Editorial – Jeff VanderMeer
John E. Dailey has proven himself unfit to lead Tallahassee, in both his first term as mayor and in his negative campaigning for reelection. For many reasons, Tallahasseans should vote for his opponent, Kristin Dozier, in November—and send Dailey into political retirement.
If ever anyone embodied the institutional effects of former mayor Scott Maddox’s predations on the common good, current Mayor John Dailey is that person. I do not say this lightly, nor do I say it with any satisfaction. I feel mostly sadness.
Yet it needs to be stated clearly and without prevarication: Convicted felon Scott Maddox helped create a system of institutionalized corruption that made our local government less transparent, less accountable, and less democratic in general. Mayor John Dailey now, with brazen self-aggrandizement, controls that government, either directly or through proxies like city manager Reese Goad. The consolidation of power and the fine-tuning of processes to make more of it occur out of the public eye hurts our communities and our future.
Mayor Dailey, far from confronting or trying to reform any of this instead puts his energy into efforts like exploiting technicalities to ensure vast taxpayer-funded entities like Blueprint lie outside of proper ethics oversight.
He meets with terrifying political entities like Florida Power & Light with nary a transcript of those conversations to be found, even as his wife notes that FP&L is a client.
He helps orchestrate the daylight robbery of $27 million in taxpayers’ money for FSU stadium refurbishments (a project of immaculate conception no one can find the origins of)… and then, when FSU booster leadership lines the coffers of his campaign, Dailey indignantly responds for calls for him to return the contributions “voter suppression.”
He holds private meetings at his house to discuss divvying up one million dollars meant to combat gun violence—and at those meetings some of those blessed invitees just happen to be those who will help his reelection chances.
Perhaps it’s an old story, and only partially new to Tallahassee, but that doesn’t make the story any less despicable, and the characters involved any less accountable for their actions.
Meanwhile, in his reelection campaign, Dailey has engaged in the kind of Orwellian doublespeak we expect from far-right Republicans. In short, Dailey toots his own horn to proclaim that his shortcoming are his strengths. The sound may at times be shrill and unconvincing, but the optics are slick.
When he had the chance to close ethics loopholes, Dailey chose the opposite route—and in the ways he did so, he wasted the time of a lot of honest people trying to do the right thing. Yet his campaign ads tout his strong support for ethics rules.
When our chief of police spoke at a conference sponsored by hatemongers who would transition the LGBTQ+ community out of existence and says his first job is to spread the word of Christ… our mayor defended him. Yet Dailey in his campaign ads crows about his support for that same community and points to a “LGBTQ+ friendly” rating of 100% from an organization that uses as its metric asking the city how it’s doing and taking their word for it.
Well, yes, that’s what campaign ads are, I’m told. But rarely has the distance between reality and fantasy been so disturbing and rarely has a candidate been able to get away with such vagueness without being called to account on specifics.
The mayor also likes to take credit for other people’s initiatives and for majority votes in these ads. In which case, as our purported leader on the city commission and the swing vote, he should also run ads taking credit for destroying our burn ordinance, for destroying a responsible tree-trimming ordinance, for destroying our urban canopy through approving terrible development projects… for any number of razor-thin votes where he could have risen above partisan politics, above his own interests and the special interests backing him… and done the right thing.
But that has not happened. It will not happen. It will just all get worse.
Even now, a look at his donor list tells you exactly who stands to benefit from his reelection—and it isn’t most of us.
Even now, women begin to come forward to talk about their harassment by Mayor Dailey behind closed doors at meetings.
Even now, being asked about his opponent’s endorsement by Ruth’s List, he cannot be our mayor first or even just a decent human being but blusters about these out-of-towners he’s never heard of before.
Rumors of changes to the charter to make the mayor more powerful cannot be dismissed as hyberbole, the more we try to imagine Dailey’s second term.
The truth is, what we will get is more of the same, only more catastrophically. The truth is, we need to reject this charlatan. The truth is that we need a local government that’s truly by the people and for the people.
Mayor John E. Daily has been a disaster. Tallahassee deserves better.