Taking back the Commission sign by sign

Editor & Publisher

He is the Jason Bourne of Longboat Key politics. He puts on an oversized dark green ‘70s looking North Face winter parka and between 3 and 4 a.m. wanders the sides of Gulf of Mexico Drive and our community roadways stealing campaign signs.

At first, one candidate accused another of impropriety. But even as the accusations flew, more signs kept disappearing. The sign thief, who models his behavior after a Criminal Minds episode, keeps upping his game, taunting the authorities.

The police are now using night vision goggles and infrared motion detectors have been placed on all sign bases. License plate readers are everywhere. But like Jason Bourne, the signs keep vanishing.

Then late last Monday after the Commission meeting I stayed working at the Centre Shops very late — till 3 a.m.

As I drove the lonely stretch of GMD past Publix and the Islander and then the abandoned Colony, I felt the cold night emanating through the side window. A fog was descending and sprinklers were on.

I scanned the roadways in front of Country Club Shores and then just at the southern end of the Key I saw a man in a large green parka carrying an armful of signs running toward a black non-descript Range Rover. I hit my fog lights and grabbed my camera and exited the vehicle shouting, “Hey! Stop! What are you doing?”

He threw the signs in his Range Rover and quickly said he was a Realtor gathering Open House signs.

I looked at the old North Face parka, the nearly 4 a.m. hour and his expression.

I asked which campaign he worked for.

The man looked down and took on a defeated tone.

“Your Steve Reid. I like your paper — except that Tom Burgum and his global warming ideas. But you are not going to write a story about me. I am just, …just trying to I guess ….take back the Commission.”

“How does stealing signs ‘take back the Commission?’”

He walked slowly to his van and asked me to follow him.

I drove and drove to a warehouse out by Cattleman Road. On the door was unit number B4.

I followed the older man who was easily in his 80s.

Inside were hundreds of signs. Jaleski signs from two campaigns, Dave Brenner signs, George Spoll signs, Terry Gans Signs, Jim Brown signs and Lee Pokoik signs and so many others. Each sign had the date it was stolen and the exact location and a photo of the candidate attached.

I looked at the older man who seemed proud like he was showing off some alter of achievement. He then started sobbing. He said he was a Town Commissioner decades ago. He said he left the island when the “Commission started going the wrong way and junked the island up with sub par ideas.”

I asked him when he was on the Commission. He said before even attorney Dave Persson finished law school. I said that was a very long time ago.

He said he does occasionally leave one candidate’s or another’s signs alone, but this year he is stealing everyone’s.

I asked him why. “You must like somebody? They are all different.”

He then showed me all of this year’s six candidates’ signs side-by-side as if he was in some real time Power Point presentation.

He said this year he could not leave any signs because “all of the candidates are like bruised peaches.”

“How so,” I asked.

He said Jim Brown and Phil Younger are bruised because they supported the Key Club and all the unreal code changes afterwards. He said Terry Gans is bruised because he supported the Club and its application and all the strange code writing more than the owners and their paid attorneys. He said Jaleski is bruised because he was in the Commission seat and fell out and now wants to bounce back and peaches do not fall and bounce well at all.

“And what about Irwin Pastor?”

“He is bruised because he fought the Key Club and Town so strongly he is seen as an IPOC general as much as anything and that is a bruise.”

“And Larry Grossman?”

“He is the opposite,” the former Commissioner said. “He is not bruised, but far too green and unripe to be ready.”

I shook my head in disbelief of his cynicism. I walked into the night and left the old former Commissioner to his strange sign gathering capades.

I must admit at the 5 a.m. hour I did not drive straight home. I drove back to Longboat and the darkest hour was upon the community. I drove aimlessly wondering if that man was from a stronger era and was making his statement or was he just crazy.

I stopped as if some invisible force was guiding me. My will and behavior were no longer my own. I felt the thrill of letting go to a force that made me reach out for a candidate’s sign and pull it straight from the cold, night earth.

But then a benevolent voice came over me. “I am not of the past, but a stronger future,” I reasoned. “We must forge ahead in a positive way together with bold initiatives.” I told myself.

The night was so dark that not even a turtle light shattered the pristine moment. I felt at peace with my decision. Instead of stealing the campaign signs, I moved them all closer together. I rearranged them so Grossman and Jaleski’s signs were in the center and Gans and Brown and Younger and Pastor all touched the two signs and radiated out like Shiva’s arms from that center comprised of Grossman and Jaleski. And for a moment in the middle of the night all six candidates were united  — perhaps not in views — but at least through their signs they were connected to each other and Longboat Key.

The next day I saw all the candidates campaigning in two distinct groups in front of Town Hall giving thumbs up to voters.

I walked to each group and each group told me in great detail how incompetent and non-achieving the other side was. Then three candidates told me I had written a horrible endorsement editorial last week and my endorsements made no sense and were baseless and simply wrong. The same number of candidates thanked me for supporting them.

I smiled to myself as I drove home later that night. The ring of touching signs was gone. The old man in the parka had not stolen them. In fact they were rearranged with an even more generous distance between the opponents. I laughed. Things were back to normal I thought as I drove home to my wife — this time by 7 p.m. like a good husband.


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2 Responses for “Taking back the Commission sign by sign”

  1. who's on First says:

    Spencer, I suggest a circular room, as there are more than four who might deserve your punishment. The new three minute countdown clock in the corner only seems to have condensed the spoken lunacy.

  2. spencer ross says:

    All involved should be put in the corner with a dunce cap on until they learn how to behave like responsible adults.

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