July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:38 PM
"This country will elect a new president in the fall. In Washington, we will select a U.S. senator. On Whidbey Island, we will vote for a U.S. congressman, a state senator and two state representatives, as well as a hospital levy. With such a big dose of campaign politics looming on our horizon, it's worth remembering that a healthy political debate is a positive thing. Personal attacks are not.If we needed a reminder of this, it came last month during the vote for Oak Harbor's school levy. The pro-levy organization, Citizens for Better Schools, worked hard to get the community behind the $2.6 million maintenance and operations levy. They recruited political and civic leaders to speak out in favor of the measure. They walked door to door, and stood on street corners and waived pro-levy signs.Opponents of the levy made thoughtful arguments about how the school district's money could be better spent. They wrote letters and guest editorials in this newspaper. They questioned the district's plans for spending the projected levy revenue.That's politics, and that's good. The back-and-forth debate educates voters and allows a community to make reasoned choices about its future.The tone of the post-levy debate has been less constructive, however. Citizens for Better Schools members were understandably disheartened when the levy fell far short of approval. They have no doubt been sobered to learn that just 27 percent of the school district's parents actually voted. But levy supporters need to get over it. The hurt, embittered tone they are using to describe how Oak Harbor fails to support its schools does their cause no good. Lay out the facts about how much the levy is needed, sure, but laying a guilt trip on voters will not get the next levy passed.Opponents of the school levy, meanwhile, have recently accused school district employees of campaigning for the levy on district property. They've also accused Citizens for Better Schools of actively promoting this illegal activity. News-Times reporter Chris Douthitt recently looked into these charges and found nothing to support them. Levy opponents should be ashamed for making these accusations without backing it up with facts. They, too, need to get over the fact that the levy will likely be back before voters in less than a year.As we enter another political season, we ask that the people involved in political campaigns remember one thing: Politics are meant to serve the public. If political campaigns become more about personalities than the public's interest, politics have no purpose."