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Election, again

PETER O’CONNOR
Contributing Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

The springtime ritual is almost upon us.  Here on Longboat Key we hold our little municipal election in March.  That’s even mandated in our Charter.  I’m told that this  timing is to accommodate our many seasonal residents who of course are elsewhere in November, the time of  National and Statewide elections.  I’ve always thought that if they are elsewhere there interest might also be elsewhere, but you get the point.  With modern election methods I suspect we could easily accommodate all voters at the more traditional time.  This might be a discussion for another time.   March it is –march on.

This year we are fortunate to have three challengers vying for three of the four open seats on the Town Commission.  In 2010 we actually had seven candidates competing for the three seats open.  In 2012 we had two candidates competing for one seat.  I don’t see any trend here.  I, and my colleagues on the NEWS wrote profusely this past year to encourage citizen participation.  Maybe we got what we wished for.

Thank you all for answering the call.

There have been candidate forums, newspaper “debates,” advertising in full color, road signs, and personal appeals.  A lot of money has been spent.  Most of us here think that this is all necessary.  I certainly do.

Since the rather unusual election of 2010 much has transpired.  These events are good or bad depending on your perspective.   Suffice it to say, “Elections do count”.

As we get ready to go to the two polling places, or the Town Hall for that newer phenomenon – early voting, or to mark our absentee ballots I would suggest the following.

If you are among those who liked the results of the 2010 and subsequent local elections, agree with the issue of that day, disagree with the opinions of several jurists, and want to see things continue as they are now, then you will likely want to vote for the three incumbents whose names you will find on your ballot.  The fourth incumbent is unopposed.

If, on the other hand you found yourself on the “wrong” side of those elections, disagree with the way things have been going, think the courts have been spot on, don’t see much accomplished during the past few years, think it is time for a change, then this March is your chance to register your disapproval by voting for the three challengers whose names you will find on those same ballots.  It’s that simple.

As much as I don’t like to see it, I view the current issue here in our Town to be the same as it has been for the past three + years.  The forces are lining up on the side of  free development versus those on the side of more control.  The players seem to be the same players:  the Longboat Key Club now paired in a single ownership with the Hilton against a loose coalition of traditionalists.  Nothing much has changed.

Almost three years I wrote a column for these pages on the End of Local Government.  Quoting myself,

“One might mark the end of local government as we have known it on our particular island as 1400 on 3 May 2010.  This action will be ratified at a quicky special meeting for second reading on 20 May at 1701.  Quick work to undo 55+ years of effort by dedicated citizens working for all.  It was something to see.  The problem here, from my perspective, was not the actual code clarifications (changes) per se but the realization that these modifications were requested by and written by the applicant for a major project (ODP Amendment) while that application was before the Town.  I have opined before that I find this process abhorrent to our system.  My view remains.”  Of course the Courts struck these actions down.

We seem to have entered that familiar dichotomy, dividing a town, almost any town, into two parts, two factions here, Community versus its Country Club.  This is nothing new.  We are still at it.  The stakes are higher now as the goal seems to be much wider targets than just the Key Club and the Hilton.  These new looser codes will encompass the whole island.  Was this always the goal? I think so.

Let’s look at the contestants, by contest.

District 2 – Jack Duncan is unopposed.   Unfortunately you get him anyway.

District 4 – Jim Brown was “present at the creation” on the LBKC  application  He has voted for every new code change before and after the court challenges.

Larry Grossman is the challenger.  A professional planner he has experience in these conflicts.   He has written and spoken at length on the folly of the Commissions actions.

At-Large (one year term)– Terry Gans is last year’s appointee.  He was not a party to the first act, although he did attend almost every LBKC hearing and testified publicly for the project.

Irwin Pastor is the challenger.  He says he is in favor of intelligent growth although not at the cost of property rights.  He lives in the Islandside PUD.

At-Large (two year term) Phill Younger is another incumbent who has voted for every new code change to come before him.

Gene Jaleski  is the challenger.  He was a Commissioner at the vote for the LBKC application in 2010; he voted against it and against the enabling code changes.

I suggest that this is a chance for the Town to grade its Commission.  Since this Commission seems to be fascinated with Planning, and little else, it should be evaluated on its performance in that area.  That performance has been poor.  Courts, circuit and appeal, have found their work wanting.  The Town is both embarrassed and unable to proceed with simpler things, like the Hilton.  We can do better!

Three challengers have stepped forward as agents of change.  Maybe this is just the first installment of change; 2014 approaches.  Consider them seriously.

My recommendations: mark your ballots for Larry Grossman, Irwin Pastor,  Gene Jaleski.

 

 

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