By Mike Phillips
Now that the Fernandina Beach runoff election is over, no matter how you voted, here is something you need to know:
There were no serious disagreements among the four candidates.
We conducted a forum for the initial candidate field. Then we asked the runoff four to submit an essay about whatever was on their minds for the city. They responded. Then we pestered them with a 12-question quiz about city issues. They answered.
Our candidates agreed that finishing the riverfront stabilization was job one. Then we asked about other critical issues. Their answers? The riverfront bank, of course, then downtown infrastructure work, then recreactional facility improvements. Some mentioned our crumbling City Hall.
Those are expensive projects, so we asked for their ideas about shoring up finances. They all said no to a bond issue. Tighter budgeting came up. The Democrat (yep!) had the most stringent and, I must say, sophisticated, thoughts about that. So much for stereotypes. Another common answer was negotiations with other entities that govern our share of regional financing.
What about development concerns? Answer: we have codes in place. What about parking? Answer: We have parking regulations. Enforce them.
There was not a serious argument to be found.
Now, there were two registered Republicans, one Democrat and one independent in the runoff mix. That shouldn’t matter because these offices are non-partisan.
But that phrase, non-partisan, came in for some serious disrespect late in the runoff election.
A couple of weeks before Dec. 13, a river of expensive direct mail pieces started flowing into the mailboxes of registered Republicans, promoting the idea that only two Republicans were running, and that’s who should get the homeowners’ votes. I got five in about 10 days. Whoever was financing this (and I’m pretty sure I know who) must have run out of money after $20-30 thousand bucks, because people then started getting texts with the same message. (A much cheaper form of communication that I appreciated because it didn’t require a trip to the junk mail bin.)
So here is my question to the community: Do you want partisan politics to be injected into our non-partisan, totally community-oriented elections? Think about it. Do you? Either way, I think we should have a community discussion about this.
If you have an opinion, please hit the comment button and get it started.
Ps: I wrote this before I knew the election results, and I didn’t edit it after.