Election picks for Sept. 5th primary
Scott Camil and Joe Courter
Here are a few races where we have excellent candidates and it matters.
The Sheriff's Race: As many of you know I have not had a great relationship with law enforcement in my life. Butch Jones is the most qualified of any candidate for sheriff that I can remember since I have lived here (1970) He is also the most well rounded. He has a masters degree in criminal justice education and one in mental health counseling. He does not believe that people with mental problems belong in jail, he does not believe that non-violent offenders belong in jail. He has lots of ideas for change as the only democrat with experience at the Sheriff's Department (30 years in which he has served in or been the head of every major bureau during this time). He has a plan for education at the jail through adult education programs. He believes that it makes no sense to house a person in jail and release them after they have served their time without improving their ability to get a job. If they can't read, how can they even read a help-wanted sign? At the very least, he thinks they need to read and write. Butch has the experience, the compassion and the ideas to hit the ground running. He has spent many hours at my home meeting people, answering the hard questions and impressing everyone. Sadie Darnell got the Sun endorsement and it's interesting to note that even though she is a Democrat she supported Tony Domenech over Jack Donovan, Tony Domenech over Jeanna Mastrodicasa and she also supported Steve Oelrich, not exactly what I would call progressive.
The School Board Race: What we have now is a gang of 3 that has been unrelenting in their attacks against the one School Board member that actually cares about the children and the teachers (Eileen Roy). This gang of 3 has done everything in its power to try to muzzle Eileen and her ideas, like her suggestion to institute impact fees so that those causing the need for more classrooms and teachers would help pay for it, and that school concurrency service areas should be less than district-wide so that the available capacity on the east side of town can be used to reduce crowding on the west side of town. As a member of the Sierra Club Political Committee I had the opportunity with others to interview all of the candidates for School Board. The 2 incumbents, Ginger Childs and Tina Pinkoson, do not support impact fees or concurrency districts that are less than district-wide. Neither of them could answer questions about the budget and where all of the money is being spent. An example would be the fact that the state gave our school board 4.7 million dollars to help us comply with the Class Size Amendment. The state said if we already have the money set aside, then the money should be used for teacher salaries. We had the money set aside already but the board only used $800,000 for teachers' salaries and we don't know where they spent the rest. Ginger Childs even looked us straight in the eye and told us that the School Board had no plans for a sales tax, a blatant lie. The school board meetings are not timed to be friendly to working parents and little time is allowed for citizen input. There is much more in the way of lack of ethics at the school board. We have a chance to clean out part of this Stink at the board with 2 refreshing candidates. Clint Robinson has over 30 years as a teacher. He supports impact fees and concurrency districts that are less than district-wide. He is a strong supporter of vocational education for those who don't intend to go to college after high school. Deb Cupples is an attorney and a writer. She is especially good at research and crunching numbers. She supports concurrency districts that are less than district-wide. She supports impact fees if the School Board needs the extra money. She believes that with better management we might not even need to raise extra money. She has done a lot of research on this matter and believes the public has a right to see the real numbers as opposed to the fuzzy math used by the gang of three. Both Clint Robinson and Deb Cupples have been unanimously endorsed by the Sierra Club. Both Clint Robinson and Deb Cupples have been endorsed by the teachers' union. Currently teachers in Alachua County get paid less than the teachers in 90% of the state even though our teachers are at the top when it comes to educational experience and education qualifications. On the other hand, our administrators get paid in the top 20% of the state. My wife is a teacher. She works in Levy County where they pay their teachers better than we do. The School Board race gives us a clear choice between a current board where one member's campaign treasurer gets hired as superintendent of schools and then donates money to the board members who rubber stamp his policies while trying to muzzle his opponents, or 2 candidates Clint Robinson and Deb Cupples who will bring a breath of fresh air to the Board, with honesty, integrity, good ideas, good planning and real transparency.
