An Open Letter to All Lakelanders:
a look at the candidates- Carole Philipson & chad mccleod
I’ve looked over the campaign finance documents between Carole and Chad. What I’ve found is that Carole’s campaign had less than 1% funding from LEDC (Lakeland Economic Development Council) members while Chad had close to 8%- far less than the 20-35% or so many other previous Commissioners have received from the LEDC. Please keep in mind that this was only money spent on their campaigns. Election laws do not limit outside PACs to spend money.
Clearly, the role of outside money plays a role in all politics, and Lakeland is no exception. Even with strict campaign finance laws, the role of money is like water in a wooden boat, it always finds a way inside. To be fair, running a political campaign is extremely expensive, each commissioner candidate spent 45,000 dollars or more of their own money to fund their campaigns, (and outside groups I’m sure contributed more). So unless we significantly change the way our government, we should recognize that outside funding is integral to politics. Just like how the air inside the lungs breathes life into a creature, money in politics is required for it to function properly.
That leads me to my next point…..
I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU
I’ve heard from many fellow Lakelanders (under their breaths) state that our commissioners are being bought out -or just plainly installed- by special interest groups, but these accusations should be backed with proof. It’s unfair to levy a complaint against an organization or person unless there is substantial proof that wrongdoing has occurred.
I plead with the members of our community to bring hard facts to the table- if this is the case then we can’t let our city be bought out wholesale. Or if in fact, these allegations are baseless then Lakelanders should know that too. I’m open to the debate on either side of the issue, and I’d like to hear your opinions.
THE Lakeland Economic Development Council AND LAKELANDFIRST HAVE DONE A LOT OF GOOD: BUT At What cost?
When we go downtown many of us have to thank the LEDC and their members for their generous support of the city’s development. Donations made by them brought Lakelanders the construction of a sorely needed parking garage downtown, and they’ve generously backed the Catapult project. Also, many LEDC members are upstanding Lakelanders- they are soccer coaches, church leaders and are run companies that provide Lakelanders good-paying jobs.
But is there a dark side? Are the interests of a few too strongly represented? Obviously, these organizations represent business and private interests, but these interests are only a sliver of the diversity of opinion that should be represented by our policy makers. For example, during my canvassing efforts on the broadband issue (Shameless Plug– I’m a big Fiber Fan), I have spoken with many people in the NW district that have stated they have been forgotten by those of us in the South.
From my view, what I saw in my efforts in the NW district highlighted the tremendous gains that the area has seen these past few years. The area has cleaner streets, more housing development and an overall commitment from the city to develop the area. This was all done at the behest and leadership of the commissioners, and I’d like to see it continue. But I ask you, will our Commission still have these issues in mind if there is no representation at the elected level?
DIFFERENCE OF OPINION CREATES STRONG COMMUNITIES
Something that took a long time for me to realize was that the best communities and groups were those that had the most variety of opinions. For example, I was a student at Florida Poly, and I often recognized the quality of a team’s projects was correlated with the diversity of the viewpoints of its members. The more diversity of opinion, the better the project.
However, in a cruel joke of misfortune by our creator (either natural or divine, take your pick) human beings don’t actually like diversity. We tend to aggregate into homogenous groups that all look the same. Our politics have moved in that direction too. My observations have shown me that Tribalism is bad. Our ability to work together is what separates our country from those in the 3rd world.
These last few election cycles, national and all the way down to local, we’ve seen the homogenization of viewpoints placed into two tribes. This has been amplified using the power of money & segmented media. While many of us can’t change what happens on the national level, I’d like to think that we can work together to put a barrier up against these forces at the local level.
Brought back down into the orbit of Lakeland, I think that it’s very important to have some diversity of opinion from our commissioners. My main concern is not that the LEDC and in extension LakelandFirst, is that they are a force for evil trying to control all of Lakeland- it’s that if they are the only voice on the commission, then our leadership becomes insular, which would be a horribly bad thing for us.
I’M CONCERNED ABOUT LAKELAND AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO
People tend to focus on national politics. I’m here to tell you that those issues don’t impact you nearly as much local politics do. However, there is clearly a disconnect, because less than 15% show up to vote in city elections. But that’s why the people reading this group matter. Your voice is loud because you show up to vote.
To bring it back to my initial point there are now 4 commissioners who are backed by the LEDC; a majority. I’m personally torn on the issue because the commissioner’s I’ve met, even those who were backed by the LEDC, seem extremely dedicated and thoughtful people. I’ve also noticed that many of them do in fact have a diversity of ideas, and I’d like to continue to see that occur.
WHERE’S THE PRESS AT?
I’d also politely ask our press to look into the issue of monied interests in Lakeland. A story by The Ledger was done 3 years ago but we haven’t heard much officially since. These are the real issues impacting the people of Lakeland, I know its expensive to cover and probably doesn’t net you many friends- but is essential to a healthy community.
As Always, Stay Swannie Lakeland!!