Across the country, there has been a national anti-bullying movement in both schools and the work place. In politics, however, its business as usual; bullying is generally accepted and enabled out of fear of retaliation.
In East Contra Costa, we have a real-life game of “House of Cards” being played out behind the scenes which is not for the faint of heart. Candidates are shunned for standing on their own; left out of endorsements and financial support. It’s no longer political parties in Contra Costa who are in control, now it is political dictatorships who expect officials to fall in line rather than empowering them to advocate for the greater good.
The filing period has not yet closed in the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor race and there are already a variety of whisper campaigns being spread against multiple candidates, phony tales are being shared, and juicy gossip is being taken as fact—and people are repeating nonsense while eating it up. Meanwhile, endorsements and the piles of money are being prepared for distribution.
It’s a novel idea to think our local elected leaders are better than that, but it appears some are not. Some are even reverting back to the role of school yard bully all in the name of power and control.
Politics in Contra Costa County has become bizarre and frustrating. The bully is your friend today and tomorrow you are their arch enemy. Next comes the public accusations, cocktail party gossip—all the worst kind of bullying. As if that wasn’t bad enough, these folks are then targeted by the political machine in their next election seeking to take them out at all cost.
For example, a cautious tale as to what can happen if you don’t follow the line comes from Antioch several years ago when a councilmember voted for Walmart–even when she was right based off a California Court decision.
In response, this councilmember was bullied and eventually run out of office by various groups and elected officials. To this day, local elected leaders use this former council person as the prime example of what happens when one does not “fall in line” and vote the way they are told.
With a Board of Supervisor race taking off this week with the filing period now open, we can expect another election season of countless mailers featuring lies, to mudslinging—the goal is to bully and embarrass candidates out of the race.
This type of behavior is aimed to get the voters to question a candidate’s integrity, intelligence and character based on lies and innuendos.
In fact, one state elected official has decided to insert himself into a county election. This official has gone as far as to brag that he has lined up $75,000 in support of an Antioch Councilmember to put out mailers targeting candidates. This same elected official has directed his taxpayer supported staff to explore options into developing a bill that specifically targets one candidate in hopes of damaging their livelihood.
The question becomes, since when is it okay to slander and threaten someone intentionally all in the name of political power.
Furthermore, when is it okay for an elected official to abuse his political status and withhold resources by abandoning his elected duty to represent a city? For those unaware, the Oakley City Council has been told they will not receive state help unless they fire their city manager. Since the council has not given into to this demand, the state official has abandoned his duty to represent the city and withholds any assistance. In the end, Oakley residents and community organizations in need of help have been hurt.
In Brentwood, based on the political makeup of the City Council and the leaders of community groups, items that could benefit the Brentwood community are on hold due to political power plays at the state.
When it comes to endorsements, heaven forbid someone, a business or a labor group stands on their own and endorses the candidate they feel best aligns with their wants and needs versus what “the machine” wants them to do.
An elected leader recently declared anybody an enemy that doesn’t support his county supervisor candidate in the District 5 race. Under this scenario, does a city councilman or labor group now get unfavorable treatment going forward based on a difference of opinion in supporting a Martinez City Councilwoman? For labor groups, will this mean contract negotiations now become much more difficult with the county?
It should not be tolerated both by other elected officials or the public.
Of course, the common response is likely “get thicker skin” or “politics is for the big boys”. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The voters deserve a chance to get to know candidates, their ideas, solutions, what they stand for without outside influences confusing and misleading the public.
We would like to see Contra Costa move to higher level of behavior and expectations while not falling for such juvenile behavior such as campaign nonsense and drive-by hit pieces.
Contra Costa voters should reject any candidate who doesn’t focus on issues. Voters should look for candidates who stand on their accomplishments, forward thinking ideas and those who can stand by their convictions.
It’s safe to say we all know a bad politician when we see one, but it’s time to stop looking the other way when bad behavior rears its ugly head during the election season.
Politicians at all levels should be the example, not be the exception to the rule when it comes to bullying. These people need to be leaders and not followers.
Or, some people should simply grow up before serving the public.