Get involved in your village, town or city. And don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!

We’d publicized a panel on A Six Pillars Forum: Beyond the Local Vote.  How do Municipal Elections Affect our Daily Lives?

The intent of the forum was to inform people about the importance of municipal elections – as typically in Palm Beach County, turnout is around 12% every year.  A very few voters are determining what happens to you on a daily level.   The goal was to both stimulate turnout, encourage attendees to get more involved via boards and to run for office.  We also wanted to explore the inhibitors to participation.  My personal goal is to see that all incumbents have an opponent.  On the filing deadline of 2/14/12 – 44 people got ‘elected’ automatically because no one opposed them.  Is that good?  Is that why we get the government we deserve?

Many people worked hard to pull the meeting together in a short timeframe.

Our panelists  – Steven Abrams – Vice-Chair and County Commissioner District 4, represented the view of one who has served as a city council member, mayor, and now County Commissioner; Michael Bornstein, Town Manager, Lantana, represented the view of those who run the municipalities; and Dennis Grady, President, Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, represented the business communities.  Our moderator was Craig Agranoff, author of “Socially Elected: How To Win Elections Using Social Media” and award-winning CBS News Television Technology Correspondent.

Nat Roberts, board chair of the Economic Council kicked off the meeting with a brief history of the Six Pillars effort.  Craig took it from there. Each of the panelists answered several questions by Craig in depth and then we quickly moved to audience questions – with a fairly free form format that worked well.  I did not take notes, however copied the gist of the topic take-aways from notes written by Beth Kigel, Mike Jones and Steven Abrams.  Subjects discussed included:

1)    County and municipal commission/council meetings tend to happen in the middle of the day.  Makes it difficult for citizens/residents to attend. Time limits on speakers and lack of genuine dialogue/interaction at meetings dissuades the public.

2)   How to utilize HOAs to get information out to the residents?

3)  How to encourage folks to get to their own municipalities websites and get informed about local issues?
4)   The discussion got side-tracked a little when an audience member asked how to make voting more convenient?  The panel subject was municipal elections which don’t have early voting – but most of the changes the audience explored were things that would require changes by the Florida state legislature.

 5)  Times have changed.  In the past (eg 10-20 years ago), multiple ‘beat’ reporters covered each town meeting.  Now we’re lucky if anyone is covering a meeting – usually only if a controversial topic is on the agenda.  So how do we leverage social media, public access channels, other means to educate the residents and get them involved?

6)   There was a brief discussion on salaries for municipal elected officials, and was that an inhibitor to people running?  For the most part city officials are part-time efforts but still take a lot of time.  County Commissioners are a full or almost full-time job. 

7)   Term limits were discussed as well.  Are people discouraged by the daunting advantage an incumbent has and would term limits help that?   As is often the case when the subject comes up, there are pros and cons. 

And don’t foget to vote on Tuesday!  Check at the Supervisor of Elections website to see what’s on the ballot!

We hope to build on the effort to stimulate citizen participation as the year proceeds.  Please get involved with our county and look for future Six Pillars activities.   For more information on Six Pillars go to the Florida Chamber Six Pillars Overview.    The Economic Council of Palm Beach County orchestrated the county’s effort  and the strategic plan for Palm Beach County can be found here


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