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A Vote For Amanda Cochran

By: Butch Swank

Over the past six months or so, I’ve spoken to people out and about or here in the office, and the recurring is this – people being upset about various proposals being considered by the Lee County Commissioners. I’ve heard these proposals range from building yet another crowded development despite the traffic problems we face to sewage being pumped in pipes under an already fragile Caloosahatchee River. Being good citizens, these people invested their precious time in attending these County Commission meetings and explained to the Commissioners why they felt it was wrong to greenlight these proposals. Can you guess what seems to happen each time the people speak in a uniform voice against? Yes, correct, a 5-0 vote in favor of what the community opposed. At this point, it is hard to imagine that the Commissioners care what the people who elected them think. By the way, do you know what At-Large voting is? It’s a system where all the voters in a County vote for all five Commissioners rather than just the one in their district. This voting method, it seems, tends towards Commissioners not being directly accountable to the people who elected them because, by definition, it is an election of the entire County. It also means that only big-money politicians often stand a chance of being elected because it costs five times more money to campaign all over Lee County instead of just focusing on the District the candidate represents.

Currently, we have two candidates running for County Commissioner District 5. I know very little about the person running for reelection, Mike Greenwell, and it’s not for a lack of trying. So, I wanted to share my observations and thoughts to date. Early on, after being elected, I repeatedly offered Commissioner Greenwell the opportunity to come and speak at one of our Southwest Florida Business Alliance meetings, and the publisher of this very paper offered him space for articles to share what he was doing for us. After multiple attempts at outreach, we were ultimately told via his assistant: “Commissioner Greenwell said he would reach out to you if he is able to speak or write.” You’ll be shocked to learn that he could never speak or write even once in the past two and a half years. As a last-ditch effort, and being sometimes a bit bullheaded, I figured, all right then, why not just go to him instead? I was happy to get a meeting scheduled at his office, and after the meeting ended, I’ll just say I didn’t feel the Welcome Wagon vibes flowing that day. I walked into that meeting open-minded and optimistic and left feeling quite the opposite. Time has passed, and based on further observations, my feelings have not improved.

District 5 candidate Amanda Cochran is Greenwell’s primary opponent this August. Amanda’s from Alva, and like a lot of us, she doesn’t like how we’re not being represented. A trait I find admirable is that Amanda had no interest in public office, but seeing no good options, Amanda jumped right into that ring. Running for office is hard and, at times, downright ugly, and Amanda is now getting a firsthand education in that reality. Regardless, she’s a fighter and is just getting started. People like Amanda Cochran, who have no interest in becoming career politicians, are a big part of the solution Lee County needs. We can’t keep electing the same people, year after year, and expect anything to change. I believe Amanda embodies what future government leadership should be. She’s interested in us, not advancing her agenda. I want to think that as a businessman, I’ve developed a good sense of who people are, and I like Amanda Cochran. I encourage you to check out her website and her speaking schedule to find out for yourself. This lady is all over Lee County because, as said earlier, the current system makes her campaign all over Lee County to win. So, she’s covering a lot of ground and will likely speak in your neighborhood soon. Go and listen to her and, by all means, ask some questions to see where she stands on things. I don’t want someone representing me who is not interested in how I feel or what I care about. The current guy falls squarely in that category, and I believe Amanda Cochran does not. To me, Amanda Cochran is the best candidate for County Commissioner District 5 because, unlike the incumbent, she wants to hear your voice and will fight for you. What a refreshing change that would be!

To wrap things up, I wanted to share that there is an alternative to At-Large voting: Single-Member voting. In it, only your district (neighborhood) can vote for their candidate – no other areas have a say in the matter. In Single-Member voting, it stands to reason that an elected candidate would want to do a good job representing their neighborhood so their people would be helped, thereby increasing the chances of being reelected since they’re doing such a bang-up job. Another thing to keep in mind is that we vote for the Governor, Senators, House of Representatives, mayors, etc., using this Single-Member district voting scheme. A legislative proposal is being discussed to allow Lee County a November vote to switch to this Single-Member scheme, and guess what? The Lee County Commissioners are against even allowing that to be voted on. Why? What’s their motivation? Hell, it’s entirely possible the people may want to stick with At-large. I’m reading tea leaves here, but maybe, just maybe, they feel like that switch would not be good for them, so it’s smarter to stop it early. Now, to be charitable, maybe it’s because the Commissioners are in a bubble and genuinely do not know how many people in Lee County feel like their voices are being ignored. Instead, they think everything is as rosy as it could be. Regardless, the Commissioners seem to believe there is no reason to change how things are going. In my book, the switch to Single-Member district voting could have a profoundly positive impact because our leaders would now be in a position where they’re encouraged to act for us instead of for themselves. The beauty of America is that we can have many different opinions, and, in the end, the one that gets the most votes wins. That’s my spin on local elections. You’re fully entitled to disagree 100% with what I just wrote, which I 100% respect. After all, we are both Americans and at the end of the day, we support each other. I’ll end with this – go vote for Amanda Cochran!

Think of it this way: Should people in Georgia be allowed to vote for Florida’s governor since they are so close to Tallahassee? Of course not! That’s just plain silly.

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