By all accounts, Randy Stumler is a nice guy—a father, a teacher, a concerned neighbor willing to help. I even yelled at him once and he didn’t slug me or anything. I guess that’s what makes the following all the more confusing.
When Stumler took over as Floyd County Democratic Party Chairman a year ago, people put their faith in him as a change agent, ready and willing to guide the local party out of its self-inflicted malaise and into forward motion. Though I’ve never dedicated myself to any particular party nor met the man personally, I, too, had hopes that his ascension to the party chair was symbolic of an attitudinal shift and a fresh approach to local politics.
Since that time, Stumler and other party leaders have, unfortunately, done little to publicly define what local Democrats hope to accomplish or by what mechanisms they may choose to pursue those goals. As Roger alluded in his recent No, wait -- not on the carpet!, the near total unwillingness of party officials to communicate even the most basic explanation of party intent or standard is baffling. Besides leaving discerning citizens to believe that declaring oneself a Floyd County Democrat is essentially meaningless, it gives the impression that Stumler isn’t so much marching towards progress as he is relying on the same preconceived, shopworn notions of personal popularity and blind party loyalty that created the need for new leadership in the first place.
When I broached that topic with Stumler, he explained to me that it was not the job of political parties to advocate for specific public interests. Admittedly, that’s about the time my frustration got the better of me and I raised my voice. According to his view, policy stances are the sole purview of individual candidates and the party’s job is to help them get elected, regardless of how conflicting those stances may be.
It’s instructive then for voters to review the campaign literature of those individual candidates to get any sense of what the party represents. Since Stumler is currently a candidate for County Commissioner, I recommend that readers take the time to thoroughly review the materials at RandyStumler.com. One quickly notices that two months out from the general election, the links to “Goals” and “Commissioners: Why they are important” aren’t links at all. There’s nothing there. There is, however, a link to a printable brochure. In it, Stumler highlights his commitment to the recent county subdivision control ordinance and I commend him for it.
There’s also a photo showing Stumler near a dumpster at the New Albany Street Department with a caption that reads “Randy Started Community Clean Up Days”. Readers can certainly interpret that visual information any way they choose, but suffice it to say that most would probably agree there’s an implication of concern for cleaning up the city and an attempt to illicit praise—and votes-- for that concern.
When one reviews the recent history of the clean up effort in New Albany, however, the picture reveals more than what the image and caption immediately suggest. For years, city residents have implored members of Stumler’s party to address the cleanliness issue. They’ve repeatedly spoken at Democratically controlled City Council and Board of Public Works meetings, met with the Democratic Mayor and City Attorney, called, emailed, written blog posts and Letters to the Editor and appeared on television begging for help with what is ultimately a simple matter requiring only that city government make a legitimate attempt to enforce its own laws. And they’ve largely been ignored.
Ignored so much, in fact, that the relationship between the Floyd County Democratic Party and downtown residents has deteriorated to the point that a large number of citizens have completely given up not only on the party’s ability to effectively deal with the problem but on the hope that they will even introduce the topic for serious public discussion.
All efforts to address code enforcement and cleanliness issues have been and continue to be resident lead. Despite the pleas of those residents and Stumler’s brochure promise to listen, the Democratic Party has still not taken a stance on enforcement issues and a majority of the Democratic officeholders currently under Stumler’s direction have hindered more than helped the situation. For Stumler, after a few hours and a photo opportunity, to in anyway imply in election propaganda that he’s somehow leading an effort to clean up New Albany is nothing short of the horse manure to which Roger so aptly referred. It’s an insult to the people who actually have spent years leading those efforts and is disingenuous to a degree sufficient enough to warrant questions of integrity.
A reliable source has reported that at least one of the Democrats involved in a recent weekend clean up mentioned that the party should get some good publicity as a result. I’d much rather choose to believe that the majority, even with their misguided allegiances and lack of willingness to deal with enforcement problems in an official capacity, are motivated to help clean up by something other than callous electioneering. The attempt of their leader to snare quick and largely undeserved credit, though, has made that choice more difficult.
If Stumler really wants to solicit votes based on an ordinance enforcement and clean up stance, he should probably take one. If he wants voters to believe that he’s a strong leader, he should probably show us his ability to unite his party around that stance. Oddly, that’s what most people seem to think political leadership is about.