District 1 candidates battle for North Sarasota

 

District 1 candidates battle for North Sarasota

 

Date: March 3, 2011
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

District 1 City Commission candidates Willie Charles Shaw and Frederick Douglas Williams are centering their attention on the blighted portions of their district. Both candidates believe with the right help, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard can become a thriving business corridor. They differ on several citywide issues.
— Robin Roy


WILLIE SHAW
BIO
Age: 63
Hometown: Sarasota
Family: Married with nine children and 15 grandchildren
Education: Degree from Dream Bible College
Occupation: Retired postal worker

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
1. Pensions. I’d like to build a consensus with the other commissioners.

2. Revitalizing North Sarasota, including North Trail, the MLK (Martin Luther King) corridor and North Washington Boulevard, as well.

3. Jobs, jobs, jobs. We have a high unemployment rate in North Sarasota. A portion of Sarasota County’s vo-tech is now there to help.

4. Bring in businesses to broaden the tax base. We need to diversify the economy. I would like to see collaborative efforts to find new businesses … identify the ones we want and the ones that will be able to sustain the community.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
City employee and police pensions would have to be restructured. Defined contributions is something that we’ll have to look very closely at. The 401(k) is one option. The U.S. Postal Service did this several years ago. It was doable. They have a 401(k)-style plan, not a straight pension. It’s been manageable.

What specific actions can the City Commission initiate that would spur economic development?
There has been very little study of what MLK Boulevard can offer as far as businesses. The Marion Anderson brownfield (site) gives us a challenge and an opportunity. The city is in the process of changing the zoning there from residential/commercial. One entity spoke of solar panels to provide energy that can be sold back to Florida Power and Light.

What’s your position on increasing residential densities and heights in downtown buildings?
We want to be able to draw people to other places than just downtown. There are many different areas. With the cooperation of neighborhoods, higher density can be a part of the solution.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
I’m very satisfied with the current style of government, with a City Commission and a city manager.

Do the benefits of the bayfront-connectivity plan outweigh the estimated $50 million price tag?
I’m in favor of roundabouts where necessary and where they can most benefit the community. One at U.S. 41 and 14th Street is one of the true needs. Tenth Street is up in the air for me. Ever try to get out of the Van Wezel? That can be trouble sometimes.

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’m for finding new sources of revenue and cutting expenses, where they can be cut. We’ve cut a lot already. When we cut workforce, we lose a lot of experience. That causes a downturn in the morale at the city. The institutional knowledge of those employees is important.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the city manager’s performance?
It would be a seven. I concur with the City Commission’s grading. (Bob Bartolotta) was hired to do a job. There was a national search. It has resulted in the best of the candidates there. He has a certain level of expertise.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I’m very caring and sensitive to the needs of District 1. I’m able to better work with both the citizens and the other four commissioners to build a consensus for the betterment of District 1 and the city.

 

What is your view of parking meters?
A parking garage on State Street would be helpful for employees and take away the need for meters. I’m not opposed to meters in the right places, but I think we should look at all options. See if the garage eliminates the need for meters.

What is your position on switching the city election to the November election cycle?
It’s a terrible idea. It’s a nonpartisan race, and to place it on the November ballot creates a partisan slant. This is a place we want the least partisan influence.


FREDERICK WILLIAMS
BIO
Age: 88
Hometown: Manhattan, N.Y.
Family: Widowed with four children and five grandchildren
Education: Law degree from New York Law School
Occupation: Retired attorney

If you are elected, what will be your top-four priorities?
1. Accountability. We delegate our authority to five commissioners. The first priority of government is public safety.
2. Open forums. We are a government of, by and for the people. In North Sarasota, we had just one public forum. We wanted one on the baseball issue. We didn’t get it. We want forums to explain confusing ballot initiatives.
3. Conservation of taxpayers’ money. There is $2 million in salaries for the top-level directors at City Hall. There needs to be consolidation of these jobs. We can reduce $2 million substantially. We should retain the city attorney on an as-needed basis.
4. Reprioritizing the Community Redevelopment Agency. The CRA was meant for blighted areas — North Sarasota, with its eight neighborhood associations — and for creating jobs. It wasn’t meant for downtown.

What should the city do about employee pensions?
We’re heading down a greasy road to bankruptcy. We need to do something. Let’s have a panel of experts in front of the commission. I’m not qualified to pick a plan. Let’s get experts.

What specific actions can the City Commission initiate that would spur economic development?
MLK Boulevard could be one of the most thriving areas, but people won’t take their business there in its current condition. Walmart wanted to come, but we chased them away. There used to be a post office there — not anymore. Where Fredd Atkins Park is, (Atkins) should have just said, “No, thank you. We need a bank, instead.” Why aren’t commissioners pushing for banks on MLK? At the CRA, the city took $2 million to build a parking garage downtown. In North Sarasota, we’re painting storefronts. That’s just cosmetic. MLK could be the most prolific business corridor.

What is your position on having an elected mayor?
I just want a system where commissioners are accountable and some departments, like public safety, do not fall under the city manager. The commission should oversee the chief of police, and the chief should give commissioners a report once a month.

Do the benefits of the bayfront-connectivity plan outweigh the estimated $50 million price tag?
Some places the city wants roundabouts, I take issue with. I like the roundabout at 10th Street and U.S. 41. There’s a Publix, a gas station, municipal auditorium and garden club. Senior citizens want to feel they’re part of the community and have independence. They want to take a walk but are afraid to (at that intersection).

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?
My grandmother, as she was planning expenses, would check the Quaker Oats box to see how much money she had. Before we get to the city budget, let’s see how much money we have. Let’s cut expenses — inside and out — and see what we have in money. These guys are freewheeling. The City Commission should only be allowed to spend $100,000, and the rest should be up to the voters.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate the city manager’s performance?
Six. He’s not completely to blame. Some blame goes on the commission. Bob Bartolotta’s a very good guy, but he needs some controls. He’s micromanaging the police chief. He knows nothing about police work.

What makes you the best candidate for the job?
The city should be run like a corporation. I was the first black lawyer in Maine and was in-house counsel for a bank in Maine. I was appointed the vice chairman of the Maine Housing Authority. I have housing, banking and legal experience. I know the law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your view of parking meters?
No parking meters. The garage is satisfactory. How about a tram to go from garage to garage? As someone’s on the tram, he’s passing businesses.

What is your position on switching the city election to the November election cycle?
There are good points and bad points. There should be just one election. Let’s give some credit to our voters. They’re intelligent. There’s low turnout in the spring.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com

 

 

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