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EDITORIAL: Lack of municipal election ‘a gigantic disappointment’

By Staff | Feb 2, 2011

When the City Council moved swiftly through its consent agenda docket on Tuesday morning, a resolution to officially cancel this year’s municipal election drew only modest attention from the audience.

The council would have had two seats up for election on March 1, with councilmen Jim Jennings’ and Peter Pappas’ four-year terms expiring. While Jennings offered to run again for another term, Pappas did not. Only political newcomer Doug Congress threw his hat in the ring, nullifying the need to conduct an election by virtue of the uncontested race.

Therefore, instead of a series of heated candidate debates, hand-shaking and baby-kissing photo opportunities and all of the usual political hullaballoo we’ve come to expect throughout the election process, here on Sanibel we’ll get none.

To us, that’s kind of sad. For lack of a better description, it’s the equivalent of finding all of your presents — unwrapped — underneath the Christmas tree.

We do not want to besmirch the reputation of either Jennings — whose fine reputation of serving this community stands unchallenged — nor Congress, who we wish only the best for as he begins his first term as a member of the City Council. But in an age where citizens are demanding more transparency in the governmental process, it appears that islanders are content to simply accept the status quo without so much as a choice between “either” and “or.”

“This does not say good things about our city,” resident Herb Rubin told the council prior to the resolution passing unanimously. He suggested that an incentive plan be put in place to compensate leaders who pursue public office.

Pappas called the cancellation of this year’s election “a gigantic disappointment.” We could not agree more.

The cancellation of this year’s municipal election has “pulled the rug” out from under this city’s politico populace, however, we do not favor offering compensation — financial or otherwise — to our elected leaders. Public service is a sacrifice, a very special duty to be undertaken by citizens who wish to better their community. Although it may not appear to be so, it is an honor. And it comes without pay or promise.

As a result of this year’s “non-election,” the next opportunity to enact change within our island government won’t come until March of 2013, when the seats of Kevin Ruane, Mick Denham and Marty Harrity expire. Although we would welcome all three gentlemen to consider re-election, if they so choose, we also hope that a number — any number — of qualified candidates will seek the opportunity to serve their community.

The more choices we have for an election, the better the opportunity for representative governance.

— Reporter editorial