Election 2014: Sarasota County Commission

 

Election 2014: Sarasota County Commission

 

Date: July 30, 2014
by: Observer Staff

 
 

This is the first of a three-week installment featuring candidate questionnaires for the local races in the Aug. 26 primary election. This week includes candidates for the Sarasota County Commission and the Manatee County School Board.

Sarasota County Commission District 2

Paul Caragiulo
Age: 39
Family: Married with three children
Education: Cardinal Mooney High School, Monmouth College, Manatee Community College, Accademia Verdiana
Occupation: City commissionner, restaurateur

 

• What is your position on a taxpayer-funded “come-as-you-are” homeless shelter?
The city and county must continue to work together to implement Dr. Robert Marbut’s recommendations. I am in support of a CAYA shelter/jail diversion program, as it is one Dr. Marbut’s recommendations. However, this plan can only be effective if we stop enabling our homeless population and start engaging it.

 • Do you think the 2050 plan should be changed? If so, how and why? If not, why not?
In order for 2050 to be successful, I believe changes should be made. More attention should be directed to better preserving open space, wildlife corridors and greenways rather than strict ratios of residential and commercial development. Our county includes four municipalities, so our planning should be more collaborative and regional. These goals can be accomplished without placing a burden on taxpayers.

• On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent, how would you rate the business climate in Sarasota County? What policies would you recommend to improve it?
“6.” I would focus specifically on drafting a clearer process for permitting and approvals, one small business owners can rely on. For those who enter the process without legal or professional assistance, there is a sense that the norm is to move the goal line further and further away.

• What is your position on how bed-tax revenues are allocated?
I am in favor of using more of the funds for capital projects, provided there is a strategic plan. At the very least, it is something that should be reviewed on a more frequent basis.

• What is your position on using tax dollars to provide tax subsidies to companies based on jobs created? Is that a proper role for the County Commission?
Tax abatement, expedited permitting processes, etc. are all fine. I am not in favor of writing checks to private businesses. I would have to see some hard facts on why this is necessary.

• If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
1: Limiting taxes and controlling the budget: As a small business owner, I know what it means to sign the front of a paycheck, not just the back. In the private sector, prudent and responsible fiscal management is crucial; government should operate in a similar manner.

2: Preserving our quality of life: We have an extremely attractive community, which is why people come here. If we allow our standards to lower, we risk our long-term economic sustainability. Protecting and even enhancing our quality of life is paramount. That means safe and accessible roadways, sidewalks, parks, beaches and neighborhoods.

3: Diversifying our economy/creating real jobs: An economic system that relies on a handful of industries will be less resilient when times are tough. A more diverse economic base is needed. Also, we must foster a business-friendly environment by allowing those who create jobs to do so.


Shannon Snyder
• AGE: 48
• FAMILY: Married with five children
• EDUCATION: Sarasota High School, Manatee Community College
• OCCUPATION: Sarasota city commissioner, retired after 25 years with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

 

• What is your position on a taxpayer-funded “come-as-you-are” homeless shelter?
A “come-as-you-are” shelter will NOT solve the problem. It has no requirements on the homeless and will only perpetuate the increase of homelessness in our community.

Chronic homelessness is costly to our community. Currently, 20% of our county jail population is homeless. We cannot arrest our way out of the problem. I believe a better alternative is to establish a program that addresses mental health and substance abuse among our homeless. We all agree that we want a clean and safe downtown. I do not support building a come-as-you-are shelter. It will not solve the homeless problem in Sarasota.

• Do you think the 2050 plan should be changed? If so, how and why? If not, why not?
I am opposed to changing the 2050 plan. The abandonment of fiscal neutrality will place the cost of growth onto the taxpayer. It will also set up competition for infrastructure dollars at the cost of South County projects. In my many years of serving on the city planning board, I have learned the negative effects that urban sprawl has on our community. Only with proper planning, will Sarasota County maintain its high quality of life.

• On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent, how would you rate the business climate in Sarasota County? What policies would you recommend to improve it?
I rate the business climate at a “7.” Sarasota County government should not be picking winners and losers. We should make sure all policies are equal and fair to all industries. Also, work with Tallahassee to eliminate tangible tax.

• What is your position on how bed-tax revenues are allocated?
We need to make sure the revenue is spread throughout Sarasota County, not just in select areas.

• What is your position on using tax dollars to provide tax subsidies to companies based on jobs created? Is that a proper role for the County Commission?
If a subsidy is required, you don’t have a business plan you have a welfare application. If you give tax dollars to one group, it had to come from somewhere else. Sarasota County should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.

• If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
1) Returning integrity to Sarasota County government: If you want status quo, I am not your candidate. I decided to run when the county ethics officer was fired.

2) I will represent taxpayer interests, not special interests. As a city commissioner, I have never voted to raise property taxes. I have never voted to raise business taxes. As a county commissioner, I will hold the budget at the current tax level.


Sarasota County Commission District 4

Alan Maio
• Age: 64
• Family: Married with three children and three grandchildren
• Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting, Seton Hall University
• Occupation: Owner of a vacation rental business in Gatlinburg, Tenn.; former owner of the two Frosted Mug Restaurants in Sarasota County from 1984 until 1996; principal in national planning, engineering, environmental and landscape architecture firm, Kimley-Horn and Associates for 17 years until retirement in April.

