Gulfport Candidates Follow-up Q&A

With Gulfport’s municipal elections less than three weeks away, the Gabber asked each of the candidates running for election in Wards 2 and 4 follow-up questions provided by residents and editorial staff. All candidates were asked the same 10 submitted questions, and one candidate-specific question. Due to space limitations, we did not include all of the Q&As in the print issue. However, all questions and responses for each candidate are included here. You can read responses to the introductory questionnaire here.

Gulfport municipal elections are city-wide – residents of all wards may vote for councilmembers. Mail Ballots are available by contacting the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office at 727-464-8683. The deadline to request a mail ballot is March 8.

There will be three poling places open in Gulfport on election day. You can find a list of local polling places and more Gulfport elections information here.

WARD 2

Linda Bailey 

Repeated attempts to contact Bailey were unreturned. She also did not respond to the introductory questions on January 26. 

 

Christine Brown

What is your position on allowing Gulfport to have a dog beach? 

Gulfport is fortunate to have several public recreational areas, numerous walking trails and two dog parks that are maintained on a routine basis. There are quite a few opportunities to enjoy and exercise our dogs in town. On the contrary, we only have about 1400 linear feet of public beach front. A dog beach is not without risk. My concerns include uncollected pet waste, direct contact with pet urine and irresponsible owners.

Some of Gulfport’s alleys are in fairly bad shape and need improvement.  What is your position on possibly paving the alleys in Gulfport?

Gulfport has budgeted $47,000 on alley improvements this fiscal year. Natural alleys allow the rain to soak into the ground. Paved alleys, on the other hand, force rainwater to either drain into surrounding yards or in some instances hold rainwater in yards where it would normally run off; both scenarios could result in flooding problems.

What are your thoughts on the perception of favoritism with regard to code enforcement in Gulfport?  

The code enforcement department follows a strategic plan to address code violations. Residents that witness a situation that may be unhealthy, dangerous or questionable please report it to the code enforcement department. Citizen complaints are given top-priority.

What is your proposal to improve Gulfport’s code enforcement process?

Effective code enforcement is the result of a partnership between residents and the code enforcement department with a goal to maintain minimum housing standards while allowing residents the freedom to express their individuality through the way they choose to live. The health and safety of each resident is on the forefront. On average 2,381 code cases are open each year. Only 8.5% of those cases are a result of citizen complaints and are given top-priority. The other 91.5% of the code cases are initiated because of the proactive strategy maintained by the city.

In what ways do you propose to help the city raise revenue?

The city manager and his staff continuously monitor the fiscal environment and financial forecasts to bring a budget to the council that is conservative and balances the public service needs with the available resources of the city. Your city council works closely with the city manager to maintain strict fiscal oversight; we have healthy reserves and the budget process moves forward with carefully measured steps. Revenues are currently following an upward trend. Raising fees and raising the millage rate can counteract lost revenues; I prefer to tighten our belt and rethink special projects.

What are your proposals to help the city reduce spending?

Our residents enjoy the benefits of a full service city. Our budget is balanced, our bills are paid, and our employees are rewarded for their loyalty. I am not willing to reduce costs by outsourcing our services. If our revenues decrease and we are forced to limit spending, I would opt to cancel or postpone a special project. I am proud that the city of Gulfport makes every effort to provide a full range of valuable essential services so each resident has the opportunity to lead a positive, healthy, active and rewarding life.

What is your position on making Gulfport a “sanctuary city”?  

Making Gulfport a sanctuary city could prevent us from receiving government dollars for various projects and programs. Additionally, the Gulfport Police Department does not check citizenship papers. We are a very accepting and welcoming city as proof by our HRO and our diverse population. Gulfport is a pretty cool place to be and our residents are even cooler. We don’t like labels, we don’t use labels and we don’t need labels.

What is your position regarding “chain” businesses in Gulfport, particularly in the waterfront district?  

There are cities that have been successful in blocking chain businesses from setting up shop. Their approaches have taken different paths. Some cities allow a small percentage of new business to be formula stores; some cities have designated parts of their cities as chain free zones; and other cities have only banned certain types of formula stores. Our downtown is at the terminal end of a local neighborhood street, not on a thoroughfare. Will our downtown market support chains? It is important to me to preserve the distinct character and neighborhood feeling that makes Gulfport warm and welcoming.

What specific idea would you propose to help reduce “crimes of opportunity” in Gulfport?

The Gulfport Police Department is professional, proactive and engaged. They coordinate and manage crime watch meetings monthly and offer helpful information about how to keep our citizens from becoming victims. Their Facebook page routinely suggests ways to stay safe as well. Avoiding “crimes of opportunity” requires an individual personal commitment. It is our responsibility as residents to safeguard ourselves, our families and our belongings.

Name one specific improvement you propose for each of Gulfport’s four wards and how you would work to implement each one? 

