EDITORIAL: Post for at-large

Oct. 30, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Editor's note: this is the second of two editorials featuring The Herald’s endorsements in the contested Sanford City Council races in Nov. 5’s general election. Today, we look at the at-large race between Republican Max Dolan and Democrat Chas Post, who are vying for the seat currently held by L. I. “Poly” Cohen. Post defeated Cohen in September's Democrat primary, while Dolan defeated Keith Clark in the Republican primary. In Tuesday's edition, The Herald endorsed incumbent Sam Gaskins over challenger Bill Oberkirsch.

The seat: One of two At-Large seats on the City Council, with a four-year term representing all wards in the city of Sanford

The candidates: Max Dolan, who turns 64 on Saturday, a Veterans Administration Benefits Briefer at Fort Bragg who was unsuccessful in his bid for a seat on the Lee County Board of Commissioners in 2012; Chas Post, 29, an attorney and partner at the Doster, Post, Silverman, Foushee & Post law firm making his first attempt at public office

  The passage of the $14.5 million package of bonds by voters in September signaled, we believe, a sea change for the people of Sanford.

The bonds could ultimately be part of a series of enhancements and improvements, one building upon another, that may — pardon the use of another catch-phrase here — be the tipping point for transforming Sanford into something better than it is today. Ultimately, this could give our community the kind of positive momentum we've sought, but not seen, for so long.

Sanford’s city council, especially under the new leadership of Chet Mann — who'll be alone on the ballot for mayor on Nov. 5 — will have a role in how that momentum does, or doesn't, play out. Because candidate Chas Post’s vision and ideas are much more closely aligned with Mann’s plan for a changed Sanford, a Sanford that, in Post’s words, “restores Sanford’s advantage,” he earns The Herald’s endorsement in the at-large seat on Tuesday's ballot.

Post, a Democrat, faces opposition from Republican Max Dolan in this newly partisan race. Unquestionably, Dolan, whom we endorsed when he ran for county commissioner a year ago, is a likable gentleman. He’s easy to get along with, fair-minded and sincere about community service, and comes across as one of the more reasoned and rational of the candidates who have appeared on local ballots in the last few years.

But at a time when principles and good practices need to take precedent over party affiliation, we wonder where Dolan would fit on what could become a very different and politicized city council if he and fellow Republican Bill Oberkirsch were elected.

Dolan is handicapped by the fact that the city’s council was made a partisan group by his own party, after legislation spearheaded by former council member and now state representative Mike Stone passed. Marking council members with a “D” shouldn't be a scarlet letter, but Lee County's GOP has decreed it so. So while Dolan paints himself as a small-i “independent” voice in the Republican Party, in a conversation with The Herald’s editorial board, his allegiance to his party seemed clear.

It’s a conundrum: Dolan did indeed tell The Herald’s editorial board this time around that signing the commissioners’ “no-tax pledge” last year with the other Republican candidates was something he shouldn't have done. And we genuinely like his candidacy because he believes in many good ideas and approaches we favor, including privatizing the city's golf course, smart development of infrastructure, careful and prudent exploration of hydraulic fracturing and the idea that the acrimony between the commission board's Republican majority and the city is simply bad practice (ideas not too dissimilar from Post’s).

But the forced loyalty his party will demand from him makes us question Dolan’s capacity for making decisions that would be good for Sanford, but contrary to his party's hard-line stances. As the GOP tries to recreate Lee County — and by extension, Sanford — in its own image, giving Dolan a seat on the council would likely diminish the impact that the new energy and ideas Chet Mann will bring to the mayor's post.

Those arguments don't take into consideration Post’s own views, of course, but his candidacy definitely merits support. He was an ardent supporter of the bonds (while Dolan would have preferred the city to use its fund balance to finance those projects) and has a better-articulated vision for what Sanford can become. And while both Dolan and Post were short on some specifics (and Post, it must be noted, comes up short when it comes to visibility and service in and around the community in the few years he's been back in Sanford and practicing at a law firm with his father), it's Post’s vision we prefer: he sees the relationship between a revitalization of the city and the city council and economic development and jobs, and he advocates ideas that emphasize positive change — as opposed to focusing primarily on spending cuts and tax cuts.

This race is about distinctions, and we give more credence to Post’s claim that he'll be able to make a distinction between unreasonable taxes and investing in the city's future than Dolan’s claims of independence from what has become the GOP’s sometimes bullying approach to getting things done. On this new partisan council, Post will be less partisan — and more effective.