As a long-time admirer of Don Moore's work in the Monroe County Democratic Party, I took special note of the comments he posted in response to the "Lesser of two evils" piece I wrote two weeks ago. It became clear that some elaboration is in order.
First, and most importantly, the piece was not intended to say that voting for Mark Kruzan over Fred Prall would be choosing the lesser of two evils. That's the choice in the Democratic race for governor, so far. I hope to vote for Kruzan in November.
But before any voter decides whose button to push, they need clear understandings of where the candidates stand on their issues. Issues, for example, like the environment and clean government, to name but two on the progressive agenda.
On the environmental side, as Moore explained, Kruzan pledged on Earth Day to turn the tables on developers, making it their burden to show that "a development will further the community interest before nature is disturbed." A compelling pledge that would be revolutionary, if pursued.
But the statement begs the question, how is community interest defined? How, for example, would Kruzan apply this formula to his tourism plan for a "signature golf course" development in Bloomington? Hundreds of acres of green space would be replaced with a chemical-intensive grass farm. What's the community's interest in that?
Saying that the environment will take precedence over development is one thing. Following through on it is quite another, especially in a political system in which money routinely trumps the public interest.
A legitimate issue for citizens to ask is: Who underwrites candidates' campaigns for political office?
To my knowledge, Kruzan has made no public statements about his position on campaign contributions. But he does have a public record on the subject as Bloomington's District 61 House rep, some of which is posted on the Indiana Secretary of State's Web Page - ...
Citizens searching that record might come away a bit discouraged, especially when they consider that Kruzan hasn't faced a serious electoral challenge for as long as anyone can remember. The only legitimate challenge came from Joyce Poling more than a decade ago. And not even she could touch him.
Yet, in 1999, a year that Kruzan wasn't up for re-election, he accepted $16,300 in contributions of $100 or more from more than four dozen individuals, corporations, political action committees, labor, and other organizations.
Of that total, $1,200 came from four individuals, only two of whom were local - IU-Bloomington Chancellor Kenneth Gros Louis and Big Red Liquors owner Mark McAllister, hardly icons of progressive vision. Another $950 came from three labor organizations, including the Bloomington-based White River Labor Council.
The bulk - $8,950 - came from political action committees, most of whom represent electric power utilities, telecommunications companies, pharmaceutical industries, financial institutions, lawyers, real estate interests, health care providers, builders, manufacturers, insurance companies, and the coal industry.
Corporations like American Electric Power, McGraw-Hill, and MCI WorldCom anted up another $1,550. Organizations like the Association to Build a Better Indiana, Bose McKinney & Evans, Baker & Daniels, Friends of Indiana Hospitals, and Indiana Friends of Rural Electrification chipped in another $3,650.
Kruzan’s 1999 contributor list includes more than 50 individuals, corporations, and organizations. Only the above-mentioned three listed Bloomington addresses. In November 2002, he transferred all of the Kruzan for State Representative Committee’s money to the Mark Kruzan for Mayor Committee.
In his comments, Moore offers local "eco-populists" sage advice when he says that, to make a difference over the next four years, they must "organize electorally and effectively … for the candidate who is on their side." Their task in 2003 is to determine whether Kruzan truly is on their side or whether they have to run a candidate of their own to follow Moore's advice.
As Kruzan's fund-raising record in the Statehouse demonstrates, he's no champion for progressive causes. But he is a pragmatic politician, and because he is now operating in the Bloomington electoral arena, there is hope.
Citizens need only look at the 2002 county election results to understand that their agenda cannot be ignored in Bloomington. Outside of Ellettsville, more than half the votes cast for County Council went for unabashedly green candidates. The bulk of those came from city precincts.
The fact is, this is not an election to determine who will occupy the mayor's office. Mark Kruzan is one of the most popular political figures ever produced in Monroe County. He will be the next mayor.
The only real question is whose interests will Kruzan serve after he is elected. Will he join the citizen revolt against Canterbury-style public policy driven by greed and environmental destruction? Or will it be Business Democrat as usual?
Insiders may know the answer to that question, but the citizens don't. Between now and the first Tuesday in November, Mark Kruzan must show them whose side he's on.
Steven Higgs is editor of The Bloomington Alternative.