A long time ago…in a newsroom far, far away, one of my colleagues at a CBS affiliate news station bounced in to an afternoon meeting and proclaimed it was “A Space Mountain Day!”
After the reporter bragged about covering yet another visit by then-Senator Barack Obama unleashing his commitment to steer clear of PAC money, and being given another assignment to cover former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s neighborhood Meet & Greet, and before we figured out who was going to give up part of their weekend to hang at the pumpkin festival with Hillary Clinton, our news director, who practiced television news when there was only three channels, set him straight.
Set us all straight.
My formative years in journalism were spent in Iowa. I went to bed at night thinking of Senator John Edwards (who liked to do shots of Jack Daniels once he exited the campaign bus to knock the Midwest chill from his southern shorts) and Senator Joe Biden (who actually enrolled his daughter in kindergarten at a Des Moines school because he was spending so much time there) rallying the influential Democrats and swing voters.
In the morning, I’d find Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney waiting to have coffee in my kitchen, and we’d launch into a discussion over whether or not waterboarding was an inhumane form of torture used to extract information from terrorists.
He never took a stand, but does believe in slinging mud, only if it hits him in the face first.
During a Rotary meeting, Senator John McCain would show up to tout his plan for healthcare reform, and at night, Oprah would take center stage to rally the crowd around Obama. Afterwards, we’d haggle politics at our favorite watering hole and mingle amidst secret service agents.
Exciting as a day at Disney World? You bet. But, digest this: our local politicians have more of a direct impact on your daily life than anyone of these celebrity, career politicians.
And they are much more accessible.
These men (no women this year) make a difference in our community.
In Key West, Jimmy Weekley says you can come talk to him while he’s behind the meat counter, butterflying pork chops. Mayor McPherson is always out and about, you can track him down anywhere and ask him anything. Craig Cates has impromptu parties in his NAPA Auto Parts Store parking lot.
In Marathon, current Mayor Mike Cinque eats his meatloaf for breakfast at the Stuffed Pig before surveying his town from the wheel of his pickup. John Bartus plays regular engagements at Dockside and Sparky’s besides working the cash register of his small business. The other candidates are just as accessible and can be found in the grocery store or through Mike Puto.
The accessibility to our city officials is glorious! They want to hear from you. They enthusiastically invite your input and participation.
There is always a seat in commission/council meetings where you can watch the legislative body of our island in action, making decisions, which will affect your way of life.
Show up enough, you will find yourself on Duval Street later, sharing a basket of chicken wings with Commissioner Gibson or at the Hurricane enjoying $2 tacos.
So, as my News Director told my colleague in awe of the stars on the national political stage, “Go play some golf with the mayor. Better yet, invite your city manager to grab some coffee. They are accessible and they will do more for you than anyone in Washington.”
Before you vote, I urge you to get to know your candidates. Show up at the forums. Track these gents down and ask them anything that is on your mind. Enlightened voters are key to electing the decision body of our community. When Election Day rolls around, you should fell confident you should be casting an educated vote.