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,