It is with a heavy heart that I sit here this evening and write my column. Normally I try to dwell on more positive issues or share with you something from my past which I hoped you might enjoy reading about. However, tonight my heart is heavy as our country appears to be spiraling out of control in regard to the political discourse and the win at all costs philosophy which we appear to have adopted.
Even great military minds understand that tactic is not acceptable, for the cost of victory can exceed the value of that triumph, should we truly not understand the actual costs of some of those hollow victories.
The same is true with politics. We witness that on a daily basis today, no matter at what level the game is being played.
In 2020, we will enter an extremely important time period as we approach national, state and local elections. The tenor and tone of the debate continue to degrade, and the blame can be found not only with candidates but with their surrogates and the electorates’ disengagement with a process. They have unfortunately found a once noble process to be lacking in common decency.
It was in 2016 and again in 2018 that surrogates for city council candidates would spread false and hurtful untruths regarding some of the field vying for election during those campaign periods. It was by many accounts, one of the dirtiest and evil campaigns I’ve personally witnessed during the 50 plus years that I have had an interest in politics.
The recent disclosure regarding a State of Florida Election Commission ruling that a complaint brought by a citizen regarding a councilor’s involvement with what the “complainant” deemed to be a violation of State Election Law violations lacked legal sufficiency and was dismissed. Their finding has unintentional consequences in opening Pandora’s Box to this type of gutter politics which has become all too popular in our system today.
My commentary has nothing to do with the complaint that was filed, it does, however, involve the issue of honesty and truthfulness. You see, it seems when confronted with the facts, the site did belong to a sitting councilor and contained content that was questionable at best. The councilor at a public city council meeting was forced to admit publicly that he did own the site, however, he stated he was not responsible for the content, as he let others post to the page without his oversight and “he” did not post content there.
Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the truth. It was later revealed that the councilor’s response to inquiries of the Elections Commission, that he did own the site and, “I was the only one providing content.”
That statement flies in the face of his declaration at a council meeting that it was “others” who posted those comments and misleading statements.
Good men had their character and reputations injured by those actions associated with this site, by someone who held the public trust. This was a good man, who the public placed their confidence in 7 years ago when he first ran for election but was now having his own character questioned due to these conflicting statements and actions, leaving one to wonder what caused the change in this individual.
What caused that change in this individual is subject to much speculation, but that is not something I would care to comment on.
The complaint has been dismissed by the Elections Commission, but the words within that report, the words written by him or his attorney defending his actions show a response that is counter to what he told the citizens of our community.
Our nation and its various levels of government depend upon its citizens’ ability to trust their public officials, whether elected or appointed to their positions. That word “trust” is the glue that holds our delicate democracy together and once lost it can never be regained.
We live in an era that finds Americans questioning the actions of those we choose to place in power at all levels of government. Our citizens must stay engaged with what goes on within all levels of our government but should never be given a reason to question the honesty and accuracy of those leaders.
I am saddened that a $6,000 yearly position could mean so much to those that they would shelve the basic decency which should accompany them into office.
My greatest fear is that wonderful and giving people will choose not to engage in public service moving forward. They will choose to turn their backs on the good they could do for their fellow citizens for fear of being unjustifiably attacked by those with illicit intentions and the hurt that transfers to family and close associates.
We are a better community than this and we must dedicate ourselves to demanding a higher standard from those we provide the privilege of our vote to; while continuing to stay involved in how they carry out the public’s mandate to them.
We must continue to encourage good men and women to seek public office and promise we will stay engaged for it is with citizen involvement that we guarantee our democracy remains strong.