Meet the candidate.
These questionnaire responses were originally published in July for the primary election.
Name: Erik Arroyo
Family: Married. Wife, Victoria, is a teacher at Sarasota High School. Expecting first child.
Bio: I was born in the Dominican Republic. I was raised by a single mother who brought me to Sarasota to be a proud U.S. citizen and pursue the American Dream. When I graduated from Riverview High, I became the first in my family to receive a high school diploma. Now I am a business, wills and trust lawyer in Sarasota. When I started practicing law, those same relationships were my first clients and referral sources. I’m a judge at Teen Court. I’m a local board member and big brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Why are you running for office?
District 3 is always left as an afterthought. I spoke with many of my neighbors when the current Sarasota City Commission voted to put an infrastructure project on the backs of taxpayers. A 47% increase in our utility costs over the next 11 years will be a tremendous burden. Why? The city cited a “lack of funds,” yet they have approved millions for sand on Lido Beach, legal fees, senseless studies, new departments, taxing districts, among many other examples. It seems the city has enough money to fund downtown projects, the beaches, the lawsuits and waterfront roads but can’t give police officers a cost of living raise.
More resources need to be prioritized and allocated east of the trail. District 3 needs calmer traffic on roads, pedestrian crossings, bike safety, street lighting, walkable sidewalks, better nighttime patrol, workforce housing, more day cares for parents, safe neighborhoods, code enforcement, lower water bills and a beautification upgrade that should match what downtown receives.
If elected, what will be your top three priorities during your term?
- Implement a common-sense plan to solve homelessness;
- Reduce wasteful spending and bring fiscal responsibility to the city
- Address traffic and infrastructure issues in District 3, which receives the least amount of funding of all the city districts.
How do you think the city is being managed and governed?
The city has hired excellent department directors but has a sub-par city manager. Actions I would have fiscally advised against include: 1) wasting over $2 million on numerous studies ranging from a water taxi study to an odor study; 2) the exponential hiring of city staff; and 3) the creation and funding of the sustainability and economic development departments. For the future, I recommend that we adapt to anticipated losses due to COVID-19 and propose a hiring moratorium for the city while implementing 6% cuts in all departments except law enforcement.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being excellent, how would you rate the performance of the city manager?
What should be done to address the supply of workforce housing?
The city can implement many small-scale options that would yield prosperous results as a way to address workforce housing. The city needs to encourage accessory dwelling units and tiny homes. We need to update our outdated housing policy to allow more mixed-use and multifamily housing options. On a larger scale, we need to enforce our current laws and eliminate redundancies while transitioning to a Form-Based Code.
Do you support creating a special tax-increment financing district near the Bay Park to help finance the $200 million project? If not, how do you think the park renovation should be funded?
I do not support a tax-increment financing district. However, whatever option we choose would need to have the blessing of the voters. I don’t like the idea of the taxpayers being responsible for the obligations of the Bay Conservancy in the event they default. If we remove the contract provisions where the city indemnifies the Bay Conservancy, I would be in favor of a referendum general obligation bond where the city and the county take joint responsibility for repayment.
The Van Wezel Foundation is supporting the development of a new performing arts center at the Bay Park. What’s your view of that, and how do you think a center should be financed?
The phrase “It takes a village” comes to mind. This project would need to be financed by our philanthropic community in conjunction with the city, county, state and federal government.
Bobby Jones Golf Club: Do you agree with the commission’s most recent decision to downsize to 27 holes of golf and a 130-acre park? If not, what would you propose differently?
As the only candidate to live in the same precinct and near Bobby Jones, I am in favor of keeping Bobby Jones as public land; however, I am not in favor of the commission’s recent very wasteful decision. During COVID-19, the city continued with plans for a $21 million overhaul — with money the city doesn’t have — to operate a golf course that loses more than $1 million taxpayer dollars annually. I propose leasing the Donald Ross course to a professional management company for $1 a year. The rest needs to be in a conservation easement and be preserved as a park.
Where do you stand on the roundabout at Gulfstream and U.S. 41?
It is not an ideal solution, and I wouldn’t have voted for it, but something needed to be done about this very serious traffic bottleneck on our busiest road.
The STOP group wanted the city to require public review hearings for large development projects in the city instead of administrative reviews by the city staff. What’s your position on that?
We need to draw a line as to where we stop the administrative review process and begin public hearings. I have proposed limiting administrative review to single-family homes and projects under 30,000 square feet. I’m fully in support of these hearings being accessible to the public, even if it’s simply a review to determine compliance.
Many people have complained about all the condos and apartments being developed with little setbacks. If elected, will you initiate a change to the city’s zoning?
Yes, we need an overhaul on zoning. We need to replace the existing code with a Form-Based Code. This would protect our rights and tax dollars from litigation while simultaneously creating a predictable code with uniform applicability. This leaves arbitrary decisions and politics out of the process.
The transportation concerns of the city’s barrier islands don’t always mesh with those of downtown and other portions of the city. What’s the best way to align those competing concerns?
If we can agree that “development-oriented transit” is better than “transit-oriented development,” both can align their interest. Both the barrier islands and “land-side” Sarasota need to identify key areas to prioritize for parking, traffic flow and avenues of access.
What are your suggestions for a new home for the orchestra?
The city should work with the orchestra to determine which locations meet the orchestra’s needs while at the same time complementing the city. We have many real estate spaces that would pair perfectly with the orchestra. For example, the Rosemary District, Bay Park, the North or South side of the 3000 blocks on Fruitville Road, or in city property along U.S. 301. The options are plent; we all just need to approach the topic with an open mind.
If proposed by a commissioner, would you vote in favor of putting a referendum on the ballot to create an elected mayor form of government? If not, why not?
Absolutely in favor of putting a strong mayor up for referendum. We need someone that has a deep understanding of the inner-workings of the city, someone who is full time and someone accountable to the citizens. In the past, we have tried to make the “strong mayor” a little “too strong”—we need a phased-in approach, which includes term limits and no veto powers over city commission decisions.
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