The political season is on us with a vengeance.
And it's a morass, overloaded and confusing.
In the Naples area, we have a slew of judgeship candidates, five people running for two school board positions and eleven (count 'em) contesting for three fire commissioner seats. That plus county posts, community elections and a multitude of state and federal races.
And to top it off, we have two highly controversial referendums and an unprecedented 13 constitutional amendments to sort out.
Some people actually enjoy this!
What comes first? The primary election, where a 25% turnout is considered a major civic achievement. That's on August 28, barely 40 days from now. Absentee ballots will go out shortly.
The primary will feature two county commissioner races, with the underdog challengers banking on anti-tax sentiment and environmentalist support. That likely won't carry the day. Incumbents Andy Solis (District 2) and Penny Taylor (District 4) are heavily favored.
Another important race is for Clerk of Courts, where the late Dwight Brock's able and highly regarded assistant, Crystal Kinzel, should be a shoo-in.
At the state level, a headliner will be the Republican gubernatorial contest between Ron DeSantis and the darling of the sugar industry, Mr. Blue-green Algae himself, Adam Putnam.
But the main attraction will be none of those races. The main attraction on August 28 will be an incendiary proposal to raise tax revenues in the North Collier Fire District using a radically new taxing scheme. The proposal has triggered a bare-knuckles brawl, verbal so far. Businesses and certain multi-family units would take a financial hit, and opposition to the proposal has been bitter and widespread.
What about the general election on November 6? That has so many story lines the voters will be brain dead by October. There's Governor Rick Scott trying to take Bill Nelson's long-held U.S. Senate seat. There are Democrats, not long ago thought to be extinct, making serious challenges for seats in Tallahassee. And there are local races for everything from mosquito control to water conservation.
In North Naples, the fire commissioner wannabes are duking it out to see whether the future belongs to fiscal restraint or big-time spending. Arguments on both sides are diffuse.
But for sheer complexity, nothing holds a candle to the sales tax referendum and the constitutional amendments, all 13 of them. In the sales tax referendum, voters are being asked to tax themselves for 18 different projects, some highly questionable. The constitutional amendments are clouded by arcane language, and six have several topics bundled into a single amendment. Further, eight of the proposed amendments are now being challenged in court. What a mess.
To cut through the confusion, a consortium of civic groups has organized five public forums in the fall. Mark the dates on your calendars, come meet the candidates and learn more about the issues.
September 17 - U.S. House District 19 and 25 Candidates (venue and time TBD)
September 18 - North Collier Fire District Commissioner Candidates (North Collier Regional Park, 6:00-7:30 p.m.)
September 25 - Greater Naples Fire District Commissioner Candidates (South Regional Library, 6:00-7:30 p.m.)
October 2 - Florida House District 80 and 106 Candidates (venue and time TBD)
October 11 - Constitutional Amendments Forum (North Naples Church, 6:00-7:30 p.m.)