There are three City Council candidates in our district. The incumbent, Phillip Walker, pushed for a fire fee and when that didn’t pass, voted to raise our property taxes. You can bet he won’t be my choice.
Walker is being challenged by Ricky Shirah, a perennial candidate who qualified as a candidate by saying he sleeps at his tow-truck garage but has a homestead exemption listed outside the city limits. Shirah has run for every political post I can think of since Sandra and I moved to Lakeland 17 years ago. He never wins but he never quits.
Then there’s Alberto (“you can call me AJ”) Rodriguez. Sandra watched his online video and immediately decided to vote for him. Her reason?
“I just like him.”
After pointing out that liking a candidate is not really a valid reason for voting for him, and after giving the matter due consideration, I decided to vote for AJ, too.
I don’t think he will win. He has to be about 20 years old, as he has graduated from Harrison School of the Arts and is a business student at Polk State College. But he looks about 16.
The way things are, the demographics don’t seem to be in AJ’s favor. In our democracy, ethnic origin has a lot to do with political success. AJ is from Puerto Rico and the Hispanic population in Northwest Lakeland is sparse at best. (Hispanics are more concentrated in Northeast Polk County – close to Disney World.)
And I don’t see a lot of college-age residents shopping at Publix or Winn-Dixie. Residents of our neighborhood tend to be either retired seniors or families with school-age kids.
But AJ is an impressive kid. He has a web site – the only candidate who is that tech savvy. And in the videos on his web site, he comes across as articulate, idealistic and sensible. He might not win today, but he will some day. You can bet on it.
It wasn’t easy to find out about AJ. The local newspaper didn’t endorse any of the candidates. I suppose it doesn’t want to offend any advertisers. And it took quite a bit of online searching to dig up information on the election issues.
Obviously, our little election isn’t big news.
City elections don’t attract much attention hereabouts, especially in an off-year. In 2013, only 22 percent of the voters in Lakeland went to the polls. And our supervisor of elections is estimating this year’s total will be a lackluster 14 percent.
With that kind of turnout, Sandra and I might cast the two votes that put AJ over the top, after all.