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Editorial 700

Missy Layfield - Editor

Let’s Vote!

In just over 6 weeks, Beach voters will be asked to make some important decisions on local elections. I know, I know, we’ve just selected a new U.S. Congressman in a special election.

While many have already tuned out the August 26th Primary Election because they are not registered Republicans, the fact is that all voters will be asked to vote to fill some critical seats on local boards. There are at least two seats whose ballot has been opened in a Universal Primary, meaning because all qualified candidates are of one party, we ALL get to vote. In August.

The only Island board seats up for election are two Fire Board seats, that will be on the November 4th ballot. The Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control Board seat and all four Beach Library seats, along with one Fire Board seat were automatic wins for the only qualified candidate for each position.

Too often this means that island voters will check out of the upcoming elections. We can all be a little too Island-centric when it comes to elections. We care a lot about who our Town Council reps are, and our Library and Fire board reps. But when it comes to the Lee County School Board---not so much.

And that is a shame because we are all impacted by the decisions made Over the Bridge (OTB) by Lee Count boards, whether it’s the Board of Commissioners, the School Board or the Lee Memorial Health System Board.

We have a Lee County School here on the Island, and our Beach kids attend Lee County Middle and High Schools. The people who guide the school district hold a lot of power over the education that our children receive. Don’t have kids in school? You’re an investor in Lee County Schools whether you have a child in school or not. You ought to care how that investment is being cared for and what our county will look like in 20-30 years. That will be decided by the quality of the education that Lee County students receive today and tomorrow. Help them and yourself by caring who sits on the School Board.

Islanders are well aware of the power that the Lee County Board of County Commissioners has on myriad subjects that Islanders care deeply about. Whether it’s Conservation 2020, impact fees, beach renourishment, channel dredging or road improvements, we are all aware of how County Commissioner decisions impact all of us.

What hospital do Islanders head to when they’re ill or hurt? One of the Lee Memorial Hospital System locations. A community health system run by ten publicly elected members of a Board of Directors, the LMHS is the largest employer in Lee County with over 1 million patient contacts last year. While they receive no direct community tax support, they are a publicly managed health system and all Lee County voters are asked to select members of the Board.

The County Commission, School Board and LMHS seats are all chosen by district. The Island is in District 3. While no District 3 races are on the ballot in August or November, Islanders interest in candidates should extend well beyond our own district. All Lee County voters will vote for all five district reps. More importantly, those who win seats for the other four districts, vote on issues that affect us all. District 3 could have the best possible rep, but if those representing the other four districts do not understand our issues, we won’t be getting any support for those issues.

Get to know the candidates for all Lee boards and vote for all district seats.

We’re a long way from Tallahassee but the people we send to the Florida Legislature determine what kind of legislation we get back. There are a couple of seats on the ballot that represent the Island and surrounding areas, one of them, State Senate District 30 has just two Republicans qualified so it will be a Universal Primary on the August ballot so everyone needs to vote then. The other, State Representative for District 76, has two candidates from opposing parties qualified, so it will be on the November ballot.

So, a lot of elections coming up in August. While Republicans will choose their nominee for numerous state and federal offices in the Republican Primary, everyone will vote August 26th on a number of important local races.

The Island Sand Paper will be covering the August and November elections in our usual manner-by providing our readers with information and candidate views so that voters can make up their minds. We will not be making any endorsements – we trust that voters, if provided with enough information, are best able to make that decision without our influence.

We’ve sent our campaign policy to all qualified candidates for the local races mentioned here. Any reader who would like a copy of that policy can stop by our office or email us to request a copy.

Look for candidate announcements, guest opinions and "Ask the Candidate” questions in the Sand Paper as we approach both the August and November elections. We also invite letters of support from readers, though only one per candidate per writer please. See our Submission Policy just to the right for details.

While the public dialog is often about national issues, the reality is that local elections exert a much greater influence on our daily lives and our property tax bill.

We invite you to join us as we prepare for a classic American rite – Election Day!

Missy Layfield

"In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote."

-David Foster Wallace

"In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill...we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one."