No checks on accountability in A.S. election

by Chris Pocock

Cody Barbo is running for A.S. president on a split ticket with Executive vice president candidate Darin Ruiz. Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor
Cody Barbo is running for A.S. president on a split ticket with Executive vice president candidate Darin Ruiz. Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor

We’ve all graduated high school, but it’s a little premature to say the campaign strategies of Associated Students candidates have grown much from the pimples and prom dress days of past years. While the budget for our student government has bloated and expanded by roughly $23 million from their high school counterparts, their tactics haven’t. Candidates are still lying; they’re still manipulating their constituents and there are still no employed watchdogs to keep candidates honest.

I’d square most of that blame on the only “debate” of this election. You know, the “debate” where there was no actual debating taking place; where most of the candidates were allowed no more than six or seven minutes to distinguish themselves from the other candidates spouting the same carbon-copied goals.

Given that each candidate was supplied with only six or seven minutes apiece, the struggle to make their name known to the student body was palpable. Sustainability and developing a new relationship with San Diego State’s new president were common goals across the board. But how do you make yourself known when you’re touting the same goals as the other guys?

Candidates were forced to take one of two approaches: Either obviously intelligent candidates, such as Kevin Gruidl, risk appearing bland and consequently blend in with less qualified competitors, or come up with an innovative spin on their goals to make them seem more appealing and cutting edge — the dark chocolate to the other candidates’ vanilla.

Cody Barbo chose the latter option. When Barbo took the podium at last week’s debate, he promoted sustainability with a twist: As president, he would make the Aztec Recreation Center human-powered and self-sustainable. Treadmills and other workout machines would generate power from the energy exerted on them, and we could finally call a truce with Mother Nature, hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” … or something like that.

But if you’re worried about feeling like a human-sized hamster the next time you get your sweat on, there’s nothing to fear quite yet. What Barbo didn’t admit — or perhaps, didn’t know — about energy-generating workout equipment is they’re largely experimental, inefficient and costly. There’s a reason gyms across the nation aren’t powered by these machines already — the technology isn’t there to make them widespread and feasible yet.

And then there’s Darin Ruiz’s spiel about, “want(ing) to identify young leaders, young stars in the organizations, and put them through leadership development programs and be able to develop them into leaders.” I wonder where Ruiz would find the months to groom freshmen into potential leaders with all of the other executive vice presidential duties he would be in charge of. Equally questionable is whether we’d want Ruiz to be the one to train these individuals in the first place — what is it that he has these potential leaders don’t?

The truth is, to many candidates, feasibility means nothing. Speaking in ideals — the familiar crutch used by many underqualified candidates with no credibility to stand on — is what really matters. Candidates may be able to court students on campus with gross fantasies and delusions for a while, but at some point the honeymoon will come to an end and we’ll be left feeling like last night’s one-night stand.

So too can candidates misrepresent positions they’ve held or the influence they’ve had in the past. Barbo claimed during his speech he had been on the Greenfest Executive Committee for a semester. What he failed to mention, however, is he did such a poor job that he was asked to step down from his position.

Because the “debate” was little more than an informal Q & A, however, candidates weren’t able to refute each other’s claims, and statements such as that one were allowed to fly without any degree of fact checking. You’d think that Barbo not being able to effectively manage a greenfest committee would be useful information to voters.

Here’s the deal: As important as it is to learn about each candidate’s good qualities — the positions they’ve had and what they plan to do in the future — it’s equally as important to know their bad traits. So-called “trash talking” has been outlawed in the A.S. bylaws, but that doesn’t mean informing student voters of candidates’ felony records, for example, should be also. Negative campaigning carries with it a likewise negative stereotype. But as long as the information is truthful, it’s also necessary for developing honest opinions of one’s candidates.

The solution to this problem is clear: Debates are a must, as well as a designated fact checker. I for one know I’m tired of being lied to. As for you students, let’s prove we’re worth more than a steady, fat paycheck. We must demand more debates and more chances to get to know the candidates representing us in future years.

—Chris Pocock is a journalism junior.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

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