incumbents to win election tomorrow in a landslide (note to future insurgents: the fact that the top two vote getters get seats mean that you need a running mate or encourage your supporters to only vote for you). But that’s not really the point: we should expect – no, demand – better campaigns and more responsive and transparent politicians. Pike Communities deserve it, and the incumbents don’t come close to meeting this standard.