We have a big responsibility next week. For all the hours of public hearings, workshops and all the column inches of letters and editorials, the loudest and most effective voice will be ours. The March 16 election is a choice not only on the specific individuals who will help lead the town for the next two years, but also on the nature of that leadership itself.
The issues that are being debated have helped shine a light upon all the incumbent commissioners, as well as the candidates seeking to unseat incumbents for the three seats at stake in this election. Under that light, it has been possible to see who possesses the vision, energy and leadership to steer through the changing currents of the future and who is more content to ride things out at the dock of the status quo.
And, although it should be no secret from my past writing and testimony that I am a strong supporter of the Longboat Key Club redevelopment proposal, the leadership I look to our commission for is not only in regard to that issue.
The current commission has allowed the matter of unfunded pension liabilities to go unaddressed in any effective way. The current commission has accepted a deteriorating and even decaying commercial base continue without any evident sense that a more proactive approach could be helpful. One commissioner in a candidate forum even said, “Things are bad all over Florida. What’re you going to do?”
Abysmal, and even potentially life-threatening, cell-phone service is caught between technical paralysis and an unwillingness to accept that the best solution may be unsightly. Town agendas get bogged down in peacock discussions, and commissioners send staff on semi-wild goose chases on whimsical premises.
Out-of-date codes are left to languish for decades, and then the need for revision is used as a weapon for delay. The current commission has permitted the Vision Plan for the future to gather dust on the shelf. But we do have a civility policy for meetings and we do know in what order commissioners are seated.
The level of voter involvement in the District 1 runoff/rundown was very encouraging. It is extremely important to the town that participation is also strong March 16. And when you vote, you may want to remember that for this election, your current commission denied you the convenience of early voting that so many of you took advantage of in January.
We elect our officials to do what is best for our collective interests through their wisdom and their leadership, guided by the law. Some law is black and white, but all too often it is subject to interpretation. At times, interpretations and decisions call for choosing to go against the wishes of some constituents. If every issue were to be made on the basis of which way the political wind was blowing, there would be no need for any elected body. We could just put everything up for a vote — every traffic light, every tax, every hiring or firing.
In that vein, as you decide who among the candidates is best qualified to provide us with leadership in the next commission, please put on your “to do” list informing yourself about a question we will be faced with in November. There will be a proposed item on the Florida ballot known as Amendment Four, going by the apple-pie name of “Hometown Democracy.” The promoters of this amendment feel that long-term, land-use master plans and changes thereto should be subject to referendum.
My personal view is that this proposal is antithetical to representative democracy. We elect representatives by majority vote. These representatives make decisions by majority rule. For all its shortcomings, this is a system that has served us well. Our neighbors did not vote on whether our house or condo development should go up — elected officials did. Amendment Four is bad law and has some strange supporters. But please, learn about it for yourselves. For November.
And candidates, it is not too late for you to learn about it as well. Most of the answers given at the March 2 Longboat Observer candidates forum indicate you should.
So, please, voters, vote on March 16 and provide Longboat Key with the leadership we all deserve.
Terry Gans is a Longboat Key resident.
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