R – Alright, so our guest today is a former professional soccer player who moved to Sarasota from the UK 17 years ago, he’s the president of Gulf Business Systems, he’s an active member of our local community and has four sons who all live here in Sarasota.
R – You might’ve seen some of his videos on Facebook in front of the city commission, YouTube he’s taken quite a vocal stance against them, and the city as a whole, and today we’re going to get to the bottom of all that. So without any further ado, help me welcome to the Sarasota Underground studios, Martin Hyde, welcome.
C – Hey, how are you doing?
R – Good, good.
R – So, just because it’s super easy, is there a Doctor Jekyll to the Mister Hyde?
C – You would think, wouldn’t you?
C – No, Hyde seeks office and all that sort of thing, the truth is with name recognition, one of the things I don’t need is a park named after me, we already have Hyde Park both in London, and actually in Sarasota, too. So I’m good on that, but, it’s a good short name.
R – So we’ll start with where we start on all of these. Why do this? Why get into city politics? Why make a run for city commission?
C – Okay. Well, I mean, ultimately it comes back down to the old adage: ‘If not me, then who?’. I complained, I’d pass comment, plenty of other people had about a number of issues in the city over quite a few years. The simple answer, it’s not very politically correct. Why am I running? Because they’re doing a terrible job.
R – So just point blank, you think the city is doing a terrible job.
C – I don’t think the city in general is doing a terrible job, I think the city commission in general has the ability to get virtually every single common sense decision wrong. Apart of that, is because of the way we run our elections out of sequence, and we get such a low turnout of less than seventeen percent, it means that very small groups make very squeaky wheels, they’re in a position with fifty, sixty, a hundred people to make noise, and the decisions are largely based on noise. We got fifty thousand people living in Sarasota, thirty-seven thousand registered voters, but one hundred thousand people here in season, yet we’re listening to twenty, thirty, forty people. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
R – Yeah, so how do we change that? Jumping forward five questions on my run here, how do you get more in touch wit- because that’s kind of part of this is, exposing people to the candidates, showing people that in a city, like Sarasota especially, you can make a lot of noise with a single vote. Two, three, like you just said, forty, fifty people can make all the difference. One hundred votes may decide in an eight person election, you know, whether you make it to that run off or not, and so how do we reach a new demographic and how do we get them excited about participating in something like this in Sarasota?
C – Okay, well participation, I mean reaching more people is very simple. The only way that is going to happen is if we run this in a general election cycle, it’s been mooted, but turkeys don’t vote for Thanksgiving and there’s no way that the people that are currently in office are ever going to vote for potential that might change their ability to win office again. So as far as getting more people to vote, and notwithstanding, and I’ve been asking people to vote whether they vote for me or not. The best way to do it is to move the election to November which, by the way, would save us one hundred grand every time, too.
R – So you’re a proponent of moving the election to – so what do you say to the people who would argue then that all that will do is bring people that don’t know what’s going on in the city out to vote, and then you get a party line vote and you push the city initiatives all the way down the ballet. What do you say to those people?
C – Id say that I don’t think people are that stupid, they may not all vote down the ballet that’s true enough, I think people that care will. I think that people can parse the wheat from the chaff hopefully. The path is the thing I absolutely don’t care for the reality is none of the issues, as far as I’m concerned in this city are anything to do with conservative or liberal, they’re absolutely all to do with common sense and the common good, or at least they should be.
R – You’ve been in Sarasota for seventeen years now, what’s been the biggest change in your mind?
C – Well it’s absolutely not as seasonal as it used to be, when I first used to come here in the late 80’s early 90’s before I moved here, in the summer time it was almost a ghost time, certainly downtown it was. So that’s definitely changed, we have more people here more of the year and it’s more of a place, you know, one of the things I said a lot of times about Sarasota, people ask why did you come? I say the weather, various reasons, but also, in many cases it’s a place where people end up. It’s not where people start out. And one of the things that I’d like to try to help, and I understand we can’t do all of these things in one hit, but, one of the things I’d like to help is to create a place where people could have, can have, a whole life. Not just a place to live out the balance of their life, and that’s very much about participation, it’s very much about listening to everybody, it’s about downtown events, it’s about bay front 20/20, and it’s about engaging with all of us, not just the few that turn up at city hall.
