Motivating factor in City Politics
Last column we renewed some old hack bashing, reminiscing about failed candidates and other losers from the Ghost of City Politics Past. While polishing up the old darts to toss at some of our favorite befuddled targets, it got us to thinking.
What would possibly possess a soul to run for local political office?
This question is all the more timely, as Younes “Tony” Dia has announced that he would run for Toledo City Council immediately rather than seek appointment to replace one of the Fallen Four. Why seek the easy road when you can set out on the hard scrabble path to personal destruction?
Of course, the answer for each potential pol is unique to them. But there are a few common threads to be teased.
It’s all about the bennies
An obvious answer is personal ambition. Think Stepping Stone Lopez, for one. Folks for whom one ejected position is but a stepping off point for the next. Elected office is a ladder, a hierarchy to be climbed.
For others, running for office is an ego stroke. Simply by virtue of being on the ballot, candidates are suddenly considered credible in ways they could never be as private citizens. Even if they don’t win, they have had their moments in the sun. For those that win, those moments shine brighter and hotter.
Of course, there’s the money. Although no one gets rich in local political office, most positions provide a comfortable living. The exception is school board, which pays next to nothing. It’s more often instead used as a springboard to higher office. See A Lo, above.
The bennies are another story. Most elected positions provide great health insurance, life insurance, and other benefits. Important stuff for those who can’t get such perks elsewhere. And the pension is pretty good, too, if you stay in office long enough. Which is why so many pols jump from office to office, or seek public employment after their stint as an elected is through.
Think George Sarantou, who sought several other offices while facing term limits on Council, only to repeatedly fall short. He ended up getting rewarded with a public job in the office of Judge Jack Puffenberger, a job for which he had basically zero qualifications.
Lest you think the opportunity for graft and corruption is a motivation, rest assured the Fallen Four are the exception, not the rule. And we doubt it motivated them, either.
On a better note, there are those motivated by the notion of public service, working for the common good. Others believe they have something critical to offer, like Katie Moline, the only CPA on council. This gives Moline a unique insight into the complexities of the city budget.
Burning desire to serve
Which brings us back to Dia, who is running against Moline this November for the seat vacated by Sandy Spang. What motivates him?
He’s the father of slain TPD officer Anthony Dia, and says he wants to serve to do more for police. He’s given little indication of what exactly the city isn’t doing for police.
We won’t join the chorus of folks speculating that he’s only using the tragedy of his son’s death for his own personal ambition. Maybe he thinks his background as a former strip club owner would bring a unique perspective to Council. A perspective that Moline, as a financial professional, can’t provide. Or maybe he needs the bennies, since his clubs burned down after he was charged with operating them illegally.
Perhaps we’ll never know Dia’s real motivations. Prob won’t matter, as we doubt he’ll win. More likely he’ll join the list of whackadoos who run and fail miserably, to be cast into the dustbin of doofuses with the rest of them.