“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
-- Harry S. Truman
Running for political office and then serving in a position where the public has a right to email and call nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is a difficult task.
Further, elected officials quickly find out that many decisions they make are not going to please every constituent — or the press.
To be a good official, a candidate has to accept the fact that he or she will face criticism, and then respond to it with consideration.
There was a time when elected officials understood this and didn’t take every disagreement as a personal attack on their character or an accusation that they were not representing their constituents.
We seem to have a breed of politicians today who, though they want to represent us, can’t take any heat for their decisions. Some even go out of their way to attack people daring to express disappointment.
During the past few weeks, we’ve been dealing with such a politician locally.
Chris Smith, the current Covington city councilman representing the East Ward, was offered the opportunity to appear at a public forum. He declined to participate in any forum, saying it was too short of a notice with early voting starting up. But he did agree to answer written questions from the paper and readers.
His opponent, Maurice Carter, was offered the same opportunities and accepted both of them, saying he will meet anywhere, anytime.
Smith has now withdrawn his agreement to do the Q and A, which would have allowed him to share his plans in a public forum.
Why did Smith change his mind about this? He did so because of a critical column in Friday’s newspaper, written by community columnist Barbara Morgan, an independent contractor.
Morgan, whose column appears weekly on our opinion pages, receives a small monthly stipend, as do other columnists who write for the newspaper. In fact, candidate Maurice Carter was also a community columnist, but he suspended his column while running for public office.
In her column, Morgan did not mention names but wrote about the value of public debates and expressed disappointment that there would be no public forum for the city council candidates. These were Morgan’s thoughts, not necessarily the thoughts of the editorial staff of this newspaper; however, we believe gathering and sharing community opinions is a core function of a community newspaper.
On Friday, Smith and his family made a visit to Morgan’s home and to our editor’s office to express their displeasure that the column had appeared.
We offered Smith the opportunity to respond, but he chose not to. Instead, he said he will never talk to this newspaper again.
We’re sorry to see an elected official put himself in a box like this, but it’s his decision.
Politics is about debating the issues intelligently and honestly. Once one issue is settled, we all have to move on to the next one, whether we won or lost.
If Smith is going to bristle at every challenge, we question his ability to honestly work with people to solve the problems of a city that’s been trying to rise above an enduring economic depression.