Earlier this week, the Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board endorsed Nicole Wilson in the District 1 Orange County Commission race, partly because she demonstrated a genuine interest in the economic plight of service class workers so vital to this region’s economy.
That issue also is driving our endorsements in the other two County Commission races. The pandemic has demonstrated how economically vulnerable tens of thousands of workers in this region are, and the need for Orange County to realign its policies more toward protecting their interests.
Interests like better transportation, more affordable housing and programs that help these families live lives that are happier and more secure. The county has, after all, played a central role in building an economy that relies so heavily on jobs that don’t pay very well. The least it could do is show more interest in helping those workers.
Both of these county races are district-only voting, which means only people who live in those districts may cast a ballot. Also, because they’re nonpartisan races, they’ll go to a runoff in the fall if no single candidate gets a majority of the votes.
Mayra Uribe in District 3
In the short time she’s been in office, Mayra Uribe’s earned a reputation as a hard-working, dedicated member of the County Commission for this district, which includes Azalea Park, Conway, Pine Castle, Edgewood and Belle Isle.
Reputation is a good thing, but when it came down to making a tough vote, Uribe demonstrated her willingness to shake things up. She was on of three votes against giving Universal $125 million in county money toward building a road the company needs for a theme park it had planned before the pandemic. That took guts.
We’re aware that Uribe has accepted a great deal of campaign money from contributors representing developers and tourism interests, groups that are against some of the changes we believe are needed. Like a serious re-evaluation of how tourist tax money is spent.
We’re also willing to give Uribe a chance to prove she has the best interests of her constituents in mind. She’s only been in office since 2018, when Pete Clarke resigned from the District 3 seat to run for county mayor.
Clarke is back, trying to regain the seat he surrendered to seek higher office. Clarke’s been on the right side of a some issues, like curbing human trafficking and voting against a large development proposed east of the Econlockhatchee River.
But he was on the commission for six years, plenty of time to propose changes the kind of disruptive, structural changes that would benefit people who’ve been left behind. The other challenger, Bill Moore, a retired Orlando Police Department officer with some good ideas but not enough of an argument for voters to dump the incumbent.
We think Uribe deserves another term to show she’s willing to cut against the political grain and work on behalf of the region’s under-represented workers.
Emily Bonilla in District 5
There’s no question Emily Bonilla has been a disruptive force on the County Commission since her election in 2016 in an upset victory of Ted Edwards, an election decided primarily on growth issues. (Her district includes east Orange along with Winter Park, Maitland and portions of downtown Orlando.)
In fact, Bonilla’s developed a reputation for being too disruptive, to the point where she’s alienating fellow commissioners. We get the need for collegiality, though we also wonder whether the issue would get as much attention if she were a man.
Regardless, Bonilla’s been an advocate for the less fortunate and recognizes clearly the necessity of making Orange County not just business friendly but also worker friendly. She voted against giving public money to Universal for its road and more recently spoke loudly and clearly abut the folly of proceeding with a convention center expansion.
She also showed at a recent commission meeting her willingness to eventually revisit the way Orange County’s massive tourist tax pot of money is spent
One of Bonilla’s challengers is former state Rep. Mike Miller, whose unsuccessful run for Congress in 2018 had him firmly in the Russia investigation “witch hunt” camp.
Miller’s voting record in the Legislature had its ups and downs, but he does not strike us as a county commissioner that’s going to shake up the status quo. Neither does a third candidate, in the race, Anjali Vaya, a business owner.
Bonilla should have another term to more effectively advocate for ideas that we think need to get a fair hearing on the commission and in the community, especially now that the pandemic has made economic inequality even more obvious than before.
Election endorsements are the opinion of the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board, which consists of Opinion Editor Mike Lafferty, Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio, Jay Reddick, David Whitley and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell participates in interviews and deliberations. To watch the candidate interviews, go to OrlandoSentinel.com/interviews.
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