Good Luck

August 26th, 2019

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt


Recently, the Liberal Area Coalition for Families hosted a boot camp for candidates seeking to serve in public office, and while the goal to help candidates prepare to run is noble, some comments made by event organizer Kay Burtzloff indicated what was supposed to be nonpartisan may still be pushing a concerning agenda.

According to Burtzloff, “One of the things we identified early on is regardless of the quality of the people we have right now, the issue is that looking at our boards, they do not represent our community,” she said. “What I’m hoping is to find candidates who basically better represent our community, whether it’s a matter of diversity of the individual or geographic diversity. One of the issues we have is a lot of our candidates basically live in this same little area of town. We don’t have a lot of candidates from the south end of town. We don’t have a lot of candidates from other parts of the city. I’m really hoping we have candidates on the ballot who do a better job of representing our community.”

The area of concern revolves around the idea that those serving on our boards “do not represent our community.”

First, this seems to be a claim that incumbents are not representing the community as a whole for one of two reasons, they are not diverse enough, or they do not live in each neighborhood in town.

Let’s start with where the current people serving live.

By law, school board and city commission elections are not done by district or by party. They are nonpartisan at-large elections.

Take, for example, the Seward County Commission, which is partisan and representative by district. One complaint often heard is that we each only get to vote for one of the five because they serve only one district of the county. There is something to be said for at-large elections which allow all voters to select every member of the board.

As far as candidates from each part of town, there are no limitations on where a person lives. Five candidates south of Pancake Boulevard have just as much of a chance to serve as five north of Fifteenth Street.

If an effort is to be made, it should be focusing on getting voter turnout in other areas of the community. Once all neighborhoods are voting, it will be much easier to get candidates to run.

But the bigger issue is this idea of diversity of candidates.

In a sense, Burtzloff is telling us that we are only represented if the person serving is the same color or gender as we are.

“The diversity of the individual” is identity politics plain and simple.

When I cast my vote for Mayor Connie Seigrist, does that mean I should have voted for a male instead since I am male? Does it mean Mayor Seigrist doesn’t represent me since she is a woman and I am a man?

Of course not. Seigrist represents all the people of Liberal, as does Jack Carlile, Taylor Harden, Ron Warren and Tony Martinez.

If they do not, they should not be re-elected.

But to believe we have to elect people based on their diversity is ridiculous and dangerous.

Yes, Liberal is majority Hispanic, and Hispanics have run for office.

But the ones who have seen little success are those who run “to represent Hispanics.”

What if a white person ran saying they will “represent Caucasians?” We would reject them as a racist.

This is the problem with identity politics. We shouldn’t be voting for people based on the color of their skin or their gender but on their positions on the issues.

Caucasians vote for non-Caucasians at a higher rate than any ethnic group.

But the danger in this identity approach would make some believe “I am not represented by those serving because they are different than me.” Why would they follow the rules if they do not believe those rules apply to them?

This is a dangerous premise, and I would hope the Coalition would clarify that those who volunteer to run and serve in public office should be commended and not accused of representing only a small part of our community as a whole.

In this case, Burtzloff is actually encouraging people to vote not based on issues but on color, which would actually create the very problem we don’t have — representation based on factions.

Here is a lesson they may have missed at Burtzloff’s boot camp for candidates — if you are going to run for office, be prepared to listen to those who may be different than you. Realize that if you serve the community you serve all of us, not just those who agree with you or look like you.

When you serve in public office, your color and your sex are irrelevant. What is relevant is being responsible with taxpayer dollars, fixing the pot holes, providing a quality education and making sure everyone has a shot to succeed in Liberal.

Burtzloff went on to say, “I’m really hoping we have candidates on the ballot who do a better job of representing our community.”

Is she saying the current office holders don’t?

If we only see each other as different than ourselves, we will never see each other as brothers and sisters, as a community family. In this narrow way of seeing each other, we will only see someone as a race or gender. That is no way to cast a ballot.

In the end, we are all Americans, Kansans and Liberal citizens. We succeed or fail together, and I want the best candidates, whether they all be Hispanic, African American, Caucasian or otherwise. 

I don’t need someone to look like me to represent me. I want someone who has a clear vision for our future and a plan for getting us there. I want them to share that vision during the campaign and allow the voters to make educated decisions.

I encourage candidates of all walks of life to run, but in the end, it’s not your past that matters. It’s your plan for the future that is important. We have a community that I believe now more than ever is trying to find ways to work together, to serve each other and to grow our community in a way that will benefit all of us.

Our leaders should represent all of us, and as candidates, I suggest you take this view, too.

Pick your language/Elige su idioma

Liberal Income Tax-front
Lib Coalition-learn & play