Voters’ guide for Election Day 2012

Re-elect Barack Obama as President of the United States

If the economy during the last half of George W. Bush’s second term could be compared to a bathtub full of water, then Bush pulled the drain plug and tossed it out the window.

By the time Barack Obama took office — that is, got into the tub — it already was half-drained. There were numerous congressional Republicans milling about on the lawn, but none would toss the drain plug to him. So he set about finding anything — rags, sponges, towels, whatever — that he could use to stop the tub from draining completely. And he was successful in that, stopping the flow before the tub was empty.

Once the leak was plugged, the president set about refilling the tub. Now the tub is slightly more than half-full, with more water than when the president first entered the tub.

This is about as accurate a description of how the economy has been handled during the last half-decade as you are going to find. And, based on his determined efforts to save our beleaguered economy — with no help from the “loyal” opposition — President Obama deserves a second term to continue filling our economic bathtub.

But the president also has set in motion an end to the national shame of having 50,000 Americans die each year for lack of health insurance. He has vigorously prosecuted the so-called War on Terror by killing Osama Bin Laden and scores of other Al Qaeda leaders. He has ended our military involvement in Iraq and is committed to ending American military intervention in Afghanistan by 2014. He has strengthened American credibility in the international community. He has nurtured nascent democracies struggling to replace authoritarian regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. And he has used multi-lateral sanctions to cripple the Iranian economy as he strives to frustrate that nation’s nuclear ambitions.

In short, he has performed amazingly well … so well that he should be extolled as one of the great presidents of the last century. That he isn’t says far more about the prejudices of those who oppose him than about Obama himself. Disgruntled, deceitful — and, dare we say it, racist — naysayers aside, Barack Obama has helped save this nation from a far worse consequence. He should be given another term to finish the job and fully restore America.

Vote FOR Barack Obama for President of the United States

Re-elect Bill Nelson to the United States Senate

After two terms in the U.S. Senate, Bill Nelson has proved that he has Florida’s best interests at heart, earning support from liberals and conservatives alike. His moderate stance on a wide range of issues helps make him a valuable player in crafting bipartisan agreement in the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, who would like to replace him, has no such reputation in the House of Representatives. In fact, he has been a loyal follower of the obstructionist agenda of House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Were he to be elected to the Senate, he could be expected to obligingly join the obstructionist regime of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, perpetuating the congressional gridlock that has hamstrung our national economic recovery and contributed so significantly to the polarization of national politics.

We need to keep an open-minded pragmatist, who considers what is best for the nation and his state, as our representative in the Senate.

Vote FOR Bill Nelson for the United States Senate

Keith Fitzgerald for U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, was first elected under a cloud: More than 18,000 electronically read ballots mysteriously contained no vote for the congressional race, because Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent — a fellow Republican — used defective voting machinery that did not provide an audit trail. As a result, Democrat Christine Jennings lost the election by fewer than 400 votes.

For almost the entire duration of Buchanan’s tenure in Congress, he has been the subject of one investigation after another, from the Office of Congressional Ethics to the Federal Elections Commission to the FBI. Although cleared of wrongdoing by most of those investigations, he remains tainted by the implication of the many charges levied against him.

He also has been a devotee of the right-wing faction in Congress, voting dutifully with the Republican majority in giving huge tax breaks to millionaires (like himself), destroying Medicare for future generations, denigrating women by limiting access to reproductive choice and denying workplace equality — and otherwise obstructing the Obama administration as it has sought to bring America out of the grip of the Great Recession.

Keith Fitzgerald, on the other hand, distinguished himself for thoughtful and ethical conduct during his tenure in the Florida Legislature. He is the antithesis of Vern Buchanan and, by extension, everything that is wrong with congressional politics. If elected, he will be a breath of fresh air within the fetid confines of the Capitol.

Vote FOR Keith Fitzgerald for U.S. House of Representatives, District 16

Adam Tebrugge for Florida State Representative, District 71

Liz Alpert for Florida State Representative, District 72

Since 2000, the gerrymandering carried out by the Republican majority has resulted in a vet0-proof majority in the Legislature, regardless of the political affiliation of the governor. The constitutional amendments adopted in 2010 that forebade such practices following the 2010 Census were the first step in breaking the ideological stranglehold the Republican Party has had on the legislature in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by half a million people. Electing these two capable candidates to our state Legislature is an important second step.

