In a recent letter to the editor, Monroe County Mayor, Heather Carruthers, discussed her opposition to single-member districts. The letter glosses over very real and very significant problems with the current system.
Carruthers claims that the at-large system allows voters to influence county commissioners from other districts.
With SMD elections, you vote for one Commissioner every four years. In our current at-large elections, you get to vote for all five Commissioners every four years, and for at least 40% of the Commission every two years.
Just because you have a vote, does not mean you have any influence.
Suppose your SMD-elected Commissioner disagrees with you on a particular issue. Will other Commissioners (whom you didn’t elect) feel obligated to answer your calls? Constituents from all five districts find my door open, at least partly because they all helped elect me.
It doesn’t work this way in the real world. One vivid real-life example is the severe wastewater funding disparity affecting Key Largo. When I approached Carruthers she simply regurgitated staff’s talking points, which had already been debunked several times. Her door may have been open, but her mind was closed.
Carruthers went on to say:
The County’s success with improvements from Card Sound Road in Key Largo to Higgs Beach in Key West and on state-level issues like the Mayfield Grant and the Florida Keys Stewardship Act are a result of at-large voting and the BOCC’s ability to work across district (and party) lines.
This mythical “success” with capital projects is completely at odds with reality. The Cudjoe Regional project is $49 million over budget. Poor handling of the public’s concerns has resulted in numerous lawsuits. This is only one of many over-budget capital projects. If this is “success”, I shudder to think what failure looks like.
Securing state and federal funding is a team effort. However, the county has, at times, tried to divert funding away from other entities in a desperate attempt to shore up their own financially out-of-control projects. The horrific state of the county’s capital projects is a compelling argument for single-member districts.
Most importantly, Carruthers completely ignored the major flaw with the current at-large system. There are areas in the Keys that are or have been represented by a commissioner they did not elect. District 2 is currently facing this situation. Single-member districts remedy this very serious problem.
Former General Manager Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District
Current Key Largo taxpayer