The Sarasota County Commission: Giving citizens a voice or manipulating public opinion?
Updated: Sep 17, 2021
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Tell our County Commission to accept election results and to stop misusing taxpayer funds.
Herald Tribune, Sept. 12, 2021: Sarasota County shouldn’t fall for con job on Districts
November 2018: 60% of county voters (in all five Districts and across party lines) endorsed electing County Commissioners by Single-Member District (SMD).
The FL Legislature and US Congress are elected by SMD. Instead of accepting the voters’ will, our County Commission has been systematically undermining confidence in SMD before voters have had an opportunity to assess its effectiveness.
First, the Commission claimed that voters were confused by the SMD ballot language. But that wasn’t’ enough. At their urging, the County has now used the 2021 annual phone survey as a tool to potentially justify an effort to overturn SMD.
Districts 1, 3 and 5 elected Commissioners by SMD; Districts 2 and 4 won’t vote for County Commission by SMD until November 2022.
County Commission began to criticize SMD.
The Commission decided to place a question about SMD on the 2021 county phone survey since SMD has had its “trial run.”
Here's a short video of the SMD discussion between County Administrator Jonathan Lewis and Commissioner Detert:
Is it appropriate for a sitting Commissioner to link an overwhelming voter mandate to septic tanks and call it a “sludge problem"? No.
Has SMD had its “trial run”? No.
With such comments, is it likely that a phone survey question about SMD would be objective? No.
Private contractors conducted the 2021 County phone survey, which includes an SMD question (#36) designed to elicit a desired negative response.
Below this timeline, see why Question #36 is premature and misleading.
Late September, 2021
Results of the phone survey will be publicly presented to the County Commission.
County Commission has asked the Charter Review Board (CRB) to review Single-Member Districts.
Will the CRB recommend a repeal of SMD?
Help protect Single Member Districts!
Join the effort to sustain District-level representation and official accountability.
Visit our website: https://www.cdpsarasota.org/
Take the CDP survey about county issues:
2021 County Survey--Question #36:
Sarasota County now operates with single-member districts. This means that the county is divided into separate geographic areas, creating districts, and each district is represented by only one commissioner. In the next election, Sarasota County residents will now only be able to vote for the one county commissioner that will represent the district they live in. Please tell me how much you approve or disapprove of your ability to vote for one county commissioner for your district.
⎯ Strongly disapprove ⎯ Disapprove ⎯ Approve ⎯ Strongly approve ⎯ Unsure/DK/NA/Refused
Why is Question #36 problematic?
Question #36 has more in common with politically manipulative "push polls" than with fact-finding. The County claims to conduct the annual survey to give citizens a voice in policy and to bolster trust in government. But Question #36 is worded to get a desired negative response---neither valid nor objective.
§ Sarasota County has been divided into separate geographic districts with Commissioner residency requirements for years—long before voters approved Single-Member Districts.
§ Three of five Districts elected Commissioners by SMD last November. SMD is not new “in the next election”.
§ It is inappropriate to question residents about a voting method which has not been fully implemented or assessed.
Districts 1, 3 and 5 only elected Commissioners by SMD last November.
Districts 2 and 4 (approx. 165K county residents) won’t elect Commissioners by SMD until November 2022.
§ The phrase “will now only be able to vote for one commissioner” suggests insufficiency. Is it insufficient that we vote for one person to represent us in the Florida State House/Senate and US Congress? Officials elected by SMD represent their Districts and serve the interests of their county, state or nation.
§ The placement of response options following the SMD question puts a negative thumb on the scale. Do survey responses typically begin with a negative option, i.e., "Strongly disapprove"?