Contested elections are always better than someone taking office unopposed, and this year we have an incumbent and a challenger for Seat 3 and three newcomers for Seat 4.

Having interviewed all of the candidates who made time for us, seen them at public events and reviewed their campaign materials and websites, we recommend Helen Moore for a second term in Seat 3 and Jim Boldt for Seat 4.

Citing busy schedules, two candidates — Sandy Sibley, Moore’s opponent, and Jen Lewis, one of the Seat 4 candidates — weren’t interviewed.

Because an interview is a major component of forming our recommendations, our policy is not to recommend someone we didn’t talk to.

We consider talking to the media to be part of a Council member’s job, not because we hold an exalted position but because it’s an effective way to communicate with thousands of constituents.

But Moore, whom we interviewed, isn’t getting our recommendation by default. She has a broad range of community involvement stretching back 30 years and has five years on the Planning Commission and three on the Council under her belt. That’s the kind of background you’d want in a member of your city’s governing body.

Sibley’s campaign has been long on sound bites and catchphrases and short on details.

For example, she told the audience at a recent forum that she would have voted differently from Moore if she’d been on the Planning Commission, without offering any examples.

Her civic involvement has been minimal and she hasn’t shown a real grasp of the issues the Council will be dealing with in the future — certainly not enough to replace Moore.

Lewis also isn’t as prepared as she should be for a Council seat.

Addressing the issue of annexations at the forum, she said her vote would depend on what the property is to be used for. That’s a logical position, except for the fact that the applicant isn’t required to say, and may not even know.

Candidate Chris Simmons is running mainly on an environmental platform. He noted, for example, that stormwater ponds aren’t doing the job they’re supposed to, and that much of their outflow ends up in the Gulf.

Simmons has deep knowledge on the environment that the city would be well advised to tap into, but he’s not as well versed on other issues he’d be dealing with right after taking office.

Boldt acknowledged that he’s still “learning the ropes,” but he has met with most city officials and become somewhat familiar with documents that influence if not control actions the city can take.

In discussing annexation, he was the only candidate beside Moore who mentioned the joint planning agreement with the county that lays out the future of the land between them.

He was also the only one besides Moore to say that annexation brings in revenue from people who would be using city services anyway, and gives the city a lot of influence over what’s happening at its border.

Between Simmons and Boldt, we think Boldt will be most like Rich Cautero, the Council member he’ll be replacing: moderate and focused on the big picture.

We recommend Helen Moore and Jim Boldt for Venice City Council.

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