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Bill Zoller looks back on how the people won

Bill Zoller is a Sarasota architect who has also been a steady advocate for sensible planning for decades.

Thanx to all of you for helping defeat the County commissioners' bone-headed effort to undo the will of the voters of this county! This was not a win; the real win occurred in 2018, when voters overwhelmingly won the referendum to amend the charter to change from countywide voting to single-member-district voting (SMD). That referendum itself was the result of SAFE's (Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections) huge effort to get over 13,000 registered Sarasota County voters to sign petitions to place the issue on the ballot. Not an easy task, believe me! The commissioners made no secret of their strong dislike of this amendment, and after grumbling and grousing about it, they finally decided to have a "do-over." Their problem was, their own annual "community survey", with a biased Question #36, showed, to their dismay, that citizens liked and wanted to keep SMD. This past October, they came up with another bone-headed idea: in order not to be seen as the ones to undo SMD, they decided to ask the elected Charter Review Board (CRB) to do their dirty work, and to put the issue on the ballot. When a bunch of us showed up at the CRB meeting at which it was to be discussed, we politely reminded them that they were elected by the citizens, and that they were under no obligation to take orders from the BCC, and they did not need to provide the skirts for the BCC to hide behind. The CRB politely told the BCC to pound sand, and to do their own dirty work. On December 7, the BCC had to bite the bullet and, against strong community sentiment, they voted unanimously to place the issue on the March 8 ballot, already scheduled for the schools tax issue. One commissioner actually said, during the meeting, that she, "was tired of having to save the voters from themselves." I hope that she has had a moment of self-awareness to reflect on what embarrassment she brought upon herself. They also tried to justify their actions on the basis of "good governance," but in the face of the fact that all of our federal and state legislative bodies are elected by SMD, as established by the brilliant Founders of our country, that argument sank of its own inanity. As you know, it took a lot to defeat the effort that was mounted against us citizens. Dark money came in from mysterious PACs to advocate a "Yes" vote ( note that the ballot language was manipulated in such a way as to make "yes" the vote they wanted). The local Republican Party apparatus was mobilized to turn the issue into a very partisan issue (which is was not…I’m a Republican, in fact, although I have nothing to do with the party apparatus here). A lot of money was spent with the goal of returning to countywide voting, and yet all of their devious and blatant efforts failed; defeated soundly by your votes; your votes overcame everything they threw at it! We defended what we won in 2018, and we defeated their efforts to take it away! The fact is, we should never have had to fight this battle all over again. Jack Brill, the head of the local Republican Party apparatus, as quoted in the HT, did have the grace to say that the "people have spoken, and SMD is what they have chosen." Will our illustrious commissioners also have the good sense finally to accept the "will of the people," or will they continue to pursue their foolish quest to undo the will of the people? Stay tuned, and stay prepared…they have proved themselves to be a sly and untrustworthy bunch.

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