By Tom Tillison
Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh was given a platform by the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday as a “guest columnist” to state his opposition to Orange County Charter Proposal Question D — which would establish Term Limits and Non-Partisan elections for constitutional offices.
For clarity, constitutional offices include the Orange County Sheriff, Tax Collector, Clerk of Courts, Supervisor of Elections, and yes, the Property Appraiser.
While not surprised that the Sentinel would give Singh, a progressive Democrat, such a platform, my initial thought was to wonder how long I would have to wait to see an opposing point of view given the same opportunity.
But the more I thought about it, the more outraged I became.
It seems to be an easy reach to say that were it not for his position as an elected official, Singh likely would not have been given this advantageous opportunity — despite their dwindling numbers, the Sentinel still reaches enough folks to sway the direction of local issues. (Just ask a few Republican politicians.)
Folks may or may not agree that it makes sense to remove politics from constitutional offices — who wants a partisan Sheriff? — but to allow an elected official who stands to directly benefit from not adopting this measure to publicly advocate against it in the hometown newspaper certainly gives the appearance of impropriety.
At a minimum.
The more vocal among us may say, as an elected official, it’s an abuse of power.
With Orange County Democrats holding an edge of almost 100,000 registered voters, Singh would certainly benefit when he is up for reelection in 2016 if he can place his party affiliation next to his name.
Yet, he dares to claim that making these offices non-partisan “will only heighten political partisanship.” But it doesn’t take much imagination to suggest that he’d be the first to scream from the heavens IN FAVOR of non-partisan elections if Republicans held the 100,000 advantage.
It’s a given that Singh’s actions here are self-serving, and sadly, we’ve come to accept that as the norm from politicians these days.
But are the actions of the Orlando Sentinel so easily swept aside? Is it acceptable that an elected official was given a platform to push an issue that he stood to gain from? Are there no standards left for ethical journalism? At a minimum, do they not owe it to the community to provide balance and offer an opposing point of view from someone of equal stature?
A lot of questions I know, but the future of Orange County is going to be rather dismal if residents don’t start seeking answers soon.