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Brown, Younger, Pastor are Longboat’s best vote

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The 2013 Longboat Key Commission election is a referendum on many issues. It is also a spectacular display of effort, politicking, small town battling and finagling and deep-rooted philosophies mixed with a healthy dose of pettiness and gamesmanship.

And while on one hand I would love to whisk together a tour de force analysis with break-out charts and graphs, a look at history, the future and how these personalities complement each other clarifies the choice to be made.

In the case of incumbent Phill Younger and challenger Gene Jaleski, a more direct evaluation using a scoring method akin to the way Olympic athletes or the kids on Dance Moms are evaluated makes sense.

And the analysis will clearly show the logic and rationale to vote for incumbent Jim Brown over Larry Grossman, incumbent Phill Younger over Gene Jaleski and challenger Irwin Pastor over Terry Gans.

And let’s start with the most difficult and toughest choice: the race between Gans and Pastor.

 

Why Pastor?

First, just like it pays to read Genesis to understand Christianity, how Pastor and Gans came on the scene and presented themselves informs the future.

For about two years, Gans could be seen sitting firmly in the camp with the pro-Key Club plan advocates with a sticker on that advertised his support. He spoke passionately, vociferously and without hesitation in favor of the Town’s vote to approve the plan, to amend the codes and to continue to try and get the approval to legally stick.

On the other end of the spectrum sat Pastor. He was firmly opposed to the plan, sat as a major member and negotiator on behalf of IPOC and grew motivated to run for the Commission after IPOC won hands-down in most every interpretation in court.

Yet Pastor’s issue and IPOC’s issue is that the same Commission that fought them is still intact, running things and its members proclaim that they have the right path to plan Longboat Key’s future. Pastor wants to play a role in that governance.

 

The Lenobel factor

During the Key Club hearings, acting as a counterpoint to the Commission was former Mayor Hal Lenobel.

Lenobel vehemently advocated preserving our Comprehensive Plan and zoning codes and not amending codes to fit the application. Lenobel fought with the Key Club to try and get the owners to keep the driving range. He was pushing for compromise.

But the fearful and dogmatic voices — instead of listening to balance and reason and middle ground — listened to the shrill and shill campaigning of Gans and others, and jumped hand-in-hand like Heaven’s Gate followers off a costly legal cliff.

And they lost.

And the Town lost.

And the Key Club lost.

And residents lost about $1 million fighting it all.

Soon after the vote, for health reasons, Lenobel stepped down and the Commission was faced with a moral and representation decision.

 

Cronyism rather than representation

Realize that Lenobel beat Phill Younger in a previous election to keep his seat. Lenobel campaigned on and consistently advocated and still does for a quiet, upscale residential community. He did and does not want marked increases in tourism or most importantly — cell towers.

So when charged with filling Lenobel’s seat, the Commissioners were faced with choosing between Ray Rajewski and Terry Gans.

In Rajewski was someone opposed to the way the Commission was handling the Key Club application and a man against cell towers.

In Gans was a man who supported the Club application unwaveringly and to this day will not commit to not wanting to ever see a cell tower on Longboat Key.

So instead of following voter intent in picking someone akin to Lenobel, the Commission voted 5 to 2 to nominate Gans last year. Gans at the time said he was not interested in seeking the seat permanently and was simply a placeholder.

Admirably, Commissioners Phill Younger and Jack Duncan voted for and spoke out loud in support of Rajewski over Gans. In fact, both argued that Rajewski represented continuity in Lenobel’s position and that another voice on the Commission would be an asset.

They were ignored with a 5 to 2 vote for Gans.

At the time, the Town was still fighting vociferously with IPOC in court over the Key Club approval and code changes and Gans helped fashion a united front when it came to addressing any and all legal issues with IPOC.

But the vote for Gans came at a tragic cost to our community and the fairness of representation. Lenobel steps down out of illness and instead of an heir-apparent, we get a complete opposite.

