Outside City Hall: Tips for feel-good city campaign cliches

Each election cycle, the successful campaigns for Mayor and City Council spend tens of thousands on campaign mailers. It’s not just postage and printing they pay for but marketing expertise in crafting the contents--clever twists of phrase and generic rallying cries. It’s the art of making the candidate look good by speaking in generalities that trigger feel-good responses from voters while saying nothing of substance.

Indeed this messaging and direct mails to get that message out are critically important. In this era where voters get their information from multiple media sources, it’s just not possible for a candidate to reach every voter. Direct mail likely is the only exposure most voters will get to a candidate before casting their ballot.

So for all you remaining candidates out there heading into the general election, here’s our compilation of warm and fuzzy slogans for your mailers, brochures and stump speeches, guaranteed to elevate your profile and capture votes.  And whatever you do, stay away from specifics that might reveal where you actually stand on the key issues affecting Seattle:

“I am a proven civic leader with a clear progressive vision, courage and independence to tackle the big problems so everyone can thrive.”

“Proven experience to build a Seattle that is affordable, sustainable, and welcoming to all.”

“I’m running to confront Seattle’s challenges and I’ll bring bold, concrete solutions forward.”

“I’ll make sure our economy remains robust while offering solutions that ensure our neighborhoods remain vibrant and affordable to all.”

Meanwhile candidates strive to find the right image for their mailers. For some it is head up, a hand raised and finger pointed forward. Or they might be at a podium addressing the masses, clenched fist raised, eyes and face as confident and solid as the rock of Gibraltar.

In other cases, the candidate is seated over coffee, addressing a fawning but strategically diverse group of supporters. Then there’s the “rugged outdoors” shot. Perhaps they’re hiking and surrounded by their well-scrubbed family. Or better yet, squeezed into a kayak looking ready for whitewater (making sure the person holding onto the kayak is carefully positioned off-camera).

It got us thinking just how many cliches could be packed into a stump speech. So here goes a boilerplate presentation for the ages. All current or prospective candidates for office are welcome to borrow any of the following since it’s sure to get you elected--provided of course you’ve got a few hundred grand and a “PAC” or two helping get your message to every voter (at least 3 or 4 times).

“As a proven and experienced leader, I am committed to keeping Seattle affordable for all – including finding innovative solutions that serve the poor, working and middle class families. On growth, I’ll fight for dense vibrant transit-oriented, sustainable, and walkable neighborhoods. I’ll make sure neighborhoods, small businesses, renters and homeowners all have a seat at the table when key decisions are made upstream affecting Seattle’s future.

I’ll champion working families and push for more livable wage jobs. I have the skills and expertise to help Seattle fight back against Trump. We will deliver basic services that make Seattle work for everyone. I’ll work to reduce property taxes for struggling seniors.

I’ll make our communities safer with effective solutions to law enforcement. We’ll have bias-free policing and improved public safety.  What we need is a pioneering and skilled progressive like myself who’s ready to meet and solve these and other challenges that come with being a leading city on the vanguard of change.

And I’ll tackle head-on the homeless problem.  First we must carefully reevaluate our policies applied to sweeps and reform delivery of services to make them more efficient and cost-effective. I am committed to full review of all our policies and decisions from a racial and equity lens.

I have a long track record bringing groups together and I will listen to everyone. Growth is coming and I have the experience to tackle effectively the challenges that come with more growth. The solution to our lack of affordable housing is to build more housing and create dense walkable cities. HALA is a good thing but I’ll do more to ensure good design and make sure citizens have a say. Transit-oriented pedestrian-friendly development is key. Yes, I have plan to end the war within six months of taking office.  Vote for me and I’ll set you free etc. etc. etc.”

It actually was pretty easy putting this basic template together because we borrowed darn near all of it from materials and statements circulated by our current crop of candidates. And geez, in a few places we came perilously close to saying something substantive.  Yikes.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see them  drill down for a change, and offer real solutions on their mailers? Stuff  they’d do to make a difference in this city?  Alas, we doubt their highly paid campaign consultants would approve.