Why, oh, why?
“The flood of money that gushes into politics today is a pollution of democracy,” wrote author Theodore White a while ago. By that measure, our democracy in Lee County is as polluted as our water.
But beyond being frustrating…it is scary.
Today, Lee County has become a prize for the taking by developers and speculators alike. With County Commissioners who strive to be “business friendly” and hold a demonstrated bias against public participation, developers have free rein in a county that offers developers discounted impact fees and an open field (pun intended) to create sprawl, poorly planned gated communities, and traffic gridlock. Never mind the overcrowded schools. For example, businesses and individuals associated with Corkscrew Grove developer Joe Cameratta alone have donated almost $20,000 to the two incumbent candidates since the start of the campaign season in April, 2021.
For more than a year, we have reported on the overwhelming amount and number of campaign donations by developers and their cronies to our commissioners running for reelection. (See for yourself at http://www.lee.vote/Campaign-Reports/Campaign-Finance-Reports). Both commissioners repeatedly and firmly state that these campaign donations do not influence their policy positions. But looking at their continuing votes in favor of higher-density developments and builder-supported rezonings, it is difficult to take these assertions seriously. Isn’t it time for Lee citizens to demand that commissioners recuse themselves from voting on rezonings and contracts affecting campaign donors? Or, at the very least, publicly reveal that they have received campaign donations from entities just prior to voting at Commission meetings on matters involving donors?
In June, for example, the incumbent candidates – who together have raised an obscene $416,687 – each received $1000 donations from the Lee Building Industry Association, in spite of the fact that they have no opponents in the August primary and only write-in candidates in the November General Election. Our questions: How is this money to be spent? What is it for? Did these candidates ever consider not accepting the money? What does this say about the nexus between these candidates and the building industry in the county when money is thrown into the pot for no reason other than…? Your guess is probably the same as ours.
We need to demonstrate our dissatisfaction – and disgust – with the electoral system as it operates here in Lee County. We recognize that we are in the grip of one party and that the electorate overwhelmingly votes for Republican candidates. But not everyone. For whatever reason, Lee County has a huge cohort of voters (160,000 out of 510,000) registered as non-party affiliated and who are eligible to vote in the November General Election. We know who they are, but not why they decline to identify with either party. Can they be persuaded to look with an open mind at the issues facing us in Lee? We hope so, because those issues – accountability and transparency, environmental stewardship, degrading quality of life – are not partisan issues.
Many of you have expressed your unhappiness with how our county is run. When special interests make up almost $7 our of every $10 in campaign donations even as our county is undergoing huge and unwanted development, it is no wonder.
And only you can send the message. There are two write-in candidates: Jim Sheets in District 2 and Karen Watson in District 4. We urge you to use your pencils when filling out your ballot.
Women For a Better Lee is a nonpartisan, all-volunteer political action committee working to bring accountability and transparency to our Lee County Commission and government.
WFBLPAC is not authorized by any candidate or any candidate’s committee and donations are not tax deductible. Donations to WFBLPAC can be made via http://paypal.com (our PayPal account is WFBLPAC@gmail.com).
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