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Things to ask yourself before voting

Date: 10/22/2015

For those of us who watch politics in the same way as some people watch sports, this has been an interesting season so far – to say the least.

Specifically, I watch the races as much as I can in Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee and there has been a lot to watch, not all of it good.

Angelique Fiske, who covers Westfield, West Springfield and Agawam in our MetroWest edition, has told me those races have been pretty straightforward so far.

The problem is with the cities I cover there has been a varying degree of drama surrounding the contests that has distracted voters from considering the key issue: who is the best person for the job.

I’ve not liked the trend I’ve seen of one candidate consenting to a debate while another declines, with the result of someone “debating” an empty chair. Now I understand that some incumbents may not wish to debate a challenger for any number of political strategy issues, but I personally believe it’s a mistake.

We’ve seen various name-calling this year and attacks, but frankly while these tactics are a time-honored part of American politics they are tiring and counter-productive to me and, I suspect, a large group of voters.

If I may be so bold to suggest criteria to evaluate candidates for mayor and city council allow me suggest asking yourself the following questions:

Have you looked at the record of accomplishment for an incumbent? Has that person successfully undertaken initiatives that mean something to you?

Does a challenger have a background that would indicate he or she understands what is happening in the community?

Has a challenger identified specific issues and presented solutions to solve those issues?

Has a campaign been marked by attacks from one candidate to another?

Has a candidate fallen back on the age-old political talking point that he or she will improve education and lower crime? Have they offered any real solutions that include funding to back up their statement?

Has an incumbent been responsive to constituent calls or emails? Have they provided solutions to problems?

Has an incumbent truly represented their supporters or has he or she used the office to advance a different agenda?

Have you actually been paying attention to a race before voting?

You have probably noticed I haven’t mentioned the character issue and that is because it is the most subjective of all political considerations. President Bill Clinton, for example, was reviled by some for his character flaws and forgiven by others largely because of the accomplishments of his presidency. Who is right?

One can’t discount the “likability” factor of any candidate, incumbent or not, but frankly I don’t think it should be the first consideration. Competency, responsiveness, background and accomplishments are more important in getting the job done.

I know that many people cast their vote because of party, ethnic background, gender and name recognition. In my mind these aren’t  very important.

With Election Day around the corner, do some homework and truly make your vote count.

Right here in Western Massachusetts

I can’t tell you what a thrill for this writer and lover of history to get the opportunity of touring the offices of Merriam-Webster last week on the birthday of Noah Webster was.

This is another of Springfield’s and the region’s claims to fame. The dictionary of note has been published here for more than 100 years. The history of the company is detailed through a marvelous display of vintage photos they have on display there.

I couldn’t help but notice other media outlets didn’t make it to this event. Yes, it’s a soft feature rather than hard news, but considering how often some outlets report about the positive aspects of life or the history of Hampden County it would have been refreshing for them.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.