R – So what makes you, and I’ll ask you once again to try to speak up a little bit, you’re speaking very softly. What makes you qualified to do that? To be the person to lead that charge.
C – Well, I an objective person, I run a business; I’ve run a business for many, many years. I have to face pragmatic decision making every day. So as far as it results to making decisions, I’m not afraid to make decisions, you know? If you want to make an omelet you’re going to have to break a few eggs. I can’t please everybody all of the time, what I try to do is make sure that the general and common good is the way that we go.
R – Yeah. From your perspective, what’s the biggest hurtle we face in Sarasota. What’s that insurmountable goal. Not necessarily insurmountable, but what is that biggest hurtle that’s in front of us as a city, as a community, in order to do some of the things we’re talking about here. Trying to connect, get to a –
C – Well I mean from a perspective of a sustainable community it needs to be a sustainable economy. What we have right now is a problem. Young people making eight, ten, twelve bucks an hour in service industry jobs. What we don’t have, are enough well paid technology jobs, well paid service jobs that will take people to the point where they can afford their own home, where they can stay, where they can raise a family. You can’t raise a family well on ten or twelve bucks an hour. We’ve got such a income discrepancy here. We’ve got multi-millionaires, then we’ve got people who are scraping by.
R – But how do we change that? You’re not going to change that from the city commission right? You’re not going to equalize income across the city, so how do we do some of that specifically?
C – Well yes, and no. Okay, all journeys start with one step. One of the things we have to do is we have to encourage people with talent to stay here, we need to encourage technology, we need to embrace Ringling, we need to embrace all of the college graduates and give them genuine opportunities. And no, you can’t fix it overnight; you know going to take people from scraping by to upper middle class. But we can, and we should, use what resources we’ve got, and to incubate the talent that we have. We’ve got fantastic talent here. We’ve got kids leaving Ringling and going to work for Pixar, and Disney. They could, and should be staying here. We could develop a film industry, we can do something with that.
R – So what initiatives do you take o the city commission to make that happen, like what’s your plan of action, you get into office, let’s say you get elected, what’s step one. Walk me through your planning.
C – Well, okay. Well we’ve got a program, a wish list if you like, everybody else talks in platitudes, and I’ll give you some real specifics. First of all the parking, we’ve tried it three times. If you marry the same person a fourth time, really you should be baker acted, and anybody that talks about putting parking meters as being a good thing doesn’t understand economy. The economy is very simple; twenty percent of all sales on Christmas were online. Hard brick and mortar retailers are having a difficult time; you can’t do anything to compromise the retail experience. We’re already struggling downtown because of the mall, UTC, we all know that. We can’t afford to marginalize the experience and ask people to pay even a couple of bucks, plus, it’s a regressive tax, and if somebody is coming down to buy a coffee, somebody on a fixed income two bucks to park is fifty percent of the cost. So I think it’s a bad idea, and I would bag it before we put them down.
R – That you would bag the parking meter –
C – The parking meter proposition, absolutely Ludacris idea, bizarre, marrying someone a fourth time around. The homeless is something which I’ve got an idea about, you know, I came in with some preconceptions about the – they’re the same preconceptions that a lot of middle class people have, they’re bad, they mess the place up. I’ve looked into it a lot more and I’ve considered the options more. There are some things that we have to take into account. First of all, we’re taking sand off the beach with a spoon. If you’re talking about long term housing, if you’re talking about – it costs money. We’ve got the budget that we’ve got. One of the things I’d like to do and it’s a good idea is to have a definitive referendum on how much money the citizens of Sarasota are prepared to spend on homeless. Are you prepared to spend ten million in one pop? Are you prepared to spend ten million a year? Are you prepared to spend an extra three or four hundred a year on your property taxes, because that’s about five million a year. If you are, then there is a lot we can do with that. If you’re not, then we have to manage the resource that we’ve got. We have a lot of obligations; one of them, socially, is to make sure the disadvantaged are helped, but it’s not something which you can do open ended, because in a sense The Kearney Center, which is a tremendous place in Tallahassee where they built homeless – built buy a guy with three hundred million personal fortune, but he admits, openly, that the Kearney Center has become a drop off point for three states. The irony if we do a really good job with the homeless is that we might have five hundred right now. We do a really good job and we house those people and it’s fantastic, how long do you think it will be until we get another five hundred, or another two thousand, or three thousand.
