Election cycle will have heavy bearing on county's future

We are about to hear those famous words, "Let the games begin" as athletes from around the world converge to prove who among them is the best at the Olympic games. But the games have already begun here at home; not by athletes, but by politicians and wannabe politicians running for the office of county commissioner.

Unlike the games in Beijing, where the outcome is based on performance and the winners ascend the winner's dais for their medals, the outcome of the political games here won't really be known until the winners take their place on the commissioners' dais next year to perform their duties as representatives of the people. How they perform will determine the future of our quality of life in Douglas County for decades to come.

So as the smoke from wildfires slowly lifts, the smoke of political rhetoric settles in - oversized post cards in your mailbox, yard signs, door hangers, big signs along major roads, phone calls, and knocks at the door, each with a competitor making promises to be a winner for you, the registered voter.

Unlike Olympic athletes, where performance is the measure of winners, in these games the winners will be selected on promises " promises based on what each candidate and his or her advisers thinks you want to hear.

What's a voter to do? How do you separate the political smoke from the character and core values of these candidates? That's where Citizens for Accountable Government enters the game.

Totally nonpartisan and thoroughly unbiased, this organization of concerned citizens assembled a group of retired and semi-retired Douglas County residents " all professional people with many years of executive experience in major corporations or nonprofit organizations " to conduct team interviews with all the commissioner candidates and share the results with voters so you have more than campaign promises on which to judge the merits of each.

The process was the same for all the candidates " a written invitation sent to each, with a follow-up invitation to those who did not initially respond. A phone call or two was made to those still not responding, and a message was left if the call was not answered. Short of knocking on their door, every effort was made to reach and accommodate their busy schedules.

Six of the 10 candidates chose to participate, and the result of each interview will be published in The Record-Courier in the coming days ahead of the primary election.

As any of the participants will tell you, the two-hour plus interviews were conducted in a very formal and professional manner. Prior to the interview, each candidate was asked to provide a personal biography, including their background and qualifications for office, and a list of organizations with which they have an affiliation, if that information was not available elsewhere.

All six participating candidates were asked the same 10 questions, with follow-up questions to expand or clarify their answers. The questions were designed to draw them out, to determine how they process information when making decisions and other things you probably won't read in their campaign literature or hear at town hall meetings.

The focus of CAG is on transparency in the PROCESS of government, NOT POLICY, so questions weren't based on how they would vote on growth, the airport or other issues, but rather on HOW THEY DECIDE to vote on anything. For example, how open to citizen input might they be as opposed to special interest lobbying, and how will they go about getting that input? They were asked to list the qualities they would look for in a commissioner, thus giving a glimpse into their own character.

Questions were directed to determine their vision for Douglas County in the next four, 10 and 20 years, and what they will do to assure that vision becomes a reality? They were also asked what qualities and skills they will look for when hiring the next County Manager, and how will they work with that person.

Policy was not entirely overlooked, and each was asked to list their top five platform issues. Follow-up questions allowed the interviewers to assess how accountable each might be in serving the expressed will of the people. Without exception, the most difficult question for each candidate to answer focused on how they developed their position on issues - what physical and mental processes they used.

However, the most telling question regarding their openness and personal transparency was if would they divulge their list of campaign contributors on a weekly basis? Nearly all said they would, and did so immediately. CAG will follow-up and maintain a list for each candidate showing the number and amount of contributions received.

Following each question, the candidate was asked if the interview panel had accurately recorded their answer and given a chance to agree or correct the written record. A summary of the interview has been provided to each candidate to assure accuracy in the published version of their answers.

In summary, this was not a walk in the park for any of the candidates, and any that might tell you otherwise is pulling your leg. The integrity of CAG as a nonpartisan and unbiased organization was maintained throughout the process. The results of the interviews will be published to provide the citizens of Douglas County with a fair and balanced analysis of the six candidates who participated. You will have to judge the others from their campaign literature and spoken words.

Accountability to those who elect them is also important to this organization, so CAG won't go away after the election. A periodic "report card" will be published so voters can see at a glance how their County Commissioners live up to their campaign promises, and how transparent government becomes under their leadership.

For detailed information on the results of the interviews or to join/support CAG, please write CAG at Post Office Box 892, Minden, NV 89423 or email CAG at mailcag@charter.net.


n Bob Ballou is a Minden resident and a member of Citizens for Accountable Government.

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