 

• What is your position on a taxpayer-funded “come-as-you-are” homeless shelter?
I support the need for a shelter. The location should be near the services to be provided. We should help those who need our help. We should also be careful and conscious of the impact the facility will have on neighboring schools, senior facilities and businesses.

• Do you think the 2050 plan should be changed? If so, how and why? If not, why not?
The Sarasota 2050 Plan is a voluntary overlay district that seeks to achieve compact development with large open spaces. It protects environmental features and greenways, while at the same time requires fiscal neutrality. It also lays out where locations for villages, settlements and hamlets are intended. It protects property rights. Fiscal neutrality is an important element as we plan our future. It would be a very big mistake to carve up the land in eastern Sarasota County into five-and/or 10-acre ranchettes, as some candidates have proposed.


• On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent, how would you rate the business climate in Sarasota County? What policies would you recommend to improve it?
I would rate our business climate an “8,” and note that it has gotten appreciably better. We need the continued progress of staff treating applicants like clients and customers. Staff should work to foster repeat business, making sure rules do not contradict themselves. We further need a continued path for quick review by a supervisor when a rule does not make sense and should not apply.

• What is your position on how bed-tax revenues are allocated?
A very good job has been done. In coming years if revenues continue to grow, we should take some of the additional funds, leverage them with bonds, and build facilities to continue to attract new and repeat visitors.

• What is your position on using tax dollars to provide tax subsidies to companies based on jobs created? Is that a proper role for the County Commission?
I have built my companies without help from tax subsidies. Recent changes that require jobs to happen before, not in anticipation of, possible jobs make me more comfortable. I still want to see and quantify the successes and failures.

• If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
1. Control the budget and taxes: As an experienced small business owner with a degree in accounting, I am serious about controlling budgets. I know we need to keep our expenses in line and live within our means to keep taxes low for our families, seniors and business owners.

2. Grow and diversify our economy: To sustain a vibrant community, we must grow and diversify our economy. Making Sarasota County an even better place to do business will create job opportunities for today’s workers and our  children in the future.

3. Make our quality of life even better: We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful community, and I am committed to preserving and improving our wonderful quality of life. As your county commissioner, I will always make this my top priority.

Lourdes Ramirez
Age: 52
Family: Married, no children
Education: Master of Business Administration, Iona College
Occupation: Business marketing consultant

 

 • What is your position on a taxpayer-funded “come-as-you-are” homeless shelter?
Homelessness is a complex problem that requires a variety of solutions. I believe focusing so much attention on the come-as-you-are shelter will not solve the homeless situation. We need to work with existing not-for-profits and the Sheriff’s Office on helping the homeless. Our government must also work on the lack of affordable housing in our area.

• Do you think the 2050 plan should be changed? If so, how and why? If not, why not?
The Sarasota 2050 plan should not be changed because it already provides enough incentives. Sarasota 2050 was a compromise that allowed high-density development in exchange for walkable communities, environmental protection and fiscal neutrality, which means development infrastructure costs, such as new roads and schools, should not burden the Sarasota County taxpayers. Sarasota taxpayers should not shoulder the burden of new development infrastructure costs.

• On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent, how would you rate the business climate in Sarasota County? What policies would you recommend to improve it?
I would rate it as a “7.” Small businesses need help from the county through improved roads, more parking and increased public transportation. We need to improve the planning process to ensure there is an adequate infrastructure. According to the latest census, Sarasota has more firms (46,000) than our neighboring counties, Manatee (30,000) and Charlotte (14,000). I believe our quality of life attracts and keeps businesses in Sarasota County.

• What is your position on how bed-tax revenues are allocated?
We should continue to use bed taxes as we have in the past. The bed tax should continue to be used for marketing Sarasota County, as well as for the arts and maintenance of beaches, all crucial to our economy.

• What is your position on using tax dollars to provide tax subsidies to companies based on jobs created? Is that a proper role for the County Commission?
As our economy improves, we should instead focus on attracting businesses by offering low property taxes along with great schools, good roads and other high quality of life standards. Previously, some businesses that received financial incentives failed. The county then fine-tuned its requirements for businesses to receive the incentives, which was a necessary part of stimulating the economy during the recession. The County Commission should now focus on improving our quality of life.

• If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
Fiscal responsibility and accountability: As Sarasota County faces a deficit in 2017 with a long list of unfunded major capital projects, we need to tighten budgets and not spend money on things we don’t absolutely need. Our tax dollars should be allocated to essential government services, such as safety (sheriff and fire) and improved roads. We should not make deals with developers to discount the purchase of county-owned land.

Ethics: The county must be transparent and ethical. We need to create an independent ethics commission elected by Sarasota County voters. We should also put all county commissioners’ emails online (instead of the 1% now displayed).

Being the voice of you, the citizens: As an advocate of the citizens of Sarasota County for 12 years, I have listened our local citizens’ concerns and comments. Citizens have asked for better roads and more fiscal accountability and expect high ethics and integrity from our leaders. As a county commissioner, I will continue to work hard as our citizens’ advocate.

 

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