In the city of Lakeland, there are two strong, opposing campaigns launching full-force attempts to sway voters in Polk County.
When they take to the ballots on November 7th, 2017, Lakelanders have a decision to make about the way they want their local government to be run.
Students have a responsibility to be aware of the contest taking place between the two campaigns because they have both littered the town with tons of propaganda for their prospective side.
Driving along Lake Hollingsworth, giant light blue signs that say “Yes for a Stronger Lakeland” contrast the dark black signs that read “No Boss Mayor.” Some students are unaware and wondering what significance these have.
In Lakeland’s current governmental structure the mayor is what some deem a ‘weak mayor.’ In this case, the mayor is not the chief executive of the city government but instead, votes on the city commision and has a ceremonial title.
There are 7 city commissioners who are elected by the people that serve alongside this mayor.
Citizens for a Strong Lakeland are, according to their website, “a group of citizens united for a better, stronger future for Lakeland.”
The group formed in early summer 2017 and have increased in size since then. Strong Lakeland is advocating for a strong “people’s mayor” who will be an elected official with authority over the executive functions of city government.
A strong mayor would no longer vote on the city commission; instead, they would be responsible for the city’s day-to-day functions and serve as the chief executive of the city, allowing the Commission to function as the legislative branch.
This would create a separation of powers seen in state and federal forms of American government.
Rivaling the Strong Lakeland campaign is a group known as “No Boss Mayor.” This is a group of primarily long-time Lakeland natives who argue, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Members of this group argue that Lakeland has a 90-year track record of economic progress and political stability so clear that there is no need for change. The group’s website lists 10 reasons why they are opposed to the change being offered by Strong Lakeland.
These reasons include a standpoint of fiscal responsibility, seeing that the proposed change would cost taxpayers more money: the change proposes a mayor who will be paid over $100,000 along with another city commissioner at $30,000.
No Boss Mayor also believes the initiative will give the mayor too much power, due to an increase in term limits for the mayor from 16 to at least 20 years that is hidden in the fine print.
The most controversial claim being made by No Boss Mayor is that Strong Lakeland lacks active community support.
While Strong Lakeland’s website is covered in photos that make it seem as though many citizens are engaged in the campaign for a strong mayor, No Boss Mayor’s website portrays quite the opposite.
They claim that Strong Lakeland is a small group of individuals whose entire funding comes from one wealthy individual that ‘hired out of town lawyers who used vague and incomplete info to collect signatures’ for their petition.
This is backed up by documentation of Strong Lakeland’s financial statements, which show that nearly all of their funding comes from just one checkbook.
Regardless of how each campaign got to where they are, in the end it is Lakeland citizens who will decide the city’s direction in the future.
The decision will be on the Nov. 7th mayoral ballot. The contest between these groups is still active and we look forward to seeing what the people decide.
To see the proposed change to the City Charter, both sites provide a link.