At-large candidate Hagen Brody shares his thoughts on the key issues ahead of the March 14 election.
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Name: Hagen Brody
Profession/experience: Attorney and former Sarasota County prosecutor. Currently serving on the Sarasota County Bar Association and Teen Court Board of Directors.
In a crowded field, what makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?
As an attorney, former prosecutor and son of Sarasota, I have a realistic view of the problems facing Sarasota and the skill set to address them. I’ll bring fresh leadership to the City Commission to finally address the ongoing issues facing Sarasota.
If elected, what would be your top three priorities during your term on the commission?
- Get us back to basics. Our municipal government needs to refocus and prioritize our tax dollars on the three pillars of municipal government: efficient and affordable utilities, a sustainable and proper infrastructure and effective public safety — not on wasteful peripheral issues or pet projects.
- Bring a clear direction to guide responsible development. Doing something over and over again expecting a different result is not the answer. Some of my opponents have been intimately, if not officially, involved in the direction and planning of our city for years. We will finally address haphazard development and promote a vibrant, family-friendly, Main Street-centric downtown. Work to preserve the unique character-rich neighborhoods and improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity throughout the city.
- Serious homeless solutions. This is a humanitarian and economic crisis. As a prosecutor, I dealt with the mental health and substance abuse issues on the ground level that impact much of our chronic homeless population. I oppose Housing First models where our city taxpayers would foot the rent for apartments indefinitely for chronic homeless folks and those who will surely arrive in the future. Those models are not only a financially unattainable promise but do not adequately address the underlying issues.
Our nonprofit network is what sets us apart and enables us to address this issue without taxpayers. I’ll leverage my experience and relationships to bring the nonprofits, law enforcement and county courts together to work in better continuums and partnerships to address this crisis and reduce homelessness. While implementing this broader strategy, we will pass ordinances that effectively protect the economically sensitive areas surrounding Main Street by excluding solicitation and panhandling from these zones in a meaningful and constitutional way.
How would you serve as a good financial steward of the city’s budget?
Last year, our city ran a million-dollar deficit wasting money on peripheral issues and pet projects. We need to refocus our tax dollars on the basics and get our fiscal house in order. Our revenue is naturally rising merely from the increase in local property values. We have thousands of units already approved and on the way, further expanding our tax base. Let’s not squander it. We have a unique opportunity to finally address our financial issues without raising taxes. Let me say it again, let’s not squander it!
How do you believe the commission should strike a balance between maintaining an economically vibrant city and addressing concerns related to growth?
Shape a community. Support inclusive neighborhoods that strengthen the unique personalities of each and protect the identity of our traditional Main Street-centric downtown. Move toward a more pedestrian-friendly town and increase bicycle paths, beginning with promoting the Legacy Trail extension. Add more family-friendly downtown events that foster the sense of community we’ve always enjoyed in Sarasota.
Do you believe the city should restrict the use of administrative review for development proposals?
No, this procedural change does not address the substantive issue in the city code.
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?
Yes, with more family friendly and community events.
Do you support the creation of a parks & recreation taxing district?
No increase in taxes.
Do you think the city is growing too fast?
Yes, but because there is no direction.