Saturday, October 22, 2016

Politics, good judgment, social media, and why I refrained from voting in the Floyd Circuit Judge race.

On October 12, I posted this paragraph to Judge Terry Cody's campaign page at Facebook. According to the page, the campaign is "very responsive to messages."

Hello. It's impossible for me to vote for Keith Henderson, but I'd like to vote FOR Terry, whom I respect and admire. However, there's the matter of two-way streets in New Albany. Some might say that this topic falls outside the judge's jurisdiction, but I view it differently. Being able to survey facts and gauge research surely impact a voter's view of a candidate's fundamental judgment, which after all is of critical importance for a judge. Besides, a sitting judge is an undisputed mover of community opinion whether or not he's actively politicking. I don't think it is asking too much to get a clarification of Judge Cody's position on two-way streets. Thanks.

Yesterday was the 21st. I'd received no reply, and it was time to go to the clerk's office and vote. I couldn't vote for Henderson, who in effect asks us to allow him to adjudicate his own ethical violations.

But I couldn't vote for Cody, either, because my question went unanswered. The judge declined to explain when asked, but I will -- even if you didn't.

The last time I brought this up on social media, several readers made the point that a judge's campaign isn't political. Cody himself soft-pedaled his involvement with politics when asked during Harvest Homecoming by the News and Tribune's Elizabeth Beilman.

J. Terrence Cody, Democratic Floyd County Circuit Court judge who is running for re-election, was among them.

Cody is running for his fourth term.

"Judges cannot participate in the political process except in years in which they are on the ballot," Cody said.

That means he can't campaign five years out of his six-year term.

To which I must respond:

Cody may well lie low in non-election years, but he is constantly and intimately involved with local Democratic Party politics. See whose name is at the top of this list?

I was at the Tree Board meeting in May when Cody attended and let it be known that he wanted trees removed from city-owned property around his house. Does anyone reading really believe that once a man as prominent as Cody indicated his preference, that there'd be a check-and-balance in place to fairly review the request?

Plainly, Cody is a privileged political figure in the community, and here's the kicker: That's exactly as expected, and should come as no surprise. It's disingenuous to insist otherwise. Politics is about power; who has it, and who uses it.

Does anyone reading seriously believe that Cody does not have power -- every day, every year -- or that he declines to exercise the power he obviously has?

I didn't think so. Henderson exercises power, and so does anyone seeking an elected office, and as such, in spite of rote protests to the contrary, it is perfectly legitimate for me as a voter to acknowledge this reality, and to base my vote (or non-vote) for a candidate on real-world political grounds -- and, in the case of a candidate for judge, to ask myself a simple, pointed question: In his political undertakings, is he or she exercising good judgment?

See what I did there?

Quite apart from the clear-cutting instincts, one he unfortunately shares with other ranking Democrats and more than a few historic preservationists, Cody has let it be known that two-way streets are not to his taste, and when he says this, whether aloud or privately, it's not the opinion of John Q Public. It's coming from a political figure who possesses and uses power.

It's also poor judgment.

I offered Cody the opportunity to clarify his stance, and whether or not he even knew about the Facebook posting is irrelevant, because social media works a certain way, and anyone connected to his campaign knows it. There was no answer to my question.

Consequently, there was no vote cast for Terry Cody.

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