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Sarasota Hospital Board Central District, Seat 2: Thomas Dart

Meet the candidate.

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Explain what you believe to be the fundamental role of government.

Passing and implementing laws to protect society and the freedoms of a democracy, while recognizing the rights of individuals.  

In balancing these roles, protection of individual freedoms should be paramount. 

To finance its role, some form of taxation is necessary, but it must use fiscal restraint so as to facilitate its citizens to provide for themselves and not as a vehicle to create dependency.  


Explain what you believe to be the essential role of the hospital board.

Its role is to serve the healthcare needs of the people of Sarasota County and provide for those needs in a fiscally responsible manner. It should, with input from staff, formulate policy and see that those policies are implemented in a transparent and responsible manner.   


When you are legislating and creating policies, which of the following would take precedence over the other: the individual or the collective “common good”? Why?

Like other governmental roles, creating policies should always keep the needs and rights of individuals as a major criteria. While providing for the “common good” sounds attractive, it begs the question of what that is, and who is making that determination. 

Enacting policies for the “common good” relies upon the determination of a few as to what is best for all, which can often lead to favoritism and unfair treatment of individuals who may not fall into the favored category.


Why are you running for office?

I am a life-long resident of Sarasota County and have been a consumer of the services of Sarasota Memorial Hospital throughout my lifetime here. 

I believe that community service is an obligation, and that each of us should contribute within our abilities in a way that can benefit the community.  

In my case, my experience in the healthcare community and involvement in a variety of businesses through my legal career provide a background that allows me to contribute in the role as a member of the hospital board.    


What issues or concerns would you advocate that the hospital board and SMH Healthcare management set as top priorities? Why?

The backbone of a healthcare system is its providers, which includes physicians, nurses, technicians and all support staff. Ensuring the availability of these providers at all levels should be a top priority.  

Making healthcare available throughout the county is also important. 

SMH has embarked on this endeavor by the opening of the campus in the Nokomis area, and we need to make sure that the internal infrastructure is in place to deliver services to the users in that area.  

Likewise, North Port is expanding, and its population should have its healthcare needs met.  

We need to evaluate those needs and work to address them in a fiscally sound manner.  


What needs to change at SMH Healthcare?

I don’t believe that SMH needs a reconstruction. It has made great strides in the delivery of healthcare facilities in our area. However, it is a public entity and needs complete transparency in its operations.  

Expansion of medical services is important, as long as it is done in a fiscally responsible manner that does not duplicate those that are available.  

SMH facilities have expanded tremendously over the last few years, as healthcare costs have risen. We need to make sure that the expansion is best serving the constituents and not expansion for its own sake.  

Evaluation of the needs of the community is paramount, and seeing that those needs are met in an affordable manner will continue to be a major challenge.  


What distinguishes you from your opponent that makes you a better candidate?

As a practicing attorney in Sarasota County for 45 years, I have represented numerous physicians, physician practices and facilities. I am a member of the Healthcare Section of the Florida Bar and have first-hand experiences in dealing with the ever-changing landscape of healthcare in our community.  

I believe I can provide a fresh look at the operations of the hospital system and that my experiences can assist the board in developing its policies as our healthcare needs increase.  

As we look into the future, the needs of our community will increase along with population growth and the aging of our residents. There will be pressures at all levels of government to keep up with this demand in a fiscally responsible manner. I think I can assist in the evaluation of these demands and the implementation of systems and methods to accommodate them.  


What experience do you have that would convince voters you would be a good steward and monitor of taxpayer dollars?

I am a fiscal conservative and have served on various boards and committees over the years. My experience as an attorney gives me insight in the operations of large and small corporations, and I have seen first-hand what can happen when fiscally responsible policies are not developed and maintained.  

SMH is somewhat unique in that it depends upon both public and private sources of funding. Both require accountability to the residents of Sarasota County, who are the constituents and shareholders of SMH.  