R – Well the problem is that we have a lot more than five hundred, we’ve got anywhere between two and six times the national average of a city of our size, and so we’re dealing with a substantial number and I don’t necessarily have the solution to that, and I don’t think it’s a single faceted solution, right? It’s got to be a number of different things.
C – Absolutely.
R – So, I want to talk a little bit about your – you’ve had some videos on Facebook where you go into city hall, and they make for good fodder, and they’ve performed well I’m sure. They get a lot of activity on Facebook from people who are kind of frustrated with what’s going on in the city. Is that a show? Are you – I mean, you went in and compared the city commission to Charles Ponzi. Explain a little bit about your process there.
C – Well that remains true. I mean facts, as John Adam said, are stubborn things. We owe one hundred and fifty million more on our pension obligations then we have, and if investment returns full, then we’ll owe even more than that. We’re going to net cash our flow of thirty six million on our pensions and we only have fifteen million going in, so you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that we’re paying the current investors, so to speak, with new investor’s money. The problem you’ve got with the pensions is that two of the schemes are closed and now the words the door has closed already and we will run out of money. That isn’t a question of my opinion, that’s actually something they’ve actually opined in the chamber on countless occasions. What saves them, is what saves all government. It’s about sixteen or seventeen years away before we actually run out of money, potentially, so you can kick the can down the road, and that was another thing that I did. Your question is sort of, you know, am I just rabble rousing and the answer is, actually no. One of the warranties’ that I’m sending out to thousands of households shortly, in addition to the one which I gave about donating my salary to the mental health charities in the city of Sarasota, is an unequivocal guarantee. If I don’t fulfill any one of those speeches in terms of policy by vote, I’ll resign. Period. I don’t want the job if I have to lie. I don’t need the job, I’m not going to take any money for the job, and if I lie, there’s no point in having the job.
R – This all sounds good, right? But we’re also all very familiar, and we’re real close to our, just as we’re about to start getting deep into it we’re right at our fifteen minute Facebook line. So just before we close this live feed, I’d like to ask a little fun question for you. What’s your favorite part about living in Sarasota here? If the viewers are watching, we can give a little something, just a little personal touch about you. What’s your favorite part about being here in Sarasota?
C – What I love is engaging with the younger people. In truth I’ve got four kids. My oldest is a deputy sheriff, I’ve got a twenty-two year old who’s in a band who’s a great singer, I’ve got an eighteen year old, and I’ve got an eight year old. I’ve coached kid’s soccer here. People are really nice, you know, the people at city hall not so much, but the people here are really nice, and for the most part people are relaxed and friendly. So the nicest thing about Sarasota is the people, no question.
R – Yeah. Alright, with that we’re right at the fifteen minute mark. We’re going to ask what Martin thinks about how we keep the youth in Sarasota, how do we retain that youth, how do we build some of those jobs we talked about a little earlier in the interview, and maybe dive deeper into a few of the other topics that we’ve covered so far. If you’d like to see the full version of these videos, they’ll be available on our Facebook page, YouTube, and as well as the website next week as we continue on this quest to get to know all the candidates leading up to our town hall event February fifteenth make sure you check out our news feed for events on that. Otherwise we’ll catch you guys next time. Thanks for watching.
R – Alright, so we’re off live there. Alright we’ll keep recording on the other stuff for sure. Just let the other stuff keep running. We don’t have to stop or nothing like that. You good? Need water?
C – No, no, I’m good. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m better or worse of camera.
R – Off live, right?
