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Editorial: Think people, not politics

The Bethlehem Town Board has a mighty big decision on the docket for tonight’s Town Board meeting. Marcy Velte reports in her front-page story the board is likely to appoint a fifth member tonight to fill a vacated seat.

There are a lot of opinions floating around on exactly how this appointment should be selected. There has been so much discussion about the political ramifications of the process that we’d like to remind the board of a simple fact: You’re appointing a person, not a philosophy.

We agree the person selected should be experienced and knowledgeable of Bethlehem and government, be of good character and be ready to work. This all goes without saying.

But there seems to be a growing consensus on other criteria we cannot in good conscience agree with. Chief among them is the requirement an appointment should agree to leave office at the end of 2012, and not run in a special election for the remainder of the board term.

The argument an appointment would have an unfair advantage and thus later deny voters a fair choice is deeply flawed. The political system allows for more than one candidate (as we have previously seen demonstrated in Bethlehem). If the appointee is a dud, he or she will surely be challenged and be voted out in a single year, one quarter the time residents would normally be stuck with a lemon. It’s a political process that seems to have worked pretty well for a few hundred years.

Also, if the appointee is all the things the public demands in its leaders (responsive, experienced, judicious and independent) surely the public would like the option to keep him or her around. The people of Bethlehem deserve more than a mere placeholder in leadership positions, yet this is exactly what’s being clamored for.

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