On Friday, I sent Gow Fields and Jim Verplanck a pair of softball questions. The campaign is near the end and I didn’t see a need to ask questions they’ve answered a hundred times before. I wanted to see the spirit of the men in their answers to those two particular questions.
If I had waited, I could have seen that spirit in the postcards I found in my mailbox Saturday night. A slim pair of cards from Fields and Verplanck. I read them with growing discomfort and disappointment. After a campaign that has been cleaner than most, the two candidates had picked up the mud and let fly.
If you didn’t receive either of the mailers (illustrated at left), I won’t subject you to their full invective. However, I have to address a trio of the points. Verplanck chided Fields for casting a vote to approve the much scorned Lakeland Electric/FMPA contract. A vote that Verplanck once supported, “I don’t know what I would have done differently. The commission trusted the city manager and the people running Lakeland Electric. I have to be honest, I would have trusted the administration and voted to approve that contract.”
Don’t believe Fields is mud free on the subject. Using the same Ledger interview, Fields tossed a bit of Polk County dirt on Verplanck by using the same quote — the one where Verplanck defended Field’s vote — and saying it was in response to “questions on how different decisions could’ve saved residents millions.” The postcard from Fields didn’t list the actual question, “What would you have done to prevent the problems that have occurred in Lakeland Electric?” Again, Verplanck was basically stating he would have voted with Fields on the FMPA contract. As Amy Poehler and Seth Myers would say, “Seriously? Really?”
Verplanck boldly mentioned that Fields voted to raise property taxes by 18.4% in 2003. He could have mentioned the Ledger also reported that “Supporters of the tax increase far outnumbered the opponents in the audience.” This is a case where merely printing that how an opponent voted doesn’t give the full story. However, Fields did little better by claiming Verplanck “missed a key vote on setting the property tax rate.” That vote came at a public meeting budget workshop, not a regular city commission meeting. As Diane Lacey Allen reported after the meeting, “Lakeland didn’t officially lock into its current millage rate Wednesday. The commission can still decide on a lower property tax.”
Finally, Fields pointed out that “Jim Verplanck doesn’t own his own business” in what sounds suspiciously like “Doesn’t own his home! 2009.” Meanwhile, Verplanck gave us a fine example of Ad Hominem Tu Quoque with his admonishment “Isn’t that what he was supposed to be doing for the last 17 years?” to Fields’ claims to cut “ineffective and waste” in the City budget.
It’s telling that the two candidates each took that low road so close to the end. There’s little time for response — though Rick Rousos has a fair piece in today’s Ledger.
Which gives voters the best idea of the person you’d be as Mayor — a fact-laden postcard of your own accomplishments or an innuendo-filled diatribe of half-truths and out-of-context quotes?
On Saturday, Gow Fields and Jim Verplanck mailed in their answers.