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Politicking cans Shelter Bay Cinco de Mayo party


Politics is by nature a social science.

But, in Shelter Bay, questions have arisen over whether there should be a separation of politics and social gatherings, akin to that of church and state.

The community’s social and recreation committee canceled a Cinco de Mayo celebration scheduled last Thursday afternoon following publication in the Weekly News the day before of an ad that invited those attending to meet candidates seeking election to the Shelter Bay Board of Directors while enjoying their favorite adult beverages.

Shelter Bay Board President Wendy Poulton confirmed that the event had been nixed due to the content of the ad that appeared in the Weekly News, which was signed by “Concerned Residents of Shelter Bay,” and their stated intent to “change the status quo of increasing rents, deteriorating Shelter Bay grounds and reduced amenities such as no pool, yet securing a state-of-the-art marina.”

The Weekly News planned to cover the event, which was booked for the barbecue area near the Shelter Bay clubhouse, having learned only after the fact that it was for community members only – as is the case with Shelter Bay board meetings and town hall forums.

“I was saddened that the Margaritaville Happy Hour had to be canceled by our social and recreation committee,” Poulton wrote Friday in a message sent to Shelter Bay residents, “but I understand and support their reasoning. As with all SRC events, this was intended to be a community event, for community members, where we can gather with friends and neighbors in a social environment.

“Sadly,” Poulton continued, “a few days prior to the event, an ad was placed in the local newspaper indicating that the SRC event would also be a meet-and-greet opportunity for board candidates, turning the event into a political event.”

Poulton noted that Shelter Bay rules and regulations prohibit the use of community parks and barbecue areas for political, commercial or fundraising purposes.

“The SRC prides itself on hosting fun events for our community, free from political divisiveness,” said Poulton. “I appreciate all they do to make sure we have fun opportunities to socialize and look forward to the next event.”

Not everyone sees it in those terms. The Cinco de Mayo party cancellation brought charges that it was merely an attempt to silence opposition to what one social media poster termed “the clique in power.”

Scrapping the party was described as a “cheap shot,” disgraceful and among “desperate moves to keep control.”

During the past year Shelter Bay has been embroiled in litigation and last month saw the recall of board member Judy Kontos, who as a challenger had won election to the panel in 2022 on a reform platform pledging transparency and fiscal responsibility.

The newspaper ad printed last week, entitled “Opportunity for Positive Change in Shelter Bay,” contends transparency is presently lacking, citing an email communication that allegedly contains sensitive views shared only with targeted recipients.

The ad copy states that the email writer “lists personal opinions which include a slate of three preferred candidates who represent the status quo or the culture and fracturing of the board and community as they currently exist.”

But in a lengthy email sent to the Weekly News over the weekend, a Shelter Bay resident said the Cinco de Mayo party had been intended as “a closed, private event where alcohol would be served and those planning the event knew nothing about the candidates and their plan to ‘party crash.’

“They sprung it like a trap hoping to get one over on the other board candidates,” the writer said. “So, after learning of the region-wide announcement of a Shelter Bay party where the community was going to provide food and alcohol, the event was canceled by the committee. My understanding is it was an insurance/liability issue.”

Historically, though, even the nation’s founders were known to mix politics and pleasure. None other than George Washington lost his first political campaign in 1755 to the Virginia House of Burgesses because his opponent plied voters with beer, whiskey, rum punch and wine on election day. Washington lost the race 271 votes to 40.

The father of our country didn’t repeat that mistake. He made sure his voters didn’t go thirsty at the next campaign three years later. With the help of alcohol, Washington polled 331 votes and won election to colonial Virginia’s lawmaking body.


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