Whose vote is it anyway?
In the conversation, consternation, and confusion over the COVID-19 mask mandate issue, a suspicion is sometimes voiced that four of the City Commissioners - a majority - owe some allegiance to the political activists of Lakeland First, a local business-focused entity that wears this tag:
“Paid political advertisement paid for by Lakeland First Political Committee, 1103 Hays Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301”.
It is alleged that this majority is responsible for the Commission’s reluctance to actually impose a mandate for citizens to wear face coverings in public spaces. Scott Franklin, Stephanie Madden, Sara McCarley, and Chad Mcleod were all supported by Lakeland First and benefitted from significant campaign spending on their behalf.
Franklin has moved on to the U.S.Congress but it’s fair to say that his forceful rejection of masks held some sway over both Bill Read and Phillip Walker, leaving Mayor Bill Mutz (also supported buy Lakeland First) in the awkward position of “last man standing”, seconded now by Franklin’s temporary replacement, Don Selvage, who has been as forceful on the other side of the divide.
Some sense of surrender accompanies these observations, as if we must all simply yield to the ways and whims of those whose cash and connections seem to put them in charge.
An election - any election, every election - is only a moment, and while it seats a fellow citizen whose role is representation, it does not entitle anyone else to call the shots. In fact, it does not even entitle the seat-holder to “call the shots”. It remains the privilege and responsibility for us, the people, to remain attentive, vigilant, and responsive to the needs and ambitions of our community, and to communicate with the citizens we have empowered to ensure that they are met.
Here’s where it gets complicated, although “complex” might be a better description.
Honorable citizens who stand for election to represent us face the daunting task of listening to and considering the disparate views of the entire community, and are charged with the duty to ensure the health and safety of all of us, not merely their own supporters. In fact, the majority of the work is to understand and represent the minority viewpoints, blending them into resolutions and ordinances that best benefit the most of us. Otherwise, we could run the city by a show of hands.
It is at least unkind, if not completely unfair, to presume that campaign yard signs, mailers, and T-shirts can turn these honorable citizens into pawns to be played to suit their benefactors. It can happen of course, if those are the only voices they hear.
Here’s where it gets simplified.
Speak up. Reach out. Contact the commissioners. They can’t hear you shaking your head.