Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview with Bo Alawine

Note: The following Q  and A appeared in the October 19, 2011, edition of The Gazette (article not yet online).

Q. What is your political philosophy?
A. If I had to condense my political philosophy down to one sentence, I suppose it would have to be something along the lines of "Government is to be for the betterment of all, not for just a privileged few."  It is my belief that, more than ever, the levers of government have been and are being used to fatten the bank accounts of the well-connected, while the rest of us are expected to pick up the tab.  Often this sleight of hand is presented to the rest of us as "economic development".  A perfect example would be the favorite conservative tactic of granting tax exemptions to large businesses/industries under the claim that those businesses/industries will create more jobs which will lead to more revenue.  In my opinion, the current means of ascertaining economic impacts is fraught with pollyannish guesswork and wishful thinking, resulting in a significant shift of the tax burden onto the taxpayers themselves.  I find it hard to believe this isn’t intentional.
  I would also add as a corollary that government should be transparent so that every citizen can know what his/her elected official is discussing and that official will be voting upon.  Publicizing what factors go into the various decisions and votes is critical for having an informed electorate.  Unfortunately, it is often standard operating procedure to coordinate the public’s business away from the public forums and/or to move to “executive session” to discuss politically sensitive items.  In this day and age, there is no reason why every agenda, all official meeting minutes (as well as video of all meetings) and every document should not be publicly-accessible online 24/7.  Jackson County is the lone holdout here on the Coast with respect to making its spending information available and the current Board of Supervisors has postponed doing so until next year.  That is inexcusable.

Q. Who are your political heroes?
A. My political heroes?  That’s an interesting question, one I haven’t even considered until now and I’m not sure I’d consider anyone a political “hero”.  “Hero” is a term which has become almost meaningless in today’s lexicon.  To me, a “hero” is someone who selflessly goes far beyond the requirements of their daily lives to help others, putting themselves at considerable risk, professionally and personally.
Having said that, I would consider former Congressman Gene Taylor as someone worthy of emulation.  While I strongly disagreed with a number of his conservative positions, he was always respectful and willing to listen to my concerns.  I was also greatly impressed with his display of “grace under pressure” during his August 2009 “town hall” meeting in Moss Point.  I could only hope to be half as patient as he was in dealing with some of the most outrageous attacks on both his character and his person.

Q.  What propelled you to enter the race?
A. Every American boy and girl probably dreams of being president one day; I was no different.  As I’ve grown older, though, I’ve become more interested in the workings of local, state and federal government.  I’ve never been interested in “politics”, per se, but in the day-to-day operations that most of us take for granted.  
The specific impetus for throwing my hat into the ring was the initially unopposed candidacy of the current Jackson County District #4 supervisor, Tommy Brodnax.  On more than one occasion, Mr. Brodnax had displayed what I considered an incredible contempt for the concerns for his constituents, particularly those in the Latimer community with respect to the Highway 15 proposal.  No one, regardless of their job approval numbers, should be allowed to run for office unopposed and I intended to not allow Mr. Brodnax to “walk” into office.  It wasn’t until after I had registered as a Democrat that two other challengers, Mr. Ross and Mr. Cruthirds, filed to run against Mr. Brodnax in the Republican primary.  Had I known Mr. Brodnax would have had two challengers, my decision would have still been the same, given my personal political philosophy is generally at odds with that espoused by Republican politicians.
I am also motivated to move Jackson County away from what I perceive to be “good ol’ boy” politics, where officials count on the indifference or ignorance of the public to push through policies which might not be in the public’s interest.  I would also like to see the county rely less on heavy industry and more on sustainable, “smart” growth, growth which promotes our natural resources and our people.

Q.  Who has supported you in this race?
A. A number of coworkers, friends and family have wished me the best of luck.  I feel it important to note that, with one exception, I have not received any political campaign contributions; i.e., no one is supporting me financially.  In other words, I am a self-funded candidate.  At the end of the day, I want to owe no one but a “Thank you!” for their vote.  
It’s often said that money is the mother’s milk of politics, a necessary evil to promote one’s campaign message.  While this may be true, it would be difficult to dissuade me from the firm belief that money often buys influence.  I’d rather risk losing an election due to insufficient campaign funds than win one bankrolled by a number of people who come calling after I’ve been sworn into office.

Q.  Tell us about yourself, your family.
A. My wife, Sandra, and I are both originally from Meridian. 
I graduated from Clarkdale Attendance Center in 1983 and received my A.A. in Electronics Technology from Meridian Junior College in 1985.
When I graduated with my B.S. in Electronics Engineering Technology from the University of Southern Mississippi in May 1987, Sandra and I got married and we moved to a little rental house on Stennis Avenue in Ocean Springs in August of that year  when I was hired by a defense contractor out at Ingalls Shipyard.  In September 1991, we bought our first (and only) house in the Latimer community where we’ve lived ever since.  
Both of our sons, Jonathan and Sean, were born at Ocean Springs Hospital and attended St. Martin Elementary until we decided to homeschool.  Both boys are currently attending the University of South Alabama where Jonathan is working on his Master’s in Computer Science and Sean is pursuing a Bachelor’s in History with a minor in Political Science.
I have been fortunate that my employment has allowed me to travel all over this country and to points beyond.  I’ve been to Japan, Panama, Mexico and Canada.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting different people and hearing different viewpoints on politics and government and life in general.

Q. Tell us what has surprised you in the past months as you have been out campaigning.
A. I was completely taken aback with the amount of money that local candidates were expected to raise during the course of an average campaign.  At my first Democratic Party meeting, several experienced incumbents offered their experiences with fundraising and relayed the amounts they had raised in their last campaigns, amounts I found staggering. 
My first true campaign experience was during the Ocean Springs Mardi Gras parade.  Prior to the parade itself, I walked up and down Government Street, introducing myself to folks.  It turned out approximately half of the people I talked to weren’t even from Mississippi, must less Jackson County District #4.  This caused me to re-evaluate how I was going to get message out to prospective voters.  Given my decision to self-fund my campaign, it seemed wasteful to purchase advertising that couldn’t be targeted to just District #4.
Another thing that came as a bit of a surprise to me was the number of people who had no idea as to their supervisor, their district, their voting precinct or even when Election Day was.  It strikes me as a bit odd that so many people could rail about what the federal government was or was not doing right but had no clue about their own local government.

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