(Guest post from friend of the blog Matthew Gasda)
It’s clear enough from Bob Donchez’s press conference on Thursday, April 4th, that he thinks a public safety plan means saying the words “safety” and “police” enough times (and in the same sentence!) that voters will believe he’s saying something rather than nothing. Donchez’s public safety “plan” includes:
– Keeping the 911 center the same
– A separate city department for EMT’s
– New public safety website
– Openness to public-private safety partnerships
– “Reevaluation” of deployment and equipment for police, fire, and emergency response.
Ok, so what’s the problem with this? Well, none of this is in itself problematic–but none of it is a) contested by Willie Reynolds or b) anything that constitutes a unique or innovative platform for increasing public safety.
Donchez’s public safety platform reveals no awareness of the underlying systemic economic and social issues (like poverty or drugs) that actually lead to crime. If you really look at it, the actual details of Donchez’s public safety plan don’t actually link up to any public safety problems. How does a new website deal with gang violence? How does keeping the 911 call center the same make response time any faster or more efficient? How does a new website help bring community members together with the city hall to reduce crime? How does a website really bring neighborhoods together in order to form the community bonds which keep crime away? The answer is, it doesn’t and they don’t. Donchez’s platform is designed to grab votes by dumbing down his ideas to the point where nothing of any substance is being offered.
Compare Donchez’s public safety plan to Willie Reynold’s “Winning Our Neighborhoods” plan. Reynold’s plan is a hugely detailed map for bringing together city hall with Bethlehem communities. Reynolds actually seems to understand that public safety is not just an issue of the number of police officers in uniform–which seems to be Donchez’s entire philosophy.
The Donchez campaign’s press conference today seems to be a good indication of how Donchez plans to win the mayor’s office: good photo opps (police station+police union members) and the repetition of a few empty phrases like “safety” and “concerned”. This kind of campaign only will work if we don’t pay attention to the policy details–and after all, that’s where the devil always is.