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Barbara Clowdus: common sense vs. status quo

Barbara Clowdus: common sense vs. status quo
Leo Arbeznik, Images in Paradise

“Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The prophetic nature of this profound thought has only been amplified over time, especially in our south Florida reality when its obvious absence threatens small businesses, wildlife and our waterways.

Barbara Clowdus, a candidate for County Commission District 4 in Martin County, Fla, has been referred to as the “common sense” candidate. While the phrase infuses hope in her supporters, acting upon this purely American, but regrettably archived paradigm, extends to us the blueprint for saving the environment and supporting local communities and businesses in a balanced and sustainable fashion.

The best illustration of how disastrous the lack of common sense can be is a recent, surreal drama that could push Flash Beach Grille’s successful owners, Robert and Anita Breinig, out of business for violating the terms of their Preserve Area Management Plan – a 40-by-70 foot piece of property, which is just a little patch of land they use for storage. As a result, the fate of one of the highly ranked restaurants of Hobe Sound was pending due to the bureaucratic machine that does its best to ruin a thriving business or make its owners’ lives miserable, evoking doom-and-gloom images.

Featured in the February issue of Martin County Currents by Barbara Clowdus, the column about Flash Beach Grille’s fate revealed the total absurdity of the whole issue and its ontological injustice. Where common sense rules, business people won’t be spending money on lawyers to defend the cause that should be emerging only in the theater of the absurd. In this, as in many other of Barbara Clowdus’s featured columns, politics and journalism are intertwined in a most congruent way, rising above the box of rigid inefficient models that hurt both Martin County communities and our ecosystems.

A brilliant journalist and writer, publisher and chief editor of Currents, Barbara Clowdus personifies a new type of politician who efficiently synchronizes politics and journalism – not to cater to the special groups as some critics and competitors have insinuated in ongoing debates, but to outreach to all Martin County residents, addressing the vital issues with integrity and insightful perspectives that we all relate to. As Thomas Carlyle once said, writing gives “a tongue that others will listen to.”

Born in Homestead, 30 miles south of Miami, Barbara Clowdus was connected with nature since early childhood, spending every weekend in Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. Love and compassion for wildlife and nature in general became her inner philosophy, sparking her journalistic and reporting career. A wife and mother of five children she moved to West Virginia where she adopted a three-old-boy and began her administrative career in coal mining, and her journalism career in community newspapers. She returns to Florida as one of West Virginia’s “Outstanding Women,” the state’s first woman Rotarian, winner of numerous Press Association awards, including first place in investigative reporting for uncovering river pollution from coal mining. She also served as public relations and communications director for West Virginia Wesleyan College for nine years, reports the Martin County Republican Party web page.

In her eye-opening articles against ongoing fertilizer runoff to the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River, Barbara Clowdus triggered a definite paradigm shift in public opinion, going beyond the status quo stance of current local commissioners. As she admitted in one of her interviews, after watching County Commission meetings for her newspaper, “ I realized then that far too many of the decisions were not based in common sense, much of the reasoning conflicted earlier decisions by the same commissioners, and their spoken stances—particularly regarding the environment and small business—did not match their actions behind the dais. My concern grew, along with my awareness. The lack of leadership I saw to address the two major assaults on our quality of life: unabated pollution of our waterways and an unacceptable, life-altering increase in rail traffic at the same time that our infrastructure was crumbling over the last four years, also deeply troubled me. Our commission majority's answer has been to raise taxes, instead of addressing wasteful spending, supporting our existing small businesses and expanding our tax base within our urban districts”.

At the same time, Barbara Clowdus’s political discourse is not just about reversing of a negative trend we are facing right now, but her determination and willingness to transcend in local politics the culture of “staying in a comfort zone” that benefits only the few and overlooks the rest. By interlacing journalism and politics, Barbara Clowdus empowers both for a common good, overcoming embedded archetypes of polarity and opening a new page in American political consciousness.