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Monday, November 5, 2007
Mr. Porter Owes Seven American Fork Officials Another Apology

If he's going to post foolish accusations personally online at the Daily Herald web site, accusing officials of dishonesty and a coverup, he's fair game for bloggers, including this one.

Readers, I had meant my little election guide to be my last post of the day. Then, as I ate lunch at my desk today, I read American Fork city council candidate Jason Porter's online comment on a recent Daily Herald article. I will first quote his comment in its entirety, to avert (partially) the tiresome charge that he is being taken out of context.

Here's the article, which is no more accurate than in previous versions analyzed here, but which may itself be useful as context. (In brief: It was a memo, a public document, not a press release. It was a correction, not the City's attack on a candidate. You get the idea.)

Here is Porter's comment, cut and pasted without change from the Herald site:

This is Jason Porter. I want to be clear. I do not, and did not, apologize for saying we have a crime problem. The fact is we do. Read the 8/26/07 article Prime for Crime from the Deseret News. Go to www.CityRating.com and search for American Fork. Look up the 2003 FBI Report of Offenses Known To Law Enforcement. According to these reports and more we are riddled with crime. My apology was for stating that it was violent crime. I misspoke. We rank very high in property crime. I admit to that mistake. That being said, any crime is bad and I, as stated in the article will work hard to reduce it.

What I find sad is that our city council wanted to prove that all is well with our crime situation when it clearly needs to improve. I do understand that only one member of the council is taking the all the blame for the press release of Police Chief Lance Call's internal memo. (That council member happens not to be up for re-election and swears none of those I am running against had anything to do with it.) I only wish the council had read on in my quote to, "I want American Fork to be a safer and more comfortable place to raise our families, and I want to be involved in doing that."

My desire to get involved in making AF safer, more beautiful and more economically prosperous should not have been a threat to anybody. I look forward to working on the council to improve things and am committed to open and honest communication with all.

Here is my posted reply, copied and pasted in the same manner:

Mr. Porter, I'm afraid I have some difficulty making the logical leap you make in your comment here. American Fork City officials (not candidates) corrected a factual error you made in a public statement to the press as part of your campaign. I don't see how this was even a personal attack, let alone how it suggests that "the city council wanted to prove that all is well with [American Fork's] crime situation."

Had you correctly stated the property crime statistics instead, no senior City official would have tried to correct you. Even had you sensationalized them in your original published statement, with hyperbolic language like "riddled with crime" and "rank very high," as you do in your comment here, City officials generally would probably have just shrugged and said, "That's politics" -- even if an opponent or two might have decided to take you to task for exaggeration.

Some questions present themselves.

Will you continue to crusade publicly after the election against this alleged official conspiracy to hide crime, or is it all just electoral politics?

And am I part of the conspiracy, too, because -- though I, too, am concerned about crime -- I scoff at the idea that your conspiracy exists at all? Does it make me even more a villain that I believe, on the basis of personal acquaintance and careful observation, that the people you accuse of this pernicious thing are actually decent, hard-working, intelligent, effective, and honest leaders? They certainly are not the naive, duplicitous, vindictive people you have portrayed of late.

As we have seen, the press will do what it will do. They will sometimes call a simple correction an attack, or call a memo (itself a public document) an official press statement (a major error), or even botch a headline, as in the online version of this article. They are institutionally disinclined to apologize, and neither you nor I can affect that much. But I think you owe Mayor Thompson, Chief Call, and the five members of the City Council another apology for what you said and implied about them in your comment on this article.

Here's a link to comments on the article; as I write this there are only his and mine.

Finally, here's some free advice from a voter, long-time observer, and former campaign manager, to readers who may sometime want to run for office. I hope it is not condescending.

When you make a mistake, apologize. When you apologize, let it stand. Don't spend the next few days backing away from your apology, qualifying it, all but rebutting it, trying to turn it into a political statement, and trying to deflect attention from your gaffe by accusing others of whatever offenses you can imagine. If your opponents bludgeon you with your mistake for a while -- which has not happened in American Fork in the current campaign -- then enjoy it. You earned it. Smile, laugh a little if you can, and in all ways be the confident, personable, humanly fallible adult. That's a lot more charming than feigned perfection.

Voters know that people, including candidates, make mistakes, especially under pressure. Most voters are put off by games of "gotcha." And often they care much more about the maturity and grace with which candidates handle their mistakes than they care about the mistakes themselves.

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