Commentary: Questions for James Antun

Your first priority if elected. if elected, my first priority as a new commissioner would be to see through completion of the sea wall downtown, followed by improving our relationship with the county commissioners in order to restore a more collaborative atmosphere, rather than simply perpetuate the current rift between the city and county. I have established relationships with one of our county commissioners, and two commissioner-elects to make this possible.

What are the differences between you and your opponent?. What makes me different from my opponent is that I am a young small business owner and family man. I am active and involved in our community on multiple levels. I have a track record of contributing thousands of dollars each year to local non-profits including the Rotary scholarship fund, the Boys and Girls club, and numerous youth sports, which should speak volumes to my investment in this community. Not only will I be able to serve as the voice of small businesses in our community, but being a family man with a young child strengthens my future considerations of how we might continue to improve our community for our youth, and not just our retirees. When it comes to serving as a steward of taxpayer dollars, I will bring a fresh entrepreneurial perspective to the table, which will include strengthening public-private partnerships to offset city spending, rather than simply voting to raise taxes.

The top 3 problems the new commission we must address are:

–The sea wall project and a comprehensive flood mitigation plan.

— Repair/restorations to downtown and city hall projects.

— Forge a stronger partnership with the county in order to improve opportunities for funding of our shared public spaces and support ongoing projects.

When would you support resorting to the law of Eminent Domain? I support property rights first and foremost, and would only resort to such a move if it were the absolute last possible course of action. That being said I have spoken with the property owner this question is referring to (completion of the sea wall), and I find it very difficult to see this to be necessary at this time. The burden lies on the city to provide a plan for how this project will be done, and what the estimated cost will be. Once this due diligence is performed these property owners are willing to sign a check for the improvements once they know what they are in for from a financial and logistical perspective.

Would you support a bond issue for infrastructure? In general, I would prefer not to borrow more money simply because we have deferred maintenance, and are now facing the consequences of prior mistakes in our fiscal planning. This would be a last resort vote for me if we cannot find the funding elsewhere in the budget.

Would you support land purchases for conservation? I support strategic voluntary acquisition of lands to be allocated towards conservation, because this will help preserve our island and its natural resources, wildlife, and our ability to enjoy the outdoors without living in a concrete jungle.

Some say there’s too much development in the city. What to you think? I think this is a loaded question. I believe development is inevitable, and it is our job to steer the course, rather than simply slam on the brakes to prevent unwanted outcomes. There is a group of people living on this island who feel it is fair to live by the philosophy “close the bridge behind me.” To me this is simply a selfish and unfair viewpoint. That being said I do not support having our island be chopped up and sold to the highest bidder either, but some degree of development is inevitable. It is the duty of citizens of this city to speak up about what they do and/or don’t want our city to look and feel like, and it will be my duty as a city commissioner to uphold/amend/approve the policies in place that reflect the wishes of our constituents so long as they remain in keeping with state and federal laws.

Some say the city has traffic and parking problems. What do you think? To a considerable degree traffic problems are a reflection of large tourism-based events being held on the island. On an average week I do not personally find it difficult to find parking downtown, and other than “rush hours” between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. jamming up the bridge I feel the daily traffic on the island is not unbearable. Since we are a destination with roughly 1.2 million people per year driving over the bridge to visit our island it would be impossible to promise we will always have minimal traffic with adequate parking during the weeks of events such as Shrimp Fest, the Concours d’Elegance, or other similar-sized functions. Other than these times there are ongoing considerations for trucks driving up 14th Street to the mills. I would like to point out how much those mills support our island significantly from an economic standpoint. My consideration for improving parking and traffic issues starts with simply enforcing the 3-hour parking rule already in place downtown, and refining the discussion on whether or not we can find a happy medium on paid beach parking for non-city residents.

Is there anything in the Land Development Code you would like to change? I do not have any current comments on changing the LDC so much as I would like to assure we are holding city staff accountable to these policies, and amending them as needed based on circumstances that may arise.

What three steps would you suggest for putting  city finances on a sounder footing?. If elected i will:

–Collaborate more consistently with our county commissioners to obtain better funding     opportunities for shared public spaces.

–Work toward renegotiating our bed tax agreement with the TDC to increase our infrastructure reinvestment percentage from 10% to 25%

–Foster new revenue-generating opportunities such as the My Fernandina program, as well as continue to build stronger public-private partnerships with our existing businesses and non-profit organizations.

If you got a million dollar grant to do anything you wished for the city, what would you do with it?. I would survey my constituents on how we should best spend this money. Perhaps by holding a town hall with the goal of narrowing down a few popular items to make their way to the commission agenda, and be appropriately voted upon and allocated where most necessary and well spent.

What neighborhood do you live in, and what are some of your favorite places to visit in the city?. I live just down the road from the MLK recreational center. When I am not treating patients, or training clients at my office I enjoy walking downtown with my wife and our daughter to patronize our restaurants and shops. I also enjoy mountain biking through the trails at Fort Clinch, and I take a weekly ballroom dance lesson with my wife with Ballroom on Amelia at RAD. My family and I LOVE where we live! If elected, my goal is to preserve the neighborhood charm and character of this island while at the same time prepare our community for the needed positive changes that this exploding time brings.

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Margo Story
Margo Story (@guest_66457)
1 year ago

I like how you think……you have my vote!!

Darryl Ford
Darryl Ford(@darryl)
1 year ago

Thank you Dr. Antun for being willing to run for office and stand for change in how our city commission operates. I know that a vote for James is a vote to make this city a better place.

Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 year ago

Some thoughtful comments, but I disagree that property rights should be first priority, especially when the community suffers as a result.