If candidates don’t go to practice, do they deserve our votes?

When I was at the University of Alabama, head football coach Gene Stallings held an open competition for a field goal kicker.

During practice, one would-be kicker showed a strong leg but wasn’t very accurate. Worried about making the team, the player went to Stallings. “Coach I know I can do better, it just makes me nervous when you watch me.“

Coach Stallings put his arm around the kid’s shoulder and in his deep, slow, Texas drawl said, “Son, I’m going to be at all the games. You better figure out how to make ‘em while I’m watchin’.“

I thought of that story three weeks ago during the 3.5 hour Sanford City Commission meeting. Of the 8 first-time candidates running for Sanford elected office, only two – District 2 candidates Kerry Wiggins and Shane Lillibridge – were in attendance. Both have consistently attended commission meetings since January. The other candidates have spotty attendance records at best.

I know the candidates are active. They’ve been busy holding fundraisers, building websites, buying t-shirts, designing logos, asking people to like their social media accounts, making videos, giving speeches, interviewing with the local mullet wrapper, bragging about endorsements from New York City-based organizations – you know, the fun and easy stuff about being a candidate.

Except for Wiggins and Lillibridge, none of the candidates are putting in the seat time to learn what is actually going on. I guess they think they’ll be magically granted the knowledge about the issues, challenges and opportunities facing the city once they’re elected.

The May 14 commission meeting did draw candidates Brenda Hartsfield, Mario Hicks and Nancy Groves to the meeting, most likely because Facebook exploded with comments for and against the Live PD proposal which was on the agenda.

Here’s the thing, about 97% of a city commissioner’s/mayor’s job is to deal with mundane issues that NEVER make it onto the various Sanford social media groups. It’s not sexy, but it’s important. It’s not rocket science, but you’ve got to put the time in to understand the issues, policies and procedures.

For example, an agenda item from the April 23 meeting, Sally Rosemond proposed giving the city 2.79 acres of land the city could really use for its public works facility and water treatment plant. Easy decision, right? What about the nearby gasification plant cleanup and the EPA consent decree? Any of the new candidates want to explain what all that means, and how it effected the commission’s decision? For that matter, can any of the candidates besides Wiggins and Lillibridge tell me what the commission decided? The gasification plant is an issue the city has been dealing with for at least 25 years. Should one or more of the new candidates get elected, it’s an issue they’ll be dealing with in the future.

If declared candidates can’t bother to attend “practice” meetings where they have the opportunity to learn without the pressure of making a decision, how can we trust them to put the work in to make good decisions if they’re elected to office?

There’s only 5 more city Commission meetings before the election (actually 6, but one is the night before election day).

Ya’ll better figure out how to make ‘em – we’re watchin’.

6 Comments

  1. Hopefully all the candidates are going to the City website and reviewing the back up material for each item on the agenda. The backup information is pared down details and even tells the commission the how to vote.

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  2. Actually, it doesn’t tell them how to vote, the background material provides language for a suggested motion, should commissioners want to put the staff recommendation to a vote.

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  3. Awesome story and very accurate comment regarding them willing to learn BEFORE they get elected. Thank you.

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  4. I took pleasure in reading a libelous article where the writer erroneously made allegations regarding several candidates of whom he knows nothing about. Now that the Aug primaries are drawing nigh, you, Mr. Ping, took an opportunity to not exercise due diligence to even determine if any candidates were present at past meetings prior to penning such unprofessional biasness.

    Where was your attendance record in Aug, Sept, Nov and Dec of 2017? Did you bother to confer with the Mayor, or either commissioner whom I have held conversations with at our commission meetings. Yet I dont recall seeing you there. Does that mean my recollection is accurate? No. Simply stated, I did not see you – period.

    Prior to Mr. Triplett being elected Mayor…how many commission meetings did he attend? Yet your disparate treatment bestowed upon a particular class of unsuspecting candidates should prompt you to take pause before your adventurous path leads to destruction.

    Im sure you did not attend every class at Univ of Alabama but your being granted a B.A. in Criminal Justice does not make your education or ability to defend your degree any less than the student who was present for every class, does it? Or, perhaps you believe that someone’s prior duty and responsibility away from what you deem important makes one less qualified or incapable of holding office. That is tantamont to ignorantly stating that your failure to possess a degree in journalism and failure to complete continuing education classes in the art of research and writing makes you ill-prepared and unqualified to pen this article. Hmmm…perhaps it does.

    I, for one, have thanked you for streaming the videos live. I have also listened to countless hours of past work group sessions and meetings. I also research the issues and compare information obtained to other cities. To smear the reputation of persons you do not know or to display your ignorance because you are not aware of their associates attending and providing real time listening opportunities to every meeting from March to the present provides the ingredients for sloppy and irresponsible journalism, as well as a defamation of character lawsuit.

    Perhaps you sought a safe avenue by falling short of questioning why the candidates are not attending. God forbid if you and your following appear to have a problem with working women, women entrepreneurs or working mothers. I wonder how such libelous slurs would ring in the Orlando Sentinel or headline on Wesh 2 News. One who lives in a glass house should be careful about casting stones.

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  5. Victoria Robinson was hardly critiqued in this article, and at that, not by name… and yet this is how she responds? Overly defensive and abrasive for no real purpose. Particularly concerning is her knee jerk reaction to say Mr. Ping is a chauvinist or worse. Outrageous!
    Being Mayor = regular criticism.
    At first glance, she’s horribly ill-prepared for this role.
    You can’t be a victim all the time. Take some responsibility for your actions, grow a thicker skin, and come back in 8-12 years. Until then, please don’t waste our time.

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