R – Yeah it’s always challenging in just as a little aside from being in the process starting all this and having these hiccups, and learning as we go, you know this is all nerve racking on this side to trying to make sure we live up to a certain level of quality and produce a product that again makes people think it looks easy on the outside but –
C – Any time a camera is pointing at you, the truth is – the first time I ever had that was on ABC 7 about eighteen months ago, and I remember feeling my heart pumping and whacking against my rib cage and It’s just an extraordinary thing even though I’m in my late forties at that time, it’s incredibly nerve racking because you know, or at least you should know, that it’s there in perpetuity and that, you know, one slip of the tongue, one false comment, and you could be made to look a buffoon forever. So yeah it is nerve racking.
R – I feel like you’re teeing up for something!
C – No, no!
R – Because we’ve had a few gaffes recently, and one of the candidates that you were very vocal about opposing in your race for city commission has been Susan Chapman, why is that? Why have you kind of narrowed your focus on her and kind of come out swinging?
C – Well I don’t know about coming out swinging, yeah she makes it kind of easy. She isn’t isolated; you know the ‘tickets to the ambulance’ was a bizarre thing. She’s obviously talking to a couple of her neighbors and nobody likes people going past in large vehicles, most of the people down there are wealthy, and it was a fassile comment to make and to write it down was bizarre, and it made me laugh and I posted it! I make no bones about that, I can’t post something if you don’t write it, but she said other stuff and some of the other stuff she said is frankly more divisive. You may recall last summer after Orlando, the city manager which is something else I’d like to talk about later, but the city manager proposed some kind of, not ordinance, but comment that was going to be sent to Tallahassee with regard to the potential for control of limitation on the second amendment. Now I qualify that and say being British by birth and never having actually held a gun, but I recognize the value of constitution. I thought that it was a bad time to have the conversation because people were very emotional, and more particularly I don’t believe it’s any business of the Sarasota city commission to be getting involved in that. They have no ability to legislate and it was only going to divide what was already an emotional community. We have a large gay population in Sarasota, and they were quite rightly outraged as I was. But when they finished that meeting, and they realized that they couldn’t do anything because the statute actually requires them to pay their own legal fees which of course Chapman would never want to do, so they all backed off, but the last comment that she made was that the people in the room were quote, unquote, scary white people. Now, first of all she’s white, second of all she’s relatively scary herself, and it has no place coming from an elected official to a group of citizens that have turned out to share their opinions.
R – Does this get to the bigger point of what I have felt have been a couple of overreaches by the city government? Uber being one of them, the gun issue for sure, some of these things where it just doesn’t seem like it’s what we should be tying up city resources deciding, and then they don’t have – some of them are state issues, or federal issues even. You don’t have the authority to make this decision. So why are we tying up chamber time with issues like this?
C – A great example of that is this Stop Movement, you know. They talk mostly about traffic there and mostly what we’re talking about are the major north-south routes. 41 in particular, and 301. They never admit, or come out and tell you that the DOT controls 41, and 301 and that comes from Tallahassee and there’s absolutely nothing that the city of Sarasota can do about it. So the argument that we can stop traffic is fallacious. Simply not true, legally not true. The development question is a whole other question. The Monica Stop is unfortunate. Those of us that study the history of Sarasota know that in 1989 a moratorium was proposed with regard to building. There was expansion, people were worried about growth and they wanted to have a building moratorium, the effect of that was to paralyze the economy of Sarasota through the early part of 1990, when it finally came on the ballet in the fall of 1990 it was completely rejected, but it was a desperate time for businesses because you have to remember real estate and construction is over a quarter of our local economy, and an economy is like an ecosystem; like it or not, if I take the frogs out of the ecosystem or they get plagued with something else, if I take a chunk of twenty five percent of the economy out, temporarily even, that has a knock on effect, not on the big developers, they have plenty of money, it has a knock on effect on the guys that work on the sites, and more particularly it has an effect on the guy that sells coffee to those guys, the guy that makes the burgers. You cannot be messing with things like the economy over misinformed and misinformation. No one’s talking about building five hundred high foot buildings. No one is talking about concreting over the bay, what we’re talking about is a couple of buildings which fit code that people now don’t like once they’ve gone up; such as the view on the corner of Gulf Stream.
