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EDITORIAL: Election Endorsements

By Staff | Oct 20, 2010

Voters heading to the polls for the Nov. 2 General Election will decide a ballot plump with federal, state and local races.

Floridians will elect a new U.S. senator, governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, commissioner of agriculture and Lee County voters will decide a Congressional race.

Local voters also will decide three county commission seats, one remaining school board post and a judicial seat as well as various other board and district positions, including five seats on the Lee County Hospital Board.

In addition, there are six constitutional amendments on the ballot including proposed revisions to the class size amendment, how districts for state representative offices are delineated and the so-called Home Town Democracy amendment, which proposes to change how land use decisions are made.

Voters don’t have to wait until Election Day, however, to cast a ballot – early voting opened Monday at five locations across Lee County.

Early voting locations include the Cape Coral Branch Office for the Supervisor of Elections, 1031 S.E. 9th Place, No. 3., the Lee County Elections Main Office at 2480 Thompson Street in Fort Myers and the Election Center Branch Office at 13180 S. Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers; the East County Library, 881 Gunnery Road; and the Bonita Springs Branch Office, 24951 Old U.S. 41.

Early voting continues until Saturday, Oct. 30, and the offices will be open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for voter convenience.

Inside today’s Reporter and Current is a special election section with overviews on the various races as well as expanded information on local candidates. We invite you to read.

We also offer some recommendations on local races with endorsements in the District 1 school board run-off and two of the three county commission races – we choose not to endorse in the District 2 race between the incumbent Brian Bigelow, a Republican, and Debbie Jordan, a Democrat.

Our recommendations on the state constitutional amendments will appear on these pages next week.

Endorsement: Vote John Manning, County Commission, District 1

Republican voters faced a crowded primary ballot in the District 1 County Commission race and from this well-qualified field, the incumbent, John Manning, rose to the top.

We believe he remains the best choice for District 1 and John Manning receives our endorsement in the General Election as he did in the primary.

To recap: Commissioner Manning was appointed by the governor to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Bob Janes. He joined the county commission as the budget debates began and hit the ground running, offering suggestions that were informed and reasonable as the board struggled to hold the line on the tax rate while also cutting expenses.

There was no learning curve – his performance of the duties of office were seamless.

This is key, and it is his broad-based, regional knowledge on virtually every issue at hand that separates Commissioner Manning in a race that also offers a seasoned challenger, Carla Johnston, a former mayor and council member on Sanibel.

John Manning offers information, he offers answers, and most importantly, he offers solutions when queried on the very real challenges Lee County faces in times that can be called, at best, turbulent.

In addition to both his current and past tenure as a Lee County commissioner, Commissioner Manning also brings much-needed expertise from the private sector.

As a consultant with Malcolm Pirnie. Inc., an environmental engineering firm, he has spent the last decade advising city and county governments on how to deal with their environmental and infrastructure challenges, including solid waste issues, water quality issues and wastewater challenges. This makes him uniquely qualified to continue the environmental legacy left by Commissioner Janes.

We endorse John Manning in the General Election for Lee County Commission, District 1.

He remains the best candidate in terms of knowledge and experience.

Also running:

Carla Johnston, no party affiliation.

Endorsement: Vote Tammy Hall, County Commission, District 4

Voters will have their first opportunity to cast a ballot in the District 4 county commission race as there was no primary election.

The race pits Tammy Hall, a Republican candidate, who has served on the Lee County Board of County Commissioners since 2004, against challenger Debbie Jackow, a long-time community activist, who is running without party affiliation.

While we admire and acknowledge Ms. Jackow’s impassioned stance for neighborhood and environmental issues, we have to go with experience and regional knowledge in the District 4 race, and it is for this reason that we endorse the incumbent, Tammy Hall, a candidate with no shortage of passion for Lee County’s issues herself.

Commissioner Hall, the current chair of the Lee County commission and a former city of Fort Myers council member, has a broad range of committee experience at the local, county and state level.

She has served as Finance, Transportation, Administration Policy Committee chairwoman and as a Taxation & Budget Review Committee member for the Florida Association of Counties where she currently chairs the Sustainability Committee. She chairs the Lee County Port Authority, serves on the Tourist Development Council and is a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Commissioner Hall also was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush to the St. Lucie/Caloosahatchee Advisory Board and takes well-earned pride in the efforts of that panel to secure both legislation and money for environmental protection and restoration.

She is running on a pro-business, pro-fiscal responsibility, pro-environment platform that calls for job recovery, tax reduction and restoration of natural resources.

Good things all – especially when backed by a proven track record that intelligently balances these political promises with real world challenges and real world solutions.

We endorse Tammy Hall for the Lee County Commission, District 4. We need her experience and she has earned another term.

Also running: Debbie Jackow, no party affiliation

Endorsement: Vote Arnold A. Gibbs, School Board, District 1

Two qualified candidates cleared the primary for the District 1 school board seat, resulting in a run-off that pits Arnold Gibbs, a former police chief in Cape Coral, against Mary Fischer, a counselor with the Lee County School District.

Each is qualified, each has a sincere desire to serve, and each has a unique skill set that would be an asset on the School Board of Lee County.

As the district faces both the likelihood of a continued decline of revenues and the challenge of needed improvement in the educational experience for the students of Lee County, experience on the numbers side, as well as the programs side, is pivotal.

It is for this reason, we endorse Arnold Gibbs in the District 1 run-off as we did earlier in the August primary.

To recap: Mr. Gibbs, a career law enforcement professional, brings a background that includes a solid knowledge of how government works, including budgeting parameters. He also has served on state-level councils and committees and so has knowledge of how things work on the policy-making side of the equation.

These attributes will help mitigate the inevitable learning curve that goes with a new position, and this is key in a race that will add a third newcomer to a five-member board that saw two incumbents ousted in the primary while another, Bob Chilmonik, stepped down to make a run for the Lee County Commission.

His law enforcement background also gives Mr. Gibbs an interesting perspective on a district weakness, the one weakness that has seen minimal improvement even as other challenges have seen incremental progress.

As we stated in our primary election endorsement, Mr. Gibbs already has submitted a plan to address the needs of minority and low-income students who, as group, are, perhaps, the district’s greatest educational challenge.

That’s good to see and it’s an area where the district is in much need of improvement.

We again endorse Arnold Gibbs in the school board race for District 1. We believe he can quickly come up to speed and we continue to believe he will prioritize the classroom and the kids, remembering those who are sometimes forgotten.

Also running: Mary Fischer

– Reporter editorial