Editor’s note: This is the third response of four by candidates in the city commission runoff election Dec. 13.
If elected, what would be your first priority as a new commissioner?
My first priority as City Commissioner will begin to get to work on the sea wall and Front Street. By working with the property owners and Ocean Highway Port Authority, I bring a unique balance and understanding of the issue. I have made solid relationships that will make this project a success and not simply check a box for the city.
What distinguishes you from your opponent?
I have experience in government, being a former commissioner and chairman of Amelia Island Mosquito Control District. I have relationships with all of our governmental counterparts that will improve working relationships with the County and Ocean Highway Port Authority. I can immediately get to work, as I understand the budget process because I have been a part of setting budgets.
I have the ability to reach out and secure public/private partnerships in our community because of relationships I have built with many business owners over the years.
I am not endorsed by the current outgoing commissioner, so I will not support more of the same policies that are plaguing the city currently. I will be a change for the better, bringing positive working relationships to city government. Lastly, I am fully endorsed by the Republican Party of Nassau County.
What are the top three problems the new commission should address?
The first priority is getting the budget under control.We have to set the budget on the calculated roll back rate and then build our budget.
The next priority is beginning work on the sea wall.
The last priority is to begin to repair the damaged and strained trelationships with our governmental counterparts and begin to instill trust in our city government to the people it serves. Building back trust with our tax payers is paramount to the success of the city over the next 2 years.
Good-faith negotiations for property that are crucial for public projects [roads, seawalls] sometimes simply do not work. In such cases, will you support invoking the law of Eminent Domain — with fair compensation to the landowner?
After personally speaking with all sides on this issue I do not believe there will be a need for eminent domain, and the sea wall project will be a success. I am not a proponent of eminent domain, by and large, and at this time I do not see a project that the city will need to use it. I will not speculate on using eminent domain in the future, specifically when I do not anticipate its usage in the city.
The school board recently passed a bond referendum and the county passed a bond issue for conservation land. In the next two years would you support a general obligation bond issue in the $20-30 million range supporting repair and replacement of aging city infrastructure? If not, why not?
Before I would consider asking the voters for a bond, the budget process will need to be done by setting the budget on the calculated roll back rate. Until we identify the projects that need to be completed and the funding sources available, approaching the voters with a bond referendum is not appropriate.
Why do you support or oppose the city’s purchase of privately owned, environmentally sensitive property [wet lands, dunes, tree canopy, marsh, wildlife habitat] to persevere that land in conservation for future generations’ enjoyment?
I support the city purchasing environmentally sensitive property, specifically wet lands, marsh and dunes. Often times when these properties are developed they increase flooding in other areas and even in the newly developed property. If the city has the means necessary to conserve this land it is in the best interest of all.
If you believe there is too much development in the city, how would you propose to stop it legally without interfering with property rights?
There is no way to legally stop growth without infringing on private property rights. This type of thought process will ultimately end in Bert-Harris litigations, costing tax payers millions of dollars. The best way to control growth is to use the codes and ordnances that are already in place to ensure that the development is sound. Working with the private property owners to better understand their goals will also help the city to grow responsibly.
Some people in our community say that we have traffic and parking problems. What do you think? How would you mitigate those concerns or change the situation?
Most of the issue I see with parking is downtown and this is due to the city not enforcing its code. By working with the business owners downtown and possibly providing an employee only parking near downtown, we can alleviate many of the issues we see in downtown parking. I have never waivered from my commitment to oppose paid parking anywhere in the city. I have stated multiple times that I will not even consider paid parking and I stand by that commitment.
If you could change one thing in our Land Development Code, what would it be any why?
I would look for specific locations that could be used for workforce housing and find suitable public/private partnerships to bring workforce housing to Fernandina Beach.
If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on firmer financial footing?
The first is to start the budget off by setting it at the calculated roll back rate. Once that is accomplished we can begin to build the budget instead of breaking it. The next is to improve infrastructure to entice businesses. By cutting regulations and fees to allow for businesses to grow we begin to diversify the tax base. Last, by working with organizations such as the TDC we can find innovative ways to bring new revenue to the city, thus helping fund some improvements to our parks, beaches and facilities.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city for any purpose, what would you do with it and why?
Assist in the development of the sea wall while also potentially investing it in the city-owned property on Front Street. The improvements needed on Front Street will entice property owners to develop commercial businesses and this will improve the quality of life for our residents while also providing tax revenue to ease the burden on home owners.
What neighborhood do you live in? Why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?
I live on N 14th Street and consider my neighborhood to be that of Old Fernandina (ie, Stanley/Highland Dr.) There are many long-time residents in this area, and I enjoy talking and sharing stories of Fernandina’s past as well as its future with a great many of them. My wife, Michelle ,and children, Macy and Tyler, choose to live here because of this connection with friends that were born and raised here for generations. To be part of this neighborhood is to understand how Fernandina became the city it is today.
If I’m not out protecting the citizens of Nassau County on the south end of the island at the fire station, I spend time downtown at the local restaurants and quaint bars, especially those with live music. My other favorite pastime is fishing and boating, which is another reason we live on N 14th Street: the proximity to the boat ramp.