The 2013 Longboat Key Town Commission race could be crowded, with six candidates having qualified to run for four seats in the March 19 election.
Former Commissioner Gene Jaleski is one of those candidates, having qualified for the at-large seat held by Commissioner Phill Younger, who is seeking re-election.
Last Friday, Jaleski emailed those who had qualified for or taken out papers to run for commission seats, suggesting that all candidates agree on various limits to campaign spending.
“I believe we can have a better election process if everyone agrees to curtail expenses and focus on voter education and awareness,” he wrote.
Jaleski’s proposal includes either no campaign signs or a limited number of lawn signs; no political advertisements or a limited number of advertisements that would equal two full newspaper pages, while sharing the cost of placing a small box on the front page of both local newspapers that would direct voters to a website with equal space for each candidate; and equal candidate contributions to help partially defray the cost of several debates.
But other candidates aren’t ready to sign off on Jaleski’s proposal yet.
Younger declined to comment on Jaleski’s suggestion.
“I have absolutely no comment on anything Gene Jaleski has to say,” he said.
Commissioner Terry Gans, who has qualified to run for the at-large seat he was appointed to in July, cited Jaleski’s Friends of Longboat Key blog and newspaper column.
“It’s ironic for someone with his name recognition to make this suggestion,” Gans said.
Resident Joseph Iannello qualified to run against Gans in March but told the Longboat Observer Tuesday morning that he planned to notify the town later that day that he won’t run for a commission seat, in part because he is focusing on building a new house. Still, he expressed support for Jaleski’s suggestions.
“I think there needs to be more transparency,” he said of the process.
Mayor Jim Brown, who has also qualified to run for his District 4 seat in March, also referred to Jaleski’s blog in an email Friday.
“This should also include not using personally established blogs,” Brown wrote.
Jaleski responded to Brown’s comment in an email:
“Good point,” he wrote. “I am seeking a level playing field for all candidates. If we agree, then I will gladly stop all other political activities in the media. I still would like as many public events as possible where opposing candidates can discuss their views with the community.”
Brown said that he wasn’t ready to answer Jaleski’s proposal yet, because he doesn’t know if he’ll have a challenger. Resident Larry Grossman has taken out papers for his seat but has not yet qualified.
As of Tuesday, Grossman hadn’t yet seen the email but expressed support when the Longboat Observer told him about the suggestions.
“Being on the commission is very demanding with no compensation,” he said. “I don’t know why we should spend lots of money competing.”
Commissioner Jack Duncan, who doesn’t currently have a challenger for his District 2 seat, said that he didn’t want to be part of Jaleski’s proposal because it would involve communicating directly or indirectly with other commissioners.
“I just don’t want to get involved,” he said. “It smacks of Sunshine Law violations.”
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