By the San Marcos Local News editorial board
For a variety of general reasons, we do not give endorsements to specific candidates in political elections. At times, there may also be specific reasons.
For example, in the case of this year’s race for mayor of San Marcos, we would risk insulting the reader’s intelligence. Everybody who reads our editorials and follows the city council can tell that our positions are broadly like those of Councilmember John Thomaides, one of the mayoral candidates. As Thomaides is the only council candidate with a record of casting votes that we like for the couple years that we’ve been around, it is reasonable to believe that we like his policy emphasis as a fit for the mayor’s office.
It’s also well known that the publisher of San Marcos Local News, Scott Gregson, is an avowed Thomaides supporter who has contributed to his political efforts. It’s less well known that the rest of us are less enthusiastic. We agree that Thomaides would stem the tide of reflexive acquiescence to developers at whatever cost to the common weal, whether it be bailouts with city funds or clearance to build excessively over the Edwards Aquifer and compromise existing neighborhoods. Everything else being equal, we will argue for aquifer protection and responsible spending every time. The names and faces are mostly irrelevant.
But we were interested to see what the candidacy of former Councilmember Daniel Guerrero would offer. We don’t have the God’s eye view. Always, we hold opinions provisionally, willing to revise them in the light of compelling new evidence, and, if the evidence is good enough, it might even force us to adjust a range of beliefs to accommodate the evidence. There really are no first principles here, except for that. If somebody comes along with a good case for why policies that we oppose are the most fruitful, we want to hear it, compare it with our view, kick the tires, refine our understanding and develop a clearer picture as we go along. The process is called “learning,” which extends not just personal experience, but to the process of self-government among humane persons of good will.
That process of learning, in which human beings develop through problem solving and communities grow in the exploration of shared interests and conflicts, is why we so revere democracy as a form of government, regardless of how badly it fails us, or we fail it. In a well-functioning democracy, personal growth and the community’s self-understanding are co-mingled through the public processes of argument, compromise, give some here, take some there, fixing up solutions to common challenges, respecting the legitimacy of the opposition and working for the well being of the whole, as we understand it. It stands to reason that during the election season, as we select new leadership, we are interested in the views of our candidates with respect to the pressing issues.
As an answer to that interest, we have found Guerrero’s candidacy deeply disappointing. To be more blunt, we are rudely insulted as conscientious voters and advocates of a constructive democratic process. It’s not so much that Guerrero opposes our positions as that he barely addresses them because he is plainly hostile to democracy, demonstrating precious little grasp or good will with respect to the public process, despite (maybe because of) having spent four years on the city council under outgoing Mayor Susan Narvaiz.
Rather than edify us with a compelling vision of the future squared with an approach for getting there, Guerrero has elaborated a string of badly aimed attacks against his opponent, only to demonstrate that he’s not even good at being negative. In his zeal to make fools of the voters, Daniel Guerrero has made a fool of himself.
Last week, the Austin American-Statesman pointed up three specific distortions in Guerrero’s characterization of his opponent’s voting record. The list could go on much longer, and almost all of them are absolute howlers, rendered insensible by anything less than paranormal chains of intentional causation or some dumbfounded lack of acuity.
As the Statesman pointed out, there was a city council vote on April 4, 2006, as to whether the city should sell or trade a piece of land on Interstate-35. Thomaides wanted to sell the land to pay for cost over-runs on the Rio Vista Dam project. The vote went 4-3 to trade the land, rather than sell it. So, the city was going to trade the land. On Aug. 15 of that year, McCoy’s brought forth a proposal to trade for the land and build its corporate headquarters there. Thomaides voted for that proposal.
How does Guerrero add it up? Thomaides voted against McCoy’s. That’s what Guerrero believes on the basis of those facts. That’s his conclusion, communicated on the mailers he sent out to voters saying that Thomaides voted against McCoy’s. You lay out a set of facts for Daniel Guerrero, and that’s the kind of conclusion he draws. That is his aptitude when it comes to sizing up a situation. He wants to be the mayor of San Marcos.
In attack after attack, Guerrero reveals the same semantic ineptitude and befuddlement about causal processes, raising little confidence in his ability to recognize a problem, let alone act on it. Rather than discredit his opponent on policy grounds, Guerrero has repeatedly called into question his own reliability as a perceiving subject.
