Palm Coast Councilman Frank Meeker Petitions for Civility Manifesto in 2012 Elections
FlaglerLive | February 28, 2012
By Frank Meeker
Once you enter politics, people comment about how dirty it must be. They’re often right because we don’t demand better. After witnessing what’s unfolding in local, state and federal races, I for one am concerned that candidates and their supporters do not, or will not strive to work in a more courageous and honorable manner. They believe that anything goes in politics, as long as you win. This can include lying, cheating, character assassination and civil hooliganism.
When I was running for Palm Coast City Council, Jerry Full, Sean Burns and I had a group interview with the editorial board of the News Journal. While we were from different parties in a non-partisan election, we respected each other enough to discuss our vision and views, and would not attack each other’s character. I remember turning to Burns after he discussed one of his views on growth management and said, “You know Sean, that’s a really good idea. If I get elected, I’ll do what I can to make that happen.”
Members of the editorial board were stunned. “Wow, you guys actually get along together don’t you?,” one of the interviewers said. It was true, we did. We focused on issues, not personal attacks. Sad to say, since that time, local politics has degenerated into the type of campaigning we see at the state and federal level. That doesn’t show those currently elected or those seeking election in a very favorable light. The climate is so negative that it likely explains why voter turnout in Flagler County elections is getting lower. Both sides are losing the independents and the rational members of their respected parties. Citizens don’t see anybody worth voting for.
I have no doubt 2012 will set new low marks for dirty tricks and disgusting political campaigning. From what I’m seeing within local clubs, the flames are still burning. To me, this behavior is an embarrassment to civility and demonstrates a lack of moral strength from those who ask to be our community leaders. They should be ashamed, but instead, hide behind their party, Political Action Committees and volunteers and feign no knowledge of what’s going on. Amazing.
Whether a candidate is worthy of political office should be decided by free and clear elections, not tainted by character assassination and media hype. I am outraged that we’ve allowed this to go on for so long. Then we wonder why we don’t have quality candidates to vote for.
I have no personal interest in whether any specific candidate is elected or not, but I have decided one thing. I have decided I won’t take part in activities that condone actions which routinely violate the kind of moral standards and civil integrity I was brought up with and try to uphold. I’m not here casting the first stone as I certainly don’t hit my own mark at times. But at least I try and often apologize when I fail.
Therefore, I submit the following statements to the citizens of Flagler County for consideration. Call it “A Statement on Election Fairness.”
During the coming elections, as Leaders and Citizens of the Community, we should have the courage to:
1) Welcome those with diverse views.
2) Restore civility in local elections regardless of what goes on elsewhere.
3) Take responsibility for our actions and words while working for candidates, and demand the same responsibility from those we choose to support.
4) Be a leader in seeking civility, fairness and unity when promoting candidates and their causes.
5) Reconcile with those who have tried to harm us in word or deed.
6) Treat others with kindness, respect and compassion.
7) Move on together when a decision has been made even if we still disagree.
8) Do the best we can to work with integrity during a campaign, and demand integrity of those we work with.
9) Not support candidates, or political action committees of candidates, who choose to promote their candidate with negative campaigning as opposed to an open and fair discussion of the facts or issues.
10) Live responsibly, working for the betterment of our community.
Consider how your actions might help in unifying our city, and the county. I ask you all to be courageous in standing up for a just society that takes the high road starting now in 2012 with local elections. Let us be people of character, demanding the same of those who would lead us.
If anybody out there agrees with me, especially if you are a leader in the business, religious or political community, take the time to write a short note to the editors of local newspapers, chat rooms and blogs to let them know you too plan to stand up, and be a leader with courage. Is there anybody else with me on this?
Frank Meeker, a member of the Flagler County Republican Club, represents District 2 on the Palm Coast City Council. He’s not up for re-election this year. Reach him by email here.