R – So let’s jump into that a little bit, because that is one of the hot buttons in this election and overall in Sarasota, especially in that city corridor is these tall buildings and some people talk about, you’re stealing my view, ironically the building is named the view and there is a number other tall buildings, the Quay has been green lit, in a phase development, Bay front twenty-twenty is coming, who knows what’s going to go there, and there’s something like thirty three commercial projects going in downtown vertical and most of those are residential. What is your stance on the growth in Sarasota, these types of buildings, tell me a little about how you feel in that regard, because it seems like a lot of – well a few of the candidates that we’ve already talked to would rather see less of that, I’m getting a sense that you’re okay with seeing more of that, so tell me more about your position there.
C – Well, there’s always balance and people talking cliché terms about smart growth and what we’re talking about here is, first of all, exponential growth. We can’t pull up the ladder and turn around and say, well this is as far as we go, we got a slice of paradise, nobody else can come. Sarasota, in my opinion, has the opportunity to be the west cost of Florida’s jewel. I think it could be a fantastic city, I mean it could be world class city. I’ve lived all over the world; I can tell you we have everything in place, except places to put people. I agree that there are transport infrastructure is lagging behind, and that often happens. So as far as turning around and saying: ‘Well that’s it we’re going to stop for five years or ten years.’ Stopping isn’t necessarily staying way you are, it’ll be going backwards and investment is exactly what it says it is, it’s opportunity. In terms of zoning, the zoning has been the same since 2003, the only reason it’s come up now is because the economy wasn’t there for people to build something until the last three or four years and the financing wasn’t, so as far as it relates to density, which is something that people are bothered about, affordable housing is, in large part, not about the cost of constructing the housing, it’s about the cost of the land that’s underneath it. If you increase density in certain areas, potentially your cost per square foot on the ground underneath goes down. You can make smaller apartments, and you can potentially have affordable housing. Affordable, as Harvey Vengroff said quite rightly, is about one dollar per foot. In other words, a six hundred square foot apartment rents for six hundred bucks a month. I think that’s affordable and attainable for most people. Current rents in downtown Sarasota go from twelve to fifteen hundred, frankly for most people on service industry wages that isn’t – and there is no way around that unless you change your plans, cut back on your impact fees for affordable –
R – But didn’t the city, I mean the – and this is something that Susan was telling me about, was in Rosemary that that was the experiment, that they approved higher densities, that they were trying to solve some of those problems, but now what we’re seeing are these, again, a thousand plus units coming online that are twelve hundred, thirteen hundred, fourteen hundred dollars plus, so we didn’t solve that problem, we didn’t hold the developers to those density standards, or the affordability standards, so how do we do that? How do we keep playing this back and forth, and promising one thing and then when it comes to delivering it, it doesn’t get delivered and we just keep pushing and pushing and pushing?
C – Because they’re bad negotiators. They got no business sense whatsoever. We’ve got no business people on the commission at all. Common sense dictates if I make a deal with somebody that I stipulate it in black and white and require them to sign it. When you’re talking about affordable housing then absolutely if we’re going to give them the ability to build at a much lower cost, if indeed we’re even going to subsidize it, then we have to obligate them. Harvey Vangroff pushed back a little bit against that, but they needed it so badly that they gave him the deal anyways. Everything is knee jerk, everything is reactionary. What we need to do is actually sit down and work the plan backwards. How many houses, how many apartments, how much should people pay, and go from there.
R – So you say that, which I’ll use as a queue to take back to, you said you wanted to talk about the city manager, and the seeming lack of a planning department in the city, right? Because we kind of just took some of that and off loaded the planning department, and so it seems like a lot of this stuff is reactionary. Is that the city managers responsibility? Is that the commission’s responsibility? Would that be your responsibility?
