Erie At Large: Starry-eyed Politicians

Categories:  Erie At Large    News & Politics    Opinion
Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 at 6:30 AM

Suggestion is powerful. Especially when it validates an otherwise farcical reality.

Remember Herman Cain? He was the pizza pushing hack who ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2012 because someone told him his experience serving as the executive of a pizza chain qualified him to be President of the United States.

After all, aren’t the best politicians petered-out CEOs?

As we meander our way through the Erie region’s 2015 municipal election season and turn headstrong into the 2016 presidential contest, you’ll see a lot of this. But it won’t stop there.

The 2017 Democratic mayoral primary – our fair city’s true executive election – is going to be a meat grinder of subpar talent vying for the region’s top job because someone told each and every one of those candidates that they should run for mayor.

It’s going to start like the high school prom. Everyone will be well dressed and polite. But it will end like Carrie, where the “winners” point and laugh at the candidates who probably should have stayed home, if only it hadn’t been for the chorus of whispers in their ears telling them they were going to be king or queen of the prom.

The problem with anointing by flattery is that, over time, it distracts the players from their actual jobs, the very position that otherwise makes them a potentially viable candidate for the office they so covet. That’s because they begin to believe the trumped up accolades of loved ones and hangers on, and by virtue of their newfound hubris, they begin to believe that they are imminently qualified and no longer need to perform the critical duties that will ultimately make them stronger candidates.

We’re only approaching 2015 and already rumors of stonewalling and information hoarding on city council have begun to circulate. Such posturing and power grabs do little to advance an agenda of cooperation and collaboration that is so desperately needed to keep Erie’s bow pointed into the wind.

That’s because it seems that various members of city council are getting starry-eyed over the open field mayoral election, and it’s beginning to blind them from the task at hand, the task they were elected to carry out.

It’s only going to get worse as challengers from the private sector begin to emerge, propelled by their own sense of superiority and righteousness about the future of Erie.

The competition is healthy as long as the candidates are strong. Therein lies the problem.

The pool of candidates is bound to include a few folks whose names would be better placed on the speakers list at the next council meeting than on an electoral ballot.

It reminds me of Anthony Bourdain’s lament from his autobiographical tour of the culinary underworld, Kitchen Confidential, that too often in the restaurant business there are affable folks who throw nice dinner parties and serve as entertaining hosts until one day a party guest says, “You should open a restaurant.”

They’ve got some capital laying around, so why not?

But their table service for eight did little to prepare them for the rigor of the restaurant business, and in due time, the restaurant shutters, and their dreams of glamour and grandeur are gone.

There’s plenty of time before the official election season begins. So let’s throw a few more dinner parties and invite critical feedback and introspection before we start serving the public. That way, we’re less likely to have a bad taste in our mouth when it’s all said and done.

Jim Wertz can be contacted at, and you can follow him on Twitter @Jim_Wertz.

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