Thanks to some quality time with my Sample Ballot I think I've figured out how to vote. Although I'm a little shaky on the County Property Appraiser race…
We have twelve sets of candidates on the Florida ballot for President/Vice-President. I've actually heard of half of the Presidential candidates: McCain, Obama, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, Alan Keyes and Ralph Nader. I've only heard of two of the veep candidates, however: Binden and Palin. And if you needed any further reason to vote for Obama, surely Palin is that reason. Obama
We are graced with three strong Democratic candidates for Congress, all running against Bush rubber stamps who vote for the Iraq war, against health insurance for poor children. My Representative wanted 50% privatization of Social Security, a policy that would have horribly impoverished this community. I'm voting for Annette Taddeo (FL-18); she'd be a wonderful Representative. In FL-21 the candidate is Raul Martinez; in FL-25 it's Joe Garcia.
State Senator and State Representative
Not all the races are contested – but this time in addition to uncontested Republicans in State Rep District 102 and 117, there's an uncontested Democrat in 106. While I'm glad to see a little balance for a change, none of this is terribly good for democracy. I don't have strong opinions in the other races, which tend to go by party line.
Harvey Ruvin unquestionably deserves re-election.
Judicial Retention Elections
Vote YES on all of them I don't believe in the inevitable retention of incumbent judges, but I do think the current crop all deserve a vote in favor of retention. Some of them emphatically so.
Contested Judicial Election
There is one contested judicial election, for the 11th Circuit, a race between Asst. Public Defender Yvonne Colodny (FSU '98) and former Asst. State Attorney Stephen T. Millan (Northeastern '90). The Herald endorsed Colodny, whose record and endorsements are encouraging. On paper Millan looks credible too, but if I had any doubts some of the names endorsing Millan on his web site put me off him.
This is the first time this has been an elected office. I was against making this an elective office when the charter amendment was on the ballot in January, but the majority thought differently. The race has proceeded completely under the radar. The Herald has done an appalling job covering this race (and the state rep races too, by and large).
The Democratic party has endorsed both Eddie Lewis and Gwen Margolis. The Miami Herald endorsed Pedro Garcia and Gwen Margolis. Eye on Miami, the best local politics blog, argues (weakly) for Gwen Margolis. But I'm no great fan of hers. So I'm conflicted.
If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held before the end of the year on a date that would be set by the County Commission.
State Constitutional Amendments (numbers are not consecutive as some were taken off the ballot)
YES on 1 (removes discriminatory language from state constitution, material long ago declared unconstitutional)
NO on 2 (would introduce homophobic language into state constitution in guise of 'marriage protection')
YES on 3 (allows legislature to give tax breaks to hurricane protection and renewable energy)
YES on 4 (allows legislature to give tax breaks to land not developed in hopes of increasing conservation; this will be badly abused since beneficiaries don't have to commit to long-term conservation, but even so)
YES on 6 (tax breaks for working waterfront property)…but I could see an argument against.
NO on 8 (would allow counties to use extra sales tax money to fund community colleges). Most people I know (who care) are for this. Even though I'm rabidly pro-education, after much thought I'm against it for three reasons:
- Every time the legislature promises us that it won't reduce education funding to compensate for new revenue, it goes back on its word. I've had enough Lucy and the football, thank you very much
- Sales tax is regressive, I'd prefer a progressive tax.
- Will increase disparities between counties.
County Charter Amendments
Question 1 NO. Q1 would transfer the powers, duties and responsibilities of the county manager to the county mayor. This changes charter wording to acknowledge voters' approval of a strong mayor. Where the charter now says ''the county manager shall'' the word ''mayor'' is substituted. The Herald recommends “yes”. I'm voting “NO” because I think having the manager strong and the mayor not as strong makes accountability a little more likely in that the Commission has more of a say. Not that I have high hopes in either case.
Question 2 YES. Q2 would raise commission salaries according to a state formula based on population. It would prohibit commissioners from having outside employment. Annual salaries would increase to about $92,000 from $6,000. The Charter Review Task Force recommended the pay hike, but included term limits as a counter-balance. The Commission took the pay raise but rejected the term limits. As a result, the Herald recommends a “no” vote. I'm voting YES, on the theory that in the long run higher salaries make corruption a little less likely. I know people who feel strongly that the pay raises should be held back until the Commission votes for term limits, and I understand that argument.
Question 3 YES. Q3 would allow candidates for the commission or county mayor to qualify for office either by submitting a petition signed by a specified number of registered voters or paying a $300 filing fee. This adds the petition method to the charter. The Herald and I agree on YES.
Questions 4&5 YES. Q 4 & 5 would alter the initiative-petition process by having the county clerk approve petitions instead of the commission. As it is, the commission can refuse a petition not to its liking; the clerk will be more neutral. Question 4 also requires the commission to hold a public hearing on the petition once it's approved. Question 5 deals strictly with the clerk's approval. The Herald and I agree on YES.
Question 6 – NO. Q6 would require that all but five Miami-Dade cities use the county's fire-rescue service. Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne could keep their fire departments, while everyone else would have no choice. The argument for is that it prevents cherrypicking by richer areas, leaving a patchwork of poor areas to the County. The argument against is that its not fair to grandfather the bigger cities and discriminate against the smaller/newer ones. On balance, I agree with the Herald on NO but understand why someone might disagree.