C – As far as I’m concerned, it’s absolutely the city commissions. City commissions really only have a couple of functions, it shouldn’t be micromanaging. You know, I run my business, I don’t tell people how to answer the phones, I don’t tell them, you know, how to service things, or what they should be doing. I hire good people. That’s the key, and the most important thing for executive management; hire good people, and to motivate them. So as far as what a city manager should do, city manager is there to implement policy, period. City manager is not there to create policy, we’ve had a debate many times about having a strong mayor, such as they have in Bradenton, and it really falls down on one thing, who would be the strong Mayor? Potentially, sort of the boss man mentality, I can see why people don’t like it. So we stick with what we’ve got, a weak mayor, supposedly, allegedly, but if we focus on what the city commission should do, first of all, the most important thing a city commission should do, is pass a budget. I don’t mean just an added up budget, I mean a planned budget. Let’s decide where we want to spend the money. Are we going to spend ten million on the homeless? If we are, fine. Are we going to spend five million a year on lawsuits? If we are, well, okay. We spend one hundred and thirty seven grand a month on legal fees right now. In my opinion that’s twice as much as we have to. It should be budgeted but it isn’t. They take it out of the general fund as it comes up, and that is the very essence of running by the seat of your pants, and you can’t run any organization without that, whether it’s commercial or non-commercial. You’re talking about the city manager; my problem with the city manager is not personal. My problem is that because the city commission is so fractured, that the city manager has picked up the baton and then run with it and is implementing policy. He is mooting a lot of changes, constantly. Everybody knows who the city manager is in Sarasota, much more so – other than Susan Chapman, most people couldn’t tell you the names of the other city commissioners. They can tell you who the city manager is, because he’s in front and center of the camera all of the time. We’re pushing through, again, through the back door things that shouldn’t happen. Sunshine requires everything is done in public, but the city manager, although he’s covered in sunshine, has an ability to talk to each individual commissioner, one after the other, after the other. Which the others commissioners can’t, because they’re only allowed to talk in the chamber. He has the ability to essentially pull opinion and create and form opinion. It’s not terribly difficult to nod and wink and say: ‘Well that’s the same as somebody else said’. And before you know it, decisions are made before people go in the chamber. It’s no coincidence to me that so many things pass on a nod and a wink, have never been discussed, and that is because our city manager is acting as a sixth commissioner. I wrote him an email. I said, you know, it’s twenty-six-four a year, go run, but he gets a hundred ninety-six grand right now plus thirty-three grand in deferred compensation, plus seventy-two hundred in a car allowance, why would he? He gets to do exactly what he pleases and he can go home at the end of the day. So as far as I’m concerned –
R – So what was his response to your email?
C – Not very good. I mean, the truth is everybody is a critic and I get that. There is some potential to be concerned with negatives and to end up being some kind of irritant or gadfly. I want to try and focus on what we can do, what we should do, and not what we are doing.
R – Well, and that’s one of the things – one of the questions that I have written down here, and we’ve mentioned some of the vocal opposition to Chapman, and the city commission as a whole, and there is that concern of coming off as overly negative, as I think I heard somebody say baby Trump in Newtown the other day.
C – I have better hair than that!
R – You do have better hair! What does that make you feel like? Or is that part of your strategy? Because it worked for Trump.
