Recall issue should be based on fact

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The Aurora News-Register took an unprecedented step last week in its coverage of the recall election targeting Hamilton County Commissioner Gregg Kremer.
As co-publisher of this newspaper, I decided readers deserved an explanation for the fact-checking story that was published on the front page. To be honest, it’s the first time in my 34-year career that the ANR, or any of the weekly or daily newspapers I worked at, have taken that approach.
Recall elections by their very nature can be divisive for any community and that has certainly been the case here in Hamilton County. Knowing that, I and the ANR staff have worked hard from Day 1 to provide fair and balanced coverage, including interviews from the recall petitioner, Tanner Greenough, as well as Commissioner Kremer. On issues like this the community needs an accurate, credible source of information, thus our goal has been to remain neutral, report the facts, and let voters decide the issue, as they should.
However, when I saw a postcard mailed to District 4 patrons touting emotional, broadly-worded reasons would-be voters should support the recall and remove Kremer from office, I was disturbed. I’ve seen some of those same claims go viral on social media, gaining momentum and stirring emotional commentary without any frame of reference. Yet they were passed along and, judging by the feedback, accepted as fact.
The Hamilton County EMS Association (ambulance union) changed the tone of this discussion very early on, labeling the effort to consider ways to save taxpayer dollars as “Profits before people.” The postcard continued that theme, but offered no credible, fact-based evidence to support that claim.
Campaigns in Washington these days are filled with bold promises that can later be compared to comments or votes of elected officials, though in DC the fact checking itself sometimes has a left/right spin that makes it hard to know the actual truth. I wanted to avoid any perception of “spin” at all costs, so I made a decision to do some fact checking based on ANR reports of those topics in open public meetings.
After reviewing our coverage on the county’s handling of the Hamilton Manor and ambulance issues, the facts told a very different story than claims made in the union-funded postcard. We published that story, knowing full well the News-Register was opening itself up to claims of biased coverage.
I fielded some criticism, as expected, though not one person tried to dispute the facts as presented. That, to me, spoke volumes.
District 4 patrons who will make the recall decision should cast their votes based on facts rather than emotion, which is why the News-Register took this unprecedented approach.

KURT JOHNSON can be reached at kjohnson@ hamilton.net

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