To me, Gulfport is one community, not four wards. I am committed to enhancing the lives of all residents by staying focused on our well-balanced list of significant projects that include sewers, roads, parks and cultural interests. We also have exciting upcoming projects like a new senior center, continued Shore Boulevard improvements, a mooring field and Trolley Market Square.  Our full-service city and the improvements we are able to make now and in the future are a direct result of the work of the entire city council, our supportive, professional staff, focused planning and grant funding. A winning combination!

As a councilmember, what has been your most significant contribution to your ward? What do you believe is the most important issue to address in your ward in the next two years?   

I am most proud of the Shore Boulevard Recreational Trail and Improvements project.  Gulfport’s waterfront is a gathering place, a place to relax and a place for recreation. Improvements include wider pathways, a resurfaced parking lot, and landscaping was added.  We also have decorative crosswalks and a boardwalk is slated be added to the east end of the beach this year. The project improves our community for all residents by enhancing public access to our waterfront.

The most important issue for Ward II this year continues to be our infrastructure. We must analyze, monitor, repair and possibly replace our sewers. Sewers aren’t pretty, but properly functioning sewers are critical components in protecting the health of our residents and our environment. Routine maintenance on roads and alleys provides residents with a smoother, safer ride and is an important part of our infrastructure as well.

WARD 4

Michael Fridovich 

What is your position on allowing Gulfport to have a dog beach?

We have limited beach so I don’t believe it’s in the best interest of the residents in Gulfport. Especially now that we are improving our sewers and infrastructure.

Some of Gulfport’s alleys are in fairly bad shape and need improvement. What is your position on possibly paving the alleys in Gulfport?

We don’t pave alleys due to drainage issues. We have committed approximately $47,000 annually to do the alleys and we do have a plan in place to continue to do so.

What are your thoughts on the perception of favoritism with regard to code enforcement in Gulfport?

There is little one can do with perception; it’s the reality that is important and there has been very little proof of any form of favoritism on the part of code enforcement.

What is your proposal to improve Gulfport’s code enforcement process?

Record approximately 175 complaints annually and we act on those complaints as they come in. If someone has code enforcement issue they should call our code enforcement officer.

In what ways do you propose to help the city raise revenue?

Any form of potential “revenue raising” would be on the backs of our residents, many who can not afford it.

What are your proposals to help the city reduce spending?

The only way to reduce spending would be to reduce services to our residents. Which would be detrimental to all.

What is your position on making Gulfport a “sanctuary city”?

I am not in favor. First, we are should not be a petri dish for national political issues. Secondly, we would lose Federal money we rely on for things like beach re-nourishment. I have heard that the state also is weighing in on this issue to penalize any city who declares themselves a sanctuary city.

What is your position regarding “chain” businesses in Gulfport, particularly in the Waterfront District?

We already have a few national business in Gulfport, e.g Walgreens, Auto Zone, Regions Bank, Well Fargo and McDonalds (which is a franchise). We need to have a discussion on what a chain business is. We already have a few business owners in the waterfront district that have more the one location; does that make them a chain?

What specific idea would you propose to help reduce “crimes of opportunity” in Gulfport?

According to Chief Vincent crime over all is dropping. Residents must take responsibility for their own actions e.g. making sure your car is locked, your residence is secured when not at home. Know your neighbors so if something does look suspicious you can report it immediately.

Name one specific improvement you propose for each of Gulfport’s four wards and how you would work to implement each one.

Even though we are all elected city wide, it would be presumptuous for me to tell another city councilmember what is best for their wards.

As a councilmember, what has been your most significant contribution to your ward? What do you believe is the most important issue to address in your ward in the next two years?

In the four years I have been city councilman, the city has spent approximately $1,520,269.15 in my Ward 4. A few examples of this last year alone are the new playground and upcoming changes of Tomlinson Park. Alley work, road paving (11th and 15th), some sidewalk replacement, storm water repairs and community development. In the next two years I want to see more sewer work and the new project on the [Tangerine] Greenway as well as continue to work closely with South 49th Street Business Association who represent most of the businesses on the 49th Street area.

 

Richard Fried
No picture submitted

What is your position on allowing Gulfport to have a dog beach?

I believe it would be a benefit to the quality of life for both our pets and people: strict enforcement of leash and pooper scooper ordinances would be necessary, as well as responsible pet owners. I would be more behind a gated area with the gates leading to the beach – acting as a dog park – perhaps close to the Rec center.

Some of Gulfport’s alleys are in fairly bad shape and need improvement. What is your position on possibly paving the alleys in Gulfport?

No. Currently the project of placing graded compacted rocks in our alleys is underway. Paving requires greater long-term and short-term costs and opens up other issues such as less percolation of rain water, causing greater flooding on our streets. I also believe we would lose the “Old Florida” feel to those areas that have alleyways. Frankly, I like my alleyway.

What are your thoughts on the perception of favoritism with regard to code enforcement in Gulfport?

