Three-way race to decide District 3

 

Three-way race to decide District 3

 

Date: February 17, 2011
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

No matter who wins the election, District 3 is sure to have a change in representation. With the mayor’s decision not to seek re-election, the seat is guaranteed to belong to a newcomer to city politics. Although Diana Hamilton, Shannon Snyder and Pete Theisen each have experience in civic affairs, from being active in neighborhood associations to serving on city advisory boards, none has ever held elected office in Sarasota.

DIANA HAMILTON
BIO
Age: 59
Hometown: Knoxville, Tenn.
Family: Single
Education: Attended University of Tennessee
Occupation: Garden designer

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
1. Remove obstacles in the building and zoning departments. My friends who own single-family homes struggle to get permission to improve their homes. If you have to hold someone’s hand to get them through the permitting process smoothly, hold out your hand.
2. Move the city-election date to November. There will be cost savings and better voter turnout.
3. Attract new business. We need to figure out what kinds of businesses we want here. Figure out what businesses want to be here. We should not be pawns in a bidding war with other cities.
4. Adopt a can-do attitude. Have city departments sit down with people and ask, “How can we help you?” I think city employees want to get things done. You don’t go to planning school to figure out roadblocks to things.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
Pensions do need to be adjusted. The city will contribute more than it ever has before, but defined contribution is not a valid option for police. There is not a job equal to police or fire in the private sector. There’s special risk. Could we ask someone to put on those clunky boots and bulky belts and risk their lives and then come home and worry about investing their 401(k)?

What’s your position on increasing residential densities and heights in downtown buildings?
We should absolutely increase density and get people moving downtown.

What is your view of parking meters?
It’s asking people to pay for what they use. There’s a cost to parking enforcement. We have 700 first-tier parking spaces downtown. When you drive down Main Street, people stop to try to secure a space, backing up traffic. When you have paid parking, 15% of spaces are always open.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
I’m for it. We need someone to carry us forward. Urban planner Andres Duany said he’s never had a plan succeed in a city without an elected mayor. Now we have an oligarchy. It’s five people voting against themselves. What are people afraid of?

What is your position on switching the city election to the November election cycle?
I support it. I don’t believe there will be a dropoff in votes going down the ballot (if the city election is held in November). There’s a dropoff when voters see candidates they don’t know, like judges. If they know the names, they’ll vote in those races.

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 understand we can’t spend more than we make. But they say the city has to be run like a business. What business doesn’t know that you have to spend money to make money? I’m willing to unbalance the budget to support our biggest industry — the arts. People move here because of the arts.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the city manager’s performance?
Three — max. I don’t know what he does. The only thing he has done that I can get behind is hiring Mikel Hollaway as police chief.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
Courage is contagious. I have courage. I am somebody who can see through smoke and mirrors. I am the candidate of progress and innovation, and I’m running to move our city forward.


SHANNON SNYDER
BIO
Age
: 45
Hometown: Sarasota
Family: Married with three children
Education: Attended Manatee Community College
Occupation: Retired Sarasota County sheriff’s deputy

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
I only have one priority — expand the tax base. That covers everything. We have to understand that we can’t pick and choose what we do anymore. If we don’t expand the tax base, we’ll have a much different conversation in four years. There will be serious long-term financial issues. If we don’t build, we’re in trouble.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
I opted out of the pension program (when I was a sheriff’s deputy). Law-enforcement officers have years of training with techniques and talents, which will be enticing to many employers. We risk losing qualified employees to other cities if we don’t offer a good pension. I’m in favor of offering 401(k)-style options very quickly.

What’s your position on increasing residential densities and heights in downtown buildings?
We need to tell residents the city can’t annex land and grow like that anymore. We need to kill impact fees. We need to see what we’re paying for and where it goes. The school board accounted for 78 kids at the Quay site, but they couldn’t show me where those kids actually lived. We can’t just have a blanket “Pay me.”

What is your view of parking meters?
If you don’t have complete transparency to let the public know where the money goes, it won’t work. The city wants meters to pay for parking enforcement, but with the garage on State Street coming, the parking problem will be alleviated in the most congested area of downtown. If we really have a parking problem, then enforcement should be able to pay for itself.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
On the Charter Review Board, I voted against having any future discussions about it. If the latest proposal had been the first one, it may have passed. The previous three attempts have been flawed, and I think voters have elected-mayor fatigue.

What is your position on switching the city election to the November election cycle?
I voted against it. We have a small-town feel. Our elections would probably get caught up in the emotions. We may not end up with frankness in the city elections. The cost of spring elections will come down, because of the growing popularity of early voting and the consolidation of precincts.

