Brevard Times will be visiting with them throughout the next year as they try to make convincing arguments to Brevard voters.
Following are the candidates running for Brevard County Commission District 4 – to replace retiring two-term commissioner Mary Bolin Lewis.
1. Name the three biggest challenges facing Brevard County right now.
Richard Charbonneau: A. Balance the Brevard budget, but not at the expense of increased taxes to the voters or by reduced services to the voters. Future medical benefits and retirement benefits could be a serious consideration. B. Increase not the only amount of business dollars, but the number of businesses in total, because if business is increased then tax revenues will increase without the millage increasing. Increasing home sales prices and the number of new home starts would follow as part of the plan. C. Institute more transparency in Brevard government and separate Brevard type governing from Federal type governing.Bill Klein: As the county seat, continued development of the Viera area is essential to ensure the efficiency of government services. Planned community development will enable the area to grow while supporting the government services located within the area. County ordinances should be responsible yet unobtrusive. The foundation of the counties zoning ordinances should reflect the needs of the community including that of our business partners. Common sense should be the measurement upon which zoning is patterned. We need to aggressively look at expanding our workforce opportunities by bringing in other private industries not dependent of government contracts and congressional budgeting.
Lisa McDermott: A. Insuring government rules and regulation do not prohibit businesses from bringing jobs to Brevard, to help us reduce unemployment; B. Meeting the needs of the community while keeping taxes low; C. Finding the right balance of tax cuts with services.Adam Perez: One of the largest challenges facing Brevard County right now is unfunded transportation project. This item under capital improvements totals approximately half a billion dollars, with road maintenance making up 77 million dollars of that amount. Currently there is no sustainable funding source for maintenance. Even though District 4 is blessed to have quality roads, some areas of the county are not as fortunate, with the northernmost and southernmost portions of Brevard feeling the brunt of this issue. I believe it is important for commissioners to work together to improve the county regardless of district bounds.
Curtis Smith: The three biggest challenges facing the county are bringing new jobs and industry to the Space Coast, focusing on needs instead of wants, and an overall lack of vision. With the end of the Space Shuttle Program, Brevard has lost thousands of jobs which have not been replaced. The County Commission must pursue job creating goals to make the Space Coast attractive to new businesses. We must adopt a philosophy that scrutinizes every penny the Commission spends by focusing on the tasks that the County must do, as opposed to what it would like to do.
2. If $1 million needed to be cut from the county budget immediately, what spending would you cut and/or what revenue would you raise to match $1 million.Charbonneau: A. Number one would be the elimination of the costly $6.2 million dollar purchase (Commissioner Infantini’s figures) of two AS-350 helicopters for mosquito control. B. As my campaign suggests I will work for $1.00 an additional savings of about $58,000. C. The idea of keeping Howard Tipton as county manager @ $185,000 a year when he expresses the wish to leave and also keeping deputy manager Stockton Whitten who claims he is ready to manage now… is a travesty of fairness to the voters or Brevard.
Klein: Without sitting down with each department head including the county manager and his staff and analyzing each department’s budget, I am hesitant to single out a line item to be cut. Obviously the last place I would look at in diminishing staff and or services would be in public safety. The quality of life experience we enjoy in Brevard is dependent on how well our public safety departments operate.McDermott: One million dollars given to the Community Based Organizations could be cut, there are funds being dispersed to those who raise their own funds. They don't need tax dollars.
Perez: A plausible source of revenue that intrigues me would be the transitioning of some of the County’s tax-exempted parcels over to the private sector. Of course the question of “Are these properties necessary to retain in order to preserve a sensitive environmental system” must be asked and answered. This transition would not only provide a one-time source of revenue, but an annual cash flow due to the removal of the properties’ tax-exempt status. In addition, investment opportunities in the private sector could be created.Smith: If $1 million had to be cut from the budget immediately, I would ask the Commission to identify 15-20 vacant county positions that do not have to be filled this year. We would then advise the County Manager to not hire those positions and the cost savings in the current year should exceed $1 million. The average county employee's salary, health care insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits approaches $60 thousand per year. In the long term, this strategy will yield real year to year financial benefits.
