Neighborhood Votes Holds Political Forum
Neighborhood Votes Holds Political Forum. It was the first cool day of fall in Northwest Florida, and it seemed that even though politics should be heating up people seemed pretty cool on attending a candidate forum. Keyontay Humphries of the Florida ACLU and the Neighborhood Votes organization held the forum this past Saturday at the Fiskers community center. All the candidates running in Escambia County were invited. A crowd of less than 30 listened as two moderators questioned the 7 candidates that showed up.
There were few surprises. Mike Hill, Clay Ingram and Ashton Hayword were of course no shows. (These candidates hardly ever show up for public scrutiny. During the special election that replaced Clay Ford, Mike Hill ditched on any public appearance with his opponent. On Monday night WSRE and the LWV will hold Rally 2014 a chance for the public to see the candidates talk about current issues. Already Mike Hill and Clay Ingram have declined to participate.) Jeremy Lau house district 2 candidate and Gloria Wiggins house district 1 candidate opened up the forum. They were followed by Deb Moore for County Commission Dist. 2 , her opponent Doug Underhill was also a no show. Donna Clark followed Moore. The candidates for city council district 6 faced off next. Mark Taylor and Brian Spencer answered questions about growth in downtown. One of the most important races is the school board district 3 race. Current school board member Linda Moultrie and opponent Charlie Nichols talked about school closing and job training. The questions asked of all candidates related to the minority community,including questions about candidate stances on hiring diversity at the local and state level, reducing unemployment and creating jobs, and improving education in one of the worse school districts in Florida.
The biggest take away from the event was the lack of participation. When incumbents will not come out to meet voters, when voters won’t come out to meet and question candidates, democracy is in trouble. Turn out in local and state elections usually fall short of national elections, esp. presidentials, and that is a shame. The President is a high profile important position,but the president doesn’t get potholes filled or speed bumps installed. The president doesn’t get patrols increased in your neighborhood when homes start getting broken into. The president does’t respond to questions about testing and field trips at your kids schools. Those are local issues and decisions made by local elected officials that we tend to ignore.Those are the issues we live with everyday and the topic for most of our daily political discourse, yet most people couldn’t name the people in their community responsible for deciding these issues. That is a shame. Voters need to realize these elections are just as important if not more than the high profile presidential.
One part of the problem when we talk about apathy in local government is the local media and the lack of local coverage. If you looked at the any of our media outlets in the last few weeks you wouldn’t even know there was an election. Then when they do election coverage it is either biased or down right lazy. During the primary race for County Commission dist 2, the PNJ wrote and article the Friday before the election. The headline was “District 2 candidates face off” the problem was they didn’t interview the democrats or even mention them. When asked why they made the omission they had two excuses. First was lack of manpower to do the interviews which they felt was justified by excuse number two,which was their perception that there was a lack of interest in that race. They decided not to cover the race because they felt that no one cared that they didn’t.
So we go back to the voters. Voters need to pay attention, they also need to make sure that the media that informs them does too. Voters need to hold the media and local officials accountable for their lack of information that they need to make truly informed decisions. Don’t vote for candidates who will not participate in forums and don’t patronize media that doesn’t do it’s job and give you the information you need to make informed decisions.
This election day, VOTE.