The Coastal Star

Editor's Note: Good governance starts with local elections

    The 2016 elections are over. Now on to 2017. The March 14 municipal elections are right around the corner.
    In Boca Raton the candidate qualification period has ended, so you may already be noticing yard signs. In our other coastal municipalities there’s a shorter period for campaigning, but already there is buzz about who is (and isn’t) picking up papers to qualify before the Feb. 14 deadline.
    Even with all the early election hype and intrigue, The Coastal Star will not be doing candidate endorsements. We will, of course, publish information on everyone running for office and continue to report on major election issues. In fact, we will be dedicating multiple pages to informing you about our coastal candidates in the March edition.
    But to schedule and meet with each of the candidates from the nine municipalities we cover is simply not feasible with our small staff. And without in-person interviews, we simply cannot provide our readers a fair assessment of each person’s suitability for office.
    Helping citizens become informed voters is a critical role of news media. And earning readers’ trust — that they are always getting the straight story from us — is the foundation of our work.
    In the day-to-day operation of the newspaper, however, I frequently encounter trust-eroding behavior in our coastal cities’ and towns’ officials. Here are some examples from the past month:
    One town commission announced from the dais who the new mayor will be before the candidate filing period even opened.
    Commissioners charged with governing an entire city have blocked a large percentage of the population from having temporary representation on the dais for reasons that appear to be purely political.
    Law enforcement management in one town chose to “manage” the release of information to the local media to avoid timely news coverage.
    And, of course, there always seem to be candidates for public office who take large contributions from developers while swearing those contributions do not influence their votes on local development projects. Really?
    I realize many of us have grown to look at the media, government and politics with a callous eye. I understand that. But we aren’t Washington and Tallahassee. These are our neighbors running things, and who gains when trust among neighbors is lacking?  Shouldn’t we be better than this?
    If you, like me, aren’t happy with the behavior of your elected officials or the actions of municipal employees, be sure to get informed and vote.
    If that alone feels unrewarding, you’ve still got time to go by your town or city hall and pick up a package to qualify as a candidate. Then go out and talk with your neighbors.
    We all still have time to earn each other’s trust.

Mary Kate Leming,

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Comment by M.C. Burns on February 2, 2017 at 1:05pm

Ms. Lemming,

Individuals can run for public office, but there remain realities that make winning harder.

There still remain officials and systems in place that will lean to incumbents, as well as to older structures in place, whether in procedures and/or structures, as well as funding sources, that favor those with connections and money to donate, as well as time.
And of course, there remains state-wide a coterie of elected officials who view government as a one-stop shop to lure new business investment into the state or to misguidedly allocate our tax revenues in nonsensical kinds of projects instead of providing local municipal governments with the kinds of
long term improvements and desperately needed restoration that really will be needed down the road, to do with clean water, flooding, coastal erosion, and so forth. Otherwise, our communities really will eventually become part of the Atlantic Ocean.

The actions or behaviors you allude to aren't just limited to elected officials or municipal employees.
There are officials at our school district, local community college (on the Boards or in administration), as well as various foundations, who are appointed or hired statewide or locally. They won't likely disappear any time soon.
And I'm afraid most of them, and as well as President Trump, aren't my neighbors either physically or socially. They are not conversant, well-read, willing to engage in dialogue or to listen. They aren't interested in earning my trust.
To them, former middle class and educated long term residents like me and others me simply are the other half that have to be contended with. Tax credits, new capital building projects and jobs are seen to be the end-all one answer solution to all of what ails us. Run hospitals, government and schools like businesses. Data driven results equate to success. And so forth.
Living day to day here in Palm Beach County as working or middle class is becoming harder, if not impossible. And the quality of my life, compared to what it was 20 years ago, is on the decline.
Sincerely, etc.

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