Gans hesitates when cell towers are mentioned and talks about the need for health and safety. That is code for being sympathetic to towers and buying into the industry argument that we are legally bound to create tower sites.

Another anti-Lenobel sentiment is the constant writing of codes to fit development applications. And when I say writing codes, I mean loosening codes every time.

The Hilton application is going down the same path of removing all open space and green space to allow a massive box.

Is that the best way to plan or the best thing for the Key? We do not know because instead of planning, we have fast code repair — like a chop shop of land use — to accommodate the developer’s project.

In Gans’ and the sitting Commission’s world, that is the right way to move forward until we can get caught up so to speak. But therein lies the fallacy. It only compounds the effects from our already troubling modus operandi.

Now, a year later, Gans wants to remain on the board and Pastor is the challenger. Pastor is similar to Lenobel in that he wants a more moderate redevelopment strategy for the Key Club. But Pastor is also different from Lenobel. He brings enormous managerial and negotiating experience from his background as a CEO and Vice President of several PepsiCo distributorships and bottling companies.

And that large family business helped him become involved in public hospital mergers in New York, bring professional hockey to Buffalo and chair numerous boards and foundations.

So now we are in a pivotal moment. We are talking Hilton redevelopment, long-range planning and making codes and a legal framework that helps our community redevelop into the future.

So if Pastor does not win, we have the team that lost on every count of the Key Club lawsuit and tried to grant a plan to a group that is but now a memory. That is why adding Pastor adds reason and a smart voice that can help balance the tendency for this Commission to get ahead of itself and not make rational long-term decisions.

 

The bottom line

The bottom line is we need another voice. All boards work well with a variety of smart, capable voices that do not agree. Representation is everything. Saying “I appreciate and understand the opposition” is not representation.

Pastor will be the only Commissioner, if elected, who has and is supporting a more balanced approach to Islandside. It appears that the residents behind the gates and Ocean Properties are already accomplishing that goal now that the other plan is not permissible.

If we want to fix the north end of the Key, if we want to clean up the Colony while avoiding the Town getting into lawsuits and we want to write codes that work, it is axiomatic that you vote in support of Pastor.

The group that just lost in court on 14 consecutive counts will be well served by adding a rational voice. The voice that was correct in court and correct in its evaluation of the impact of the plan will then be in the Town’s tent helping to guide policy.

Now do we want seven Irwin Pastors on the commission? No; it would be like a store with only Pepsi products. But maybe his presence will help the Commission get out of its lockstep and start challenging the status quo to arrive at smarter and more legally defensible positions.

Vote for Irwin Pastor.

 

Gene Jaleski vs. Phill Younger

I will use the Dance Mom’s scoring methodology with these two candidates. But for those who eat dessert first, the analysis will reveal that Phill Younger, despite some flaws and concerns, clearly deserves to continue as commissioner.

 

Scoring Category 1 — ideas, ingenuity, innovation

Jaleski + 9

I once refereed to Gene Jaleski as a walking Google search without the sort for relevance feature.

But just like we have chaotic dreams that repeat over the years, Gene’s ideas and political thrusts have shown patterns and have gained traction in our community.

In fact, to Jaleski’s credit, he has expressed just about every innovative planning and beach maintenance and governance idea imaginable. All of the above topics could be authored by Jaleski in Wikipedia.

You can take any topic — wave dynamics, global warming, peacocks, turtle lighting, nuclear fusion — and Gene will absorb the problem, research, innovate and offer solutions. The solutions are not necessarily employable or fit the specific circumstances, but they are innovative and often idealistic.

I see Jaleski like a boy on a hill in a meadow with a bright blue sky over head. The boy opens a bag and out fly thousands and thousands of butterflies. They move in all directions, some swarm, some find flowers and the vast majority are simply swept at first into the wind and then they fall to the earth. Those butterflies are like Gene’s ideas flying out of that bottomless bag in all directions at once.

 

Younger + 4

I would not call Phill an ideas guy. I would call Younger a steady ruminating thinker who has created more Excel spreadsheets to analyze and represent more topics of inquiry than all the former financial directors combined.

