By Leo Coughlin
The idea of four-year terms for Largo's elected officials is an excellent idea.
The only question is why has it taken so long to reach this point of beginning to implement it?
There are vital considerations that make the change imperative. They are money and participation.
As an exercise in gross spending, Largo's last election, last November, cost upwards of $70,000. And that was to fill one contested seat.
In a world that makes sense, an election can cost on the low side as much as $7,000 or so.
And when you have elections that include contests for countywide seats, U.S. Congress, and presidential there are bigger turnouts of voters.
Largo's signature is apathy. Why people here don't care is a mystery. Maybe it has something to do with the historical demographics.
Most people who live in Largo came from somewhere else - mostly up north. Mention home and most of them think of Ohio, Michigan or the like.
Even the City Commission is made up largely of Yankees. Woody Brown, a Pennsylvanian who came to Florida young and grew up in Indian Rocks Beach, comes closest to being a "hometown boy."
The only true Southerner - born and raised - is Mary Black, who grew up in Tennessee.
Bob Murray is from New York, Curtis Holmes originated in Chicago, Pat Gerard in New Jersey, Harriet Crozier in Ohio, Gigi Arntzen in Massachusetts.
The only son of Largo in recent times who has been a commission member is Charlie Harper who got euchered off the commission in what were some obviously duplicitous maneuverings.
Even the staff counts few Largonians - Diane Bruner, the City Clerk is one. Casey McPhee, Library Director, is another.
This is not to say, obviously, that coming from somewhere else is necessarily bad, but it does support and give a reason for much of the apathy on the part of residents.
So the move to giving the mayor and commissioners four years makes eminent sense - it could result in bigger turnouts and definitely will cost less.
Of course, speaking of cost, one wan voice was heard last Tuesday. It was from the mayor, Pat Gerard. "But this means (gasp, gasp) it will cost the candidates more…"
That sentiment is right up there as number one on the hit parade of who cares? Apparently, the great expense she anticipates comes from more advertising being required because of a ballot full of people contending for office.
Does she think the public cares how much it costs a candidate to run? The answer is in the alternative - so don't run if you don't want to spend the money.
Again, this betrays the plebeian thinking of so many around here who hold office - they think like they are on a homeowners association board and, as so often has been demonstrated, many have not the foggiest notion of how government works. They missed junior high school civics, obviously.
A move to four-year terms means there will be an election in Largo every other year in even numbered years. Those are the years that, in the past got turnout results, here.
2000 (presidential election year) 20.3 percent turnout; 2004 (no election in Largo - Harriet Crozier and Gay Gentry were unopposed, giving Gentry the distinction of being the only commission member in memory who was never elected against opposition); 2008 (presidential year) 68.8 percent turnout!
2001, a pitiful 6.05 percent voted; 2002, 10.13 percent; 2003, 14.34 percent (there was a mayor's contest); 2005, 6.12 percent; 2006, 13.62 percent (again, a mayor's race); 2007, 12.55 percent (switch to November), and last November 14 percent showed up with one seat at stake.
How would a four-year term system work, to get it started? Try this -
Seats 4 and 6 come up this year for three-year terms, before the referendum has passed; but if the referendum does pass, then a year is added to the terms, by ordinance. Seats 1 and 2 come up in 2011, they would get a three-year term, to 2014; mayor and seats 3 and 5 come up in 2012, they would get a four-year term to 2016.
Thus, four seats would be elected in 2014, and three seats elected in 2016, and it would go from there in every even numbered year.
Return to Current Edition