The trouble with American politics these days is that politicians are too concerned with advertising themselves rather than explaining who they are and what they want to achieve.
Candidates for public office have no problem sending out fliers, making robo-calls and spouting 30-second soundbites on television in order to make their case for election. They tell voters that they should give them their vote, but they never fully explain why they deserve it more than their opponent. All too often, voters choose candidates who wind up listening not to their needs, but rather the needs of themselves and their party.
This newspaper sought to change the tone by co-sponsoring with the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) a debate between the two candidates in the Ninth Congressional District—Assemblyman David Weprin and businessman Bob Turner—on Monday, Aug. 29. But the debate was cancelled at the last minute after Weprin’s team informed us that the candidate couldn’t make it.
His reasons for pulling out drew great criticism, but lost in all the hooplah is that voters were denied a great opportunity to learn more about their next congressman and the kind of issues either Weprin or Turner would fight for on Capitol Hill.
Two Times Newsweekly reporters were scheduled to be on the debate panel, and they came up with a host of questions challenging both Weprin and Turner on a number of issues important to local residents.
The candidates were going to be asked for their opinion on the Port Authority’s Cross Harbor Freight Rail Study, which follows a previous study that recommended the construction of the “Cross Harbor Tunnel” linking Brooklyn and New Jersey. The plan was ultimately shelved following great opposition raised by local communities who feared the project would destroy their neighborhoods.
Weprin and Turner would also have been asked to provide their own ideas for resolving the health care crisis in Queens resulting from the closure of four hospitals since 2008. Moreover, they would have been challenged to come up with ideas to keep Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway alive, as the medical center is also in danger of closing.
Both candidates were also going to be asked to share their ideas for bringing more police officers to New York City, funding local infrastructure improvements, resolving quality-of-life problems related to current freight rail traffic in the area and, yes, even balancing the budget.
Moreover, our reporters were ready to challenge both candidates to rate the performance of their fellow party members. Weprin and Turner would have had the chance to explain their support of the president and Congress and how they would help make Washington less dysfunctional than it currently is.
Sadly, these questions will go unanswered. Instead of experiencing a real debate and getting real answers from the politicians, our readers are left to make their choice in the special election on Sept. 13 based largely on party pamphlets, attack ads and flashy soundbites offered by the Turner and Weprin camps which offer little to no substance to voters.
How can voters make a good choice when they have no real way to learn what the politicians truly stand for?
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