Guerrero recently sent out a mailer saying Thomaides lowered the homestead exemption on property tax for senior citizens. In fact, as the Statesman reported, Thomaides voted to raise the exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. In fact, as the Statesman reported, Guerrero voted against that increase in the homestead exemption. Guerrero said he wanted $40,000. Guerrero’s conclusion: Thomaides voted to lower the homestead exemption.
Guerrero also said Thomaides voted against the City of San Marcos Conference Center when, in fact, Thomaides voted against negotiating with John Q. Hammons to put the center at Spring Lake and voted for a contract to place it on Interstate-35. Again, if Guerrero just doesn’t grasp these distinctions, which aren’t subtle, then we suppose his leadership is likely to be confused and incompetent.
As it turns out, Guerrero neither crafts nor speaks for his own political messaging. When the Statesman asked him for an explanation, Guerrero directed the newspaper to his consultant, Jerod Patterson, who proceeded to put his own vapidity on full display. Said Patterson to the Statesman, “If at any one time these votes had gone his way, we wouldn’t have the conference center, McCoy’s or all these jobs,” as if there were any causal relation or logical equivalence at all between the contents of those claims and the votes Thomaides cast.
Sadly, Guerrero fares no better when he speaks for himself. On our pages, he made the remarkable suggestion that the city’s $20 million tax giveaway for the Paso Robles development, a deal the likes of which is unprecedented around here, really wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it hadn’t been “politicized.” Certainly, we object to it, as it is our absolute right and the absolute right of others who agree with us when the city goes so obviously wrong. That’s just democracy in action. But democracy apparently leaves Guerrero cold. It’s rather confusing to his sense of order that a political issue should be politicized. Even better, Guerrero claimed that his opponent politicized the contract with firefighters, apparently not comprehending that the firefighters worked that deal as a result of their own politicization – in other words, they politicized it — and that, as Guerrero’s utterly messy campaign finance filings show, they are his largest contributor. Guerrero is, indeed, the largest beneficiary of the firefighters’ politicization. But Guerrero wants us to believe his opponent politicized that deal for his own benefit.
As we describe Guerrero’s attacks against his opponent, we’ve mostly refrained from accusing him of overt mean-spiritedness and proposed that a lack of candle power might lie behind his depiction of events. That gives us pause, because we don’t believe anyone is actually that clueless. But if Guerrero really does see events more clearly and says what he says anyway, then he must be deliberately misleading voters.
We’re not the first to note that such an approach, taken to the degree that Guerrero has taken it, is utterly contemptuous of the voter. It treats voters as if truth need be no part of the bargain with them, so long as they are taken in by credible-sounding statements. It supposes that voters will be motivated to the extent that they are enraged and confounded, anything but informed.
But, wait a minute, you say. Daniel Guerrero holds a masters degree in organizational leadership and ethics from St. Edward’s University. We’re supposed to believe that a man with an advanced degree in leadership and ethics from St. Ed’s would intentionally lie to or mislead voters? Here’s the problem: If we don’t believe that, then we need another account for the truthlessness of his claims, and that brings us back to the proposal that he simply doesn’t have the wits to add together the events of a narrative, and that his statements, therefore, aren’t lies because he is dishonest, but they are wrong because his comprehension of events is inadequate.
It could, though, be some of both, along with something else. We have always believed that Guerrero is a decent, earnest fellow, so we are mystified by this turn he has taken. We sometimes wonder if, in the important ways, Daniel Guerrero really has little or nothing to do with any of this, that he is a coat hanger being fitted for the mayor’s clothes by the interests who pay the consultants who get him elected. We believe at times that Guerrero has made a deal with the devil, that he is cannon fodder, giving away his good name in the service of his ambition, immersing our public process and his own reputation in an ooze of political sleaze that is neither of his design nor of his making. He’s just marching. In the process, he is diminished, corrupted, drawn to forces more powerful than himself, lost to them, beholden to them. Assuming that Guerrero is a better than average man, we see human tragedy, and hope it does not become the city’s problem.
Tuesday is Election Day, reminding us of a verity for which too few people are willing to take responsibility: People get the government they deserve. As always, we recommend that you vote for the candidates of your choice.Email | Print