Ron Cunningham: Splendid!
Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.
"We have stood here alone in what is called isolation — our splendid isolation..."
Lord Goschen, First Lord of the Admiralty, Feb. 26, 1896
Goschen was referring to British foreign policy. But his turn of phrase nicely describes Gainesville politics.
Gainesville City Commission races are run in splendid isolation every spring, with two consequences.
First, city candidates don't have to rub elbows with all the county, state and federal candidates listed on the primary or general election ballots every two years.
Second, the local Democratic Party keeps a lock on Gainesville's "nonpartisan" commission.
When all you need to win is a bare majority of the 15 percent or so of the electorate that actually bothers to show, up you can pretty much count on so-called "Super Democrats" — the ones who vote very time — to put you over the top.
Assuming, of course, that you are also a Democrat and in tight with the DEC.
All of this, of course, comes with a price.
For one, city taxpayers get to foot the bill for annual elections, upwards of $200,000.
And, two, you don't exactly get a broad spectrum of political thought on the commission.
Currently, there's Todd Chase on the right.
And then there's the mayor and the other five Dems waaay over on the left.
But fear not. Election "reform" is in the offing.
Under a plan the commission seems prepared to send to the voters next year, city elections will eventually migrate from splendid isolation every spring to splendid isolation every other year in the fall.
Every odd year, that is, when there isn't a general election to clutter things up.
This "reform" would seem to have two advantages for the politics-as-usual crowd.
First, the winners would get to serve four years instead of three years.
Second, they can still count on the ever-faithful Super Democrats to squeeze the Republicans out.
See. Isn't that better?
And taxpayers would even get a bit of a break.
Instead of shelling out two hundred grand every year for an election that hardly anybody bothers to vote in, they would only have to foot the bill every other year.
True, putting city candidates on the general election ballot could save even more money — not to mention ensure a much larger turnout and broader representation on the commission.
But apparently, Pam Carpenter thinks it's too much trouble to shoehorn city candidates onto the general election ballot, and so she might refuse to do it.
If you can imagine an elected Supervisor of Elections refusing to supervise elections for the single largest concentration of municipal voters (aka her constituents) in Alachua County.
Actually, this "reform" is a no-lose proposition for the political status quo.
If voters move Gainesville elections from splendid isolation in the spring to splendid isolation in the odd-year fall, Democrats still get their lock.
And if it fails, they can shrug their shoulders and say, "See, voters like the way things are right now."