Friday, August 04, 2017

"Candidates Need to Keep it Simple," Steven Cottrell, St. Augustine Record

From Lee Geanuleas' St. Augustine Residents Count:

In case you missed it in the ... Record, local commentator Steve Cottrell wrote about what a local candidate for office would be wise to remember as she/he constructs a platform. Not surprisingly, I like his "residents first" advice. Here you go:
"Candidates Need to Keep it Simple
STEVE COTTRELL Public occurrences
Our county commissioners are clearly disconnected from their constituents if they believe for a minute that a ballot measure aimed at hiking sales tax by 1 percent will fly with voters. Thank goodness they decided not to pursue a November special election, but there’s always 2018.
A special election would have been a waste of time and money — taxpayers’ money; your money — because who wants to tax themselves in order to dump truckloads of extra cash into a financial black hole at 500 san Sebastian view? Last year’s sales tax increase for county schools was supported by 61 percent of the voters, because citizens generally understood how the money would be spent. can county commissioners expect similar support if they decide to put their own tax measure on a 2018 ballot? i doubt it — at least not from voters living south of Ponte Vedra beach.
Giving voters a chance to decide the fate of a sales tax increase would, however, make for interesting candidate forums next year. And insofar as organizing a political campaign goes, the next election season will be here in the blink of an eye.
The 2018 primary election in St. Johns county will be Aug. 28 — little more than a year away. That means prospective candidates for local offices will soon begin to assemble their campaign teams, decide which issues to focus on and then formally announce their candidacy. i had the great honor and privilege of holding public office for 23 years over a 31-year period, so I’d like to offer some free advice if you’re thinking of dipping your toes in the sometimes murky waters of local politics — settle on three issues that will resonate with voters and stick to those three issues. No more, no less. if you give voters a laundry list of issues — important as they might be — all you’ll do is confuse them. it becomes an information overload and they won’t be able to remember what it is you actually stand for. And if you have only one or two issues, voters might think you’re not taking things very seriously.
People far wiser than me learned long ago that having three solid issues to pound away at is the sweet spot for gaining voter support, volunteer help and campaign contributions. And without those key elements, chances for victory are slim and none — and slim left town on the morning stage. if, for example, you’re thinking of running for one of three seats on the St. Augustine city commission next year, (including the mayorship), I’d wager that the first candidate to publicly announce these issues as their focused, three-pronged platform will be among the eventual winners:
• residents first — always — not tourists.
• Protect the history and integrity of our unique neighborhoods.
• Oppose commercial creep into any residential area.
The first person to enter the race with just those three issues featured in their candidacy announcement will probably win election. it’s called issue discipline.
Tourists don’t vote and most business owners live outside the city limits. Yes, business owners are important stakeholders, often investing their life savings while materially contributing to the community’s economic health, but a city commissioner’s first obligation is to do what’s best for the residents.
When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, campaign guru James Carville famously reminded Clinton and his team, “it’s the economy, stupid.” When it comes to winning elections in a small town, i believe the corollary is, “it’s the residents, stupid.”
A likely campaign issue next year in St. Augustine beach will be health insurance for commissioners. i have a hunch that candidates who oppose taxpayer-paid insurance for commissioners, or pledge not to take it, will find a lot of voter support.
When all is said and done, candidates need to keep in mind that citizens still sit at the top of the political chain of command — not the officeholders.
And remember: “it’s the residents, stupid.”
Cottrell can be contacted at"

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