Mud flies in days leading to the Elk Grove mayoral forum but personality politics needs to be set aside

To say the 2020 Elk Grove mayoral race has been two politicians clashing over policies on how to maneuver their community amidst a once in lifetime global pandemic is an understatement if not an outright falsehood.

Instead, the campaigns of Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly and challenger, Elk Grove Unified School District Trustee Bobbie Singh-Allen to date have been mostly through this fourth week in September a study in charges and counter-charges between the two camps that have nothing to do with issues pressing constituents.

Singh-Allen's campaign was launched in late July in the wake of charges against Ly that he had bullied several women in the community. The early phase of Singh-Allen's campaign emphasized highlighted other people in the community who allege the mayor and his associates had bullied and harassed them.

On the other side, comments from Singh-Allen in that environment sparked outrage from members of the Hmong-American community who accuse her of racism. Ly, a Hmong-American, has repeatedly claimed to have no ties to the civil rights organization calling themselves the Hmong-American Ad Hoc group, has nonetheless benefitted by the two protests rallies they have conducted, and two more in the next couple weeks.  

But if that isn't enough, both camps, or in some cases, others have created more unflattering narratives about their opponents that have further muddled the race.  

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The Singh-Allen camp has claimed Ly has said one thing to English speaking audiences while telling Hmong language supporters something different on the harassment charges leveled at him by Singh-Allen and others. There have been charges and counter-charges between the camps about the service used to translate from English to Hmong, with each side giving different interpretations - pun intended. 

The most recent development came with the publication of a story on Singh-Allen's financial dealings that paint a less than desirable picture and another with claims by members of the Sikh community (Singh-Allen practices the Sikh religion) that says she has betrayed that community. There also seems to be a brewing intra-Sikh conflict over Singh-Allen's candidacy.

To be sure, there have been standard strategies deployed by both sides to date. Singh-Allen has sent out three mailers with typical biographical and bullet-point like information while a weekend visit to Ly's campaign office on East Stockton Boulevard in District 3 revealed volunteers organizing one of the mayor's signature campaign tools - the distribution of flowering plants to targeted voters. 

The question for voters becomes, who is more believable, and beyond that, will it affect behavior? Elk Grove's 2018 experiment in well-funded negative attacks by an independent expenditure committee done on behalf of Mayoral candidate Darren Suen against Ly proved ineffective.

If the negative attacks continue, will they become meaningless to the point of being counterproductive?

Regardless, when the Tuesday, September 29 Elk Grove mayoral debate happens, we hope to see some discussion on policy matters. And when we say policy matters, we all are for safe neighborhoods, less traffic, enhanced amenities, and other rote topics.

Seeing how Elk Grove and the rest of the country face unprecedented economic challenges brought on by the COVID19 pandemic, we would like to hear solutions. And by solutions, we don't want to hear typical boilerplate responses.

As an example, recovery for small businesses is going to take more than small grants from the city. It will take robust interaction with our state and federal representatives to make sure our voice is heard in Sacramento and Washington DC.

How will the mayor, city council, and city staff ensure Elk Grove receives its fair share of state and federal money so the city isn't full of empty strip centers and more families living in their vehicles at parking lots? How will the mayor push our representatives to get assistance to families in need? 

All three candidates should address these crucial issues to resolve them to help the people of Elk Grove. These are the issues that are far more important to voters than getting mired in the politics of personality. 

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