Time to Step Up
The November general election seems a
long way away. At just under 5 months in the future, it is. But if
you’ve been thinking about running for a seat on a local special
district, you need to get a move on right now.
There is no last minute decision to
run. There is also no spontaneous write-in campaign. In case you were
pondering those options. Florida election law doesn’t allow for
To run for a special district,
candidates must qualify by June 20th. Qualification week is noon June
16th to noon June 20th. The good news is that it doesn’t take
millions of dollars to run for elected office. $25 gets you on the
Of course, there are rules for
candidates and deadlines and details to know. But first, you need to
decide if you want to run for a special district office. Fort Myers
Beach has three special districts with a total of eight seats up for
election in November.
The Fort Myers Beach Fire Control
District will have three seats on the ballot, Seats #1, 3 & 5.
The Fort Myers Beach Library will have 4 seats, #1,2,3 & 4. The
Fort Myers Beach Mosquito District will have one seat, #1.
In all three special districts,
candidates must specify which seat they are running for. This is
different than Fort Myers Beach Town Council seats, where, in the
most recent election, five candidates all ran for the three seats up
for election, with the top three vote getters winning a Council seat.
Many incumbents are running for these
8 seats, though not all. As of press time, just 4 candidates for the
three seats on the Fire Board have qualified for the November
We respect the work and dedication of
all incumbents and thank them for their work, but still encourage
anyone with an interest in these special districts and the work that
they do to consider running for one of these eight seats.
Each of these districts do important
work for taxpayers, managing budgets that range from the Mosquito
Board’s $366,259 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year to the Beach
Library’s $1,394,881 to the Fire Board’s $14 million budget
(including reserves of $5.3 million). Serving on a board is more
than just hashing out budgets, it’s working with your neighbors to
provide important services to your fellow residents and visitors,
whether that be fire prevention or emergency medical services or
controlling mosquito populations or providing information services
via the library.
The quality of life in our area is
directly related how involved we all are in our community. Do you
have an interest in serving on any of these three boards?
If you are interested, we urge you to
contact the Lee County Elections office and pick up an election
packet now by calling 239-533-8683. Our community needs interested
and engaged candidates for all elected offices.
The July break is coming up for Town
meetings, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Meetings have
been heating up over the last several months as residents have taken
to expressing their opinions randomly and disruptively during Council
and advisory board meetings.
All boards provide ample time for
Public Comment. There are comment periods at the beginning of
meetings, during Public Hearings and at the end of meetings.
Residents are invited to share their opinions on agenda items and on
whatever they wish to speak about. All that is asked of speakers is
that they limit their comments to three minutes and that they remain
Speakers can agree with what has been
said during the meeting, disagree with it, offer alternative points
of view or share how the subject matter at hand impacts their life or
cover any topic they wish. And while they do so, they are granted
the polite, patient and respectful attention of everyone on the dais.
Everyone who speaks at a public
meeting in our Town deserves that same polite, patient and respectful
attention, whether it’s someone giving public comment, a member of
the board or someone presenting something to the board. They each
deserve that from everyone in attendance at the meeting.
Primarily because it’s a sign of
basic respect and maturity, which we like to think we all share. But
also because everyone deserves to be heard and when there are
comments, cheers, jeers or the ever-popular cluck-and-sigh from
audience members, they are preventing the speaker from being heard,
both in the meeting room, on live TV and on the DVD recording of the
Worst of all, it makes our town look
like we have a bunch of impatient bumpkins who can’t behave
respectfully at a meeting and have a civil discussion. We often hear
comments reflecting dismay that "we” meaning the Town or island
residents are not taken seriously by the media or off-islanders. It’s
hard to be taken seriously when our official meetings look and sound
the way ours have lately.
Mayor Cereceda and others running
meetings have valiantly attempted to maintain decorum at meetings,
but it takes everyone cooperating and that has not been happening. At
a neighborhood meeting recently, the Mayor was shouted down by a
crowd that seemed to feel that the only way to convey their opinion
was to chant it. What? Are we all back in 6th grade here or what?
We totally understand that those
making the comments, cheering and jeering are trying to make a point.
That’s what public comment periods are for. There’s no need for
the loud sighing, mumbled comments, cheers, etc.
If Town meetings are a contest where
the loudest win, then the respectful are at a disadvantage and the
rude win. Which doesn’t mean that their cause is any more
important, it just means that they’re rude.
Town meetings are not rallies; they
are official meetings of our elected government. Hopefully after a
month cool-down, we can all take a deep breath and find our way to
more civil behavior during those meetings and then we all win.