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INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SIMS

THE FRESHEST FACE ON THE LOCAL POLITICAL LANDSCAPE SPEAKS HIS MIND ON GOVERNMENT, TAXES, EDUCATION AND BUSINESS.

HE WAS BORN JOHN BRYANT SIMS III ON AUGUST 1, 1958 IN MIAMI , FLORIDA . AS A MEMBER OF MANY HIGHLY TECHNICAL AND ENGINEERING ORGANIZATIONS, THE NAVY VETERAN’S COGNOMEN "SONNY BOY" (AFTER SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON) WAS GIVEN FOR PUSHING THE LIMITS OF THE HARMONICA’S ROLE IN BLUEGRASS WHERE HE PLAYED IN A BAND WHILE SERVING OUR COUNTRY. WHEN HE LAUNCHED HIS CAREER AS A TECHNICAL PROFESSIONAL AT AGE 22, HE CHANGED HIS OUTLOOK ON LIFE. HE WAS IN VIRGINIA AT THE TIME AND LEARNED HOW TO SURVIVE ON HIS OWN. INDEED, IF THERE'S ONE THING YOU CAN SAY ABOUT JOHN SIMS, IT'S THAT HIS MANY AND VARIED REFLECT THE CHAMELEON-LIKE CHANGES HE'S MADE IN HIS 52 YEARS--AND THE CHANGES HE MAY WELL MAKE FOR HIMSELF, HIS CITY, COUNTY, STATE--HECK, MAYBE EVEN HIS COUNTRY--IN YEARS TO COME.

After living with the nickname "Little Johnny" during his youth days for his 6-foot-2-inch, 150-pound frame, Sims called himself "The Dragon" when he became a weekly controversial talk-show guest. Sims launched his political career in 2006 when a local guerrilla campaign resulted in a record low turnout and his election mantra was "The Voice" of Cooper City, Florida. Then on March 29, 2007, he stunned the local political world by generating another massive grassroots response to his message, beating a veteran politician and his powerful supporters to become "The Commissioner." This despite the fact he only spent $2,500, much of it raised via the Internet, while his opponent had spent a combined $22+ thousand.

Now Sims insists on leaving behind "The Voice" sobriquet and being addressed as "The Commissioner." He has certainly gained a considerable amount of respect, and among his admirers are prominent residents and politicians of Broward County .

Although people's opinions of Sims vary greatly, some love him and some hate him. There's no denying he has made his city sit up and take notice. His fearlessness and independent thinking are clearly refreshing to a large group of residents and business owners who have grown weary of the slick political and business players who typically dominate the local headlines. Indeed, his approach may well represent a change in the political and business landscape in a way that will create trust in government and allow residents and small business to thrive.

INTERVIEWER: Less than a year into the new job, are you still having fun, or has it turned out to be very frustrating?

COMMISSIONER JOHN SIMS: I'm enjoying it very much, and I love coming to work every day for We the People, and I include myself in that designation. It's a heck of a challenge and an honor to be given the trust of the voters to fulfill this office. It's a tremendous learning experience, and yes, very frustrating dealing with the lack of leadership and knowledge from this city’s administration.

INTERVIEWER: What are some of the lessons you've learned?

SIMS: The most basic thing I've realized is that it's easy for everyone to holler for tax cuts, but in government, the law of physics prevails. I got A’s in physics classes, and I do remember the basic principle: For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. When people say cut taxes, they have to understand that you can't do it without cutting spending. Where you get into the controversy is when everyone wants you to cut what doesn't directly affect them. Cuts are inevitable and they must be made to non-essential and 'feel good' programs, not services that directly affect health, safety and welfare of the public.

You can't have it both ways. If we're going to cut taxes, then we have to cut the government's role in society in some way, which is fine by me. My definition of the government's role is that it should do only what you can't do for yourself. That's the mindset I'm trying to have prevail among my commissioners and my city, but it's a long process to change the way government has been doing things for so long. We need government at all levels to get back to the basics of why they exist, to provide essential services, such as police and fire protection, and services that protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens, not non-essential programs and 'fun stuff'.

INTERVIEWER: How can government encourage small business?

SIMS: By being a partner and looking at local business as a customer or a shareholder of the municipal corporation instead of an adversary. One thing I noticed before I came into this particular office was that any time I had to do anything with the government; it was always expensive, a headache, an unnecessary bureaucracy, extreme red tape, commissioners who really have no business leadership and a roadblock. We need to make it friendly, to support people and local businesses instead of punishing those who do the right thing and who try to generate revenue for the city. The classic example is property taxes. If you do the right thing and improve your property; the government charges you more taxes. If you let it deteriorate, it rewards you and you pay less, or they fine you and you pay more, even to the point of taking your property.