Vote FOR Adam Tebrugge for Florida State Representative, District 71
Vote FOR Liz Alpert for Florida State Representative, District 72

John Torraco for Florida State Attorney, 12th Judicial Circuit

When an assistant state attorney has the opportunity to vie for the top job, one usually hears frequent mention by the candidate of a career spent as a prosecutor. Admittedly, the state attorney is the chief prosecutor of a judicial circuit, but he or she also is an important officer of the courts, charged with administering a wide range of duties within that office.

The principle requirement for a state attorney is to be a tireless advocate for the truth and to see justice done as a consequence of that truth. Too many career prosecutors see their principle job as getting convictions. Their relationship with law enforcement evolves into one that might be more connected than it should be if justice based on truth is the primary desire. Simply winning convictions is not how a state attorney serves the citizens; seeking justice — fairly, impartially and with an open mind — is how best to serve the citizens.

John Torraco has excellent experience working in our federal courts. He also has not become jaded by the unrelenting pressure on prosecutors to win convictions or the factory-like process of plea bargaining (sometimes against the accused’s better interests). He is a well-qualified and discerning replacement for the retiring state attorney, and he will represent the interests of both the citizens of the 12th Judicial Circuit and the victims and defendants who approach the courts to seek redress.

Vote FOR John Torraco for Florida State Attorney, 12th Judicial Circuit

Donna Barcomb for Sarasota Charter Review Board, District 2

While we do not usually recommend Republicans for public office, Donna Barcomb’s Libertarian opponent, Alexandra Coe, has made what we regard as intemperate statements regarding the purpose of the Charter Review Board. Altering any government body’s constitutional document should be something approached with great caution and deliberate intent. Coe has indicated a desire to be an “activist” member, which does not bode well for either the Board or the citizens of Sarasota, which it serves.

Vote FOR Donna Barcomb for Sarasota Charter Review Board, District 2

Teresa Carafelli for Sarasota Hospital Board, Central, Seat 1

Teresa Carafelli has spent her entire career in one of the noblest callings of the medical professions, as a registered nurse for four decades. In 30 years practicing in the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, she has worked nearly every job, from floor nurse to management.

She first joined the hospital board in 2008 and currently serves as its first vice chairwoman. Her extensive health care experience and her excellent service on the board — underscored by her fellow board members electing her to a leadership role — give voters the necessary assurance that she is the best choice for this post and deserves re-election.

Vote FOR Teresa Carafelli for Sarasota Hospital Board, Central, Seat 1

Vote YES to retain all Supreme Court Justices and Appellate Judges

Those who have been in Florida since the early 1970s remember the corruption scandals that led the state to switch to a merit-based appointment and retention system for judges. For more than three decades, the process —under both Democratic and Republican governors — has produced thoughtful and competent jurists to preside over our courts, especially the District Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court justices and appellate court judges who are being considered for a retention vote have distinguished themselves in the review of hundreds or thousands of cases, rendering well-reasoned decisions in the cause of justice.

Money and influence from outside Florida’s borders are conspiring to subvert our model system and trick voters into rejecting these fine jurists. Voters would be wise to turn a deaf ear to such ignoble rantings.

Vote YES to retain Justice R. Fred Lewis
Vote YES to retain Justice Barbara J. Pariente
Vote YES to retain Justice Peggy A. Quince
Vote YES to retain Judge Anthony K. Black
Vote YES to retain Judge Darryl C. Casanueva
Vote YES to retain Judge Charles A. David, Jr.
Vote YES to retain Judge Edward C. LaRose

The state constitutional amendments

That veto-proof Republican-controlled Legislature we referred to earlier has been bent on preserving its nearly dictatorial control of a state where its party technically is a minority party. The 12 amendments the Republican legislators proposed — Amendment 7 was rejected by the Florida Supreme Court — are classic examples of bad governance at best, and ruinous power-mongering at worst.

