Guest Commentary: Candidate Issues

17

Seeing the Light

The election for three seats on the Town Council is less than two months away and there are seven candidates vying for them. It’s time for the local voters to start asking who these people are, why they’re running and what they stand for. One incumbent is seeking re-election. At least three others have served on various advisory committees.

As a life-long observer of the human condition, I’ve concluded that the moment someone announces his candidacy for an elected office, they raise questions about their fitness for it. Their reasons are most often one combination or another of – an ego trip; a power trip; they’re an altruist; or they’re a fool.

The idea that anybody who runs for office shouldn’t have a substantial ego is naïve. The question is whether they’ll use their ego for the good of the community or just self-aggrandizement. Power trips are a little scarier. We have a long history of people running for office just to be able to tell us what we can’t do. It would be delightful to have people on the Council that were more interested in telling us what we can do. Altruism is very subjective. No one has ever run without convincing themselves that their motives are noble. A fool is a fool. A fool on a power trip is dangerous.

Below is my list of local subjects/issues that hearing where candidates stand on them will determine how I’ll vote. There may or may not be correct answers. Answers that are correct for me may or may not be right for others. There may not be any answers, but we deserve to know candidates’ positions before we vote.

  • Taxes – Are the current rates too high, too low or just right (the Goldilocks conundrum)? I don’t have a big problem paying taxes as long as I think the money is being used intelligently and efficiently.
  • The Town Manager – Is he performing the way he should or not? It has certainly happened in the Town’s history that people have been elected with a single agenda item – the removal of the current manager. If that’s part of a candidate’s plan, he should have the guts to say so before we vote.
  • Proper Council and Town Manager relationship – Knowing the difference between oversight, policy-making and micro-managing has been a chronic problem.
  • In-house or Out-house? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Should the town be farming out vital functions such as planning, financial management, development and other services, or should they come in as regular town employees? We’ve gone back and forth about this several times.
  • Water quality – Obviously, no candidate is going to come out against improving water quality. The question is what, if anything, can a council member do about it.
  • Margaritaville – Where has the candidate stood on the issue from the outset and what will be his stance on the existing situation? One candidate has already made public his sympathy and support for the lawsuits delaying the project. If further delays and/or stopping the project altogether is what you believe should happen, he’s your guy.
  • Bay Oaks – We were graciously given this (saddled with it) years ago by the County. What is your plan to make it more viable, better-used and less of a financial burden?
  • Mooring Field – There are currently two projects being pushed in Town Hall – whether to expand the field westward beyond the bridge and whether to take over the management by the town instead of the current franchisee.
  • Traffic and Parking – How much more money are you willing to waste on studies that conclude that there are too damned many cars on the island?

That’s my list. Surely, other voters will have their own questions. I urge them to send letters to the local papers with them so the candidates have a chance to state their positions and the voters have a chance to decide whose answers best fit their fantasy about what a viable council member should be.

One last thought: If you don’t bother to find out about the candidates and don’t bother to vote, you’re not entitled to whine about it if they turn out not to match your fantasy. See you at the polls.

 

by Jay Light