Single member districts prevail in Sarasota

Four years ago, Sarasota County voters approved switching to single-member districts, which allow citizens to cast ballots for a single county commissioner from the district in which the voter resides.

This is the system used in Escambia County.

In December, the Sarasota County Commission voted to have voters reconsider the change and return to at-large districts, where voters for all five seats.

On Tuesday, March 8, 57% of voters rejected the county commissioners’ plan. The county will continue to have single-member districts.

Not a good omen for those who want to get rid of single-member districts in Escambia County.


13 thoughts on “Single member districts prevail in Sarasota

  1. John, perhaps the people who understand far better than you the recent challenges and successes of Escambia County wouldn’t be so allergic to the idea of an elected executive if we didn’t have the recent and current disastrous examples of (1) the Strong Mayor experiment and (2) a County Administrator given too much proxy power, in too-long states of emergency, who tanked the functionality of the County in two short years.

    While I don’t agree with all of the decisions Wes Moreno has made so far (nothing will be solved at that jail until Powell is out of there, as was writ large at the COW on Thursday that I’m sure you didn’t watch), by and large he has done an excellent job of stabilizing things now that Janice Gilley has moved on from her ill-fated run as the ConTown plant working at cross purposes to her Board to the greener pastures of controlling Senator Broxson’s office with her iron fist in a velvet glove approach.

    There are no words to overestimate the damage she inflicted on County function and process by being given too wide latitude, with the result that she destroyed morale by fostering a toxic work environment; built an unwieldly bureaucracy of yes men and women who shielded her from accountability (the remains of whom are *still* impeding recovery at the County and gaming the commission); gutted competent and ethical senior management in order to wipe out institutional knowledge that would have highlighted her own ineptitude and authoritarian lack of principal; wrought havoc on the County’s bottom line with her friends and family “procurement” gifts that eschewed state statute on administrative best practices; enlisted the Clerk of Court to wage a war on the Board, allowing her to colonize the County’s budgeting while she can’t keep her own books in order; decimated ECAT with her illegal union-busting strategies; and eroded our Public Safety by taking up Underhill’s ploy to place Fire in a position of superiority over EMS, and her coalition with Jerry Maygarden and Bender by gaming both FDLE and the State’s Attorney’s office in the service of propping up a medical director who was busy railroading innocent EMS

    That’s a short list.

    On the City side, the ill effects of the Strong Mayor charter have never been more clear than in the unconstitutional bungling of the homeless eviction from the bridge–with Grover simply refusing to enact the Council’s allocations and plans, instead relying on smokescreens, false data, an intentionally botched official headcount to skew area homeless numbers lower, and the dishonest propaganda of the PNJ editorial team to prop up a disaster that resulted in a majority of the people under the bridge right back on the street–for Michael Kimberl to somehow try to keep his fingers in the bursting dam, while the mayor awards plaques to agencies he is still trying to funnel that 3.4M of HUD CARES money to, despite the wishes of the Council.

    At the last City Council meeting, there was a stellar example of what a charter with a strong executive–such as you disingenuously depict as being a prevalent practice by not noting the concentration of population in urban centers (we see what you did there)–tends to effect. Jennifer Brahier made a motion to return the surplus interest on a cost center back into the General Fund **into the only structure that would allow City Council to have control of it**. Amy Lavoy did everything but stand on her head to explain to Council that, yes, what Jennifer was saying was correct. Grover of course went ballistic and ad hominem, as he is wont to do these days, and Council fell over and voted to hand the money to the mayor. Just as a previous Council voted to cede the head of the City CRA as their direct report, instead turning that function over to the Mayor’s office to mismanage.

    We’ve all seen the horrible results of that, and thankfully Council is working to get control back of that situation, through what parameters exist for them under a ridiculous charter that basically affords the Mayor the ability to ignore Council’s wishes. For whatever reason, however–lack of understanding, not listening, or just a stubborn pre-set notion to vote with Grover–the Council once again got bullied by the mayor into turning control of more money over to him, with Jared Moore saying something to the effect that doing anything otherwise would indicate a lack of trust.

    Ya think?

    There are charters and then there are charters. You have made very clear you are after a County charter that could put another stooge for Downtown in a subservient role for the developers who are currently running the joint under the guise of “strengthening” the community, while they overdevelop flood plains and force residents from their neighborhoods with gentrification that rewards the vacation rental market. Those of us who have the time to follow what’s happening without any special interest blinders on have a crystal clear view on what these “strong executive” functions make stronger, and it sure as heck isn’t the proper and productive governance of a balanced policy board elected by the people to represent their real interests.

