Experience at the heart of commission race

 

Experience at the heart of commission race

 

Date: February 10, 2011
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

The District 2 City Commission race is the only one of three this year to include an incumbent.

Commissioner Dick Clapp is seeking a second term. He’s facing restaurateur Paul Caragiulo, who is running for the second time.

The co-owner of Caragiulo’s Italian restaurant, Owen’s Fish Camp and Nancy’s Bar-B-Q faced eight other candidates in his first election in 2009 and lost in a runoff with current commissioners Suzanne Atwell and Terry Turner.

Caragiulo touts his business roots and says it’s time for a commissioner with business sense and business experience.

Clapp cites his experience on the commission and says the reputation some have assigned him as a no-growth supporter is misguided.


DICK CLAPP
BIO
Age
: 67
Hometown: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Family: Married with three children and three grandchildren
Education: Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Western Michigan University; master’s degree in interdisciplinary science; doctorate in physical chemistry from Institute of Paper Chemistry
Occupation: Retired engineer in the paper industry

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
1. City-employee pensions. Absolutely the No. 1 issue is the pension issue. It’s unsustainable.

2. North Trail redevelopment. We have a good start. I got the businesses to organize into the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership, (which is) looking at adopting a form-based code.

3. Diversification of the economy. There is a demand for technology, high-speed (Internet) connectivity. We approved hitching onto the county’s optical-fiber system. We’ll lay our own fiber up and down (Tamiami) Trail. That will be the backbone. It will lead to more technology businesses.

4. Make sure Sarasota’s existing businesses remain viable. Our two big (industries) are tourism and the arts. One way we’ve supported tourism is with the (Baltimore Orioles) baseball deal. The city no longer subsidizes Ed Smith Stadium. Having baseball will be an economic benefit. For the arts, we’ve cut the subsidy for the Van Wezel. It had a $1.6 million subsidy in my first year in office. Last year it was positive by about $250,000. We also took the gamble to put $100,000 behind the Ringling International Arts Festival. That will bring people here.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
I would like to see a 401(k) plan for all city employees, including police officers. On police pensions we’re at an impasse. If a magistrate is not able to broker a deal, the City Commission would end up ruling on a one-year agreement. A police sergeant retiring after 25 years in service would initially make annual salary of $55,000, which would increase 3.2% per year. After 30 years, he would be making $127,000. If the current police-union contract stays in place, the city would end up paying more than $300 million in police pensions. If no changes are made for general employees, their pensions would cost the city more than $200 million.

What specific actions can the City Commission initiate that would spur economic development?
North Trail and Rosemary District are well-positioned for redevelopment. We can get higher densities and more mixed-use (development) there. One issue on the North Trail is the demographics of the people. Their purchasing power is on the low side, which has to be addressed. Public housing has positively affected that with higher densities. In Rosemary, we changed the zoning, so it’s ready for redevelopment. Another plus is bus rapid transit, (a proposal that would create a high-speed bus line through Sarasota).
The BRT would drive a lot of redevelopment in Rosemary.

What is your view of parking meters?

It’s a small area (being affected.) We need (revenue) to maintain the Palm Avenue parking garage and pay for parking enforcement.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
Voters told us strongly that they don’t want it. We have a system that works.

What is your position on switching the city election to the November election cycle?
There are pros and cons. Is it better to have the city on the bottom of a November ballot that’s filled with partisan races? The political parties and PACs would get involved, and we’re supposed to be non-partisan. I’d rather see an all-mail-in ballot, which would reduce costs.

The commission is likely facing a budget deficit again next year. What is your position: Raise the property-tax rate or find a way to cut expenses?
We have to cut expenses or raise revenue. If we raise taxes, businesses will bear the brunt of it, and we’re trying to help businesses.

Will you pledge not to raise the property-tax rate?
I would do that. We have to live within our means. It has been difficult cutting back, but the city is not suffering.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the city manager’s performance?
An eight or nine. (Bob Bartolotta) is a very good city manager. He predicted the budget situation and went to work right away and made some important, but politically unpopular, decisions. He’s not the most charismatic person and keeps things close to the vest. I’ve counseled him on getting out more and getting feedback from people. He’s done that.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I’m flexible. I try to find a solution that will benefit everybody. If you don’t get together and talk, you get suspicious. I’ve worked really hard to pull together neighborhood groups and businesses. A lot of people paint me as no-growth. That’s not really true. I created the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership. The Chamber of Commerce came to me (to serve as an adviser). I voted for the Proscenium. I did vote against Pineapple Square but only because I felt the city was giving away too much. I disagree with those who say neighborhood groups are pulling me around.


PAUL CARAGIULO
BIO
Age
: 36
Hometown: East Rockaway, N.Y.
Family: Married with two children
Education: Degree from Monmouth College
Occupation: Co-owner of three Sarasota restaurants

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?

1. City-employee pensions. We need to figure out what has to be done to save money today. We need to stop the bleeding.

2. Remove obstacles for business. It’s not a good idea to have a public hearing on any project over 1,000 square feet. That’s excessive and invasive. Ask people who do business outside of Sarasota. They say it’s the joke of Florida.

3. Ending inappropriate use of Community Redevelopment Agency money. We have two CRA districts. More than half of its budget is used for “miscellaneous administration” uses. That’s not what the CRA is intended for. That money is being used to operate the city, instead of redevelopment.

4. Examine potential threats to public safety. The police department’s gang-safety program has been cut. Community policing has been reduced. There should be a reallocation of funds to community policing.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
(General) city employees should make defined contributions. I think city employees should be contributing more. Increases in (pension payouts) have to be tied to (increased) revenue. I’m not willing to look at police officers the same way.

What specific actions can the City Commission initiate that would spur economic development?
Too much emphasis is placed on massive business and development projects in town. An enormous number of people do things on a mom-and-pop basis. That’s who is really affected by (City Hall’s) policies.

What is your view of parking meters?
If anything is true, the city is incapable of dealing with parking. In two years, the city lost $1.2 million from its parking fund. I won’t support meters until I see a comprehensive parking plan, which would include assigning value and cost to certain parking spaces. Everything done so far has been willy-nilly. I’m in favor of meters downtown if there’s a parking plan, not just because (the parking department) is losing money.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
I support an elected mayor.

What is your position on switching the city election to the November election cycle?
I support it.

The commission is likely facing a budget deficit again next year. What is your position: Raise the property-tax rate or find a way to cut expenses?
I would look to cut services and staff before raising taxes.

Will you pledge not to raise the property-tax rate?
Raising taxes has to be a weapon of last resort. I don’t think we need to raise taxes.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the city manager’s performance?
Between a four and six. I’m not crazy about the city manager. I think he’s a dinosaur. He has a self-preservation, circle-the-wagons mentality to save his job. The job he’s done is not acceptable.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I have a serial need to get things done. A longer-term vision is what’s lacking on the commission. We need to inject new ideas. I want to bring a small-business owner’s perspective to the commission. No straw poll (of small-business owners) is needed. I can tell you first-hand.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com

 

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