Recently. on TOPIX Kingsland, "someone" with what may well be the most virulent case of JDS in the county posed the question what would I do with this blog if I deceded to run for the District 4 county commission seat, now held by Charlene Sears, and won. Of course, the question was actually a hate-filled, accusatory, polemic, but that was the essential question.
Well, let me think about that.
On the one hand, I certainly do not think that any elected official should foreswear his First Amendment rights the moment he is sworn in. Now, traditionally, once someone is elected, they immediately begin to parse their words very carefully based upon political considerations - i.e., how will this effect my chances the next time I run. That is utterly antithetical to my nature. I'm definitely a "tell-it-like-it-is" or at least a "tell-it-as-I-see-it" (which is almost always the same thing) kind of person.
Having said that, the question shifts from what I would do to what I should do. In other words, should my public utterances be tempered in any way by virtue of my being an elected official. Well, the concept of "avoding even the APPEARANCE of a conflcit of interest" comes to mind. Unlike the incumbent in the District 4 race, I have a total understanding of the true meaning of that maxim and would certainly comply with not only the letter of the law but the spirit of that dictum. Now, it seems to me that an analogous situation would arise insofar as it might be hard to distingusih whether I was writng in my capacity as a private citizen or a county commissioner. In some instances, such as the story of my ongoing battle with the moles or the eagle sighting, the distinction would be a moot point.
In the case of my critcizing the actions of the mayors and councils of the three municipalities, to include satirizing certain members thereof, it certainly would be an issue. Ditto for praising the product and service of one taxpaying Camden business owner while panning another. My unquestionable First Amendment right to do so as a private citizen notwithstanding, insofar as there might be even the appearance of an impropriety coming from a sitting commissioner, it would seem that I would need to take a decision to avoid "even the appearance."
So, after some thought, here is what I will do if elected. Rather than delete Camden Commentary in its entirety, which can be done with one keystroke, I will keep it alive. However, subsequent to my election, I will publish on it far less frequently. Politics, restaurant reviews, reports of city council meetings, etc., will be off limits. Innocuous, apolitical puff pieces will be the order of the day. Oh, and the ads may or may not remain. I see absolutely no conflcit there.
So much for Camden Commentary. If I do take the decision to run, I will start a new blog. It will intially be a campaign blog. In the event that I am elected, I will use that blog to communicate with my constituents as an individual county commissioner. That is as opposed to speaking for the entire county commision. One of the things that has always bugged me when I attend county commission meetings is the wham-bam nature in which many agenda items are moved along with no attempt whatsoever to explain to the attending public what an agenda item is about. I would use that blog to ensure that all Camdenians could find out, in easily understandable terms, what all agenda items are really about, my position on the matter, and why I've taken that position. If my comments would serve to sway another commissioner or two to my way of thinking on a given issue, so much the better. Insofar as commenting upon the actions of any of the cities' legislative bodies, I would comment only upon those which would directly involve the county goverment.
I think that this is a good and workable solution.