The recent elections were particularly important, the outcomes certain to shape local education and governance. Let's look at some of the fallout.
The School Board races, some of the most bitterly contested in memory, pitted agents of change, right-wing reformers, against establishment candidates. And the establishment candidates won big. Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter, backed by moderates of both parties, thumped Louise Penta and and Lee Dixon, endorsed by the county Republican Executive Committee, which bet and lost its credibility by an all-out push for their election.
What does this mean?
- It means there will be more of the same for Collier County schools, a continuation and likely strengthening of Superintendent Kamela Patton's policies.
- It means we will continue to accept government money, obviating the need to raise taxes.
- It means we will continue standardized testing as mandated by Tallahassee and, as a result, be able to measure real progress of K-12 students and compare the results to those of other counties and states.
- It means there will be little leverage for fiscal accountability -- little interest in risk assessments and internal audits.
- It means Blue Zones will proliferate in school cafeterias, trumping the dietary wishes of parents.
And it means Erica Donalds and Kelly Lichter, who will remain on the short end of 3-2 votes, will be vulnerable if they seek reelection in 2018.
The Clerk of Courts contest was another donnybrook. Incumbent Dwight Brock won, ensuring ongoing battles with the Board of County Commissioners. Brock's refusal to pay bills is said to be the biggest single reason new businesses won't come to Collier County.
Voters had a chance to elect Georgia Hiller, who decried Brock's gun-slinging approach and vowed to work constructively with the county commission. But the voters didn't elect her. The chose Brock. It's axiomatic you get what you pay for. You also get what you vote for. And the voters will get more discord and higher legal bills.
One new County Commissioner was chosen, and two Republicans were picked to face off against Democrats in November. Voters tapped a part-time commissioner for District 2 -- Andy Solis, a busy attorney with a full-time day job. Good luck to constituents trying to reach him on short notice!
Republican winners in District 3 (Burt Saunders) and District 5 (Bill McDaniel) were a further repudiation of the Republican Executive Committee, whose ill-advised endorsements influenced voters not at all. Saunders and McDaniel, both expected to win in November, have the experience and wherewithal to deal with growth management, affordable housing and other issues facing the county.
What about state and federal races? With winners Kathleen Passidomo (Florida Senate) and Bob Rommel and Byron Donalds (Florida House), we can expect a continuation of conservative voting in Tallahassee, voting that reflects the values of much of Southwest Florida. The same applies to Francis Rooney, who will replace Curt Clawson in the U.S. House. Don't expect too much from Rooney. As the new kid at the very bottom of the Congressional heap, he will have little or no influence in Washington.
The bottom line? As in most elections, the outcomes were mixed. Some inspired choices and some appalling ones. On balance, the results portend little change for Collier County. We remain secure in our protective cocoon