The best of these amendments are misguided efforts to assist special populations in need, when more direct legislative assistance would have made more sense. The worst of these amendments would wreck our constitutional form of government by removing the checks and balances that keep the three branches working in relative harmony, strip Floridians of a hard-won right of privacy and turn state government into a prospective theocracy, where religious institutions — with their principals acting as lobbyists — would constantly curry favor with legislators in return for taxpayers’ money … the end of separation of church and state. This sort of reckless legislative adventurism must be rebuked by voters in the strongest possible terms.

Vote NO on Amendment 1
Vote NO on Amendment 2
Vote NO on Amendment 3
Vote NO on Amendment 4
Vote NO on Amendment 5
Vote NO on Amendment 6
Vote NO on Amendment 8
Vote NO on Amendment 9
Vote NO on Amendment 10
Vote NO on Amendment 11
Vote NO on Amendment 12

The Sarasota County Charter Amendment

This proposed amendment to the Sarasota County Charter would allow for referenda on changes to the charter to be scheduled at the next general election, rather than within 60 days as currently provided.
Enacting this change will save county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in special elections costs. It also will result in much larger voter participation in these referenda as a result of their occurring during a general election.
Concerns have been expressed that the delay in holding referenda will diminish the ability of citizens to make timely changes to the county charter as a result of citizens’ initiatives. However, amending any constitutional document (and the county charter is such a document) is something that should be approached by voters soberly and deliberately.
Having as much as a year or more to contemplate fully the ramifications of a proposed amendment will result in far more benefit for the citizenry than might be gained by a more contemporaneous referendum.

Vote YES on the Sarasota County Charter Amendment

City of Sarasota Charter Amendments

Charter Review Committee General Recommendations

This proposed “housekeeping” amendment addresses a number of issues that have been considered by the city’s Charter Review Committee. However, the inclusion of an amendment to remove the provision for charter officials and the city finance director to have surety bonds is a mistake. That it was catalyzed by the inability of the current city auditor and clerk to obtain the required bond — information never provided to either the committee or the City Commission by the city attorney or others involved in the effort to effect this change — dictates rejection of the amendment.
That it seeks to absolve the underhanded actions of several city officials by removing that bond requirement is a persistent stain on the reputation of the city, and voters would be wise to refuse to be a party to their subterfuge.
Admittedly, there are some good recommendations by the Charter Review Committee contained in this housekeeping amendment, but the failure of the City Commission to address the noncompliance of a charter official who has been deemed unworthy by bond underwriting firms has irreparably compromised this amendment.

We urge voters in the City of Sarasota to vote NO on this amendment.


Split Office Of  “City Auditor And Clerk” Into City Auditor And A New City Clerk

This controversial amendment, backed by Commissioner Terry Turner and the Argus Foundation, would create a so-called “strong city manager” by placing the city clerk (and many of the clerk’s functions) under the purview of the city manager. It also would create a new, separate position of city auditor.
First, the structure of an independent office of city auditor and clerk has served Florida municipalities very well over the last half century. The architects of this structure understood the necessity for a series of checks and balances in the operation of the people’s government. No reasonable argument has been made by anyone as to why this sagacious structure should now be abandoned.
Second, any conflicts with the current city auditor and clerk can easily be resolved by requiring her compliance with the terms of the existing city charter, or by her dismissal. Yet, the City Commission has refused to deal with this serious matter. Instead, an outside organization has foisted this proposed amendment on the voters to further private agendas and settle grudges. Such is not the purpose of charter amendments.

We urge voters in the City of Sarasota to vote NO on this amendment.


There are five other proposed amendments to the city charter:

Supermajority vote for certain franchises, contracts, leases and pension plan changes

• Derivatives prohibition

• No Certificates of Participation to be issued unless approved at referendum

• Deletion of Alternate Minimum Wage

• Citizens’ Initiative Petition to Amend Charter, Extension of Time to Obtain Signatures

We find that all five of these proposed amendments would improve the conduct of the city’s business or make citizens’ initiatives more practicable. We do note, with more than a little consternation, that the proposal for a supermajority of commissioners is akin to closing the proverbial barn door after the horse has fled. But better late than never.

We urge voters in the City of Sarasota to vote YES on these five amendments.