Election day is next Tuesday, April 4, and while we at QuadCities.com are largely in favor of bringing you the best of local entertainment and features, we also recognize the interest and importance of voting and its impact. So we encourage everyone, regardless of their choice, to get out and vote for the candidates they feel will do the best in their elected positions.

Over the past few months, I, personally, have been honored to converse with the four men running for Rock Island mayor. This has been as part of QCUncut, my talk show podcast here on QuadCities.com, which offers uncut, unedited and uncensored conversation with local newsmakers and personalities.

Now, as I mentioned, we at QuadCities.com don’t typically delve into the realms of politics and hard news. The other news media in the area offer quite comprehensive coverage within these realms and compete to offer you breaking hard news and political commentary. However, one thing neither the newspapers nor the electronic media are geared towards is lengthy and unedited discourse. It’s just the nature of the beast. Newspapers need to fit stories into certain word counts due to limited space. Television offers even less space as their time is all the more limited and politicians’ words and contextual dialogue is always sliced down to a soundbite which eliminates greater context.

That’s why I decided to delve into politics and offer the spotlight to political figures within QCUncut. Not because we’re becoming a political site. Not because we’re trying to compete with the other media in the realm of political and hard news coverage. But because we are uniquely positioned to offer something that none of the other media can offer – lengthy, uncut, unedited conversation that offers you the opportunity to hear the entire conversation between the interviewer and the person being interviewed. That way you can hear the whole thing, the context, the inflections, the intonations, everything that can give you a complete picture of what the candidate meant to say and how they said it.

We think that now, particularly now, in an age when spin and fake news has been so predominant, it’s important for voters to be able to have the whole story, the whole conversation, the whole context. That’s why, over the past few months, I’ve given the spotlight, or offered the spotlight, to all of the Rock Island mayoral candidates and had lengthy conversations with them, conversations that you can listen to here, for free, in their entirety, on the QCUncut section of QuadCities.com.

Why Rock Island? Why not all of the cities?

Well, in part because the Rock Island mayoral race is perhaps the most heated and most contested, and has been in the news due to various issues that face the city in the upcoming few years. We felt it was in the best interest of the public to shine the spotlight on this race in particular. This is not to say this will always be the case or that we won’t do the same with other cities in the future, or that I won’t have other cities’ mayors on as guests on my show. The whole point of QCUncut is to offer unedited, uncut, uncensored quality conversation with area newsmakers, and political figures are certainly newsmakers. We feel we’re uniquely positioned to offer this to our audience and we aim to continue doing so.

And now, on to the matter at hand . . .

The Rock Island mayoral race.

It was a few months ago that I met with all four candidates – Andy Rowe, Stephen Tollenaer, Terry Brooks and Mike Thoms. Each of them graciously accepted my invitation to appear on QCUncut. The rules of each conversation were simple – they each had 40 minutes maximum to converse, they all had to answer the same questions, which were submitted by voters (if I asked any candidate a follow-up question that was unique to them, I noted that on the podcast) and they had to agree that they would not see the questions beforehand and they could not listen to the podcast afterwards until it was posted up on the site. It was simple and pure conversation – I met with them, I pressed record on my digital recorder, and once we hit that 40 minute mark, I thanked them and pressed stop, and that was it.

Each of the men proved to be very gracious and cooperative.

We posted the podcasts and they were an immediate sensation – thousands of people listened in and offered their opinions on them and were quite pleased at the opportunity to become more enlightened and educated on all of the candidates and their positions. That’s precisely what we were trying to do – to help the voters best find the candidate that aligned with their own beliefs and vision for the city.

Last week, I once again offered each of the candidates the opportunity to appear on my show one more time before election day. Three of the candidates – Andy Rowe, Terry Brooks and Stephen Tollenaer – agreed and recorded shows with me. The fourth, Mike Thoms, respectfully declined. Mike was very gracious and cordial in declining the offer, explaining that he was having success in going out and campaigning door-to-door and meeting with people face-to-face and he was going to continue on that path up to election day and wished to refrain from doing more media appearances. Again, he was very cordial, gracious and respectful and noted that he would be happy to appear on the program after April 4 if he is elected. I respect his decision and thank him for appearing on the show during our first round of appearances.

As for the other three candidates, well, today you can check out my conversations with them on QCUncut, and if you wish, you can go back and listen once more to my initial conversations with them as well as my conversation with Mike. I encourage you to do so, as I encourage all voters to do so, to make the best decision possible in regard to their votes next week.

Now, as for our endorsement . . .

For Rock Island mayor, we at QuadCities.com endorse . . .