    Why you think that if you just keep talking people will be less on to you escapes me, but I’m glad you do. Because every time you advocate for an elected executive at the County from your Downtown tower, the residents of the County are one giant step farther away from that ridiculous idea getting any popular traction.

  2. I’ve presented nothing but facts. There is no more accountability in the city than county.

  3. I’m not unhappy. You love to have your own narrative but avoid the facts. Trying to look for ways to do things better is just good business. This has nothing to do with happiness. There is zero gain for me personally in this deal. The city is doing well. Very well. There’s accountability and plans. I’m not looking for a specific answer. Just an answer. Last year you thought we should have a charter also. What changed?

  4. No, John, you just aren’t getting the answer you want. Escambia is improving. The system is working. We’ve seen how much better county government is working with the right administrator. The same is true for the city. I don’t understand why we change our government just because you’re unhappy.

  5. No one said the sky is falling. You still haven’t answered the question. Why wouldn’t we look to see if there’s a better way? It seemingly works for more than 75% of Floridians. Why not us? We haven’t had much success keeping an administrator Maybe a charter would help. There are clearly great things about our community but that doesn’t mean we can’t get better.

  6. Should be easy to get a petition signed then. The problem is your “Sky is falling” viewpoint doesn’t hold up with what people are seeing in Escambia.

  7. People and businesses are moving here.
  8. Unemployment rates are at all-time lows.
  9. Many businesses have had their best years ever in 2021.
  10. Commercial real estate market is booming.
  11. We don’t have enough houses for people who want to move here.
  12. The county and city are adding more and more services to help the disadvantaged every year.
  13. We have more entities – SCI, CoLab, UWF, PSC – that are helping entrepreneurs and those running small businesses.
  14. Yes, Escambia County has issues but it’s light-years ahead of where it was a decade ago.

  15. The strategic plan of recruiting Navy Federal and ST Engineering to our county has created two new industries in our county. And the cybersecurity and bio-tech industries are about to explode here.
  16. The Escambia County Children’s Trust will pump $10 million into initiatives to help children and families annually for the next 10 years.
  17. The appointed school superintendent has only been in place 15 months – but it should make a difference in helping our most vulnerable.
  18. Community Health of Northwest Florida has expanded its services and Children’s Home Society’s Community Partnership Program is working miracles at C.A. Weis.
  19. The Brownsville Community Center – pushed by Commissioner Lumon May – has been a game-changer. It has set an example for what other centers can become.
  20. Most of us are proud to work, live and play in this area. And it’s getting better every day, John.

  21. So answer this Rick. Greater than 75% of Floridians live under a charter so why are you and the BOCC so against even taking a look to see if we can be more efficient /effective? We trail behind neighboring counties and the state in almost every economic stat. The socio economic levels of our most vulnerable citizens has not significantly improved in decades. I’m unaware of any strategic plan created by the BOCC or the county administrator. So why not take a look under the hood ?

  22. As defined in the charter. And we could have the same. I would absolutely welcome that discussion

  23. Sarasota County also has a county administrator who is the chief administrative officer for the county and is solely responsible for managing day-to-day operations.

  24. I don’t know of anyone trying to get rid of single member districts in the county. You may also want to mention the Sarasota is a charter county which is what Escambia should be as well

  25. Sounds like a good subject for a countywide Inweekly poll: “Would you prefer to vote for one or all five county commissioners?” The at-large system works well in Santa Rosa County. In Sarasota, proponents of single-member districts argued that “big-money interests can support their favored candidates’ expensive campaigns; meanwhile, ‘the little guys’ will face greater expense and difficulty while attempting to campaign all across Sarasota County.” As for the expense of campaigns, how is it working here? In 2020, District 3 Commission Lumon May’s campaign got a total of $15,700 from twenty-one white Levin Papantonio Rafferty law firm attorneys many of whom live in Santa Rosa County. A better assessment would be to directly compare county elections and the results in Escambia County versus Santa Rosa County. People to include a majority of senior city employees seem to be voting with their feet opting to live in Santa Rosa County. One really bold idea is to abolish Escambia County so we can all live in Santa Rosa County.

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