Phill will question and follow his hunches and collect data and come to conclusions. Phill does deserve Kudos for his ideas on how to revision beach policy. He also tried to fashion a compromise on the Key Club project much the way former Mayor George Spoll attempted.

 

Implementation, governance, effectiveness

Jaleski — minus 8

This sounds harsh, but it is the core of the conundrum with Gene Jaleski.

Jaleski cannot bring his ideas to the table in an effective manner and convince others of his ideas or solutions.

I think of Jaleski as an embodiment of the Cassandra Complex. Cassandra in Greek myth could foresee the future and imminent danger but not a single soul would believe or listen to her. In many ways Jaleski tragically suffers a similar fate.

Take a few examples: Years ago, Jaleski was against the way the Town kept using the same beach engineer year after year. He also faulted the Town relying on its Town Attorney and challenged his track record. Jaleski also argued against the Key Club approval.

And other than the Town Attorney, who got paid to give good advice nobody listened to, I often find myself agreeing with Jaleski.

But when it comes to his ability to reach across the aisle and work with other commissioners, it falls apart. When it is time to sway and argue and convince the other commissioners, Jaleski actually alienates them and pushes them into personal combativeness.

This is critical because as an owner of a newspaper and father of six, I will tell you — ideas are easy, implementation is everything.

It is like that show Shark Tank. Anyone can waltz up with a great idea and talk in a void or vacuum. Those ideas that have legs and get picked up, developed and funded are what count in our world — especially in government.

To live solely in the world of ideas, ideals and initiatives is to be a community activist, a philosopher, a red wine aficionado, an intellectual, a Platonic thinker — whatever title we want to confer.

But in the rubric of small town governance — in a landscape of tough retired CEOs who are all about assessment, implementation and getting things done — you need to be adept at making sure your arguments are convincing and win the day.

Just the opposite has happened. Jaleski has gained influence by being a writer and a thinker. I do want to be condescending, but that is his strongest role.

What Jaleski I hope appreciates is that being a writer and pushing his ideas the way he does is a service perhaps nobler and greater than he could ever have on a Commission. I mean that as a complement since I believe his writing is far more convincing and focused than his pesky battles in Town Hall.

 

Younger + 9

Younger is all about implementation and real change once he knows where he needs to go. Younger helped change the beach policy, pensions and now supports long-range planning. This is his strength.

I also credit Younger for showing he can listen and change his thinking.

Younger is clear in that he would like to see a successful and more moderate Key Club proposal. He is committed to helping tourism and redevelopment, but stops short with being adamant in rejecting cell towers as a viable or even necessary solution to phone service.

But he did not just reject cell towers. He and fellow commissioners undertook an independent study that proved we are in compliance with the Telecommunications Act and that cell towers would be an inferior approach that would not even fix the areas of spotty coverage.

So in Younger I see someone open minded enough to see the need for long-range planning. I see someone dedicated to changing or pursuing any policy he can to better the island. I see someone who while he may get attached to an idea, is willing to listen and if it makes sense, change his mind.

And my support of Younger is based on these very human traits. Phill Younger is one of the more open-minded commissioners and is not the person we should be throwing out when his steady and solid hand can be counted on for two more years.

Vote for Phill Younger.

 

Jim Brown vs. Larry Grossman

This is the easiest decision in many regards. Not because challenger Larry Grossman does not have the right stuff for the job, but because Jim Brown has been a steady leader who shows he will struggle to do what he feels is right and that includes listening to different sides of an issue.

Here are some qualities and things that are impressive about Brown:  He is Mayoral. By that I mean Brown in public events — whether with the Commission or on his own — represents the Town with dignity and a certain humanity. And while we all may not agree with Brown’s or the Commission’s decisions, it is Brown who is the embodiment of an engaged resident working like crazy on many fronts to improve life on the Key.

