October 26, 1997 in City

Be Informed; Try To Ignore Poll Pushing

By The Spokesman-Review

A major dental appointment pops up on my calendar in a few days, and I am worried.

My dentist is very good.

He lets patients wear sunglasses and listen to music.

Frequently he asks about discomfort as he drills.

My dentist offers sage advice about teeth cleaning and other topics whenever I lean back in the chair.

Recently, my dentist sent me some information about Initiative 678, the proposal on the Washington state ballot this November that would allow dental hygienists to clean teeth without having to work in a real dentist’s office.

My dentist opposes this practice.

A few days ago my newspaper endorsed Initiative 678.

Thus my cause for worry.

How hard would it be for a dentist to cut the pain deadener, bear down a little harder, or otherwise find a way to make the point that he didn’t agree with that dang editorial?

My dentist? No. He wouldn’t do something like that because it wouldn’t be professional.

He wouldn’t do it because the hygienist teeth-cleaning initiative, while important, isn’t likely to be an issue that will divide communities, ruin friendships or force people to choose up sides.

And my family and I have many other teeth that need repair, and my dentist knows it.

In short, my dentist will, I’m confident, do the kind of balancing of interests we all must do when considering how to carry on business and interpersonal relationships with people who may not share our politics or beliefs.

We all meet people every day who voted differently from us in the last election and will vote differently in the next one. And if we didn’t talk politics, religion or sports with them, we would consider these neighbors and associates pretty good folks.

The point is, try to keep some sense of balance in these last, hectic days when proponents and opponents of candidates, causes and initiatives advertise, pitch and argue to amplify their points.

Oh, and finding out the facts would be a good idea, too.

My dentist, for example, made a very practical argument to me about the dental hygienist initiative. He said many people wouldn’t want to go to a hygienist to get teeth cleaned and then to a dentist to get teeth repaired. One-stop dentistry is more efficient and convenient. And, my dentist took exception to the assertion that I-678 would provide more dental care to the poor.

He noted that, in fact, people most in need of dental care these days aren’t just looking for clean teeth. They need a full program for cavities, disease and extractions that hygienists cannot provide.

These were good points.

My dentist is someone I know, trust and take seriously. He carries some weight in my balancing act on I-678. His words have forced me to weigh an issue that I hadn’t thought about.

It’s the kind of knowledge of the issues involved and weighing of trade-offs that needs to be done on all kinds of political debates, from gun locks to the medicinal use of marijuana.

Unfortunately, weighing the arguments has lost much ground in politics to its rogue cousins: confusing the issues and pushing the polls.

Manipulative efforts to throw weight around at election time really frost my cake, and Spokane has seen all too much of it in recent days.

For example, only a few days ago, a telephone survey paid for by the Seattle-based Sabey Corp. tried to suggest that Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty’s past personal financial difficulties are a reason to vote for his opponent.

The same poll further pushed voters to conclude that Geraghty’s opponent, John Talbott, was suited to be mayor because he had been in the U.S. Air Force.

Confused issues. Bad polling.

The survey didn’t say anything about the fact that the city of Spokane’s finances are in good shape and in fact are projected to improve to the tune of $2.5 million a year in new tax revenues once the downtown redevelopment approved by the City Council goes forward.

And, the survey didn’t try to answer the question of whether John Talbott’s Air Force background would be a good model for a leader in a weak-mayor system of government where the mayor is simply one vote among seven and can’t simply order things done.

The push polling done by NorthTown owner David Sabey wasn’t designed to help voters balance the issues. The poll was a destabilizing weapon from an outsider with an ax to grind.

With two weeks to go in this election year, the best advice is the same as it is every time we have to decide difficult issues.

Become informed. Weigh the pluses and minuses of the candidates and initiatives.

Then, on balance, weigh the arguments, the people involved, the facts you know, and make the best decision you can.

And one more thing.

Don’t put off going to the dentist no matter how you feel about Initiative 678.

, DataTimes MEMO: Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

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