letter to the editor

8 Years is Enough

by Walter Lagraves…….

We’ve got to give Phil Goodman of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Authority (Bug Board) huge kudos for strongly advocating term limiting the Bug Board. He’s the Chairman. Term limits are a principle that he has previously championed. Back then it was defeated by long term Bug Board incumbents. Term limits are a principle whose time has come here in Monroe County. The reasons for it are legion, not just for the Bug Board, but for all of our elected policy making officials.

One of the many powerful arguments for term limits is that long term incumbency tends to foster relationships with special interests. That is not illegal. But we should examine those relationships with a very skeptical eye.

Please consider this. Monroe County is divided into a number of different districts. The idea is to have an elected official from each of the districts with the responsibility of seeing to the specific interests of their district and to balance those needs with the best interests of the county.

The layout of the districts is identical for at least two Monroe County governmental entities…the Bug Board and the County Commission.

A quick analysis of the the political donations in the 2014 election cycle for one long…long term Monroe elected incumbent revealed the following. (that the incumbent discussed herein is not a member of the Bug Board is immaterial.) The long term incumbent serves on an elected Monroe County policy making board.

The source of the following data is the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections website.

  1. In the 2014 general election cycle, the long term incumbent had a total of about 150 monetary donations for a reported total of well over $55K in political donations.
  2. Their were about 60 donations in excess of $500. About 114 donations were in excess of $100. But there were only about 36 for $100 or less. That’s right, only about 36 “little guys” chose to donate.
  3. Most of the political donors who gave in excess of $500 either do business with the county or operate businesses that are regulated by the county. Special interests. There were many reported contributions in excess of $1K. The largest was for $5000.
  4. It’s troubling that only about 6 of the donors listed addresses that were readily identifiable as being within the incumbents district given that the incumbent was elected to specifically serve the needs of his/her district. It’s interesting that the minuscule number of donors from the incumbents district gave modest amounts. Most of the donations, especially the larger ones, were from out of our county. Many Monroe heavy hitting donors weighed in from the Key Largo area or Key West. Other heavy hitters sent big dollars from California to NYC. A prominent address was the Pompano Beach Landfill.
  5. In the primary that led up to the general election, the long term incumbent was soundly defeated by a challenger in 5 of the 7 precincts that make up the incumbent’s district. I believe that from that we can take away that the electorate in the incumbents district tried to reject him/her. But, the challenger was defeated in the rest of the county. The long term incumbent kept the seat.

Digging just a little deeper we learn that in only the four years between the 2010 and the 2014 cycle, the long term incumbent’s political donations more than doubled.

I believe that long term incumbency all too often leads a public official into becoming more sympathetic to the desires of special interests than with the best interests of the electorate. It strikes me that as the office holder becomes more and more attuned and sympathetic to the call of special interests, the office holder becomes more and more valuable to the special interests. The political donations flood in. Challengers are nearly always out gunned with money. Money buys adverts, adverts win elections.

I believe that long term incumbency also all too often leads to the incumbent becoming more attuned to getting along with staff and/or colleagues rather than the best interests of the community. Personnel policy can become a special interest that overrides the best interests of the community.

All of foregoing are excellent reasons for single term districting, but they are equally valid in supporting term limits. The two concepts are compatible, both tend to improve the quality of our governance.

We owe it to ourselves to demand that our public policy boards self impose term limits. It is more than reasonable that the limits should be three terms, with no more than two terms to be served consecutively.

Please let the Bug Board members know your feelings. You can email them at: [email protected]

Please…just do it.

Walter Lagraves, Big Pine Key

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