Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Political Profile: Brian Fletcher

Now that I’m taking a closer interest in local politics, focusing mainly on the races taking place within the 23rd District, I’ve decided to try and meet up personally with some of the primary winners and get to know them on a more personal level. Granted, not being formally leashed to any of the supposedly legit news outfits, getting close enough to say “Boo” to some of them isn’t going to be the easiest of tasks.

Luckily for me, not all of the politicians running for office are as inaccessible. One candidate in particular that I found extremely accommodating was Brian Fletcher, one of the two Democratic candidates currently running for the position of Hunterdon County Freeholder. In fact, Fletcher has gone out of his way to be accessible to the public, including reaching out on the Internet to rub virtual elbows with people more computer savvy than our current President.

Many candidates are courting the Internet these days, including many 2008 Presidential hopefuls, with video diaries and interactive websites attempting to reach where whistle stop tours can’t. These even include such modern icons of the Internet revolution like MySpace, which Freeholder Candidate Brian Fletcher currently exists on as fletcher4freeholder.

His openness towards public interaction and the Internet naturally extends to bloggers, and so I’ve been able to talk with him on several occasions.

I find that Fletcher doesn’t fit my initial biased mental image of your typical New Jersey Politician. Of course, he isn’t a typical politician. You only have to meet him to figure that out. He’s all smiles and full of friendly, but as you talk to him you slowly realize that the smiles and friendly nature are natural and not just part of the Meet-The-Public act put on by so many others. Of course, it is quite possible that he doesn’t smile all the time. But having spent four years in the Active Duty Air Force, and another four in the Ready Reserves, he could most likely kill me with a tea cup. I personally think it best not to find out what happens if he stops smiling.

But enough about Fletcher’s charm and my delusional fears, what matters most is what he plans to stand for as a Hunterdon County Freeholder. He’s very straight on the subject of his main platform, which is strengthening county ethics laws and rooting out the corruption that has become so commonplace in New Jersey Politics.

He’s quite adamant in his belief that the careerism overtaking many politicians is what leads to the rampant corruption we seem to keep seeing more and more of these days. The first part of his solution is one you don’t hear from too many candidates; term limits across the board. Or, as Fletcher is often fond of saying, “If two terms are good enough for the President then two terms are good enough for a county freeholder.”

Of course, it only begins with term limits. He’s been very vocal in supporting the advancement of a transparent system that will help prevent conflicts of interest amongst the Career Politicians that spend a good deal of their time brokering behind-the-scenes deals to help along their corporate entities, real estate holdings, and shady investments.

He’s quick to point out the recent scandals riddling the Sheriff’s office as perfect examples of the rampant abuses in the system, including but not limited to million-plus dollars in settlements spent covering up misdeeds to settling multiple discrimination lawsuits out of court. The worst parts aren’t the questionable actions of those supposedly acting in the public’s best interest, but the lengths to which others in higher offices will go to cover up for them.

Another major issue constantly in his crosshairs is the debacle known by many as the Highlands Legislation, which Hunterdon County officials have had no problem squandering hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting. Their dedication has quickly turned sour now that its unpopularity has increased during an election year, and now they are suddenly taking the position that it's not financially in our best interest to continue the lawsuits. Of course, the general consensus was always that it was never in the county's best interest, but that didn’t seem to sink in until their jobs were threatened. Now the only politicians still fighting to keep the lawsuits going are the ones who stand to make the most money off of the multiple land deals that would result if they are eventually successful. I’ll have to touch on that a bit more in the future.

In short, he is very aware of a lack of leadership at the county level. That is what inspired him to run for office in the first place. Like most of us should do, Brian Fletcher got fed up with the corrupt freak show passing for our leadership, and decided to do something about it. “We need common sense leadership,” he told me, “and we need it now.” He seems to think he’s just the man for the job. So far, he’s not looking too bad.