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Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: Cities offer more bang for your vote

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Sometimes I think Brian Corley would be happier if he were to get a job transfer to North Korea or Iran or maybe Crimea, because, buddy, in those countries, people vote. I mean, they vote in all capitals, bold italics, which I would demonstrate here, except that one of our publishing platforms reduces all attempts at typographical emphasis to something resembling regular Times New Roman, so you will have to use your imagination.

Corley, Pasco’s elections supervisor, loves big turnouts. Maybe he was a salesman in a previous life. Or maybe he was the owner of a minor league baseball team, in which fannies in seats is pretty much everything.

No matter. At some level, getting folks to the polls is like peddling a product, and Corley obsesses so much about convenience, simplicity and ease of operation he could teach Jeff Bezos a thing or two about customer service.

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No one, not even the legendary Kurt Browning back when everyone in Pasco County figured he was Supervisor-of-Elections-for-Life, oversees a smoother ship. Neither Ron Zook (awful and fired succeeding Steve Spurrier at Florida) nor Jay Leno (architect of his own legend in the “Tonight Show” seat once occupied by Johnny Carson), Corley is Merrill Stubing, captain of “The Love Boat.”

Which is why, whenever the polls close on Election Day and the turnout falls short of 100 percent, Corley wonders what he did wrong.

He wouldn’t suffer the disappointment of rejection in those places listed above. The outcomes might be as rigged as every WWE match, ever, but at least elections officials there know the satisfaction of the electorate’s total involvement. After all, in America elections chiefs encourage us to “do our civic duty.” Elsewhere, it’s more like a warning: “Do your civic duty ... or else.”

So it is that Corley is probably, even now, bracing for another post-Election Day letdown, despite heroic efforts to engage the voting public. Five of Pasco’s six municipalities have contested races that will be settled Tuesday (only San Antonio misses the fun), and the elections boss wonders why voters in each town wouldn’t be keenly interested in having a voice in the final tallies.

Presidential elections are traditionally where the action is, but who are we kidding? Not only are we far more likely to feel the impact of decisions made in city hall than anything any president does, municipal elections are far more likely to turn on a handful of votes.

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If history holds, more voters will choose the next student council president at high schools in Zephyrhills, Dade City and Port Richey than will pick who sits on those towns’ law-making, tax-rate-setting, administrator-hiring, future-shaping boards, giving every cast ballot significant weight.

Dade City voters will decide whether to maintain their human firewall – veteran Commissioner Scott Black – or, by electing Angelica Herrera, Black’s nearly mute challenger, surrender themselves to the overheated and divisive intrigue of Mayor Camille Hernandez, who already has two commissioners in her handbag.

In Zephyrhills, voters will make plain whether they want to restore former City Manager Steve Spina to his old job. Three council members already have had enough of Jim Drumm, hired as Spina’s successor in 2011, and it was learned last week Spina is job-seeking. Drumm’s contract expires in May, but the city’s charter says four votes are required to decide the top administrator’s future. If voters replace Jodi Wilkeson with former Zephyrhills High football coach and principal Alan Knight, the council will have its quartet.

Dissolution of St. Leo could be on the table if Ray Davis, a Lake Jovita resident who signed a petition seeking an end to the town’s existence, replaces Sister Donna DeWitt. Port Richey, which has faced some existential crises of its own, must weigh the virtues of newcomer Kathy Todd, an apparent protege of one-time city hall mischief-maker Dale Massad, against steady-as-she-goes Mayor Eloise Taylor.

Only New Port Richey lacks for fascination, where two capable former councilmen, Bob Langford and Rob Marlowe, are competing to succeed Mayor Bob Consalvo. Still, it would restore Corley’s faith in representative government if a large turnout emerged to choose between candidates of substantial competency.

That goes for the rest of you inside Pasco’s various city limits. Not that you should vote simply because it will make Capt. Stub – uh, Brian Corley – happy. But would it hurt to factor it into your equation?

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