In the two months since the August vote, the political landscape beneath the Manatee County School Board shifted dramatically. A financial fiasco and a swift resignation brought outrage from a public already calling for an overhaul of the district's budget process and spending priorities.
Under these exacting circumstances, the Herald's Editorial Board is changing its recommendation in the District 2 school board contest, a runoff between Dave "Watchdog" Miner and Robert Moates.
While we endorsed Lakewood Ranch High teacher Moates in August before this crisis rocked the board, we now believe that Miner is the right candidate to help guide the district toward greater transparency and accountability.
With an $8 million budget blunder resulting in a $3.5 million deficit and a forensic audit to investigate how this occurred, Miner is in a unique position to help the school district correct its financial course as well as select its next superintendent.
For the past 12 years, Miner has been a fixture at school board meetings as a tireless advocate for financial accountability and transparency. The Bradenton attorney earned his nickname by digging through district documents and questioning board decisions time and time again, often with pointed remarks during public comments.
His deep institutional knowledge and dedication to open government is imperative as the district works through these difficulties.
Moates remains a worthy candidate and espouses many of the same policies as Miner, but "Watchdog" has displayed the tenacity that is now essential to rebuilding public trust in the school board and district administration.
Miner came very close to garnering 50 percent of the ballots in the Aug. 14 election, even against three other candidates. The winner in this nonpartisan race will replace the retiring Harry Kinnan, who has served on the school board since 1996.
As a longtime proponent of government openness, Miner was named to the First Amendment Foundation's Sunshine Brigade.
He wants to change the way the school board conducts business by eliminating private meetings between district staff and individual board members, instead having those discussions during public board sessions.
We agree that the current practice deprives the public of the details that impact the decision-making process.
At last month's Herald school board candidate forum, Miner noted that the board must learn to trust the community and treat requests for information as an opportunity, not a problem. All expenditures should be easily accessible on the district's website with data on the school level besides overall district figures.
As a critic of the district's spending priorities, Miner intends to shift the focus to classrooms and education over administration and other budgeting. He hopes to build public confidence that tax monies are spent both openly and wisely.
First and foremost, Miner wants to ensure that Manatee children are receiving the best education possible and they develop a desire for lifelong learning. More parental involvement must be encouraged by promoting participation in school advisory councils, he says. Council meeting calendars and minutes should be posted on school websites.
The Herald's Editorial Board considers Miner the best candidate to help change the school board's direction. His fight for district reforms over more than a decade should be rewarded with a seat on the board.
We recommend Dave "Watchdog" Miner for District 2, School Board of Manatee County.
Candidates who do not receive the Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by 4 p.m. the next weekday after the endorsement appears. Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7047.
View candidate forums
The Herald, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, videotaped candidate forums in a variety of key races -- including this school board contest.
These forums can be viewed on www.bradenton.com on the "Recent Multimedia" page. METV is also regularly airing all the forums, and the station can be viewed on Brighthouse channel 614, Verizon FIOS 31 and Comcast 19. For METV airtimes, visit www.metvweb.com.