At-large candidate Susan Chapman shares her thoughts on the key issues ahead of the March 14 election.
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Name: Susan Chapman
Profession/experience: Washington University, St. Louis, A.B., J.D., M.S.W.; Practicing attorney, 40 years; Sarasota city commissioner, 2013 to present; Former vice mayor; Metropolitan Planning Organization representative, including Public Transportation Task Force; Sarasota Planning Board member, chair, vice chair; Ad Hoc Police Advisory Panel, chair; Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations, president, executive committee
In a crowded field, what makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?
As a person who has been engaged with city issues for a number of years, I bring in-depth understanding of a broad range of issues, institutional knowledge and historical perspective. As a person trained and experienced in land use (former county code enforcement special magistrate), my skills uniquely qualify me.
If elected, what would be your top three priorities during your term on the commission?
- Transportation. Our transportation network is fragmented, damaged, unsafe, and inadequate to meet current demand.
- Overdevelopment/poor quality development. The mass and scale of new development overwhelms the public realm and discounts human scale.
- Chronic homelessness. Despite the city’s great progress, we need more intergovernmental unity supporting permanent solutions and better funding.
How would you serve as a good financial steward of the city’s budget?
Priorities should be core government services: public safety, water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure and parks. The defined-benefit pension system and other benefits for retirees have large unfunded balances. For several years, the commission has migrated to a defined-contribution system, as well as greater annual contribution to the plans.
How do you believe the commission should strike a balance between maintaining an economically vibrant city and addressing concerns related to growth?
Our economy is driven by our unique environment, warm weather and arts and cultural amenities. A sense of ease promotes tourism and population in-migration. Sarasota’s vitality depends on preserving high quality of life, unmarred by poor quality development and transportation gridlock. Our planning process needs to focus on these issues.
How will you evaluate the forthcoming form-based zoning code?
It is unfinished, so it is difficult to evaluate. I have received many complaints that drafters are not giving adequate deference to public input received during outreach sessions. This causes me to be uncertain whether the forthcoming code is tailored to reflect community desires or if its terms codify the preconceived plan of staff. I will evaluate it when it is presented in a more final form.
What role should the city play in the development of the 42 acres of city-owned bayfront land surrounding the Van Wezel?
The City Commission outlined the parameters of the authority of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization in a recent workshop. The consensus was that this valuable land is the property of the citizens and should remain so for posterity. All parties have the duty to serve as stewards for perpetual public access to the land and the bay and perpetual public view of the bay. All parties agreed that the entire planning process will be public. All parties agreed that when the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization begins to make choices concerning the uses of the land, it will schedule workshops with the City Commission for guidance. The goal is to reach win-win solutions.
What steps should the city take to address homelessness and associated issues?
I have consistently supported evidence-based permanent solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness. That includes rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing. This echoes both state and federal policy on homelessness. I support the Comprehensive Treatment Court (mental health court), which has Housing First as a component. The City has had great success through its partnerships with the Salvation Army QLife program and the Jewish Family and Children Services Operation Military Assistance Program, which serves veterans who experience homelessness. Over 500 individuals have been housed through those two programs.
Our Homeless Outreach Teams have been recognized as a statewide model for directing individuals to services to assist them in leaving the streets. Recently, the city, the county and the state are cooperating to implement the Comprehensive Treatment Court with its “Housing First” model. I anticipate that more governmental entities will join this effort, since the cost to house an individual is 1/5 the cost of providing them services on the streets or through temporary shelter.
What steps do you think the city should take to address traffic-related issues?
I look forward to the hiring of a planning director with significant transportation planning experience. At the City Commission table and at the Metropolitan Planning Organization, I have championed the creation of traffic-counting stations in congested areas of the city to produce accurate traffic data for planning. I support the creation of a Transportation Advisory Committee to study the issues in-depth and to make recommendations to the City Commission.
How should the city encourage the creation of alternative housing types, particularly workforce and affordable housing?
The city’s experiments with permitting density to create affordable or work force housing have been unsuccessful. This was predicted several years ago by Economic Research Associates. The city does not have the funds to create affordable units on its own, so the methods available are:
1. possible inclusionary zoning requiring developers to include a certain number of affordable or work forceunits in projects;
2. a program of credits and fee waivers to developers who create affordable or work force units; or
3. Public-private partnerships.
Recently adopted impact fees give exemptions for affordable housing In our codes, we should encourage experimentation with multiple housing types, such as containers and tiny houses. Then, we should evaluate whether the experiments actually produce the desired results of affordable and/or workforce housing and continue only those programs that function. An important component of any affordable housing program is assuring that families and individuals are able to stay in housing that was affordable when they purchased it and maintaining the current stock of affordable housing. Our local governments must assure that commitments for affordable or work force housing are met. In the past, it has been common to waive those commitments.
How can the city do a better job of attracting and retaining young talent?
The primary functions of city government are public safety, infrastructure and parks. Our city can encourage affordable and workforce housing, support transportation alternatives preferred by young people, such as bicycle trails and walkways, and support an accessible parks and recreational program that provides free and low-cost entertainment for young families.
How would you attempt to work with the County Commission on issues of interest to both governments?
There is cooperation with county government on storm water issues, on transportation issues through the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and on homelessness through the Comprehensive Treatment Court. The monthly Council of Government meetings keep local governmental agencies informed on the activities of local governments, including the School Board and the Hospital Board.
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?
(Trick question: All parking systems are paid, just by different groups. Taxpayers through general revenues, real estate owners through parking districts, merchants through a token system, or users through metered parking or garage fees. To which are you referring?) Yes
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? Yes Do you think the city is growing too fast?