Tavares, FL July 25, 2016
Lake County, FL County Commissioner Leslie Campione wrote an opinion article about how "fellow" Board member Jimmy Conner is spouting half truths about a local sand mine in order to frighten people into voting for him in his re-election campaign. Read it to understand why many residents are supporting his opponent, Wendy Breeden. The opinion piece was apparently published in the local Daily Commercial yesterday, but they never provide timely posts of printed articles, so I could not add it here. Besides, they banned me from posting comments on their website.
Leslie Campione is a Lake County Commissioner supported by many fiscal conservatives.
She doesn't mention it but Conner's statements may also be used to prevent him from voting on future Cemex related land use decisions because there is a lawsuit and County Commissioners are not supposed to say anything about Cemex per two other incumbent statements in forums. His constant references to Cemex being a "Mexican Sand Mine" has also inflamed hispanics in South Lake County.
Read it and watch our linked video to understand why many people support alternative candidates like Wendy Breeden.
Thanks to Jim Krakowski for sending out the text of the article.
What do those sand mine signs really mean?
Posted: Sunday, July 24, 2016 6:00 am by Leslie Campione
My husband, Dr. Jack Cassell, and I have a history with controversial signs. His most memorable sign was posted on the door to his medical office the day after the passage of “Obamacare.” Jack had studied the legislation and recognized that his patients would suffer because costs would go up and health insurance alone would not guarantee availability or access to doctors and medical care. He felt the need to speak out and verbalized his frustration in a sign. Some purposefully misrepresented it as heartless and antagonistic and others simply misunderstood the message as a literal statement.
Dr. Cassell doesn’t mince words. If I had written it, the sign would have explained the negative consequences of the legislation and ended with, “I care about my patients and believe this legislation is detrimental to patient care!” Of course, Neil Cavuto and Diane Sawyer probably wouldn’t have asked for an interview if my sign had been posted. I tell this story to emphasize that we are huge proponents of free speech rights guaranteed by our Constitution’s 1st Amendment. But we also understand that simple messages, especially those on a sign, can be powerful and frequently misunderstood.
Yesterday a woman stopped in Jack’s office and asked, “Why is Leslie voting for the Mexican sand mine?” She had seen campaign signs along U.S. Highway 441 which boldly state, “Jimmy Conner voted NO SAND MINE” and, like many other people, she was thoroughly confused by the signs. She went online and read statements by the current District 3 County Commissioner, saw pictures of large crowds at zoning meetings, and reached a conclusion that fit perfectly within Jimmy Conner’s false narrative about Cemex corporation’s proposed sand mine.
I have concluded these confusing signs are part of a carefully scripted political storyline that is a massive head fake. It has paid off in huge campaign contributions from lawyers, developers and large landowners – all of whom will profit immensely by placing tens of thousands of cars and houses south of Clermont.
I am no fan of sand mines - especially under the old rules where they could leave behind a huge mess. But I do strongly support American industry, job creation, constitutionally-protected property rights, and the safe and responsible extraction of minerals that are needed to build playgrounds, volleyball courts, libraries, schools, bridges and roads. My support is contingent on proper conditions in place to protect the rights of adjacent owners, assure the timely reclamation and re-contouring of land where sand is extracted, protect the aquifer, and limit the use of local streets for sand truck routes.
I am not an advocate for any specific company, but I am an advocate for truth, accuracy, sincerity and due process. Thus, it is important for readers to know these important facts: Cemex is a publicly traded company and, while it originated in Mexico in 1906, U.S. investors own 71.7% of Cemex shares. Yes, the company is 71.7% American owned! So, why does Jimmy Conner insist on purposefully referring to it as a "Mexican" company?
When this case came before the County Commission in March 2015, Commissioner Conner took the position that the application should be denied outright. His position was that it was inconsistent with the proposed “Wellness Way Sector Plan" – a development plan that opened up the door for 16,000 new homes to be built south of Clermont.
Mr. Conner wouldn’t entertain adding conditions to Cemex's conditional use permit to address adjoining property owners’ concerns. He would not consider larger buffers, smaller mining areas, reduced hours of operation, restricted truck routes, or any variety of conditions that are typically formulated by a County Commission when the underlying zoning allows the requested land use.
I did not support the motion to deny the application outright. Rather, I believed it was the obligation of the County Commission to impose well-thought-out, stringent conditions instead of setting the County up for a legal challenge. Soon after the case concluded, Cemex filed a challenge in Circuit Court and the case is currently pending. The Commission’s decision, led by Mr. Conner, is needlessly wasting taxpayer dollars defending the lawsuit.
In land use cases, elected officials are required by law to act as judges. They should take these rights very seriously regardless of whether it is an individual property owner, a small business or a large corporation. No judge should decide a case based on what is best for their re-election, or exploit the facts to propel a re-election bid. That is what Mr. Conner is doing in this case.
Last week I attended a political forum to listen to candidates for the three Lake County Commission seats that will be on the Republican Primary Ballot on August 30th (Districts 1, 3 and 5). I listened in horror as Jimmy Conner told the audience that Cemex officials had tried to “bribe him.” He deliberately chose to describe a routine negotiation as a “bribe” by a “Mexican company.” He used the loaded phrase “Mexican company” several times; a rhetorical device he has used repeatedly when speaking to the press or on the campaign trail.
It was uncomfortable, and embarrassing, to hear a member of the Lake County Commission deliberately use such incendiary language. Quite frankly, it was juvenile. Ask yourself, as our county seeks to attract high-wage employers to Lake County, how will other businesses and companies interpret this type of behavior?
In another moment of maliciously manufactured drama, Mr. Conner pointed at the audience and told everyone that Cemex was suing them — the people of Lake County. It was a blatant attempt to drum up animosity and play on the emotions of voters. But in that moment of pure political pandering, I was relieved to note that the audience saw through Conner's stunt. I am proud of the audience and Lake County. The attendees recognized that, under our system of government, a party has a right to protect and preserve its property rights and Jimmy wasn’t able to cloud the issue.
As the August 30th Republican primary approaches, we will soon find out whether Mr. Conner's strategy worked to his favor. But we will never know how many prospective employers decided to not do business in Lake County for fear they might be his next political target.
Leslie Campione is a Lake County Commissioner representing District 4.