More than 50 people filed into the Waldemere Fire Station for the Tuesday night forum, while a controversial Walmart appeal took place on the other side of Sarasota at City Hall.
Sarasota City Commission candidate Pete Theisen began the Arlington Park Neighborhood Association candidate forum with attacks on opponents Richard Dorfman and Kelvin Lumpkin.
Theisen, who lost the 2011 election for the City Commission with 1% of the votes cast and the 2009 election with 7% of votes cast, called Dorfman an outsider and said that Lumpkin, a pastor at Light of the World International Church, “made a deal with the devil for campaign support.”
“After Pete’s introduction of my background and skill set I’m not sure of what I could possibly add,” Dorfman joked.
Sarasota Military Academy cadet Powell Stone, an 18-year-old teacher’s assistant in the speech and debate class at the SMA, moderated the forum. Robert Atwell stood in for his wife, Mayor Suzanne Atwell, who was at the City Commission meeting.
“It’s nice to get a fresh view on everything,” said Stone, a North Port resident.
Candidates used the word “balance” more than 30 times — mostly to describe the relationship between neighborhoods and new development.
Dorfman and Lumpkin said expanding the tax roll with new development and finding efficiencies within the Sarasota Police Department budget are keys in reducing the city’s deficit.
Lumpkin suggested a credit for police officers to live within city limits.
“I don’t think we can tax our way out, and I don’t think we can continue to cut services,” Lumpkin said.
Linda Holland echoed the sentiment, but specified the sparsely developed Rosemary District as an opportunity.
“I think that’s an area where the youth and arts-and-culture generators can all come together,” Holland said.
Current City of Sarasota Planning Board Commissioner Susan Chapman said she supported economic gardening. The economic development tool, which Littleton, Colo., developed in the late 1980s, aims to equip companies past their start-up phase with marketing and finance tools.
That’s opposed to offering economic incentives, such as tax breaks or low-interest loans, to lure firms from outside the region.
“Land development isn’t the only economic-development tool, and we need to be aware that’s true,” Chapman said.
The Walmart appeal continued for more than two hours after the candidate forum ended before 9 p.m.
“I think the candidates behaved themselves,” said Arlington Park Neighborhood Association President Rick Farmer after the forum.
Sarasota City Commission candidates agreed the city’s fiscal crisis is one of the most important issues of the next year, but they disagree on how to alleviate it. They did agree that it hinges on a pension agreement with the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
“I think (the Rosemary District) is an area where the youth and arts-and-culture generators can all come together.”
— Linda Holland
“Sooner or later this city, this county and other municipalities are going to have to face tax increases.” — Robert Atwell, on behalf of his wife, Mayor Suzanne Atwell
“I think I’m one of the candidates who puts it on the line — keeping the neighborhoods safe from predators — white-collar predators — and the other kind.” — Pete Theisen
“Land development isn’t the only economic development tool and we need to be aware of that’s true.” — Susan Chapman
“Unless we come up with ways to embrace bringing in business, we have to really look at the issues that keep business away.”
— Richard Dorfman
“We’ve got to make sure the world knows the city’s a safe place.” — Kelvin Lumpkin