INTERVIEWER: You used the Internet a lot during your campaign, and your state has one of the highest rates for Internet usage. What should the government's attitude be on Internet regulation?

SIMS: You certainly don't want fraud, and the Web is a prime place for that. The government should oversee law-breaking, but other than that, it's probably going to be a free-for-all. I should confess that I'm computer literate, and I did not have a Webmaster, I write all of my web pages myself, which allowed me to campaign extremely cheaply. I did it all on my own. I am my own webmaster. The Internet will play a huge role in future elections.

INTERVIEWER: What should be the role of business in education?

SIMS: Business needs to play a greater part in all facets of education, especially in supporting the public and private local school systems. We need to create a partnership between education and business. We need the business sector to voice its opinion on what kids should be learning so when they graduate, they can step right into the available and critical positions in the job market. Technology is the future, so we need to be training them for that type of work. In my opinion, the day of the liberal arts degree is waning. Sports does not make kids successful, reading, writing and arithmatic does.

INTERVIEWER: How would the consumption tax you advocate impact the economy?

SIMS: I think a national sales tax instead of an income tax is a tremendous idea. It would put the government on a direct budget in line with the economy. If our forefathers knew you worked at a job and the government got paid before you did, they'd turn over in their graves. If we had a national sales tax instead of the income tax, it would encourage savings, eliminate some government corruption and everyone would pay taxes, including undocumented aliens, tourists and cottage industries that pay nothing right now.

INTERVIEWER: You're famously combative. For instance, you've had a rough-and-tumble relationship with the rest of the Commission. Any tips on how to deal with them and the press?

SIMS: I think that the big problem with the Commission and the mainstream media is that they have no sense of humor or business. When you do something tongue in cheek after you're elected, they usually think it's inappropriate. My message to them is, I will have fun whether they like it or not. We, as a Commission, have to become a collective leadership team and lead this city to greatness, not play dirty politics, I call it 'politricks', and have personality battles. We simply have to change our thought on how government operates and treat it as any other business. Our shareholders are simply the residents, business owners, developers, investors and our employees. We as a government have to do everything possible to help them be successful so that we can be successful. If not we will tax them into poverty.

Also, we all support freedom of the press and speech, but with that comes responsibility, which the media and some on the commission tends to ignore in many ways. When there is no news, they often attempt to create it in the spin that they try to put on irrelevant issues. That shouldn't be their role. They need to just report the news as it is. The media also attempts to control government decisions by using editorial influence, which is very unethical and dangerous.

INTERVIEWER: What's the key to good communication?

SIMS: Tell the truth.

INTERVIEWER: That's it?

SIMS: During a heated campaign debate, a person gave me a notepad and pen to take notes on what my opponents were saying. I gave them back and later told her I don't need a good memory as long as I tell the truth. I hardly ever use notes when I speak except for the bullet points I want to address. The truth isn't always what everyone wants to hear, but people respect you when you tell it, regardless of the subject matter.

INTERVIEWER: What's your view of term limits? Would constant turnover put officials at the mercy of the bureaucracy, and don't you need knowledge of the law to draft it?

SIMS: I don't think offices should be held for just two, three or four years. That's horrible because you barely learn the job before you have to run for re-election. At the other end of the spectrum, eight years is long enough--no one should hold office longer than the President.

INTERVIEWER: Give us a lesson from your professional history that would apply to business.

SIMS: Never assume.

INTERVIEWER: Anything?

SIMS: Never assume anything. Also, stay ahead of the curve and make it look easy. If it doesn't exist, create it. If it exists, make it better.

INTERVIEWER: OK, what did you learn from this campaign that is important to success in the wider world?

SIMS: I learned how important it is to think at the spur of the moment. I also learned to be comfortable speaking to the media and crowds of people because if I didn't communicate well, I didn't make my point and wouldn’t succeed. I learned how to motivate people to come out and spend their hard-earned dollars to see me beat the incumbent. And, of course, communication through the media plays such a big role in politics and business today. I also learned to be true to your beliefs and listen to your heart. You have to or life isn't worth living.

INTERVIEWER: Finally, what's your outlook on political reform in the country? Are you hopeful or concerned?

SIMS: I think we're on the verge of major reform. The public is becoming less apathetic and more involved. They realize now that if they don't vote, they can't complain about it.

 

                                                                                                                                             

Political advertisement paid for and approved by John Sims, Nonpartisan, for Cooper City Commissioner, District 1