At-large candidate Fredd Atkins shares his thoughts on the key issues ahead of the March 14 election.
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Name: Fredd Atkins
Profession/experience: Served three times as mayor during his tenure on the City Commission, 1985-2005, and 2006-2011. He has been involved with every aspect of city governance, and represented the city on a variety of national committees. Substitute teaches for Sarasota schools, and is a licensed real estate agent.
In a crowded field, what makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?
As a three-time city commissioner, and two-time mayor, I have the experience, temperament and the foresight to best serve the entire city of Sarasota.
If elected, what would be your top three priorities during your term on the commission?
- Support smart development that puts the residents first and makes developers contribute their fair share toward infrastructure.
- Develop a workable action plan to reduce chronic homelessness, protect businesses and move the homeless from the streets into long-term housing.
- Develop solutions to address the failing transportation network in our city.
How would you serve as a good financial steward of the city's budget?
- Refrain from entering unnecessary litigation.
- Stop paying for the attorney’s fees of the incumbent commissioner who is a party to a public records lawsuit.
- Not approve the creation/filling of unnecessary staff positions.
- Critically evaluate the city’s millage rate.
- Support the increase of multimodal impact fees.
How do you believe the commission should strike a balance between maintaining an economically vibrant city and addressing concerns related to growth?
Establish a better policy for special events. Refrain from giving developers vested trip credits in the determination of traffic impact for new development. Not approve every development.
How will you evaluate the forthcoming form-based zoning code?
The form-based zoning should be the administrative tool to carry out the strategic plan of the city.
It should balance the needs of neighborhood, retail and multi-use commercial space, creation and use of green spaces and trees and development of large-scale commercial spaces.
If more green space is desired, zoning should provide for larger setbacks in residential and commercial areas.
If multimodal transportation is desired, the code should provide for the strategic creation/inclusion of wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes and requirement of infrastructure to support alternative forms of transportation (trolleys, water taxis, encouragement of public transportation.)
Policy is set in the strategic plan. Implantation occurs through the zoning code. The zoning code is not used to restrict development. Rather, it is used to provide a roadmap that puts developers and residential owners on notice regarding the expectation of how a particular area will look.
I will evaluate the code on its ability to address/achieve the above goals, previously stated to be current commission priorities.
What role should the city play in the development of the 42 acres of city-owned bayfront land surrounding the Van Wezel?
As the owner of the parcel, and the most invested stakeholder, the city should be a part of every critical decision related to the development of the Bayfront. As one of the nine members of the newly-created planning advisory board, the city will be privy to all correspondence and communications related to the parcel. The commission should review all proposals made by the working advisory board, receive significant public input on what the residents want to see on the parcel, make a serious inquiry into the funding of the development and ensure that the project is fiscally sound.
What steps should the city take to address homelessness and associated issues?
Support a small-scale triage system that provides interim case management services to remove homeless from the street in a manner that protects area businesses from crime, loitering and vandalism, and develop and provides the tools for individuals to transition from homelessness to housing.
What steps do you think the city should take to address traffic-related issues?
Support the request that the Florida Department of Transportation to conduct local traffic concurrency studies to correctly determine the traffic impact of large scale developments.
Reduce the amount of vested trip credits that developments receive for previous use of abandoned/demolished/vacant buildings.
Modify the downtown code to eliminate administrative approval for certain projects in the downtown core.
Proceed quickly with the traffic signal study to determine (with accuracy) areas of significant congestion.
Collect current data on traffic flow data to present to the MPO and other jurisdictions to make regional recommendations for collaboration and sharing in the fiscal investment of the improvement of traffic.
Embrace the community’s desire for a more multimodal traffic network, but do not disregard the real, visible, problems of cars to get from point A to point B.
Continue to petition state legislators for assistance in obtaining state and federal grant dollars to meet the obligations of capital improvement projects related to traffic, as it affect tourism, a significant industry in Sarasota County.
How should the city encourage the creation of alternative housing types, particularly workforce and affordable housing?
If affordable/workforce/attainable housing is truly a priority of the city, the commission and the professionals must have a frank discussion about the options of zoning incentives related to density, credits for the development of low and very-low AMI-based development, allowance of smaller units (e.g., tiny houses), and reduction of current requirement of numerous parking spaces for particular multi-family residential developments.
How can the city do a better job of attracting and retaining young talent?
Advocate state legislators to address the state’s failure to provide a living wage.
Continue to make advancements in multimodal transportation (parks, wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes, support of the Legacy Trail).
Develop a workable short-, mid-, and long-range plan for the creation of workforce/attainable housing – and stick to it.
Support special events that help to create a vibrant, lively downtown corridor.
Work with the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation, and other business-friendly organizations to develop a marketing plan to recruit and attract younger residents.
Support advancements in technology that make the city a welcoming place for millennial (e.g. free wi-fi in parks).
How would you attempt to work with the County Commission on issues of interest to both governments?
I would encourage the respective staff of the city and county to meet regularly to determine regional priorities. I will meet with the county commissioners individually to educate myself on the areas where collaboration currently exists. I support more research to determine areas where the commissions can work together to save money on collaborative projects. I also strongly encourage both commissions to refrain from using inflammatory dialogue, personal attacks, and blanket assumptions about positions, including previous actions taken by both commissions. I am not afraid of discussing the tough issues. Finally, I will respect our differences, and focus on areas of commonality.
Do you believe the city should restrict the use of administrative review for development proposals?
Would you consider raising the general fund millage rate from its current level?
Do you support the creation of a paid parking system in the city?
Do you support the role of Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 and the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization as the primary planning group for the redevelopment of the bayfront?
Do you support the use of downtown as a venue for large-scale, multi-day events?
Do you support the creation of a parks & recreation taxing district?
Do you think the city is growing too fast?