GOVERNANCE We live in an age of political campaigns. With all the media currently available, candidates can reach out to the voters in various combinations of television, radio and print ads, mailouts and social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Platforms are reduced to sound bites, glossy postcards and tweets. If the right combinations of words are used, like taxes cut, jobs, guns and big government, then candidates win. Veteran politicos will tell you that the campaign message is only a vehicle to get elected. The means necessary to win are justifiable if your candidate wins the election.
These candidates themselves may actually believe their messages. Republicans are generally more conservative. Democrats are more liberal. Their campaign messages and political beliefs are molded by their party’s platform. It’s how they win the primaries and make it to the general election.
Regardless of the campaign message, the winner has to shift from campaign mode to governing. That transition can be more difficult than many politicians realize, especially if it’s their first time in political office. This year three elected officials have significant challenges with the transition to governance: Gov. Rick Scott, Congressman Jeff Miller and Mayor Ashton Hayward.
Rick Scott, our new governor, promised to remake state government, reduce spending to 2004 levels, which is about a $13 million cut, and create 700,000 new private-sector jobs. Nine months and over $70 million later, Scott, who has never held political office or even been active in community service, has assumed control of our state government.
His biggest challenge could be getting the state legislature to go along with his changes. Even though both the state house and senate are controlled by Republicans, Scott will get some pushback from the lawmakers. He will have to tactfully handle their power games, something not always easy for a millionaire CEO.
Our Congressman Jeff Miller has been rewarded for his years of faithful service to the Republican Party with chairmanship of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He is faced with revamping a system that has a big backlog of claims and he must eliminate the adversarial feeling that many veterans have toward the VA. There are more than 100,000 veterans in Miller’s district. They will expect him to deliver.
Mayor Ashton Hayward ran on his “20 Solutions for 2011.” He set a high bar for his administration to come out of the gate making changes. His solutions include functional consolidation, cutting the budget and economic development. He promised to jumpstart the West Side Development plan and build the Woodland Heights Community Center and the West Side Library.
Hayward did misfire with his transition team, which he had promised would “reflect Pensacola’s diversity.” The 10-member team that has been meeting since Thanksgiving has one female and one minority. It looks more like a Wonder Bread commercial from the Eisenhower years than today’s Pensacola. They are all good white men and probably have worked hard, but they are hardly a reflection of the city’s diversity.
Hayward has promised to fix the problem, but it does show the difficulty his team has in paying attention to the commitments made by their candidate. In no way am I advocating a quota system, but Hayward made the promise, not me.
My expectation is that all three elected officials will have wins and losses during their tenures. If the wins outweigh the losses, then they will be returned to office. Otherwise, we will have a whole new set of promises to critique in 2012 and 2014.