Hometown! Kicks off 2018 Political Season (KONK Life 4/13/17)
It’s more than 400 days until ballot boxes reopen for the 2018 state and local elections in Monroe County. But multiple candidates threw their hats into the political ring on April 3 at a Call for Candidates sponsored by Hometown!, the non-partisan political education group.
Several incumbents announced they will be running for reelection . . . [read more]
WHO’S COUNTING? 577 days to the 2018 elections; Hometown hosts first event (Key West Weekly 4/7/17)
Big announcements were made at the Call for Candidates event for the 2018 election cycle. Hometown, a nonprofit, formerly known as Hometown PAC, hosted its first candidate introductions on Monday night at Salute in Key West. . . . [Read more]
Candidates make debut at forum (Key West Citizen 4/4/17)
Open seats for Key West mayor and county commissioner and the creation of a Lower Keys seat on the Keys Energy Services board drew new and younger faces to the first gathering of the election season.
A handful of first-time candidates made their political debut at Monday’s forum . . . [Read more]
Forum draws candidates for 2018 election (Keynoter 4/5/17)
Key West Mayor Craig Cates couldn’t reist this joke when he took the stage Monday at Hometown!’s call-for-candidates event.
“The city attorney found a way I could run one more time," Cates said, bursting into laughter along with the crowd . . . [Read more]
Hometown PAC is asset to community, voters (Key West Citizen 4/26/09)
Hometown PAC is off to a good start in its continuing mission to provide convenient forums for candidates who aspire to local elective offices and to provide useful information for citizens who want to know more about issues that may inform their votes when balloting begins.
This year’s election cycle kicked off last week.
THE BEST ARGUMENT AGAINST DEMCRACY IS A FIVE-MINUTE CONVERSATION WITH THE AVERAGE VOTER. MAYBE NOT SO TRUE IN KEY WEST– BECAUSE OF THE HOMETOWN! POLITICAL FORUMS (Key West the Newspaper 7/15/16)
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.