Partisanship Poisons Commission Contest

Letters

BY GRETCHEN SERRIE SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAY 9, 2015

When Mollie Cardamone, Dick Clapp and I appeared together before the City Commission two months ago, we started out: “Before you sit a Republican, an Independent and a Democrat.  I’ll bet you’re not sure which is which. Yet, we all have been volunteers together for campaigns of city commission candidates who are Republicans and others who are Democrats.  That’s because we agree, as do many citizens and voters, on a great many city issues. City issues are not national or state partisan issues. And we agree adamantly that, per our city charter and state statutes that support it, City Commission races must be nonpartisan.”

At the federal level, elected officials can’t work across the aisles, nor at the state level, and locally there has not been  a Democrat or Independent elected to the County Commission in 60 years. But in our nonpartisan city, we always elect a healthy mix of persons of all political persuasions. In November, the City Commission reflected their commitment to nonpartisan choices when filling the vacancies on the Commission. For that they should be applauded mightily, not pilloried and punished, as they have been by their party.

Much to my dismay, the political party I belong to, the Democratic Party, publicly proclaimed a decision to turn this election partisan. And it has been alarmingly so. One has only to look at the final financial reports of all four candidates to see how winning has become more important than issues and qualifications, and how outside monies are affecting an election in our small city.

The percent of contributions going to candidates Liz Alpert and Shelli Freeland Eddie from special interest PACs and their (my) political party is stunning. Only 43 percent of Alpert’s contributions come from city residents, and even less (20 percent) for D3 candidate Eddie. By contrast, 65 percent of Stan Zimmerman’s contributions come from city residents and an exemplary 80 percent of Eileen Normile’s contributions come from city residents. I will vote for the candidate whose support comes from city residents, not outside interests.

I am a proud Democrat and I join proud Republicans and Independents in supporting Normile. If I lived in District 3, I would be supporting Zimmerman. We currently have a high functioning Commission, such as we have not enjoyed for several years. We have commissioners who are committed to hard work and then intelligent action on the issues of concern to this city, and dedicated to thinking large and long range.  

We’ve just learned how ugly partisan elections become. We can continue on this path and make our elections even worse or we can realize a city commission is essentially neighbors elected to represent neighbors. The political parties of those neighbors do not matter. Commissioners are here to do the city's business—find solutions to city issues, almost all of which are nonpartisan, but which are vital to the quality of life of all of us and to the way we, as citizens with diverse backgrounds, experiences and beliefs, can interact effectively and productively. 

Gretchen Serrie, Sarasota

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