Guest Commentary: Local Elections

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The voters of Fort Myers Beach didn’t just speak last Tuesday. They shouted.

As predicted, the election for the two open Council seats came down to a referendum on the Grand Resorts development proposal, and the two candidates who most vocally opposed it were the clear winners. The candidates who most sounded like they would support the project lost decisively. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to the others who ran.

The people sent a strong message about what they want and don’t want for the town – to the ongoing members of the Council, the County Commissioners and to Tom Torgerson. Let’s hope they all have the sense to heed it.

While the candidates themselves showed civility and class toward each other and kept the discussion about the issues, I was saddened that some pro-development supporters ran full-page ads trashing Tracey Gore and hyping their chosen ones. Given the outcome, the ads not only didn’t help their cause, they may well have hurt.

While nameless, faceless ads planted by PACs calling themselves “Citizens for (whatever)” are legal, the local voters were smart enough to recognize that those with the money to place such ads probably reflect their own special interest more than the public’s. Whoever the “Beach Residents for Responsible Development” are, I suggest that next time, they have the guts to sign their names so we all know who it’s coming from. All the beach residents are for “responsible” development. I guess it depends on one’s definition of “responsible.”

Speaking of local voters being smart, kudos to them for taking the time to understand and vote responsibly on the long list of Charter Amendment questions. The council members who were willing to trust the people and let the whole list sink or swim were right.  The controversial questions – the debt, term limits and term lengths – were close calls. And the no-brainers passed by huge margins, all as they should have. The outcomes validate the work of the Charter Review Commission and, as one of them, I’m grateful. Thanks also to the local papers who publicized the questions over the last few weeks and gave the voters a good shot at knowing what they were voting on.

What a wonderful exercise in democracy this was. While politics at the national level is swirling in the vortex of the toilet bowl, it’s good to know that democracy still works on Fort Myers Beach.

Jay Light

Fort Myers Beach