C – Well I understand that, but I’m not Trump and I’m not trying to be him. I think it’s kind of a modern term for somebody that’s non establishment, I guess, potentially, somebody that’s rude, I get that, and I have been on occasion and sometimes deliberately and sometimes inadvertently. People have mentioned it to me and I take that on board, and I’m trying. I wrote a little list down here, not because it’s contrite, but because I wanted to just lay out in specific terms, some things that I’d like to try to do that are positive. The downtown events – we lost the Thunder by the Bay, we lost the chalk festival, whether we can get them back or not, I don’t know. But I’d like to try; and I’d like to get more there for people. The city might only be fifty thousand people; the county is four hundred thousand, we’re next to Manatee County. It’s a major metropolitan area, it’s a gathering place, and frankly if people choose to buy a condo downtown for three million bucks, and expect it to be peaceful, they’re in the wrong place. There’s plenty of places where they can be, so kowtowing to that, I wouldn’t do. Night life, you know, the whole point is if you want somebody to look after you, and if you want somebody to serve you, you better give them a reason to stay, and telling everybody that lights are going off at seven-thirty is not the way to do it, and the noise ordinance is way to tight, and whilst we don’t necessarily want to turn it into Duval street, or Bourbon street, there are ways that we can manage it and get some vibrancy and some night life back to downtown Sarasota. I want more police on patrol. I want police on patrol because I want people to feel safe. I feel safe in Sarasota, and I don’t feel terribly threatened. I don’t think it’s a terribly dangerous place, but I want everybody to feel like that in all the neighborhoods. You know, we focus on downtown, but the reality is the city almost goes all the way up to the airport on the North Trail. The North Trail has had substantial problems, it’s been well documented; human trafficking, prostitution, some of the ways that the Motels have been run, drugs and crime. I’d like to get more people out there patrolling and working to help regenerate that. Bay Front twenty-twenty is a massive huge opportunity that everybody here of a certain age should be thrilled about. You know, if you’re seventy-five, eighty years old, by the time it comes off it may be moot but for anybody here that’s looking forward to the future, we have an opportunity there, a fourteen-acre track that we can something fantastic, something world class, something which will not only draw tourists and visitors, but something which will give us all something to congregate around on high days and holidays. We got to keep some of the public factors there, I’d like to keep the boat ramp, I’d like to keep some – obviously, direct water access is very important, but we’re not going to be able to do it all ourselves. We can’t turn it into just a park, it’s more than that. It should be a whole district. We’ve got a tremendous committee being put together. My concern with Bay Front twenty-twenty is that if it’s run by the current commission, it’ll be sunk, and an opportunity lost forever. We need younger people, and we need the community to push on that one.
R – Changing gears a little bit, how do we – because some of the things – some of the issues that we face here, I think, are due to a lack of communication, and a lack of connectivity. We’ve talked in these interviews already with some of the other candidates about the diverging silos of thoughts that pop up in Sarasota, and I think a lot of that happens from a lot of people moving in from out of the state, they find their little niche, and they feel at home there, and there’s not a lot of need to spread tentacles, and so you find these groups of people that are very segmented, that a lot of time want the same things, but don’t even realize that the people all around them are doing the same thing, and so everyone’s worried about: ‘oh we can’t get XYZ done’, in reality it’s because it’s their just in this little bubble, so in a grander scheme across the community how do we do that? But more specifically, as it relates to you, how do we get the city and county government to have more communication, to collaborate more, to get on the same page in certain regards so that we can have a more unified feel at least when it comes to some of these issues.
C – Well, you know, the city county disconnect is, to my mind, just petulant. Probably on both sides, but for the most part, the disrespect has come one way, from the city toward the county and I’ve heard anecdotes of city commissioners deliberately under dressing when they go to meetings with the county and being truculent for its own sake. They use terms like being collegial, and they simply aren’t. I know all of the county commissioners; I’m not thick as thieves with them, or terribly close friends, but the truth is we have to work together, the city and the county, you know, the city is right in the middle of the county, it’s not on the outside of the periphery. We’re not rivals, we’re not competing. The city is the heartbeat of the county, or the north county anyway, and potentially is vital, and we need to make them understand and recognize that most county residents will come to the city on a regular basis, and want to see a city which succeeds. Bear in mind that the city is also out by the beaches, there at Lido, there’s a lot that we need to do together in collaboration. Mostly the disconnect has been with regard to the funding or not funding of the downtown district and of the homeless, I think we can start again, I think they need – in order to get change, you have to change something, and I’m rallying on change. One thing I absolutely know I can do, is get along with people, because I’ve had to do it for thirty-some odd years, I don’t necessarily like everybody I do business with, but I find some common ground because that is the only way you can sustain a business of your own, you’re going to do business with people that you like, you aren’t going to get that many customers.
R – Yeah, so I got a couple questions that we’re wrapping up all of these interviews with, but before I get to those, is there anything that we haven’t asked that you would like to address? Is there an issue that we may have overlooked that you think needs to be talked about? Or something that you would just like to share with the audience as you have the camera here?