County Commission Race: In the County Commission race between Lee Pinkoson, the incumbent, and Betsy Hurst, we have a clear choice. Lee Pinkoson is a very nice person, it's hard not to like him. As a commissioner, Lee helped lead the attack that gutted the Comprehensive Plan that many good people worked so hard on in the recent past, when the majority of the commissioners believed in protecting the environment and our quality of life over sprawl and developer interests. Betsy has a long history of environmental activism, she is a member of the Sierra Club and has served on the Alachua County Scenic Road Advisory Committee and the Alachua County School Cuncurrency Project. She has worked on new land use codes for the comp plan, a new tree ordinance, and neighborhood protection. Hurst led the fight to force the location of the Haile Publix to be within the development rather than in a strip along SW 20th Ave., where it would generate traffic. Her ideas are in sync with those of Penny Wheat and Mike Byerly. This race is a clear choice between developer interests or environmental interests. The Sierra Club has unanimously endorsed Betsy Hurst.
Judicial Race: I have been a friend of the Pennypacker family for over 30 years. In judicial races the candidates are not allowed to discuss issues, they can only discuss qualifications. Stephen Pennypacker has more experience than both of his opponents together. I can personally tell you that I know him, he is honest, fair and very humble. I feel privileged to be able to support Stephen Pennypacker for Judge.
State Representative District 23: In this race there is another very clear choice between Chuck Chestnut and Bonnie Burgess. I have worked closely with both. As a member of the City Commission of Gainesville, Chuck's door has always been open to every citizen. When I was working to get a citizens' Police Review Board, Chuck was always there, often times pro-active in supporting our effort. I have never called on Chuck where he has not been open-minded and fair. When he disagrees he has honest reasons. Chuck really is a caring and considerate person who shares a lot of empathy with common people and less fortunate people. He is a peoples' man. His opponent on the other hand is the least qualified person that I can remember to hold public office. She ran for Alachua City Commission with strong support from the environmental community. She made promises that she did not keep. She spouted positions that she did not really believe or intend to live up to. Her warm smile and friendly hug are a veneer over her shortcomings. Unlike Chuck, she cannot explain why she votes the way she votes. The City of Alachua has the most corrupt politics in Alachua County and Bonnie sits in the middle of it. She flipped her position to supporter of Wal-Mart. Ask around if you know people in Alachua. They will tell you that Bonnie is short on substance and is mostly late for any meetings when she bothers to show at all. She gave them what they want in Alachua and now they want that same response in Tallahassee and so she enjoys strong support from political mucky mucks who are all about special interests, not the common people or the environment. If you like the kind of corruption and dirt that is the epitome of the politics of the City of Alachua, then Bonnie is your person. On the other hand, if you want someone with integrity and honesty, who is well informed and does what's right for the public and the environment, then Charles "Chuck" Chestnut, IV, is your choice. Chuck has been there for us and he has more than earned our vote.
Looking at other races on the ballot for higher offices:
In the Democratic primary for Governor, I had high hopes that Rod Smith would be a strong candidate for taking back the office for the Democrats now that Jeb(!) is term-limited out. Those hopes are gone now, and Big Sugar's $2 million dollar "swiftboating" of Jim Davis is the key reason. In a televised debate, Smith refused to distance himself from these attacks. Crist is a moderate and congenial Republican, and an attack dog campaign from Smith would blow back in Smith's face. And ours. He ain't perfect, but I think Davis will be the better fight; people are sick of mudslinging campaigns. Davis also has the endorsement of the Sierra Club.
Which brings us to Ed Jennings vs. Perry McGriff. The big picture again is important here. I felt Jennings would be the stronger candidate against the probable Republican primary winner Steve Oelrich. That may still be true, but I like many others are appalled at the hired gun "swiftboating" of Perry McGriff. I'll be backing whoever wins the Democratic primary, and Jennings, even with these tactics, may be the stronger candidate, but I can't endorse this kind of crass negativity in a primary. It makes me sick. Judy Levy NOW--National Organization for Women endorsed Ed Jennings, Jr.
There's an Attorney General race in the Democratic primary, and Skip Campbell is the stronger candidate to take on the Republican on the ballot in November. That Republican is Bill McCollum, one of the most ardent backers of Reagan's wars in Central America. During the Iran/Contra hearings, in his role as congressmember, he was the loyalist of loyal Republicans when questioning Oliver North and that whole crew of human rights-abusing scoundrels.
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