The commission is likely facing a budget deficit again next year. What is your position: raise the property-taax rate or find a way to cut expenses?
I will not raise the property millage rate. The city sends three guys to clean up the traffic island in front of my house that I clean by myself. When I see nickel-and-dime stuff, nobody has really looked at cutting expenses. Services have been cut, but our lifestyle hasn’t changed.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the city manager’s performance?
Five, because of the vacant Quay site. The hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted in the mooring field, without anybody being held accountable ... We need more than a good number-cruncher.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I’m the only candidate consistently trusted by elected officials with leadership. Sheriff Jeff Monge trusted me enough as a 20-year-old to put a gun in my hand. I’ve been chosen to serve on the Planning Board, Hospital Advisory Committee and now the Charter Review Committee. My resumé speaks for itself. I will have a very small learning curve.
 


PETE THEISEN
BIO
Age
: 66
Hometown: Detroit
Family: Single
Education: Bachelor’s degree in social work from University of Detroit and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine degree
Occupation: Retired acupuncturist

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
1. City-employee pensions. We have to get a handle on that retirement-funding mess. If it’s not dealt with, the city loses its bond rating and won’t be able to raise its millage rate if an emergency occurs.
2. Economic development. The city should invest in pedi-cabs. That’s green transportation. If we had a number of people getting into this, the city could subsidize pedi-cabs. It will create jobs. For families with two cars, it does away with the need for the second car.
3. Job creation. We need to get some federal money to help create jobs. I asked Rep. Vern Buchanan to use his connections with Ford (Motor Company) to put a Ford plant in Sarasota. We need a big employment center.
4. Smart growth. We’re building stuff that’s not appropriate. The city has never built affordable housing. They think affordable housing is the projects. That’s not quite the same thing.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
If the city couldn’t afford to pay pensions, it shouldn’t have promised it. But now that it promised it, it has to (follow through). We need to get some of that “hope-and-change money.” I don’t want to amend the pension program for those to whom it was promised.

What’s your position on increasing residential densities and heights in downtown buildings?
We don’t have the fire capacity for anything higher than 18 stories. The Planning Board and City Commission feel like they have to approve everything. We, instead, should work on traffic. We’re already gridlocked at certain times of day.

What is your view of parking meters?
Those are going to hit the fan. People aren’t going to like it. Downtown it costs $25 for a baseball cap and $15 for a sandwich. If people are already shell-shocked by prices downtown, K-Mart and the mall will look more attractive.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
It’s been put on the ballot three times and failed three times. Previously I supported putting it on the ballot, but I voted no, because I found out it would expand the City Commission and water down a super majority.

What is your position on switching the city election to the November election cycle?
Nobody is paying attention to the city elections now. If you compete with Obama and McCain, they’ll get even less attention. I don’t think I want the city issues overshadowed by national elections.

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?
It’s a false dilemma. We don’t necessarily have to do either. We could go outside and get grants and funding. Without grants and funding, I’d start selling the naming rights to some things. You don’t have to wait until a person dies anymore to name something after them. Some people think if taxes are raised even one mill, it will disband the city of Sarasota. I’m not saying no to raising taxes or cutting expenses, they’re just not the first things I’d do.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the city manager’s performance?
A six or seven. He’s holding it together pretty well, and he doesn’t have everyone in the city in front of his house with pitchforks and firebrands.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I’m the only District 3 candidate who’s really like the people in District 3. The other candidates are close to District 2. Their attitudes are like those in District 2. Shannon Snyder is pro-development. Diana Hamilton was the cheerleader for Ron Burks’ School Avenue project. Diana was the cheerleader of the elected-mayor push. My orientation is toward the district I’m serving.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com
 

 

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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • Perceptions are interesting. After the Marina Jack's Civic League Forum a woman scolded me: "You have to distinguish yourself from Diana!"

    Leaving aside the evidently OK status of being somewhat similar to Shannon, I pondered the difficultly the lady presented me with and I decided to draw up the differences between Diana and I into a sound bite for the closer of the next forum. BUT the moderator cut the closing off!

    I would have said: "Diana and I will never agree on the significance of the 850 approved projects - I say this proves the city is NOT anti-business or anti-development, Diana says it is a list of "paper backlog"; although I have 6 green shirts and a 60 mile per gallon ride Diana has hand watered 280 trees with a bucket against my 3 or 4 with a hose so Diana is greener and finally, if you see us together, I am the one with the short haircut."
  •  
  • Pete Theisen
    Thu 17th Feb 2011
    at 10:04pm
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