May 2008 Editorial Winner

Don't worry, be happy

By David Gerard, Muskogee Phoenix

In response to a question about what kind of city he would like Muskogee to be, mayoral candidate John Tyler Hammons said he would like it to be a happy city.

Hammons said that at the mayoral candidate debate Tuesday at the Roxy Theater, and in his response that was the only qualifier he used - happy.

We would all like to be happy. That's a worthwhile goal.

But happiness is the result of several key ingredients - a high quality of life, sufficient income, reliable relationships, and any number of other positive factors.

Unfortunately in his responses at the debate, Hammons supplied no plan, formula or ideas for achieving those things.

He may as well have been singing the 1988 Bobby McFerrin hit, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Many Muskogee residents say they want change and are reluctant to vote for former Mayor Hershel McBride, Hammons' opponent.

We understand the desire for change, and we aren't out to beat up a 19-year-old with high ambitions. Hammons clearly is a responsible young man with potential.

But is he ready to step into the role of the mayor of about 40,000 people and a city with a budget of $27 million?

If you heard his responses at Tuesday's debate, as his responses were at the debate prior to the April 1 city election, they are generalities, no specifics. It's clear his understanding of the workings of government is a textbook knowledge, not a practical knowledge. He did not know Muskogee's recent history, as he knew nothing about the proposal for an overpass at Martin Luther King Street.

When asked about his lack of experience, Hammons' response was that Abraham Lincoln had no executive experience, yet he turned out to be the best president America has had.

Again, Hammons is mistaken.

Lincoln was a state and U.S. representative prior to his election as president at 52 years of age, not 19. Lincoln worked in his political party most of his adult life and worked in several presidential campaigns not only in Illinois, but outside his home state.

Lincoln did not start at the top.

Again, we respect Hammons for his energy and desire. Muskogee will be a better place when young people commit themselves to bettering their community.

However, if Muskogee residents want change, there are better ways of achieving it than electing someone as mayor who has never before served on a civic board.