The late American author Gore Vidal wrote “Half the American people never read a newspaper. Half never vote for President- the same half?” Mr. Vidal’s question poses two powerful points.
The first point, it highlights how infrequently we turn out to the polls to participate in a critical piece of U.S. democracy. In Santa Rosa County, even a presidential election only prompts 68 percent of voters to cast a ballot. Turn out is even lower for local elections.
The second point, those casting a ballot are not always those that are read-up on the issues.
On the first point we cannot emphasize enough that what happens in local government matters. Local elections directly affect our future whether we pay attention to them or not.
The decisions of men like District 4 County Commissioner Rob Williamson shape the roads we will drive on, impact our economic outlook, build the world our children will live in.
Constantly parting ways from the county’s land development code and not planning infrastructure needs years into the future leaves us with flooding roads and homes, overcrowded streets and piece-meal business development. No downtown and no clear path forward.
We were disappointed to say the least when we learned that Williamson would not be attending the Precinct 34 debate held last week. In likely one of the first opportunities for Navarre voters to see their two candidates on the same stage, Williamson bowed out.
He was busy flying off to Washington, D.C. on the taxpayer’s dime. The Florida Association of Counties conference that he attended did not actually start until the following morning. Well, the schedule did say there would be a short briefing with drinks and snacks on Tuesday night, so perhaps that was more important.
Going back to Mr. Vidal’s second point: we should be informed when we cast those ballots. Reading the local newspaper is critical.
In a five-minute stump speech, Williamson looks pretty good. We admit he is charismatic, and he certainly knows about the issues in the county.
But he is dishonest. He has broken the law. And he has chosen on multiple occasions to ignore the needs of his constituents because if you do not donate money to his campaign you are not his constituent.
Navarre collectively holds the largest registered voting population in the county. Holley by the Sea carries the largest precinct of voters in the county by several thousand.
But these voters do not turn out to the polls as evidenced by depressingly low voter turnout records. Knowing what is going on but only voicing your frustrations from a keyboard makes you complacent.
Complaining behind closed doors about bullying and threats but not publicly damning those that abuse their power makes you complicit.
Not voting makes you an accomplice.
Learn. Vote. Period.