After a two-month campaign, a month’s worth of yard signs and a few candidate forums, it’s your turn, voters, to select the right people for three seats on Town Council.
The Island Sand Paper has tried to do its part by providing voters with information about the candidates, their opinions in their own words and answers to questions on issues that the next council will face.
We’ve been asked which candidates we endorse. The answer is none. It is our belief that the decision on who represents you should be yours.
We know it’s a long-held tradition in the newspaper world to endorse candidates. We’ve heard the rationale that those in the newspaper business probably know more about the issues and candidates than most voters have time to learn. We’ve heard it’s a newspaper’s responsibility to endorse candidates. We also know that the history of endorsements by newspapers is tainted with corruption and pay-to-play backroom deals in some communities. We don’t want any hint of favoritism to color our election coverage or our editorial policy.
There are many well-respected newspapers that are proponents of endorsements. And we do not assume nor wish to imply that there is anything wrong or shady about their policy or procedures for endorsements. We simply have come to a different conclusion on our role as a community newspaper in local elections.
We do however want to encourage a community dialogue and have welcomed the many Letters to the Editor Islanders have written in support of their choices to fill those three seats. The last two weeks have seen record numbers of letters regarding the election.
But now, it’s your turn. Five candidates for three seats means two qualified candidates are going to walk away on the losing end of Tuesday’s election. We hope whoever those two are, they don’t feel as if they’ve wasted their efforts, because they haven’t. This election has brought a lot of residents into the process and illuminated a number of issues that resonate with Islanders. Had there been three seats and three candidates that would not have happened. The process has been good for our Town. So, thank you to each of our five candidates!
Whoever wins will be involved in Town Council matters. Those who don’t win, well, we sincerely hope they stay involved in town government, via advisory committees. Our Town needs good people committed to the good of the whole Island on those also.
We also hope that the civility that has marked this campaign will continue at Council meetings going forward. Several issues have triggered some strong opinions on Town issues from non-candidates. We’ve heard those issues discussed calmly, intelligently and civilly by the candidates during this campaign. We expect that the candidates, once they are council members will continue this respectful discussion. We hope all Islanders follow their lead.
Come Tuesday, many will head to the polls with more than a little concern as to how long the process will take. The last time we had an election on the beach was November 2012. As it was a presidential election, we had a turnout of around 70%, but many voted early or by mail. Right around 2,000 voters flooded the two Island precincts used in that election and it was voter Armageddon. A reduction to two precincts, long ballots and a shortage of ballot machines led to long lines, causing some to abandon the process to head to work or to care for their families. Voters who were not able to vote in a reasonable amount of time felt disenfranchised.
Nobody wants a repeat of that experience. As a result, the Lee County Supervisor of Elections has added a third precinct at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. Voters on the beach, at least those whose precinct has changed received a new voter ID card recently with their new polling place. Voters are urged to check where they should vote by calling 239-LEE-VOTE or visit leeelections.com.
It would be wonderful if we had a great turnout for this election. There are 5,145 registered voters in the Town of Fort Myers Beach, slightly less than our count in 2012. We know that in 2012 the primary interest was the presidential and congressional elections. Next Tuesday, voters will select a majority of Town Council members, the people who will make the decisions that affect your life every day here on the Beach.
Get out and vote, and just in case, allow yourself plenty of time to do so.