Take the idea of a community center. Brown is adamant that it would be a benefit to the town, future residents and property values. But Brown not only wants it built using primarily if not all private funding, he insists on a community referendum to ensure that is what the Town wants.

Brown also has pushed for maintenance codes to clean up properties and helped, along with Jack Duncan, take the lead in ensuring the Colony gets and stays cleaned up during the legal battles.

Brown gets emotional as well, but not in a wimpy or inappropriate way. He gets choked up when he is talking about something that is meaningful or something that has caused him difficulty. That is important because it is that honesty, that inability to a have canned responses and be calculating that makes Brown the special person I see him as being.

In fact, even when Brown has been criticized in the paper — and he has been – he always has been a gentleman.  He would immediately start dialoguing and trying to explain his position and understand what the issue is and what the differences may be.

In other words, while Brown may push back and argue on occasion, his way of operating is not petty and behind the scenes, but classy.

And let’s speak of challenger Larry Grossman for a moment. Grossman is a clear-thinking land-use expert who speaks the language of planning. In fact, Grossman has a strong grasp of how to properly plan, what is fair and how to accomplish what you want in codes.

And while Grossman’s long-range planning skills are incisive and valuable, Brown simply has a manner and level of experience that renders him an enormous asset to our community.

The loss of Brown’s composure, critical thinking and ability to create consensus is far to great a cost to justify Grossman. The only reason to select Grossman over Brown is if the only voting litmus test one applies is the Key Club hearing. But Brown has evolved his thinking. He has shown responsibility and insight into why he voted as he did and what he would change. That takes courage.

Life is full of compensations that cancel out negatives. Brown is complex, supported the Key Club application too vociferously, and since then has worked tirelessly to try and heal this divided community.

A vote for Brown shows appreciation for all this man has done right for our small island.

Vote for Jim Brown


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5 Responses for “Brown, Younger, Pastor are Longboat’s best vote”

  1. William Kary says:

    Gene needs to take this as a positive that will allow him to pursue his dream of a “Welcome Center” in the empty gas station facility at the north end of the Island. A self-appointed ‘Welcome Ambassador” for LBK. “Welcome” to one of the few spots on our planet that does not have sufficient cell phone service because just a few dozen individuals are only affected… “Can you hear me now?”, Mr. Jaleski…

  2. John Wild says:

    Nice work Steve, and it would seem you AND THE VOTERS hit the nail on the head about Gene, who rather dramatically (this time around) lost by a most severe margin. I will look forward to his next column where he’ll offer his unique spin on his loss, I’m sure. Clearly voters were not looking backward, they wanted a Commission willing to advance LBK into the 21st century, even after a decade of false starts.

    If we had an airport here, the pilot would say “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ll soon be landing on Longboat Key. Please return your seat backs and tray tables to the full upright position and set your watches back 28 years. Local time is 19:86.”

  3. William Kary says:

    Excellent analysis, Steve. Especially on Jaleski. It’s easy to sit back and think, but another story to convince others and implement. Absolutely no doubt Jaleski has presented some interesting concepts in the past, but if he is somehow elected, his frustration level will again build and I am afraid the Town will then face another resignation from him. History does have a way of repeating itself…

  4. gene jaleski says:

    Steve, your assessments of the various candidates has one glaring deficiency – You act as though this commission’s Key Club failure never happened. How is it that you give Brown and Younger a free pass on the worst legal defeats in our town’s history? Both Younger and Brown voted on three different pieces of legislation, each slammed down by 5 judges on 3 courts. The two of them set our town back 4 or more years, cost taxpayers, residents and British pensioners millions of dollars. In your candidate assessments you avoid any mention of the last three wasted years, where this commission accomplished nothing for our residents, had problems with the previous town manager, fired two department heads and increased our pension plan obligations over 10 million dollars.

    I hope voters will see through your thinly veiled intrusion into the political arena, while abandoning your journalism obligations. Now we have no reliable newspapers in our community.

  5. spencer ross says:

    The definition of insanity is repeating the same old behavior and expecting different results.

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