We need you to vote.
I know, I know. You just heard this on a national level. The last election probably exhausted you (if you follow me on Twitter you know I was) and maybe you aren’t ready for local politics just yet. Maybe you get passionate about senate races but can’t muster the energy to decide who’s best suited to make sure the sewers get fixed in a timely fashion. Possibly you look at local elections and decide choosing between candidates is like choosing between typhoid and tuberculosis.
Nevertheless, we need you to care. We have five candidates vying for two seats on city council. Take a long, hard look at each of them and ask yourself: Which one would you want with the nuclear codes?
I joke, of course. Mostly; Joe Biden did serve on the New Castle County Commission.
Small-town politicians not only have the most power over your daily life, they also go on to become regional politicians who could become state politicians, who become… well, you get the idea. Small politics can turn into big politics, and voters in cities like Gulfport choose those leaders.
So, who gets your vote?
Before we bought the paper, I covered South Pinellas elections for several years. Let me tell you, if you thought reading about elections and trying to make decisions tired you out, try covering them. Along the way, I muttered to myself a lot about how I would cover the elections if I ran the circus.
Well, now I do run the circus, and we’ve made some changes to how we handle local elections. Before, we ran three articles every cycle; now, we cover things as we find need, and, this year, we’ll have candidate coverage every week until the election. Also for the first time ever, our Citizen Election Board will interview candidates and make a recommendation about who they think would best serve our city.
We will also, in partnership with Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce, host candidate debates.
Why the chamber? Because while the council answers to the voters, decisions it makes about what businesses can do in our parks, on our streets, and with special events impact our lives as residents. Furthermore, a bad council can make decisions that hurt our local economy.
City council responsibilities in Gulfport are holistic, too: our mayor makes $14,400 a year and the other council members make $10,800. Council, based on how much we the voters agree to pay them, is a part-time job, but we expect them to treat it as a full-time one. I not only see that expectation in other voters, I have it myself, even if it means sometimes the best-qualified politicians choose not to run because who would take a full-time job for poverty wages?
Those who are called.
At every level, public service is a calling and those who feel moved to serve shouldn’t do it for the money. They should do it because they love their city.
So we ask you, over the coming weeks, to read our coverage. Watch or attend the debate. Email us your questions for the candidates. Then all you have to do is one last thing:
Cast your vote.