Meet the candidate.
Name: Tony Dunbar
Bio: Tony Dunbar grew up in Atlanta, Ga. He is a graduate of Tulane University Law School. He moved to Englewood in 2018 from New Orleans where he had a career as a Louisiana (and Texas) financial lawyer and wrote about the city in a fictional mystery series. He also served on nonprofit boards including CASA (a Guardian ad Litem program) and a Bar Association panel hearing disciplinary complaints against attorneys.
He began visiting Sarasota County on a regular basis while in high school and has now made Englewood his permanent home. Since coming to Florida, he has volunteered at the Cedar Point Environmental Center performing trail maintenance and removing invasive species. He also monitors eagle nests for the Audubon Eaglewatch Program and is in the process of completing the programs of the University of Florida/IFAS for certification as a Florida master naturalist. He likes exploring by kayak, and his interest is in preserving and enjoying the outdoors and engaging others to share the great experience.
Why do you want to serve on the Charter Review Board?
I realize that some degree of population growth is a fact of life. How that growth is moderated in order to maximize the protection of our natural environment, our native wildlife and our irreplaceable water resources will determine the ultimate fate of our region. We must find a way forward that minimizes the impact of development.
In addition, I believe strongly in a representative government. Right now, the members of our Charter Review Board all belong to one political party. Although an issue as critical as the future of our county should not be a partisan issue, I feel that more political diversity will broaden and enhance the decision-making process of the board. Essential to a more balanced decision-making process will be increased participation on the part of the public and I will work to strengthen the public’s role in Board decisions.
If elected, what will be your top three priorities during your term?
Putting measures on the ballot for a public vote is the only purpose of the Charter Review Board. In the past five years, the Charter Review Board has failed to advance a single issue to the ballot. On significant issues, including the initiative to preserve Sarasota County waterfront, the Charter Review has even refused to permit citizen presentations. To the contrary, the present board is proposing to further restrict the process by which citizens can petition for a Charter amendment.
I would like to work with other members of the board to encourage, not discourage, citizen involvement in the charter amendment process.
Where do you stand: Should the Charter Review Board be proactive initiating changes to charter, or should the board make recommendations based on voter desires and ideas brought to the board?
I want to work with other members of the board to open the process. We should encourage the participation of regular citizens by having monthly meetings, by welcoming and fairly evaluating ideas submitted by our citizens and by changing the charter to permit good ideas to advance to the ballot by a majority vote of the board, rather than having to climb the hurdle of a two-thirds vote.
What is your position on turning the Charter Review Board into an appointed position rather than an elected office?
I think it should be elected.
What, if anything, in your view needs to be updated/changed in the county charter?
I favor close scrutiny of proposals that would increase population density in any district, and I favor advancing proposals from citizens that would protect the environment by limiting development.
I believe the charter should affirmatively provide standards for fair redistricting and specify and limit the events that will trigger drawing new district lines. We should ensure that contiguous neighborhoods are joined into the same district. I would vote to reject any plan that has the effect of favoring a particular political party or incumbent.
I think that the Charter Review Board members should be elected by the voters of their respective districts, not county-wide.
The CRB has been discussing changes to the charter amendment process. What’s your position on that?
I believe that the charter amendment process by which citizens may petition to have issues placed on the ballot should be made simpler and not be made more difficult than it already is.
What are your comments about reforming the CRB, so it mirrors the State Constitutional Revision Commission — appointed members every 10 or 20 years to review the charter, rather than the existing system of elected members who serve four-year terms?
I believe in an active, elected Charter Review Board that encourages, not discourages, citizen participation in the charter amendment process.
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