Elections in the City of Charlotte County
Charlotte County is mentioned as a city because essentially that is what it is. Our commissioners act more like aldermen in that they spend most of their time addressing issues that involve urban situations than they do addressing rural issues as county commissioners typically do. The same applies even more so to the county administrators, department heads and other employees.
The Charlotte County Curmudgeon Club, of which I am the president, is a group of twenty men from different parts of the country, most of whom are retired and were successful in their various careers. Meeting for breakfast every Friday morning a guest is invited to speak and be questioned on topics that concern the county. Lately, all of the county commissioners have been guests as well as most, if not all, of the administrators and department heads. Business people, community activists, and political candidates also have attended sessions to discuss issues and grievances. As a result of the members’ backgrounds and interactions with our guests, the Curmudgeons have become quite knowledgeable in the county’s “goings-on”.
We are approaching elections when candidates will be chosen for the county commission, the airport authority, the school board, and various park positions. There have been significant differences of opinion, if not outright animosity, in the areas of sewers, lake pollution, transportation, control of and expansion of the county airport, Common Core issues in education, and many others.
The responsibilities of the county commissioners are so broad, i.e., urban and rural, that it is remarkable that the county is run as well as it is. We should remember that the commissioners are elected by us to do what we as individuals cannot or will not do ourselves. They assume our burden of setting policy and direction for the county based on our diverse desires and their analysis of what is best for all the citizens of the county. Obviously finances play no small part in their decisions.
Elected officials have the responsibility of listening to all the people, both those who are vocal and those who speak in a whisper. The problem is that those who yell the loudest often get the most attention and, although this is a human tendency, it must be avoided. Common sense tells us that putting septic systems on tiny city lots or next to bodies of water is irresponsible, but elected officials who attempt to prevent and/or remedy this foolishness often are vehemently attacked and the rational whispers are not heard.
The county commissioners currently are pressured to expand public transportation by adding scheduled bus lines. Will this be determined by the loudest voices or by the most sane contemplation of needs and costs? Virtually all public transportation systems are subsidized by the people who do not use them, but subsidizing empty busses is definitely different than subsidizing packed city busses. The cost of this is so great and the decision so irreversible that those elected should put the decision on a referendum where the voices of both the loud and the meek can be heard.
We must keep reminding ourselves that we are electing people to make all of the decisions, not just those that appear on the front page of the Sun newspaper. And we should remember to support those that we elect and not hold them in contempt because they may or may not do something with which we disagree. In other words if we want good candidates to represent us, we should not make their job a living nightmare as some seem to take perverse pleasure in doing.
Then there are the questions of existing expertise on the Airport Authority, the longevity of the members, and whether the Authority should be independent or come under the control of the County Commissioners. Although the latter may require further discussion and legal analysis, we must be sure to select the most knowledgeable candidates for these two important positions and support them once they are chosen.
Citizens should avoid the “revenge” vote and seriously consider who the best candidates are to represent the entire county. If you “hate” one of your representatives perhaps the problem is with you and not the individual; it may be time for some serious self-reflection.
The Curmudgeon Club is sponsoring another “Meet the Candidates” evening on Wednesday, July 30, at the Charlotte County Cultural Center. All the candidates for the County Commission, the Airport Authority and the School Board are being invited to attend in order to address the citizens and answer their questions. All are encouraged to attend.
Anthony J. Biell
May 15, 2014