This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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Not all of us are cut out for politics. Some people are attracted to it. Some people do well in it. But like anything else, no matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be things working against you. Some risks pay off. Some risks cost instead. People who dedicate years of their lives to service often have all their good work overshadowed by controversy and negative attention. To some this seems unfair. To others, simple, minor technicalities can imply larger issues; they could be just the tip of the iceberg. Whether the accusations against Susan Haynie are fair or not, they hurt Boca. Will Susan Haynie realize how much it’s hurting us and go back to just being our neighbor again?
I was one of those people who heard about Susan Haynie’s failure to declare certain business relationships and thought at first: “how minor – how silly”. Despite others around me alluding to large ice shelves of malfeasance soon to float up into view, I am not looking forward to any more. I personally am tired of hearing about how she was negligent in filling out some tedious forms and really don’t care what the legal ramifications of it are. The legal technicalities of it have flown over my head too many times. I can’t pretend to understand what she did wrong. Something with forms or declaring or something.
She’s not someone who deserves to have people whisper “treachery” behind her back, but instead a person who deserves to be smiled at when you see her. No matter what your political opinions are about her she’s still our neighbor, still someone who calls your community home. She’ll probably have to deal with all sorts of PR and maybe even legal problems moving forward, enough stress with the Florida Commission on Ethics and what follows.
Maybe there’ll be one Susan Haynie going into the struggles ahead of her, another Susan Haynie coming out? People can change. People gain experiences over time that shape their character. Maybe she’ll have some time to play SimCity some day, look back and be the one who says “How could you Susan Haynie?”
It’s one thing to attack a person’s decisions, another thing to attack the politician’s person. That’s not just becoming more ineffective in 2018, it’s not what you do to a neighbor. Negative attack pieces turn my stomach and make me want to vote for the person being attacked. Ad hominem attacks against Susan Haynie or anyone who sticks their neck out into the public space are sophomoric. Recent elections have proven the Boca Raton voting audience have matured against negative media and developed savvy to sniff out insincerity. Other people can throw sticks, rocks and mud like cavemen. That’s their prerogative. I’m not going to waste my energy on something that backfires.
My pie in the sky ideals against ad-hominem attacks aren’t favored by political consultants. Many still want to go negative – they think it still works. The mudslinging and bad news about Susan Haynie’s form-filling skills aren’t going to stop. As she attempts to put this behind her, even if she goes on to get a seat on the County Commission there will be people slinging mud, stories where Boca Raton is mentioned. It won’t just be a local story but will be a story that’s relevant to everyone in the county. Boca Raton will be mentioned and people around the county will associate our city’s name with corruption, earned or not, fair or not.
The Appearance is What Matters
Sometimes someone is highly visible for a company or a brand. If that person is a sports figure, a celebrity, an influencer then they aren’t alone; they represent the entire brand, all the employees, all the vendors, all the loyal brand fans. It’s easy for them to get dropped like a hot potato when they’ve done something questionable – when keeping them means damage to the brand. They can’t be kept because that means hurting everyone else who is working so hard to achieve their common goals.
A politician isn’t so rapidly detached when it hurts the brand. A politician has to be voted out, thrown out through an embarrassing and messy process, or step down. It’s not like when a football player’s shoe endorsement contact can be cancelled overnight. The longer that politician stays in office the more negative news stories stain their constituency indirectly. Mud slung at them makes the town sound dirty.
Boca’s already got real, serious reputation problems..
It’s not easy for me to explain, to other digital marketing people, that my home is in Boca Raton. They say “Oh – SPAMMER!”. This is because Boca Raton earned the reputation of “The SPAM Capitol“. We had a few top spammers here, people who sent unsolicited emails. Whether we use email as a tactic or not it’s still super-embarrassing. I know it hurts our reputations no matter how above board our online marketing tactics are. It makes me say “I’m from the Palm Beach area” instead when I’m talking to people in my industry.
I’m sorry if I’m the one informing you of this, but that personal anecdote isn’t the only horrible reputation we already have to deal with. We’re also known as a mecca for financial scams. Can Boca Business really afford one more bad reputation? I think this matters a lot: people who are choosing to move here or to start businesses here aren’t blind to it.
- Will people want to move their residences here to fill the new planned residential units as much if they think the City is corrupt?
- Will they think it’s safe? Or do they need to consider whether a bridge is going to collapse on them because of cronyism like at FIU?
- Will people want to move their businesses here, or worse yet do business with those of us already here if we have a reputation of being corrupt?
I hope for Boca’s sake that Susan Haynie weighs the cost to Boca Raton’s brand (high), the measurable cost to all of us, against how much good she believes she can do in the future (probably lower than average given all the baggage). Is an upstream paddle going to be easy? Will there be time to actually get things done? Is it worth stepping up to have political opponents take cheap shots and sling really sticky mud that will stick to Boca, stick to me and stick to you, for a long time too?