The Mayor’s Letter to the Editor:
There’s some talk right now about changing to single-member district (SMD) voting for Monroe County Commission seats. From my perspective, SMD elections would diminish voter representation and lead to legislative gridlock.
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.
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 takes three votes on the Board of County Commissioners to pass any legislation. With SMDs, that’s only one vote to count on for an issue important to your district alone. 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.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to campaign across districts that stretch more than 100 linear miles. But the campaign process is an opportunity to meet constituents outside of your district and learn about their issues. If you can’t campaign County-wide, how could you serve County-wide?
Some say the purpose of proposing SMDs is to encourage more people to run for office. I completely support that goal, but the real barrier is serving, not running. Being a County Commissioner requires many practical things, including a flexible schedule, accessibility and travel. It is difficult to manage a normal 40-hour workweek and effectively serve, and more difficult to support a family solely on a Commissioner’s salary.
We are a diverse, geographically dispersed County. With SMDs, that diversity could lead to division, creating legislative gridlock rather than governance that acknowledges our interdependence. Commissioners make decisions that impact the entire County. They should be directly accountable through elections to all its citizens.
Mayor Heather Carruthers
Commissioner, Monroe County District III
500 Whitehead Street, Suite 102
Key West, Florida 33040
Phone: (305) 292-3430
Fax: (305) 292-3466