The weeks leading up to the November election are almost like Christmas morning in Chenango County, as the money starts falling out of the trees it grows on – in Albany, anyway. Even though the old hometown fared rather poorly when they rolled out the pork barrel this year, it’s a safe bet that a few of our favorite politicos will shake loose a dollar or two shortly before the polls open.
It’s also the time of year when we at the newspaper get called upon to attend these “press conferences” and take the dreaded check-passing photo. While I’m certainly happy, usually anyway, for the recipients of the much-needed manna from heaven, I can’t help feeling like a whore, used as a pawn in the re-election chess game and then discarded like yesterday’s news.
Pardon me; it’s late and my metaphors are mixing.
Self-centered journalist that I am, I often measure politicians by the frequency with which they visit me … the mountain coming to Mohammed, as it were. Our current group of incumbents have a pretty good track record when it comes to being responsive to the needs of the press via phone, but I’ll cast objectivity aside (since he’s getting out of the game anyway) for a moment and tell you the only politician who, in my 16 years at the paper, was a regular in-person visitor – Congressman Sherwood Boehlert. While I’ve had that slimy feeling after covering a lot of other public officials’ “news,” I’ve never once doubted the sincerity of Sherry Boehlert. Not only was he attentive to the needs of his constituency, but I also never felt used or manipulated by his frequent visits to our offices. He kept us informed, not to sway public opinion or buy our good press, but because he felt as accountable to us as he did to Mr. CEO and Joe Sixpack. He is a rare breed – a career politician who rose through the ranks but never lost sight of the needs and concerns of the people who put him in office. Whoever takes his place in Washington has enormous shoes to fill.