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Citizenship 101

The national political stage offers a vast array of posing, posturing, and pandering full of fanfare and gaudy self-aggrandizement, but almost no actual usefulness for the citizenship. It gets our attention the way a train wreck does, but it doesn't deserve it. And while it is fair to call it a self-inflicted wound - we did vote them into office after all - there is no real hope of recovery. Do you believe the ones who won will ever let go?

You may find some comfort - cold, cold comfort at that - in the illuminating, if depressing, truth laid bare in the documentary, UnRepresented, which tells it like it is. And, as you know, it is awful.

But if you insist on hoping, and persist in that hope, please consider setting your sights on issues closer to home. Closest to home. The Lakeland City Commission. Seven honorable citizens who have offered to serve the city and its residents in pursuit of equity, safety, and prosperity. Those three principles encompass a wide range of complex concerns that must be managed with the greater good in mind while engaging and integrating the needs of all factions and fractions of the community.

Seven people you can talk to, in person, in private, in public meetings. A mere four of them can decide what's good for the city. If you reach out, they will respond, but they can't hear you shaking your head.

This is where the voter meets the consequences of their vote. Those that don't vote, don't count, even though the Commission must take them into account for actions that will affect us all.

2021 was an election year for Lakeland and four of the seven seats were on the ballot: Mayor, District D: Southeast, District C: Southwest, and one At-Large position. The City has begun using alphabet designations for the four seats representing the four geographical quadrants perhaps in order to dispel the erroneous notion that commissioners are elected to specifically represent those areas. The City Charter requires that a candidate for the Commission reside in the district for the seat they are seeking, in a nod to the idea that their experience of the city will more evenly reflect its demographic diversity. Two Commissioners serve "at-large", as does the Mayor.

All residents vote for all seats. All commissioners represent all citizens.

It is a testament to their sense of duty that they respond with respect to the voices of the people who speak to them of their concerns. While your personal view of their decisions will always depend on which "dog" you "have in the fight", it is fair to say that the Commission has listened to and learned from and acted on behalf of those who brought their case to them earnestly.

There are many examples of this, but this is the most recent: In December, the Commission denied a request from developer Gary Brundage to build a cell tower on a 3-2 vote. The vote was considered a victory by local residents who rallied against the tower, citing its potential impact on home values and the aesthetics of Lake Hunter and historic Dixieland. READ MORE HERE

This is how citizenship works.

Try to contact the Governor, or our state legislators. Then try to reach Scott Franklin, Rick Scott, or Marco Rubio. And the President. Go ahead. Try.

You may easily encounter Stephanie Madden in Publix, or Mayor Mutz out riding his bike, or Phillip Walker making the rounds of almost any public gathering. These - and their colleagues - are our people. They do in fact represent us. When they ask for your vote, ask them why they want it.

This is how citizenship works.


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