If elected, what will be your guiding principles to determine whether to vote for or against legislation or policies?

Whether the legislation or policies benefit the community and its individual residents; whether the policy is reasonable and necessary to address a demand; and what are the consequences that may arise in the implementation of the policy to the community and its individual residents. 


In general, what role should the government play in the economy?

Like the oath in the provision of healthcare, the primary role is to do no harm.  Government should employ only such measures as are necessary to contribute to a robust economy and to invest in society’s capabilities to provide for themselves. This requires a measure of restraint so that enablement does not become entitlement in any funding measures.  


Should government subsidize the manufacture of electric cars and/or give tax credits to consumers for buying electric cars? Why? Why not?

While such subsidies may be appealing on their face to incentivize consumers to buy electric cars, they come with unforeseen consequences. First, it may inordinately benefit the wealthy as they are more likely to have the capacity to invest in an electric car.  

While reduction of carbon emissions is a lofty goal, a $50,000.00 expenditure is probably outside the reach of most of our citizens. Government should not incentivize its citizens to incur debt outside their budget. 

Second, the availability of moderately priced electric cars should be within the province of the marketplace. As demand rises, companies will endeavor to make the vehicles more available to consumers — a balance that should be left to the marketplace.  

It is up for debate as to whether the subsidies benefit the consumer as a whole or the corporations that make the electric vehicles.  

Third, electric vehicles come with price tags other than the purchase price. Availability of charging stations continues to be an important factor in the transition from gas powered vehicles, and readily available maintenance options are limited.


What is your philosophy for taxation? Graduated income tax? Flat income tax? No income tax? Consumption tax? Property tax?

Tough question. Each comes with advantages and disadvantages. Our current system employs a graduated income tax, that some feel unfairly burdens those with higher incomes and acts as a disincentive to achievement and growth.  

No income tax, while intriguing, is not feasible. Funding for government to provide for basic functions and the needs of its citizens is necessary. 

A consumption tax, which may appear “fair,” is also regressive. We have a form of consumption tax in most states, but using it as the sole source of funding could stifle the marketplace and thus create additional problems. It is also somewhat regressive in that it may hit those that need products and consumables harder than the wealthy.  

Property taxes are already in place and as a means for funding government at the local levels, but it is not as a sole source of income. Property taxes can also be regressive in that they can impact home ownership, especially to the elderly whose taxes rise without their any change in their income or consumption.  

Perhaps the lesser of the “evils” would be a flat rate tax, as it applies equally across the board. Citizens pay more as their incomes rise, but a flat tax contemplates the elimination of the myriad of deductions that currently glut the system, often resulting in favoritism to the higher earners. It would be far easier to administer and enforce than the current system, and simpler to the taxpayer.  


A right does not impose an obligation on others. Free speech is a right. There is no right to having a car. In that vein, is health care a right?

While healthcare may be a basic need, it does not fall into the category of a basic human right.  

Once anything is classified as a right, then it is seen as mandatory and leads to entitlement, which is a slippery slope.  

Such a discussion raises issues, such as how much and what kind of healthcare is a right and thus to be provided to all.  

The classification of healthcare as a right leads to the inevitability of universal healthcare, which has encountered significant issues in the countries that have instituted it. 

The issue comes down to availability and affordability. 

For many countries that have instituted universal healthcare, availability has become a significant issue. It also comes with a tremendous expense, which inevitably leads to significant taxes.  

We need to strive to narrow the gap between availability and affordability, which is a tremendous challenge requiring contributions from all sectors of society.  


If you were king, queen or a tyrannical despot in charge of the country, how, if at all, would you amend the U.S. Constitution? Why?

I wouldn’t. We have lived under the Constitution for over two centuries, and while it has been amended since that time, it was done in a manner that requires a process of significant checks and balances on both the state and federal levels. Vesting such authority in a person, or even a collective of people, that does not involve the restrictions in place in the U.S. Constitution would be lethal to our democracy.


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