Monday, December 28, 2015

Guest Post: The Elections Are Coming!

An important goal of Sparker's Soapbox is to encourage and help people - especially in Collier County, FL - to be informed voters. With that in mind, I’m pleased to share a Guest Commentary that was published in Saturday’s Naples Daily News.

Save these important dates for 2016 candidate forums
By Charlotte Nycklemoe, League of Women Voters of Collier County, and Dave Trecker, Collier Citizens Council

The 2016 elections are coming — like a tidal wave.

In March, August and November, there will be 14 separate races plus an unknown number of referendums and constitutional amendments. At this writing, for Collier County alone there already are about 25 candidates, and that number will grow and could even double by election day.

To help voters make sense of all of this, the League of Women Voters and the Collier Citizens Council are partnering wi th the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, the Naples Press Club, the Collier County Presidents Council, the Greater Naples Better Government Committee and a number of civic associations to sponsor a series of candidate forums. There will be debates, with platforms offered and challenged. And, importantly, there wi ll be a chance for voters to ask questions. So mark these dates on your calendar: Jan. 25: Naples mayoral candidates; City Council chambers, 6 to 7 p.m.

  • Jan. 27: Naples City Council candidates; City Council chambers, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • April 7: Florida legislative candidates; Hodges University, candidates for House Districts 80 and 106, 4 to 5:30 p.m.; candidates for Senate District 23, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • April 13: Collier County Commission candidates, District 3; Golden Gate Senior Center, 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
  • May 18: School Board candidates; Norris Center, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 4: Referendums and constitutional amendments, North Naples Church, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

The stakes in these elections are high, perhaps as never before, and the issues are contentious.

In the city of Naples, mayoral and council candidates will joust over the development of Baker Park, management of the beaches, upgrading the City Dock and cleanup of Naples Bay. And that’s just a start.

At the state level, a key question is whether we can we deliver a delegation that can get something done in Tallahassee. Like passing a budget on time. Or redrawing voting boundaries without resorting to the courts. And what about tax cuts, education funding and the environment?

The School Board primary in August is sure to be a donnybrook, and the outcome will set the tone for county education for years to come. Budget reform, control of textbooks, Blue Zones in the cafeterias and standardized testing are a few of the issues.

The District 3 County Commission race may well decide the swing vote in what have routinely become 3–2 decisions by the commission. Issues include things as broad as growth management in eastern Collier County and as narrow as control of Clam Pass.

Then there are the constitutional amendments. Although uncertain at thi s time, they may include medical marijuana (again), one or more solar power initiatives and term limits for judges — measures that are both important and controversial.

So save the dates. The forums will be free to the public, firstcome, first-served in seating. They will be nonpartisan and objective, but tough questions won’t be spared.

It’s important for all of us to get to know the candidates and understand the issues. And when the time comes, it’s equally important to vote, either by mail-in ballot or in person. The 2016 elections will set the course for critical times ahead — in local and state government and in education.


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