All of the candidates.

Sincerely.

This may seem like a cop out, but it’s true, and after having had lengthy conversations with each of them, after having had off-the-record conversations with each, and after having researched all of the men running, I can honestly say that whoever wins, Rock Island will be in good hands. I find all four candidates to be solid in their experience and vision for the city and honorable men. I like them all as people and I like them all as candidates.

Each of them has a distinct quality that they bring to the table and visions for the city that would be beneficial.

In talking to Stephen Tollenaer, I find his enthusiasm for making Rock Island “a more compassionate city” to be very appealing. I like his pragmatism and his willingness to work outside the boundaries to find common sense solutions to problems, particularly ethical problems, involving rules and regulations that impact voters. I like his experience in government (Steve is my district alderman and I feel he’s done a strong job in that capacity) and his candid nature. Steve and I did not agree on a few issues, one of them significant, but I liked his ability to respectfully accept and discuss dissenting opinions and viewpoints and found it to be a quality that is not only too lacking in modern politics but essential for politics going forward, particularly on the local level.

In talking to Terry Brooks, I also enjoyed our discussions and respect his experience in government and community service. I found he and I had two important things in common – a vision to make Rock Island a “greener” city and a vision to build a sports complex in our town. When I was considering running for mayor, two of the items on my platform were finding ways in which to utilize more solar and wind energy as well as greater green technology and green platforms to not only make Rock Island a more progressive city ecologically but to benefit the city financially. I am very enthusiastic in regard to Brooks’ vision echoing mine. I likewise know firsthand, being a local coach of many youth sports programs, the enthusiasm for those programs and the lack of a local facility to meet the booming market and I agree with Terry that an indoor sports complex would be an excellent and wise use of city funds that would not only be a financial boom in itself but would create an area of traffic that would draw other businesses. I hope that whoever wins on April 4, whether it is Terry or any other candidate, takes a good look at Terry’s plans in regard to each and strongly considers them for the city moving forward.

In talking to Mike Thoms, I also found him to be very personable, amiable and candid. I respect his business background and acumen and his long record of business success and involvement in area charities and other organizations. I like his ability to utilize his business background to find solutions to complex problems and issues that face the city, particularly in regard to financial issues created by the previous administration. And ironically, one of the other reasons I liked him is the reason he turned down my request for a second interview – his willingness to get out into the community and talk to and interact with people. That’s not to say this is a unique quality to Mike that’s lacking in the other candidates. But I ran into Mike by chance a number of times over the course of the campaign season, merely out in public places, talking to voters. That accessibility to the public, not only the media, is an essential quality for a public servant.

In talking to Andy Rowe, I also found him to be very amiable and conversant in a number of areas of interest and logistics in terms of government. I respect his long record of public service and political experience. I liked that of all the candidates he seemed to be the most conversant and accessible on social media and enjoyed his series of “kitchen table conversations” he posted on social media. I found them to be an effective and interesting means of communication. Like Mike Thoms, Andy Rowe seemed to be quite active in engaging the community and I saw him on more than a few occasions out in public, but more often than not, I noticed him engaging the public on social media, which, as a force for communication in an increasingly online world, is a positive sign. I agreed with Andy’s vision to help small businesses and to research and pursue greater ways to benefit local businesses financially and otherwise. I likewise echoed his vision on the importance of micro-communities and building and branding areas of the city to engage civic pride.

Each of these candidates would make a very good mayor. One of them will get the chance to be. One of them will get the chance to see his vision for the city become reality.

But as I mention in the podcasts, to each of them, I think all of them have good ideas that should be considered if not implemented as a means to bring greater success and prosperity to the city going forward.

If I have any strong endorsement in this election it is that whoever wins next week should reach out to the other three candidates and build the bridges of communication and cooperation necessary for Rock Island to reach the peak of its success and potential. I think all of these men are sincere in their desire to make the city a better place. All of their visions have differences, but they all have commonalities in that they are fueled by passion for the community and they all have good ideas that could make our city greater.

I hope that all of them have the opportunity to work together to make that happen, and that whoever wins next week is a strong enough leader to recognize that cooperation and collaboration does not make one weak, it makes us all stronger, and a true leader is one who leads all.

Again, I thank you for taking this journey with us. I thank all of the candidates for their time and candor and I look forward to speaking to the next mayor soon on QCUncut in regard to their vision for the city and their progress going forward.

Please enjoy the conversations with each candidate. Listen to them thoroughly and repeatedly as you like and make your decision based upon who you find to be the best candidate for you and for the city when you vote April 4.

Thank you.

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Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.