He wants to hear solutions

Published 10:55 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tonight, Southampton County voters will have the opportunity to hear directly from several individuals who are vying for four seats on the county board of supervisors.

Steve Stewart, publisher of The Tidewater News, will ask questions submitted by readers.

I am not privy to those questions. But if I had to guess, I imagine they would deal with fairly broad topics, such as debt and taxes, jobs and schools.

I love watching political debates because I think they often reveal much about the candidates beyond their rehearsed responses to questions they know are coming their way. Debates give us insight into a candidate’s ability to perform under pressure and to think on their feet.

We get to see which candidates can clearly articulate their thoughts on various issues. Oftentimes we can determine which candidates have spent significant time preparing for a serious discussion of the issues, while identifying others who have shown up for the event utterly unprepared.

Some debate formats even encourage direct interaction between candidates, which often derails the process of serious topic-centered debate, but can produce memorable lines and define political legacies.

Most candidates will do a good job of telling us what is wrong and what is broken. We will certainly be reminded that Southampton County has accumulated a substantial amount of debt in recent years, while also experiencing consecutive years of tax increases.

Candidates will probably tell us the county is in need of economic development and new jobs, and they will question the leadership of those who have been involved in getting us to where we are today. There will probably be some taking of credit for a job well done. There will most likely be some finger pointing and laying of blame.

What is often lost, however, in the drama of a live debate such as the one being held tonight is that many candidates won’t actually have a plan. And a plan is precisely what we need more than anything.

Most of us who will vote in November are pretty well aware of our shortcomings and our economic state. We all want to pay down the county’s debt. We all want lower taxes. We want the best possible schools for our children and good-paying jobs for our friends and neighbors.

We may have varying opinions on how to achieve them, but we all essentially want the same thing — for our community to improve and become a better place to live.

So what I hope to hear tonight from candidates is a plan to fix the problems. Candidates need to take this opportunity to deliver solutions, and I hope those who do will get your votes. They’ll certainly get mine.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.