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Guest Commentary: PACs Are Less Important Than Addressing Lingering Animosity

A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a legally allowable, registered entity that allows a group of individuals to pool their financial contributions to support candidates who favor their shared cause. There is nothing inherently inappropriate about PACs.

However, not every PAC is created or leveraged equally. And while a particular PAC may be technically allowable, its legal status does not mean it is necessarily appropriate or good for Wildwood. This is the crux of a controversy in Wildwood over the last couple of election cycles and that continues to plague our city. Some residents, formerly seated officials, and seated officials believe that a particular PAC, namely Progress for Wildwood, was ill-conceived and potentially undermines the integrity of Wildwood’s local government.

Those neutral to, supporting of, or contributing to the Progress for Wildwood PAC tend to see it as just another PAC ... a legitimate, legal entity that has even withstood an ethical investigation. What is more, the use of a PAC is not without precedence, because others in Wildwood have a history of using PACs, including some of the harshest critics of Progress for Wildwood.

Yet, regardless of its legality, there are those in Wildwood that believe the Progress for Wildwood PAC is still not in the best interest of our community. Those that oppose the Progress for Wildwood PAC see it as an attempt to directly influence Wildwood politics by promoting the election of its own membership. Contrast this with other PACs where the purpose is to promote the election of non-members who merely support the PAC’s interests. Hence, a PAC that serves itself calls into question the ability of the members to remain reasonably independent of each other. In short, those opposed to Progress for Wildwood PAC may not necessarily oppose the concept of PACs in general, but they appear to take-issue with the stated purpose of the Progress for Wildwood PAC.

In summary, there are those in the community and in office who feel that present or past affiliation with any legally allowed and properly conducted PAC should not be sufficient cause to denounce candidates and nominees. There are others in the community and in office who feel that participation in one particular PAC is reason enough to question their ability to exercise independence.

As a voter, affiliation with any PAC is only one data-point that helps me decide whether to support a candidate or not. For me, participation in the Progress for Wildwood PAC causes me to look more critically at their record, actions, and speech, but it does not, by itself, cause me to reject the possibility of their independence or positive contribution.

As a resident, I’m less concerned with the existence of the Progress for Wildwood PAC as I am of how the lingering animosity on both sides of the issue is affecting the efficient conduct of governance. I’m tired of the near-constant bickering, inflammatory language, and general incivility on both sides. We need calm, logical, concise debate and open discussion to help everyone, residents and officials alike, to understand the full measure of each decision.

I call on the Mayor and all members of the Council to take a step back and breathe a little. Retribution for past insults and attacks is not going to move us forward. We need some Verbal Judo! (ref. Dr. George Thompson)

Judo is a martial art that is distinct in how it focuses on redirecting the opponent’s energy rather than giving it a place to land. In other martial arts, such as Karate, the practitioner is taught techniques to block their opponent’s punches and kicks while countering with punches and kicks of their own. A practitioner of Judo deflects each punch or kick until their opponent tires themselves out. Similarly, Verbal Judo practitioners resist the initial urge to directly rebut their opponent’s verbal slings and arrows with more slings and arrows. Instead, they counter with firm but dispassionate deflections until the fiery emotions have abated, and then they seek calm, rational discourse. It is only in this state that progress can be made and when democracy works best.

Paid for by Steve Taylor