There are many seats in Orange County up for election this November, so we'll go through them briefly. We recommend: Aramis Ayala for Orange-Osceola state attorney; Tiffany Moore Russell for county clerk of courts; Jerry Demings for county sheriff; Rick Singh for county property appraiser; Scott Randolph for county tax collector; and Bill Cowles for county supervisor of elections. Aside from newcomer Ayala, these five public officials have done a good job and deserve another term.
Also up for election are three seats on the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is responsible for helping with conservation programs and protecting natural resources across the state. We recommend Maria Bolton-Joubert in Group 1, Nicole Victoria McLaren in Group 3 and Steven Laune Beumer in Group 5. All three candidates would be advocates for the environment on this board.
Orange County School Board District 7 representative Christine Moore is battling Matthew Fitzpatrick, a former teacher and assistant director at Orange Technical College. We recommend Fitzpatrick over the businesswoman because teachers should have a seat at the table where decisions are made, especially with the current teacher shortage.
Two seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners are up for election. In West Orange's District 1, Winter Garden Commissioner Robert "Bobby O" Olszewski and business development consultant Betsy VanderLey are running to replace term-limited Commissioner Scott Boyd. There's not much of a difference between these two candidates, though VanderLey has been endorsed by several county commissioners and Mayor Teresa Jacobs. However, we recommend Olszewski for two reasons. First, he's been endorsed by Save Orange County, a local conservation group that seeks to minimize urban sprawl. Second, VanderLey has received an endorsement from the NRA, even though commissioners can't pass or enforce gun control laws. That's strange.
In District 5, Commissioner Ted Edwards, a lawyer for developers by trade, is fighting a challenge from environmental advocate Emily Bonilla. This personal spat-turned-political arose from conflicts over the rural character of east Orange County. Edwards spearheaded votes on two developments east of the Econlockhatchee River that would put about 4,000 homes in an ecologically sensitive area. Bonilla, founder of the environmental group East of the Econ, protested Edwards' decision along with hundreds of east Orange County residents. In this race, we recommend Bonilla. It's time someone stood up for the county's environment rather than catering to the interests of developers.
On the ballot this year are also three charter amendments. The first and most alarming would add additional requirements for citizens trying to put initiatives on the ballot. That sounds pretty innocent until you see the requirements, which include limiting petitions to a single subject; requiring a legal review, financial impact statement and public hearing; and increasing the number of required signatures. The amendment, supported by Jacobs and local corporations, would limit residents' ability to get issues on the ballot. The second and third charter amendments are two paragraphs of verbal diarrhea. One would make constitutional officers like the sheriff and tax collector into nonpartisan and term-limited charter officers, as well as other reclassifications that could affect the independence of those offices. Several constitutional officers have already sued, saying the charter has no authority over their offices, and the issue is currently in the appeals process. The other amendment states that if a court gives differing opinions on this charter issue, the last ruling stands, which could complicate what the court is currently reviewing. All three are related to behind-the-scenes drama that shouldn't have been put to voters in such confusing language. We recommend voting no on all three county charter amendments.