Hey, if anybody hears a candidate giving detailed answers about hard issues in the D.C. mayoral campaign, give me a call, please. I want to come over and look at them and maybe even put them in a museum. For they will indeed be rare.
Instead, these are the kinds of pitches we're getting from candidates in these final days before Tuesday's primary:
John Ray taking to the TV screen to soften criticism of his support of five-year-old legislation to phase out rent control in certain apartments and saying he won't raise taxes.
Charlene Drew Jarvis doing a commercial attacking Ray for accepting so many large campaign contributions from developers and implying that real estate developers will own Ray.
Walter E. Fauntroy intoning the role of real estate developers in John Ray's campaign in an almost mystical way, implying that they will suck up this entire city -- and Ray with it -- like some giant vacuum cleaner.
Sharon Pratt Dixon pushing her theme of slash the bureaucracy, but with few details that stick in the typical voter's mind beyond cutting upper-level management.
D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke extolling the virtues of the people in orange hats who protect their neighborhoods from drug dealers, but offering few specifics about how such heroic individual efforts will fit into a comprehensive plan to make this city safe for the people who are most vulnerable.
Former D.C. police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., a Republican, who said in a televised debate last Saturday that he would make education a top priority, but saying little in the way of specifics.
People have interests and questions that should have been brought out in this election, but aren't being addressed.
No one has seriously discussed the specific developmental needs of, say, Anacostia, except to say that the perpetually neglected east-of-the-river area will suddenly become first priority.
Nobody has put forth as high-visibility issues, with real solutions and resources, the normal concerns of ordinary people: specific taxes -- property and sales; meaningful day care and the problems of working women; the escalating cost of dealing with drug-related violence, the fact that 49,000 people in this city have no health insurance, how to reimburse hospitals so they can continue to offer care, the more than 40 percent school dropout rate, and the homeless.
Just a couple of months ago, the town was buzzing about D.C. banking superintendent Edward D. Irons's study that showed continued neglect of underserved areas for housing loans. To the degree that these areas fail to get their fair share of credit from banks, communities and property values deteriorate. If any of the candidates, except for Fauntroy, has kept in the forefront any specific plans for getting more credit for housing for these areas, I haven't heard them.
The city is expected to end the fiscal year Sept. 30 with a $93 million budget shortfall. While recently announced, that huge deficit figure has been known by virtually all the candidates for some time. Shouldn't somebody be telling us specifically how he or she plans to deal with this in the short haul, short of an increased payment from a hostile federal government that may furlough its own workers?
The current administration, meanwhile, is saying budget cuts, tax increases and an increased federal payment will be needed to keep the deficit from doubling.
A few weeks ago, a non-partisan citizens group, Committee for the '90s, evaluated candidates on 10 issues vital to the city: finances and taxes, youth and crime, homelessness, education, statehood, city services, housing, accountability, child day care and senior care, and leadership resources. They finally determined that "no candidate stands out as someone offering innovative solutions to city problems."
Howard University political science professor Lorenzo Morris thinks this low-intensity election may help Ray, who has raised $1.1 million. Morris has sent his students to scour the city in search of issues that voters care about. He is expected to release his findings tomorrow.
But the point is this: people have real interests and questions that aren't being answered. Many people are, therefore, tentative and undecided on their mayoral choice. Despite the record voter registration, the voters' reaction to this campaign might be to stay home next Tuesday. I sincerely hope that does not happen. Call the campaign headquarters, find out where candidates stand on the issues. In the remaining days, voters should demand, and candidates should provide, their detailed views.