Saturday, February 18, 2012

OSCEOLA: If you put it on the ballot, it will win

You remember the advice of the cornfield ghosts in the film Field of Dreams, "if you build it they will come..." Such is the position of Osceola County activists who have launched an effort to limit the terms of their county commissioners to eight years in office as well as two other home rule reforms. If you take care of the first half of the project -- getting on the ballot -- the last will largely take care of itself.

That was my advice to the Osceola crew on Feb. 2, when I addressed organizers and others in Kissimmee.

There is nothing mystical about this. Polling from 2009 shows that some 85 percent of Central Floridians support term limits on their public officials. In this political environment, term limits have been passing nearly everywhere they appear on the ballot. In the 2010 elections, I counted 35 jurisdictions across America where term limits were on the ballot. Term limits won in 34. And there's an asterisk on the 35th!

This includes Cape Canveral where 70 percent of voters approved 8-year term limits for their mayor and council.

The Osceola activists are right: They need term limits. They just moved to a single-member district system and the experience of other non-term limited counties shows that rotation in office is likely to come to a standstill as incumbents become largely unbeatable -- and unrepresentative of the citizenry. This is particularly true where there are also high commissioner salaries.

Of course, these activists have a solution for that too. At the same time they are circulating petitions to put term limits on the ballot, they are also collecting signatures to reduce the commissioners' salaries from $75,000 to $39,000 and make the elections nonpartisan.

You can help!

  • If you live in Osceola County, sign the petitions here. Get your friends and family to sign.
  • Stay in touch with the effort by signing up for email updates here.
  • Volunteer to collect signatures. If the effort is to succeed, it requires teams of signature gatherers in the streets.
  • If you cannot or don't wish to be a signature gatherer, contribute money to the effort. Money can be used to pay professional signature gatherers that can collect them in your stead.

Don't worry about gettng the word out. Don't seek news coverage. Don't participate in issues forums. Don't debate the issue at your local political club. Don't have email wars about the pros and cons of the measure. Don't perfect your website.

Get out in the hot sun and collect the signatures. If you get the signatures, the votes will come.

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