The developers are afraid that the Manatee County School Board will change the way school board members are elected. Under the present system, there are five school districts with one school board member, each elected by votes from the entire county. Under the proposed method, school board members will be elected only by voters in their specific district. The developers hate that idea because it will take away the advantages their puppet candidates now have.
The developers want to control the school board so it can control the school district budget, which is actually larger than the county budget. If they have control, they can cut or suspend school impact fees as they have since 2009, thus avoiding payment of upwards of $100 million. They can also control large school contracts and determine the terms of bond issues which could be very lucrative.
Running a countywide campaign is expensive, five times more expensive than a districtwide campaign. The developers are able to select candidates and fund them with very large and numerous contributions, which is obvious by reviewing candidate contribution information on the Supervisor of Elections website.
Candidates with more funding are able to buy more yard signs, more mass-mailings, more billboards, more robo-calls, and more advertising in general. They can also have more “meet the candidate” receptions with free hors d'oeuvres and beverages. All this provides more candidate recognition without necessarily explaining the candidate’s stand on the issues or giving other candidates equal access to the public.
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That gives the developer-funded candidates a distinct advantage over other candidates who may be more qualified and knowledgeable than the developers’ hand-picked candidates. That is why I urge the school board to change the school board election process from county-wide to district-only. Please let your school board member know that you agree.