I'm not a candidate, but I play one in this column

Reality column: How would each of us answer real questions posed by voters?

August 25, 2010|By Dan Rodricks

There were a few questions, e-mailed by listeners, that I didn't get to during my radio show Tuesday with Joe Bartenfelder and Kevin Kamenetz, the Democratic primary candidates for Baltimore County executive. And the candidates left — Farmer Joe by pickup truck — before I could ask them to answer the leftovers.

But I had a thought: How would I answer these questions, especially those that seem to come from deep left field? Politicians are asked to answer all kinds of voter or constituent questions on the spot, on live radio or television, in candidate forums, at town halls — and they have to at least try to sound smart, informed and deferential, which means they often can't say what they'd really like to say.

I'm not running for Baltimore County executive, but I thought I'd do a little role reversal today and give it a try.

Here's how I'd answer some of the real questions that came for Mr. Kamenetz and Mr. Bartenfelder the other day.

From Trish: "Please ask the candidates how they plan to use PUDs in the future. These plans were used repeatedly to usurp the wishes of the existing community in favor of developers. There are many of us who would like PUDs to disappear."

Dear Trish: I'm sorry. Let me get back to you. I'm not going to be a PUD-knocker unless I know what a PUD is. Next question, please …

From Jennifer: "Back in July, one of Kevin's campaign signs were found along Rossville Blvd. rigged with 19 razor-blades and just a few days after there were at least 2 signs found with needles bordering the signs. I would like to know what is Mr. Kamenetz's take on this public safety issue and if he supports the idea of someone using his signs as intent to maim."

Dear Jennifer: Thanks for the loaded question. Do you think I support razor blades on signs? I can't control what everybody does, and I frankly don't know all my supporters. If you see campaign signs with dangerous objects attached to them, call me. I keep a shovel and a rake in the trunk of my car. I'll come over with the tools, clamp the signs between the two, pull them out of the ground and take them away. Or, as a concerned citizen, you should feel free to do the same and save me the trip.

From Henry: "What steps does the possible future County Executive plan to take to ensure that people not eligible for county services do not receive those county services paid for by the citizens of the county?"

Dear Henry: Be a little more specific. What are you talking about? Are you talking about kids who go to schools in Baltimore County but do not live here? We can do something about that. Are you talking about seniors from Baltimore City using Baltimore County senior centers? I doubt we'd put a stop to that. If it's undocumented workers you're concerned about, amigo, then don't expect too much from me. We're not going to have Baltimore County police officers checking to see if someone is an illegal immigrant before responding to a call for help, and we're not going to kick the children of undocumented workers out of our schools. If you want that in a candidate, you should look somewhere else. Next question …

From Kristine: "I live in Rodgers Forge near Towson and street parking is becoming an increasing problem. Most homes here have no garage and no parking pad so we can only park on the street. Some homeowners have five cars parked on the street — between the two parents' cars, the teenagers' cars, etc. What are Mr. Bartenfelder's and Mr. Kamenetz's thoughts on how something like this can be addressed? Is there something the county can do to relieve the problem?"

Dear Kristine: Four, five cars? What on Earth is one family doing with four or five cars? Obviously, we need to put more effort into improving and expanding public transportation and getting people to use it. I'd favor taxing every family in certain densely populated areas $1,000 for every car over two, then putting the money into localized shuttle services or circulators in their area.

Man, this is easy.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. He is the host of Midday with Dan Rodricks on WYPR-FM. His e-mail is dan.rodricks@baltsun.com.

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