A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Carolyn Mason: Dishonest? Irresponsible? Disrespectful? You Decide.

Like me, County Commission candidate Carolyn Mason was deemed to "exceed qualifications" by the Sarasota County Civic League and, like me, she signed a League pledge to avoid negative advertisements, a term that has actually been defined by the Civic League (see below). I turned the other cheek when Carolyn sent her first mailer that was dishonest, in part because I believe she mailed it before signing the pledge. But now, after signing the pledge, she is running a TV spot that is simultaneously dishonest*, irresponsible*, and disrespectful* and has sent out another mailer laden with dishonest distortions and half truths.  

If you've seen the TV spot you know it makes three assertions about me. I have neither a script nor a transcript, but if someone will produce a copy of the ad, I will gladly debate the veracity of each statement. My contention is Carolyn's claims are lies, distortions or half-truths, or, as the League would say: dishonest.

This is where it would help to have objective civic body to investigate the veracity of such claims. But the Civic League is apparently unwilling to enforce or adjudicate the the terms of pledge, and no other civic organization seems to want to step up. So it is left to people like myself to question behavior like this: What kind of person signs a pledge and then violates it?

But this is not merely an ad consisting of what I take to be dishonest assertions.  It features a corpulent man in a tutu dancing below my name. It is not clear if the man is meant to represent me or not, but putting someone's name on the screen along with an image of a person is a traditional technique for identifying someone.

At the risk of losing the corpulent, cross-dressing danseur vote, I get the sense that I am not being treated as a worthy citizen and individual -- meeting the League's definition of disrespectful. And I think it is pretty clear the ad degrades the tenor of public discourse and heightens cynicism about the electoral process. That, according to the League, makes it irresponsible.

I have already blogged about the "politics of desperation" but this is a new low.

I've worked for three decades to establish my reputation here in Sarasota County. Now a woman I assumed to be honorable is deliberately misrepresenting my views and actions for crass political advantage. That behavior that is hard for me to respect.

My moral compass prevents me from responding in kind. My final week TV ads are all positive and don't mention my opponents. I didn't even contemplate scripting or shoot any attack ads. Of my five mailers, only a portion of one could be considered negative and that contains independently-verifiable statements based on my opponents record as an elected official, which virtually everyone has told me is fair game. 

If one has to be dishonest, irresponsible and disrespectful to win an election around here then I fear for our community and society. 


The following definitions are used by the Civic League to characterize various forms of political advertising.

*dishonest if they base their messages on lies or subtle deceptions and half truths

*irresponsible if they degrade the tenor of public discourse and heighten cynicism about the electoral process

*disrespectful if they refuse to treat the opposing candidate as a worthy citizen and individual

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Venice Gondolier Sun Endorses Jono Miller

October 26 • A sixth county newspaper, the Venice Gondolier Sun, has weighed in, and like its sister publications, the Englewood Sun Herald and North Port Sun, it is endorsing Jono Miller. Those papers join the Pelican Press and Sarasota Herald Tribune in endorsing Miller. The Sarasota Observer found Miller to be the "most ready and most qualified", but went on to endorse John Mullarkey. Text of the Gondolier appears below.


Jono Miller for Sarasota County Commission

Ashort time ago, we gently jabbed the candidates for the District 1 seat on the Sarasota County Commission for what we saw to be their shortcomings on South County issues.

The editorial came after a South County homeowners’ forum, when some in the audience told us they were underimpressed by North County candidates’ answers.

The following day we got a call from one candidate, Jono Miller, objecting. He had a firm grasp of southern issues, he said, and sent us a long, detailed column to prove it.

We were impressed. First, Miller obviously did know his stuff. Second, he really cared that we knew it. (After his column ran, Republican candidate Carolyn Mason submitted one that we printed Friday.)

We are recommending Miller for the commission seat because of his command of the issues affecting all of Sarasota County, including those specific to the southern portion, as well as his common sense, his thoughtful approach to questions and his ability to articulate positions.

Miller, a Democrat, is facing Mason and independent John Mullarkey in the race for the North County seat being vacated by Commissioner Paul Mercier.

Mullarkey has business experience, but none in elective office.

Mason is an excellent candidate who has served on the Sarasota City Commission, including a rotating stint as mayor. She works for Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army. She has a strong background and a good understanding of county politics and issues.

Miller has been involved with county environmental preservation for three decades. He has been director of the environmental studies program at New College in Sarasota until going on leave when he officially launched his campaign. Miller conducted an environmental assessment of the Myakka State Forest many years ago when the state bought the property, so he is familiar with the area.

“I feel like I have a relationship with North Port,” he said.

Asked for an analysis of the reasons for lingering bad blood between North Port and the county, Miller thought it could be traced to General Development Corp.’s original design of the sprawling community and the threat its growth may pose to the city of Sarasota.

“It’s not the fault of residents and the city of North Port that they were dealt a dirty hand,” he told us. He felt that fresh faces on the city and county commissions could help forge a new, positive relationship.

Miller also said it was likely that a new jail would need to be built in the county, and that North Port could be a good place for it, especially since it might become a major employer.

While this would be his first elective office, Miller has had extensive service on a variety of county boards. He’s been on on the board of the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program, chair of the oversight committee on voting systems, and the county Parks Advisory and Recreation Council.

Miller has a good grasp of details on a variety of subjects. More than that, though, we were impressed with his thoughtful approach and what seemed to be a natural drift toward balance on the issues. He will be a positive addition.

We recommend Jono Miller for the District 1 seat on the Sarasota County Commission.