Politics unwrapped

Guest Columnist

I started this mini-series a few weeks ago with a short exposé of our town manager’s potentially reduced security level. That was meant as a fun piece, believe it or not. It actually was pro-town manager in the new reality around here.

That new reality itself is somewhat dynamic. There are some Town Hall watchers, smart folks, who say that there won’t be an election here for many years to come. I think that thought might be a bit overblown. Certainly the numbers of potential candidates rushing to the Supervisors of Elections with their petitions won’t be large. It doesn’t take large numbers to make some changes. That’s how we got to where we find ourselves.

Longboat Key just saw the election of three commissioners unopposed. There is nothing illegitimate about an unopposed candidate. One might say that such candidates are by definition the best, as not one of their neighbors run against them, thinking them to be the best. That concept is open to debate, even here. Those three commissioners, Jack Duncan, Jim Brown and Phill Younger, are elected and in office for their two-year terms. The other four seats are of interest here.

Some might say that I approach this subject too soon. I think not. Politics is a recognized indoor sport on this island, thus always in season. We’re 10 months out from the next town election in March 2012. I’ve already written on the wisdom of these springtime and out-of phase elections. They are what they are and the calendar is not likely to change soon if ever. I’m done for now on that subject. I must point out however that the meeting, which did or did not happen in a certain penthouse that started this whole change, was reported to be held May 26, 2009. So maybe I’m not so early.

Back to the four seats to be decided in 2012. These are currently held by in District 1 Lynn Larson, District 3 David Brenner, District 5 Patricia Zunz, and Dr. Hal Lenobel at-large. All of these must run next year. Larson, Brenner and Lenobel as their terms will expire; Zunz because she, having been appointed, must defend that seat in the next general election. None of these commissioners are affected this time by term limits. Assuming each remains a resident in his or her district, each will be eligible to run again. At this early point I must assume that each of these incumbent commissioners will run again in 2012.

Now that fact, if my assumption plays out, does not get you to the conclusion of my Town Hall watchers that there will be no election for many years or even for this coming year. It does, however, get you pretty close.

What might change the game, unwrap it if you will? Obviously the entry of different, maybe even new, candidates will change the lineup card as the game starts. And it could soon start. I’ll give you some names widely thought to be interested in a commission seat. I said seat, not run. These might include: in District, 1 Brad Saivetz, completing his term on PZB, and Bob White, known best for his leadership of IPOC; in District 3, BJ Webb, current chairwoman of the P&Z Board, Landau, either one, John Wild, currently on the P&Z Board and ascending president of local Kiwanis, and Ray Rajewski, Bayou president and onetime candidate; in District 5, Michael Drake, Village Association outgoing president, and Gene Jaleski, former commissioner and current columnist for this newspaper; and at-large, potentially there are 6,000-plus candidates for this seat. Maybe I’m just listing dreams, but since this is opinion list I can do.

I see Webb, the strongest potential candidate, as unlikely to even try to move from her position on the Planning and Zoning Board where she has a safe appointment until 2013. I don’t count any of the names written here as very likely to challenge any incumbent. Zunz, as a recent appointee, is probably the most vulnerable. She will of course have wide support of the other incumbents and all of their supporters.

So, the at-large seat held by Lenobel looks to be the only one really in play. I’d say, now, that it is his to hold or relinquish at his option. As I’ve said here, I assume Hal will run again. He has served this town long and well; it’s his call.

There is a situation developing that could change this calculus. On the March 2012 ballot there will certainly be one or more questions asking the voters’ approval of significant expenditures. These will certainly include further beach renourishment, maybe a pensions fix. To be placed on a ballot that asks for lots of money is not historically a good place to be for any candidate’s name.

As I was completing the draft of this brief piece I was listening to a popular daytime talk show host. His listeners might be a bit right of center. A lady caller, quite agitated she was too, asked why certain lesser known politicians did not step forward and offer themselves for the presidency. She noted that these women and men claimed ‘not to be ready.’ This lady noted that Churchill might not have been ready in the late ’30s, but he came forward when his country needed him. Her message, as I received it, was that greatness might just be there in other potential candidates; who should answer the call. Powerful statement I thought.

Well, might there be some known or unknown candidate out there in our smaller world by the sea. Who knows when one is truly ‘ready?’

Certainly the current ‘regime’ now in power here has little or no claim to greatness. This isn’t a game in which one scores points by just showing up. I suspect that there are more candidates out here. Let’s get them thinking about hearing that call.

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