Have you ever been "shushed?" I have. I don't like it.
I grew up in a conservative society that did not encourage girls to speak up and have an opinion.
Well ... I grew out of it. And now? Shushing me, dismissing me or ignoring what I have to say securely earns a person my deepest disrespect. This type of bullying is the style used by small-minded, insecure people who fear any challenge to their point of view.
This is NOT a characteristic that I want in my city commissioner.
A commissioner is a public servant. He or she works for the residents — not the other way around. After Monday night's City Commission meeting at City Hall, I daresay that there are some pink slips coming.
Here is my story:
I have been approached more than 20 recently to sign a petition "for better city government."
This is how it was pitched, and at no time could the person asking for my signature explain how this referendum could create a better government. In their explaination, it seemed to me that it would be removing the checks and balances that have recently caught some dubious actions in City Hall. It made me think. Who is trying to do this? What do they have to gain? So I did some casual research.
It seems that Argus Foundation (a group I usually like because they aren't afraid to speak up against the status quo) was running the referendum campaign. But - get this - it was being financed by one of the sitting commissioners out of his own pocket!
The funding went to hire people to gather signatures so the referendum could be placed on the November ballot without the rest of the commissioners taking a vote on the idea. This referendum would make that possiblity go away in the future.
As people heard about these 'purchased and misled' signatures and the agenda being pushed forward, a diverse group of citizens put their heads together to come up with a different option featuring an elected mayor. Their idea tried to address the real need for leadership in our city while at the same time giving neighborhoods true representation.
It was a good alternative and was introduced by Commissioner Paul Caragiulo Monday so it could be an option for voters on the November ballot.
After waiting in City Hall for more than four hours to speak (about 25 of us had signed up to let the commissioners know our perspective), the referendum was introduced and Commissioner Terry Turner (the very same one who paid uneducated people to gather signatures from uneducated voters on a mis-represented referendum that would support his personal agenda) made a motion that he did not have enough time to read the proposal and it should be tabled until late August.
In effect, he silenced all who were waiting to give their opinion and curtailed any chance for this option to be presented to the majority of voters in November because of legal issues and required time. By shutting this down, Commissioner Turner silenced public input regarding an option that differed from his.
This was bullying at its best. Bullying of his very own bosses... the residents of Sarasota.
I hope that every resident becomes registered to vote. We traditionally had an extremely low voter turn out in March. This one will be important.
The Bully's seat on the commission is up for grabs. I want to vote for someone who listens to ALL the city residents — not just the ones who are furthering his agenda.
It is time for ALL city residents to take back their city.
City Hall needs to feel the effect of the real majority — not just the vocal minority that has created dysfunction.
We want the same thing: a healthy and prosperous Sarasota for all.
Editor's Note: The author is a communications professional and is a partner of City Commission candidate Richard Dorfman.