HOMETOWN!

A membership organization created
to promote good government

Hometown! is Key West's and Monroe County’s voting community’s signature resource for candidate and election information. Hometown! encourages members, soon-to-be members, candidates, prospective candidates and those merely testing the waters to raise their hand for Good Government through hosted events such as Call for Candidates, Meet-and Greets, forums and workshops.

About Us

In a democracy the best way to effect change is by encouraging the citizens to exercise fully the rights of citizenship and to participate in the political life of their communities by being candidates for public office and to educate and involve themselves in community affairs.

Hometown! brings together Key West and Monroe County residents from all backgrounds and beliefs who are united only by their desire to make this area a better place in which to live, and through forums and vigorous debate to improve areas of concern to the majority of residents.

To that end, Hometown! will promote the exchange of political viewpoints and ideas by providing and sponsoring lectures, forums, debates and other political discourse. These actions will allow the voters to more fully consider the merits of the candidates and their proposals to

  • unite and give voice to residents, and
  • provide leadership and balance for economic growth while preserving the character of Key West.

KONK Life – April 13, 2107 – Hometown! Kicks off 2018 Political Season

Key West Citizen 4.4.17 - Candidates make debut at forum

Key West Weekly 4.7.17 - WHO’S COUNTING? 577 days to the 2018 elections; Hometown hosts first event

Keynoter 4.5.17 - Forum draws candidates for 2018 election


by Dennis Reeves Cooper…….

I typically resist starting anything I write with a quote from somebody famous. But I’m going to break my rule this time. In fact, I’m going to quote Winston Churchill twice, starting with: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Most Americans agree that democracy is a superior form of government. But we have a problem. To make our democratic system work best, an informed electorate is essential. Voters need to know who or what they are choosing and why. Which brings me to a second quote from Churchill: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Yes, it is true that a large chunk of the American electorate is woefully under-informed. But ignorance doesn’t necessarily keep an under-informed voter from voting.

As an unapologetic political junkie, I have wondered for years about what might be done to (1) get citizens interested enough in good government to register to vote and, then (2) motivated enough to– before they vote– inform themselves about candidates and issues. In recent years, the government has made it easier and easier to register to vote and easier and easier to actually vote. Absentee voting and Early Voting are examples. And the press continues to play its traditional role in at least trying to inform voters about candidates and issues.

But in Key West, we have something additional– a citizens’ organization that has, for more than a decade, taken voter information to a whole new level. The group is called Hometown!– with an explanation point. This is the organization that organizes and sponsors those open-to-the-public political forums here before every election. These forums give candidates an opportunity to speak– and voters the opportunity to actually meet the candidates, hear their ideas, pick up their campaign literature, and to ask them questions face-to-face. These forums are streamed live on YouTube.

In addition, Hometown! hosts a website that, before every election, lists the city and county elected offices being contested, as well as the names and photos of all of the candidates who are running to fill those offices– and the date, place and time of the next candidate forum. The website also includes important information about the dates of primary and general elections, the last day to register to vote, etc. The website even has a video archive of previous forums. I have been writing about elections here for years– and I don’t mind admitting that the Hometown! website is one of my primary sources of information. You can find this site at hometownkeywest.com.

One of the most impressive things about Hometown! is that, back in history, a group of Key Westers thought that creating such an organization was worth their time, effort and money. Nobody HAD to do it. But they thought that it was important thing to do for the community. And today, years later, nobody HAS to continue to spend their time, effort and money to keep such an organization alive and functioning. But they do it.

Even if you are familiar with the free-to-the-public political forums sponsored by Hometown!, you may not be aware that this is a membership organization. And it’s not cheap. Annual membership fees range from $40 to $1000. And what do members get for their money? Nothing, really– other than knowing that, in Key West, any citizen with even the slightest interest in politics has a place to go for information. According to Todd German, the current president of Hometown!, the money generated by membership fees goes to pay rents for the venues and the “free” hors d’oeuvres, professional maintenance of the website and the uploads to YouTube, as well as other miscellaneous expenses. Hometown! has no employees and all members and board members are volunteers. German also emphasized that there is never a charge to attend any of the Hometown! forums.

Today, Hometown! is an important part of local politics. Initially, Hometown endorsed candidates. Later, however, the decision was made to discontinue endorsements and place more emphasis on voter information. And last year (2015), the decision was made to convert Hometown! from a PAC to a not-for-profit 501c3 organization, so all donations are tax deductible.