3. Should changes be made in the relationship between Brevard County and the EDC, CRA's, and EOZ's?Charbonneau: County Government should have a strong tie to the EDC, but with some qualifications. In the federal government the president appoints his cabinet members BUT with the advice and consent of the Senate. The same limits should be with the relationship between Brevard County and EDC. While I support and agree with the idea of the agency (CRA) in general I see the potential for abuse and favoritism. I see some overlapping in the missions of the EOZs and CRAs, but like in the CRA’s I would tend to look favorably to continuing the relationship. with oversight and transparency.
Klein: The relationship between the BoCC and the various community development committees or authorities should remain consistent with the state statutes that establish such agencies. Direction by the commission should reflect the needs of the county based on the intended vision and strategic plan.
McDermott: A. I think the EDC is a vital part of Brevard's Economic Growth, so I don't think there should be any changes made with the EDC; B. YES, there should be changes made to the CRA'S. They should be sunsetted long before the 20 or 30 years they are given now. They take million of dollars from the general fund each year, but the commission only has semi-control; C. YES, I think there should be a change. The economy and jobs in Titusville are important, but the county must be careful with funneling too much money into one district.
Perez: It would not be right for me to pass judgment on these commissions without personally working in depth with them. With any business decision there will be an opposing view, and these commissions have done a great deal for Brevard. In general I am not a fan of companies receiving tax abatements that don’t fulfill their end of the bargain. These abatements should also be at a competitive value, we should not mistakenly use tax payer’s money to bring businesses to Brevard. In addition, I do not favor long term holding of usable properties by the government.
Smith: In light of recent reports regarding local CRAs, the relationship between Brevard County and these redevelopment zones has to change. First, there is no real oversight of the money spent by Brevard's CRAs. Also, since the unincorporated parts of the County have to incur the burden from the lost revenue created by CRAs, the County must ensure Brevard's taxpayers are getting a fair deal. With regards to other non-governmental agencies, I think the Commission should provide greater scrutiny of the dollars spent and the level of service received.
4. Why you?
Charbonneau: I will do the job for $1.00 (one dollar) and I doubt that any other candidates will do the same. I have lived a life believing and practicing that successful people owe to pay back or pay it forward to their community. I’m dedicated to make a difference and not have a financial motive for doing so. I also have a unique experience in bidding, and successfully managing construction jobs in my own company for many years. I will never ever vote or let a vote pass while I can still speak out that cuts law enforcement or fire fighting.
Klein: As a former Law Enforcement Officer and Firefighter I am uniquely qualified in understanding public safety issues. Besides my public service career, other life experiences include serving as a Department Chair at Brevard Community College, operating a private security company, retail business experience and assisting government agencies across the United Sates with emergency planning procedures. Additionally, as a Vietnam combat veteran, I have a great appreciation for those in our community who have served in our military. My platform is to build on past achievements while addressing issues not yet resolved.
McDermott: I will improve and develop the economic growth of Brevard County by reaching out to and encouraging our large and small businesses, I will minimize regulations that strangle businesses, support tax incentives for both new and existing businesses, promote the growth of Port Canaveral, help local businesses grow and thrive bringing more jobs to Brevard County, support law enforcement, educators, and firefighters, respect our abundant senior citizen population.
Perez: I am not going to sit here and tell you a bunch of cliché campaign selling points from government transparency, smaller government, economical development, budget reduction, and/or lower taxes. Those should be the obvious goal of any commissioner. I believe that the core of the government should be focused around community and the people within it. As commissioner you have many county and advisory boards which you are responsible to make appointments to, it is important that people of exceptional moral and ethical standards are on them. In addition, I will bring a monthly open house to District 4.
Smith: Background, qualifications, and experience. I am a husband, father, and grandfather. I've owned and operated a business in Brevard for 26 years. My wife Linda and I have employed many county residents and served 34,000 customers in Brevard. My philosophy is "conservative" and I believe we should spend less than we take in. I've done that in my personal life and in my business and it has worked well for both. I know the County can do the same--being debt free. This creates a model for successful living: focusing on needs rather than wants.
Other candidates David Armstrong, Randall Brungart, Gregory Jones, and Matt Nye did not respond to repeated attempts by Brevard Times in relation to this story.