Business sense versus community activism

 

Business sense versus community activism

 

Date: February 24, 2011
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

The first installment of a two-part profile of the District 1 City Commission race features candidates Richard Dorfman and Linda Holland. Dorfman, a new resident, has a strong business background, including his position as the director of broadcasting for the National Basketball Association. Holland, on the other hand, said people — not finances — are her strong suit. Backing up that claim are her 30 years of activism in Sarasota, including time on more than a dozen boards and advisory councils.

Richard Dorfman
BIO
Age: 59
Hometown: Manhattan, N.Y.
Family: Divorced
Education: Business and communications degrees from American University
Occupation: Sports agent

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
1. Pension problem. It’s an iceberg running into the Titanic, and we’re only seeing the tip on the surface.

2. Job creation and North Trail redevelopment. Things like urban chicken keeping and sizes of signs should be debated in another forum, and things like job creation and economic development get priority for staff and commissioners’ time.

3. Police services and public safety. We need to take a hard look at them and see whether we’re giving police the right tools and see if their focus is in the right area.

4. Creating more of a can-do environment in the City Commission. The first thing to do is create an environment in City Hall where potential businesses have a good chance of getting a green light.
Business owners and developers are afraid to put more money into projects, because they’re not sure they’ll get approved.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
We have to change the methodology, especially in the police department. We have to go to a 401(k)-style plan. The current plan is unsustainable. It will sink the city.

What specific actions can the City Commission initiate that would spur economic development?
You’ve got 30%-plus unemployment in parts of District 1. If we can bring in businesses, it will be a three-part domino effect. Once those businesses are in place, then the slum and blight go away. You’ll push the bad elements out.

What’s your position on increasing residential densities and heights in downtown buildings?
There are areas that lend themselves to higher density, and North Trail is a prime example. But neighborhood groups have such a bugaboo about doing any project. Let’s get people together and talk. It’s that simple. We’re making it so difficult. Let’s not build a wall in the face of development.

Do the benefits of the bayfront-connectivity plan outweigh the estimated $50 million price tag?
I don’t see what (the plan) is going to do. I see other areas that are better for connectivity. A downtown circulator is a better option. I’d rather see a roundabout at Central Avenue and Fruitville Road to connect (the) Rosemary (District) to downtown. That would help the shop owners in Rosemary who are at risk. Fruitville is a barrier to Rosemary.

What is your view of parking meters?
I hate them. I think it’s absurd. Any whiff of something that’s going to hurt our downtown businesses can’t help. (Business owners) are people who’ve stuck their necks out and invested in our downtown. The parking meter revenues go to the parking meter company.

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 won’t raise taxes. There are ways to continue to save money. We have to consolidate services with the county, like fleet management, storm water and public works. We have to look at long-term purchasing and buildings we have leases on. If we don’t need a certain building, get rid of it. The city is run like an inefficient condo board sometimes.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
I like it. You need a captain to steer any ship. Somebody has to get in there, elected by the people, and say, “Guys, this is what we’re going to do.”

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
In everything I’ve done, I’ve taken a leadership position. I’m not a follower. I take positions on tough issues and live and die by them. I get a knock, because I’m a newcomer, but I have a newcomer’s eye on things. If something doesn’t work, let’s change it. I have very little that will color my decisions. I will look at every case in its own singularity and decide what’s best for the overall community, instead of a special-interest group.
 


Linda Holland
BIO
Age: 65
Hometown: East Riverdale, Md.
Family: Single
Education: Attended Strayer School of Business
Occupation: Real-estate broker and property manager

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
I’m basing my priorities on what I hear in the neighborhoods.

1. Safety. It’s a big concern in District 1. I think everyone in the city wants to be safe. I have a great relationship with Police Chief Mikel Hollaway. The relationship between the commission and police hasn’t always been a good one. I would create a better relationship with residents and police. If I’m not elected, it’s something I’ll do anyway.

2. Homelessness. An effort has to be stronger to coordinate the scattered organizations that help the homeless.

3. District 1 redevelopment. North Trail, MLK, Park East all want redevelopment.

4. Jobs. Residents are so frustrated with unemployment. The City Commission has got to continue to work with the Economic Development Corporation and support the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
We’ve been given a lot of facts and figures. Finances and pensions are not my strong point. People are my strong point. It will require some education for me. I would have to rely on the city financial department to bring me up to speed. I do see police pensions differently, because of their special risk. I saw what that risk is, because I walked the streets with them, while cleaning up Gillespie Park’s streets.

What specific actions can the City Commission initiate that would spur economic development?
North Trail is a good place to look at redevelopment, but you’ve got the safety issue there. You’ve got to clean up the area, because even light industrial won’t want to come there. If you’ve got prostitution and illegal activity, business is not going to come. I’ve been fighting (illegal activity) for 30 years. I can’t give up. Even if we make just a little progress, it’s better than nothing.

What’s your position on increasing residential densities and heights in downtown buildings?
The key is (to increase density) where it’s appropriate. It caused a lot of conflict with Gillespie Park … so much so that now we have two neighborhood associations. Compromises are important. It would be hard to approve higher density.

Do the benefits of the bayfront-connectivity plan outweigh the estimated $50 million price tag?
I’ve come to have a better feeling about roundabouts for downtown and North Trail. But, good Lord, I went over to Honore Avenue, and there are three roundabouts in a row there. I was blown away. Do it where appropriate.

What is your view of parking meters?
I’ve listened to the presentations. They make meters sound very good. I don’t mind meters. I don’t mind spending a buck. The city has already made the decision (to install meters), so let’s see how it goes. A lot of decision are questioned — the Ringling Bridge, the Selby Library. We’re drama queens (in Sarasota).

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?
Cut expenses. I’ve heard from neighbors: “I don’t want my taxes raised.” Personally, I would pay more taxes for better services, but I’m representing people, so I wouldn’t raise taxes.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
I’ve been a supporter of it for a long time. I wish opponents could get over who a mayor might be. Look at the cities where an elected mayor has worked.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
My 30 years of involvement, commitment and experience. I don’t need training wheels. I know everybody at City Hall. I have their respect. I have the respect of the community. I have the respect of the other commissioners. It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get there, and I’m proud of it. It has value.

 

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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • Vote for Dorfman. Nix the flake who doesn't have a clue.
  •  
  • Milan Adrian
    Thu 24th Feb 2011
    at 2:34pm
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