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Tale of two campaigns: Grassroots vs. nonexistent | In Our Opinion | April 10
By all accounts, the island’s looming special election on a new form of government figures to be a close one. In most elections, the side with the most money and/or the best campaign wins. In this one, money is definitely immaterial and it’s possible that those against a change will win without even launching a campaign except by word of mouth.
At this point, there is no group actually campaigning against council-manager. In fact, there are few people other than Bob Scales even speaking out against dropping the current mayor-council form. Even Scales seemed to be an unlikely opponent earlier this year when he spoke publicly in favor of it.
But after deciding to run for mayor, he presumably figured he’d better suspend his mayoral campaign because if he didn’t make a quick U-turn and try to eliminate the council-manager bandwagon then his run for office would be about as moot as a candidate running against a Kennedy in Massachusetts.
And then there’s the mayor, who is also a sort-of-candidate for the position that may be defunct on May 20. Her followers are probably comforted by the notion that she may seek a third term. It’s also possible that the threat of four more years will drive some fence-sitters toward a change in government.
Conversely, council-manager would be an easy winner if the best campaigner were rewarded. The core group and its many volunteers are running an education-based, person-to-person campaign that utilizes a variety of ways to reach out to islanders. They include: neighborhood coffee gatherings; a Chamber of Commerce presentation; an expert’s take on the different forms of government; a pro-con debate filmed by BITV featuring Scales and the campaign’s Dennis Vogt; and a slick four-minute video on why the council-manager form works.
“We welcome debate,” Vogt said. “Dialogue is good for the community. People are hungry for information. There’s a general angst in the community that things aren’t right.”
What Vogt and others are counting on is that this is a community that votes intelligently, not negatively just because they can. And they are encouraged by the positive response to a message that persistently emphasizes the issue, not individuals.