It’s obvious that Monroe County government needs to change. Fortunately, there’s a new group that has an idea that might help – single member districts. I talked a little bit about that here. And here is a link to the SMART Districts website. This one snip says it all.
SMART Districts are Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Responsible, Timely – good government in action!
The current system offers very little accountability. If citizens in a given district are dissatisfied with their commissioner, any attempt to replace them might be overruled by voters elsewhere. This is not theoretical. It has actually happened.
Let’s take a look at the election results for the 2014 primary for BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) District 2. George Neugent, the incumbent, easily defeated challenger Danny Coll 3301 to 2381. But if it had been up to the voters of District 2 to elect their own representative this would not have been the case. Coll would have won 749 to 531.
I think that George Neugent is the closest thing there is to a voice of reason on the BOCC. The voters of the Middle and Upper Keys clearly agree. Neugent won Districts 4 and 5 overwhelmingly. But where does this leave the folks in District 2?
Under the current system, Neugent’s re-election was the best possible outcome for those districts. District 5, in particular, is afflicted with poor representation on the BOCC. For that reason they are obliged to look elsewhere for assistance. Of the five, Neugent is the only one who has shown the slightest interest in addressing their issues.
The situation is also complicated by interference from other commissioners. Kolhage, District 1, has tried to whip up public sentiment against any and all spending in the Upper Keys while pushing for excessive spending on the Cudjoe Regional project. Unfortunately, there are many Lower Keys citizens who eat it up. When someone is throwing millions of dollars at you I’m sure it is easy to be manipulated. But at the end of the day, it’s very likely that Lower Keys citizens really won’t benefit at all from this wasteful spending.
One would expect District 5 commissioner, Sylvia Murphy, to push back against the falsehoods that have damaged her own district, but she does not. Instead she plays along to the detriment of her own constituents. Not that this is any consolation, but she’s not much help to the folks in District 2 either. Rather than trying to get to the bottom of their issues with Cudjoe Regional, she just voted “no” on everything.
In the paragraphs above, I touched on three problems that exist under the current system:
- Citizens do not elect their own representative on the BOCC.
- Citizens with poor representation must seek it out from other commissioners because they cannot easily elect or replace their own.
- It allows unscrupulous commissioners to more easily manipulate voters and play one against the other.
Are single-member districts (SMART districts) the answer? The problems with Monroe County government are so severe, I don’t think there’s any one solution. But I think SMART districts could go a long way toward improving the situation.
I’ll be following with interest.