George Graham

Why I Will Not Vote Today

Instead of sitting here writing this blog, I should be at the polling station today, casting my ballot in the runoff election for city commissioner at large. I wish I could vote for “none of the above,” but that isn’t an option. So I will leave it up to my fellow-citizens to decide who gets a say in how my city is run, what taxes I have to pay and what services I get in exchange.

The two candidates are towing company owner Ricky Shirah and commercial Realtor Jim Malless. I’ve watched Shirah try to win some kind of public office for years, and my impression (rightly or wrongly) is that he’s some sort of clown in it for whatever he can get out of it. There was also the question about his residency a while back. He was running for some office or other and listed his residency as within the city limits, but his home was out in the county. When the local press queried him about the discrepancy, he said he was recently separated from his wife and was sleeping over the towing company office.

That didn’t stop him from teaming up with his wife to host a recent political event, though.  Whatever works, I guess.

I know nothing at all about Malless, except that he apparently sells real estate. But for some reason his picture puts me off. Not just his picture but his election placards.

What kind of person posts signs that say, “I’m 4 Jim”? (You can’t see the 4 in the photo but trust me, it’s there.)

But my main objection to him is his line of work. Over the years, I’ve noticed real-estate types try to get elected so they can skew tax policies in their favor. Take impact fees for example. The county has a rule that obliges developers to contribute toward the costs their developments inflict on the community.  And I think that’s only fair.

But the current crop of commissioners have suspended the policy, leaving homeowners to foot the bill for developments we surely don’t want. The last thing we need is more traffic and so on. Most of us came to Central Florida to live a quiet life, not to jostle a horde of newcomers at the supermarket and get shouted at by ill-tempered drivers in a hurry to get to work (most likely in Tampa or Orlando).

Sorry if I sound like a codger, but that’s what I am.

Of course, I can’t be sure that Malless would promote unwanted development in Lakeland. There’s not much land left to develop in the city anyway. It’ s pretty much maxed out. So I don’t want to vote for Shirah, whom I don’t want, to keep Malless from getting in. Malless could surprise me and turn out to be an OK sort of guy after all. And then again…

You can see why I am not voting, can’t you?

In the original city elections, Sandra and I voted for Eddie Hall, a wheelchair-bound activist who impressed us with his public service and commitment to the welfare of others. Injured by a speeding car as a kid, Eddie courageously overcame his own handicap and dedicated himself to battling for the rights of others in a similarly sad situation.

But Hall wound up last among the four candidates. Shirah got the most votes and Malless came in second. Neither got more than 50 percent of the handful of votes cast, so they’re having a run-off election today.

Click for my earlier blog.

Click for another view of today’s election.


About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for