C – No, I mean I think we talked about the parking, we talked about the homeless, we talked about downtown, we talked about investing In public safety with the police, and we talked about the pension funds, we covered a lot, we talked about the opportunity of Bay Front twenty-twenty, I think people might be concerned at one of the problems is in an election people sit there with a big laundry list, ‘We’ll do this, we’ll do this, we’ll do that, we’ll do the other’, and if you added it all up it comes to ten billion dollars. We have to balance what we’d like to do with what we can practically do. Everything that I’ve talked about is doable, we will have to adjust our tastes a little bit, we will have to say more risk management, cut back on the legal faces, and we’ll have to cut some of the bureaucracy, you know? We added a recreations specialist for Robert L. Taylor park and as I said that I did there, my eight year old son is a recreation specimen, and you pay him fifty grand a year to do it. We have to adapt and work within, and we have to prioritize. Safety is a big priority to me, the basic financing are very important, and then we can start talking about wish lists and I’m interested to hear what people have to say about the homeless in the sense of are they – are the citizens prepared to invest, and I think we should ask them that, because at the moment it’s kind of a blank check and everybody doesn’t really know what – is it five million, is it ten million, is it fifteen million, let us know and we’ll work with that.
R – Yeah, what’s a question, or something you would like to know from the other candidates? What’s something you think I should add to my repertoire for the rest of the candidate interviews, or something I should –
C – I’d like to see people talking in the specifics; I think people are talking a lot of generalities. I’ve heard – if I heard the word neighborhood and community, and listening, you know, once, I’ve heard it about three hundred times already. Most people don’t want to face it up, and say something definitive, I’d ask people straight out; are you for paid parking? Yes or no? Are you for more police on the beat? Yes or no? Or are you for or against increasing taxes generally? Are you for or against the city manager in general, not particularly personally, but in terms of changing the emphasis, and in sense the terribly easy yes or no questions with an explanation, I don’t think you’ll get them. Those are the kind of questions I’d be asking, and I will ask when we get to your forums and I get the opportunity to bounce something back off, I’d also ask which of them, if any of them, is prepared to do it for free? Which of them is prepared to make public service their priority? Which of them doesn’t – if they need the money, sure, but those that can, will they do it? Will they show the citizens that their investment is at least the same as anybody else’s because I think they should, not all the candidates can, but some of them could, and I’d like to see some of them offer it.
R – And then the final question is just, do you have any questions for us? For our audience? For us as a team here at Sarasota Underground, for the people watching this video?
C – Well you know what, the question I’ve got is very simple, assuming that what we’re talking about is a demographic of millennial so called, our younger people, I’ve got, as I said, a twenty-four year old, a twenty-two, eighteen and eight year old, the eight year old, let’s assume he’s not part of this discussion at this time, I’d like to know what you really want, you know, again we talk in terms of disconnect, we talk in terms of not being listened to, I’d like to know in absolute terms and I’d like people to come online, I’d like them to come online and tell me, you can call me, my cell phones on my side, and tell me, what it is that we’re doing wrong, and what it is we can do better? Telling what’s wrong is terribly easy, telling us how we could do it better is important and if there’s a confluence, if there’s something which we can do and we can work with, I’d like to have them mark their own advisory boards, I’d like them to actively participate, and I’d like to see younger people the commissioning course, not instead of me of course.
R – There are a couple young candidates on the ballet so we will see, that could be a potential this year. We could get two young people and maybe you’re not on it.
C – Well who knows?
R – I’m just saying, it’s a real possibility.
C – Absolutely it could happen, in reality some balance, some experience –
R – It’s not likely.
C – I don’t think it’s terribly likely, I think, you know, when I came here I was the same age as those candidates are now, and I thought I knew it all, and of course later on one realizes perhaps even – and I know now that I don’t know it all, so I certainly know I didn’t then. There’s a lot that can be bought with a different perspective, and someone in their thirties has a totally different perspective on life to what I do, and I think that if you’ve got five people, one of them should be that age, and I would like that to happen, I really would.
R – We will see, we will see. That’s it. Thank you guys for checking out one more installment of our candidate interview series here. We’ve got, see this is three, we’ve got five more candidates and I think the deadline is Friday. If you’re still awake, there’s another episode after this, if you’re trying to get to sleep, just let this play in the background and you’ll wake up way smarter about Sarasota. Catch you guys next time.