Ian Haney Lopez’s book, Dog Whistle Politics, comes to mind when I was invited to interview mayoral hopeful Wendell Butler.
Wikipedia defines dog-whistle politics as political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for the targeted subgroup. The analogy is to a dog whistle, whose high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs but inaudible to humans.
Lopez’s book focuses on the coded racist appeals made by politicians that elitist understand but goes right over us regular people’s head. After reviewing Butler’s interview, some statements are clear to some and overlooked by others, which leads me to labeling it ‘dog-whistle’ like.
To help us understand the coded language, I’m stealing a page from comics Key and Peele by employing the Anger Translator skit they perform in their popular parodies on President Obama who sits and talks cool and collected while the Anger Translator (A.T.) stomps, romps, and screams what the President probably would like to say.
BUTLER: What I bring to the table is a working knowledge of how the police department works. I was on the force for over 34 years and I know how officers work and how the staff works.
A.T. : I’m going to clean up this damn police department. That’s what I know how to do and I’m going right in and get it done.
BUTLER: I want officers to be a part of the community and understand the issues of the community. They have to be empathic and helpful to the people they serve.
A.T. : Word’s got back to me that some of y’all is getting a little roughed up out there by the cops. I hope that ain’t true, but I’m going to put an end to that nonsense if it is.
BUTLER: One initiative is to create 5 substations operating in targeted communities. Police will walk a designated beat in that community. It will bring comfort to seniors and builds rapport with young people. That’s where crime fighting starts.
A.T. : When you look up, you’re going to see a police officer in your ‘hood. Let somebody try something and see how fast we gonna be on that ass.
BUTLER: I’m looking to create a civilian police academy to provide insight of what a police officer goes through and bridge an understanding gap between residents and police to help destroy the myths.
A.T. : The last thing I need is some nut with a cell phone camera recording legal and routine police work and calling it an abuse of power. I want all of you to know how we do our job so we don’t create an uncalled for Ferguson moment around here.
BUTLER: The police department needs strong leadership that comes from the community. It’s important that the leader of the department is somebody’s neighbor.
A.T. : If I can find someone from around here who can run the police department, I will. No need to go out the city for that.
BUTLER: I’ve always dealt delicately with city contracts. Police and fire fighters deserve every dollar they can get. But with our steadily shrinking tax base, we have to be careful how we allocate dollars.
A.T. : Yeah, I was responsible for dragging out the negotiations with the fire fighter contract that was almost immediately settled once I left office. My delay was because we didn’t have the money to pay for the increases they were asking. Now look at the city budget…if you can. That one move has put a huge dent in the city budget – one that I can’t see how to recover from in the short term.
BUTLER: That’s why I justified going hard after Harrah’s which is responsible for the city to receive over $10 million year or more. Harrah’s and the soccer stadium serve as anchors to our economic development. I will revisit with developers to finish out the waterfront to turn it into a condo-retail-commercial area it was originally planned to be before the economy went sour in 2008.
A.T. : Somebody better show me where some real money is going to be flowing in here real soon. Nothing’s been built in the last 4 years and I don’t see nothing on the horizon for the next four years that will bring any substantial revenue to the city. Parking taxes just ain’t gonna cut it.
BUTLER: We’re going to look to bring in light manufacturing. Government has to take the lead on that. We can be business friendly without having to give away the farm. We will help entice you to get here realizing that some applications we just cant accept.
A.T. : You won’t believe the idiots that came through here trying to get us to approve their projects in Chester. When they think you’re desperate they try to sell you on anything. When you really are desperate you may just have to take it. We only approved projects that made sense.
BUTLER: I want to establish a technical school for people to learn trades. We have to have more people learning how to work with their hands. What I learned in wood shop and metal shop, I still use today. We have to increase the trades.
A.T. : I’ve got no jurisdiction over the Chester-Upland School District but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see some learning going on around here. The school district has ceased almost all technical trades. Government can attract private operators to pick up that load.
BUTLER: As Chester goes, that’s how the county goes. Their economic outlook touts Harrah’s, and PPL park, which they were a part of the deal. They tout the Wharf at Rivertown. All of our city planning has to go to the county for their approval. That’s no different than any other municipality in the county.
A.T. : Y’all want to say I didn’t have anything to do with Harrah’s, PPL Park, new housing, and Route 291 expansion. You want to give all the credit to Senator Pileggi and the boys in Delaware County. I accept the fact that I may not cut all the deals but I’m there to cut the ribbons. But, understand that effective government is a partnership. If people are willing to partner for the mutual benefit of all, that’s how you grow. We’ll never be able to do it by ourselves. We are rich in location and infrastructure but don’t have the money to grow on our own. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a similar partnership to grow Chester with the current administration. That’s why nothing new is on the drawing board…I guess.
BUTLER: Crime is everyone’s number one concern. Twice a week trash collection in the summer is next. I plan to bring that back in addition to bringing funding back to the library so they can be open for our community to have access to computers and the Internet everyday.
A.T. : You don’t need an Anger Translator for that.
BUTLER: It would be easy to step right back into a leadership role because I’ve been there before. I’m not sure if the path the current administration took was the right one to build on the foundation that we established in the past.
I hope people look at the measurables, the body of work I spearheaded with my team. I’m going to go down that same road. There may be new people involved and I’ll have to let them know the intentions.
We did a phenomenal job in the past and will do so again this time around. We started with nothing except a belief that we’d work tirelessly to get this done. I’m having fun in the process.
A.T. : You can either sign on to the Butler Team or to the group of individuals who seem to want to climb over one another to get to the top. I believe the team approach is more effective. I’m not changing from what I did in the past. There may be a few new faces but I’m going to focus on the police department and let the business people handle the business end. It all ends up on my desk anyway. Folks are waiting in the wings to join our team and continue building Chester. If I’m not the mayor, that talent and resource will find somewhere else to go.