At the October 16 LAPAC Candidates’ Forum, my opponent spoke matter-of-factly about the need to market South River better, without the need to really change anything else. I run a design and marketing company, The Carmichael. For what it’s worth, I don’t go around saying “we simply need to market it better”, because that’s not what people in my industry do. Marketing gets a bad name because people outside of the industry make comments that undermine its actual purpose. Design isn’t some simple “let’s make it pretty and everything will be honky-dory” type of snap of the fingers thing. It requires real effort, lots of problem solving incorporating challenges and constraints, and a tremendous amount of empathy. Before providing solutions, you must fully understand the problem from a variety of perspectives.

I’m not remotely upset. I deal with this type of over simplistic viewpoint all of the time. But it truly highlights the difference between my opponents and I. At no point during this campaign have I stated anything about needing to market our town better, because it trivializes the task at hand and taking such a simplistic approach is nearly always a recipe for disaster.

You can’t sugarcoat bad policy and, miraculously, make things better just like you can’t market a bad product and make it a best-seller. South River has a lot of quality programs; it has many businesses and restaurants that are completely awesome in a town of our size. Why our town is stumbling has everything to do with our approach, and I can’t think of a better phrase that highlights the wrong-headed approach than “we simply need to market it better.”

Why our town is stumbling has everything to do with our approach, and I can’t think of a better phrase that highlights the wrong-headed approach than “we simply need to market it better.”

South River needs a comprehensive and systematic approach to policy that thinks of the figurative forest instead of merely focusing on the trees. We currently have nothing of the sort from the governing body. Sure, there’s a vision of a better downtown and a more vibrant community, but I haven’t seen too much guidance from them on what makes a downtown better and what makes a community more vibrant. And because I fear that the governing body doesn’t currently have this type of detail or nuance, we approach every problem as if its a new one, without ever thinking about whether it fits into the existing fabric we already have or if it will strengthen the one we’re hoping it to become.

Our town has adopted a lot of bad policies that my opponent wants to “market” his way out of. My opponents are sabotaging the electric utility by continuously raising rates to pay for their spending habit. Not only is this discouraging new businesses, the building blocks of a better downtown, and causing existing businesses to shutter, but its making people resent our electric utility, a very unique part of South River that if properly managed makes us a stronger and nimbler town.

Policies being pushed from the governing body are unfriendly. They slap permits and fees on everything so the town can squeeze additional revenue out of us. Rather than working with residents to improve their properties and resolve existing issues, we immediately issue fines or summonses that seem designed to do nothing other than punish. What ends does this meet? Why treat our residents with such hostility?

Lack of planning and budgeting results in important projects in town going significantly over what taxpayers would consider to be reasonable. Parks need improvement and fixing so that they don’t pose a danger to our youth who want to use a slide only to trip over a tree root. Leadership is about focus and ignoring such obvious parts of South River that all residents utilize raises a large question about whether our governing body currently has that sort of focus.

Real marketing has little to do with applying new spin or a fresh coat of paint. Real marketing is authentic, genuine, and solves problems by building upon existing strengths. The problems our town face are self-created and the result of instituting bad policy. We need to approach things differently. Instead of tackling problems piecemeal, we need to seriously develop and articulate a clearly defined path so that we can put pieces in place to build a more unified and cohesive town.

Instead of tackling problems piecemeal, we need to seriously develop and articulate a clearly defined path so that we can put pieces in place to build a more unified and cohesive town.

I’m running because I have experience to implement purpose-driven solutions that consider the larger whole before making decisions with smaller parts. I’m running with Tom and Shawn because I believe their record indicates that they are serious about doing what’s right for South River. Mere marketing is the wrong direction. Design driven solutions will make for a stronger South River.