Tiger Bay Club held its second Sarasota County Commission candidate forum for District 4 candidates.
Moderator Susan Nilon from WSRQ Radio questioned the four candidates, Lourdes Ramirez and Al Maio, Republican, Ray Porter, Democrat, and John Minder, no affiliation, at Michael's On East.
During the debate Al Maio received a mix of pointed questions and applause from the crowd.
One member questioned his stance of being fiscally conservative when he approved of a budget that included the expense of 26 $3,500 trashcans as a part of the Siesta Key Beach renovation project.
“You can’t just go to Home Depot and buy a $7 Rubbermaid,” Maio said.
He said he went to the Parks and Recreation Department to learn more about the requirements for the trashcan.
The trash can had to meet a certain level of quality, including hurricane safety requirements and rust resistant, he said.
“As a community we tend to just pick the extremely titillating sexy little sound bites to try to ridicule somebody,” Maio said, to which some in the audience applauded.
Another asked if elected, would Maio be a commissioner of the developer because of the 18% of fundraising he received from developers, to which he responded with a list of other 62% of donations he received from small businesses, individuals and community groups.
Ramirez and Maio both said they would not vote to eliminate fiscal neutrality in the Sarasota 2050 plan. Lourdes said specifically she did not support the proposed changes to the fiscal neutrality into 2050 because she did not want to see development costs transferred onto the taxpayer.
Porter and Maio said they would support the county continuing to look for a Come As You Are Shelter. Ramirez and Minder said they would not support continuing the search.
“We have local services and we should work with them,” Ramirez said. She did not think the county should have to have sole responsibility of the shelter.
Porter said he thought the county could go forward and take responsibility for the shelter, especially for the chronically homeless who needed the resource.
The shelter is needed, and needs to be close to the homeless, Maio said. He would not support a shelter somewhere that the homeless issue could be “tucked away,” but the location needed to be carefully considered in terms of its proximity to schools and retirement communities. The shelter needed to be a shared responsibility with the city, he said.
All four candidates spoke in favor of supporting public transportation. Maio said he wanted to see shelters at the stops, because when he drove by he noticed kids and parents sitting in the grass or standing in ditches while out in the sun waiting for the bus.
“If you’re going to have public transit, you need to accommodate people riding it,” he said.
Ramirez agreed with Maio and said she would like to see more frequency in the schedules, as was recently implemented on Siesta Key with an additional route to the beaches. She also said she supported infill development because it could increase the use of public transportation.
“The buses are essential to our economy,” Minder said, although he said he would like to see the bus fleet made up of smaller buses.
However, when asked if or when they had ridden a SCAT bus, Maio and Minder admitted to never having ridden on one, and Ramirez and Porter’s last time was ten years or longer ago.