Term limits represent the key failure of the citizenry

October 14, 2017

A meme making its way around social media, sent to the Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact, captured the frustration many Americans feel. The meme said, “11% approval ratings. 96.4% re-elected” – in other words, the U.S. Congress has 11 percent approval ratings, yet 96.4 percent of incumbent lawmakers were re-elected in 2014. Politifact wondered whether that was true, so it took a look.

 

It is, and it’s our fault.

 

Voters are responsible for imposing term limits, but like almost all of our civic duties, we have abandoned that responsibility and left the machinery of government in the hands of political mechanics who serve their own interests rather than ours.

 

And while it may be easy to scoff at the dysfunction at the national level, we must not turn away from the same failure here in Lakeland.

 

The accompanying chart shows the voter participation in the last seven city elections. The chart does not include “elections” in which there was a single candidate with no alternative.

 

While it is possible that the results would be the same with 100% turnout, we have to consider the negative impact of refusing to go to the polls, before we criticize the outcome.

 

No matter how any particular commissioner is judged or respected – and we believe all of them to be earnest and determined to ensure Lakeland’s success – any failure on their collective part belongs to us for failing to participate.

And … in 75 percent of Lakeland’s city elections over the last ten years, the candidate who raised the most money won the office. Maybe we don’t need to go to the polls at all, if are willing to let a few hundred people with hundred-dollar-bills make the decision for us.

 

Or … maybe we should scoff at ourselves and determine not to let this happen again. Engage your citizenship. Gather information. Challenge the office seekers. Vote! Stay involved after the election. Make yourself heard. That’s how it’s done.

 

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E-mail the commissioners

But one at a time, please!

 

For the most part, when recipients open an email that includes others they are less inclined to take it personally. Make sure your message resonates by sending it to each commissioner separately.

Scott Franklin - Stephanie Madden -  Sara McCarley - Bill Mutz

Bill Read - Justin Troller - Phillip Walker

Each of these noble citizens represents all the rest of us. The four geographic designations - Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, etc. - apply only to the residency requirements for commissioners, not to their constituents. Bill Read, for instance, lives in the city's northeast quadrant and is likely to be more in tune with the businesses and neighborhoods in that area, but serves us all as our representative to the city management and staff.

It will always help to send your message to City Manager Tony Delgado  because it's his job to implement whatever projects, resolutions, and ordinances the Commission proposes in response to our communication.

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