Unfortunately, perception is reality. Because of our city’s size, those who work for us must be more diligent regarding the perception of ethics, or rather, the appearance of impropriety/conflicts of interest. Following its own rules and procedures regarding posting of signage at property locations requiring variances for both residential and commercial properties have not been followed – therefore not allowing if not impeding public input at the beginning of the process.

What is your proposal to improve Gulfport’s code enforcement process?

I believe there needs to be a process to reprimand, sanction, and/or fine service-construction businesses doing business within the city to be reviewed by council, zoning and the abatement board, who violate code. I have witnessed post variances issued because – one does not know what one does not know. Some unethical business owners (you know who you are) know how to end-run current systems in place.

In what ways do you propose to help the city raise revenue?

Honestly, I am more of a policy wonk. By charter, as a city, we are required to carry a balanced budget and that is what I will work toward. Specific questions I will research, ponder and answer regarding revenue generated by and for city expenses.

What are your proposals to help the city reduce spending?

As stated in the 2017 budget, our budgeted power usage is 7% percent of the budget equaling $800,000. Solar power on all our government buildings over time will pay for the cost of implementation (perhaps selling municipal bonds to fund it – currently 15 buildings). Perhaps we can also charge our golf carts, electric cars/buses – or even sell the power to Duke Energy. This proposal is a win-win.

What is your position on making Gulfport a “sanctuary city”?

For it.

What is your position regarding “chain” businesses in Gulfport, particularly in the Waterfront District?

Against it. Low wage, low skill and generally lower quality product. Between council, the chamber of commerce, the Merchants Association, SCORE, local banking, and any number of other institutions, we can do better. I live in the Outer Arts District. These issues affect/impact neighborhoods both north and south of Gulfport Boulevard.

What specific idea would you propose to help “crimes of opportunity”” in Gulfport?

Know [y]our neighbors. By all means, lock [y]our car doors; be aware of [y]our surroundings, and regard [y]our personal responsibility. Know [y]our peace/police officers by name.

Name one specific improvement you propose for each of Gulfport’s four wards and how you would work to implement each one.

I have no specific proposals for Ward 1. Ask a specific question and I will give a specific answer. Ward 2: Waterfront District; I have been mulling over one-way streets allowing for diagonal parking. Is this possible? The Lions Club is in need of improvements and promotion. And off course, Clam Bayou…. Ward 3: addressing Stetson’s growth issues, balancing the needs of the residents and the law school. I consider Stetson Law as one of our Jewels in our crown. Ward 4: a Tomlinson Park addition of either a dog park and/or a Butterfly Garden where the former skate park was located.  The designated parking located on the southwest corner of the park needs to be graded, perhaps with the same material as our alleys, with the same art tiled signage as our other designated parking areas. The trolley route passes this lot – allowing for additional event parking; lastly, additional benches on the trolley route: 58th Street, 15th Avenue, and 55th Street.

You have mentioned “accountability issues” with a city manager form of government, and advocated for a “stronger mayor.” How do you suggest Gulfport change its form of government and what would you do to facilitate the process?

Discontinuing consent agenda items in council meetings allowing for public comment and council debate. Increasing public comment from three minutes to five minutes and allowing public discourse with individual council members as well as the city manager. On average, public speech is equal to 130 words per minute – and I question the “meeting of the minds” in three minutes. Because of the Sunshine Law I believe the bidding process assures the city manager has too much decision-making latitude before information is conveyed to council. And If I am not mistaken, makes it more difficult for council to discuss suggestions, comments, concerns, etc… Ideally, I would like to see our charter changed to a Mayoral form of governance because this is a direct form of accountability.

 

Bobby Reynolds

What is your position on allowing Gulfport to have a dog beach?

My boxer would love it but I don’t think it would be in our city’s best interest. Our beachfront is tiny. It’s used primarily for sunbathing and swimming. Many families bring their small children because of our relatively calm shallow waters. It’s difficult to sunbathe/relax when dogs are running on the beach. Also, people don’t like having their kids around unknown dogs. There’s also sanitation issues. Dogs do their business without discretion. Boca Ciega Bay does not flush well and too many irresponsible owners don’t pick up after their dogs. Treasure Island provides a dog beach in a convenient location.

Some of Gulfport’s alleys are in fairly bad shape and need improvement. What is your position on possibly paving the alleys in Gulfport?

Paving our alleys is not the best solution. Paving will create a web of impervious surfaces that will negatively impact our environment. It will:

  • – add additional heat to our urban “heat island”
  • – reduce rainwater infiltration into our groundwater and create more polluted rainwater runoff
  • – reduce natural vegetation.

Fixing our alleys should be done with a porous material. Once fixed, we must reduce the frequency large vehicles traverse them to inhibit future degradation. Switching to curb-side-pick-up for our garbage will take the garbage and recycling trucks out of the alley onto a more durable surface twice a week.

What are your thoughts on the perception of favoritism with regard to code enforcement in Gulfport?

I made my feelings on this issue clear at the Candidate Forum and on my website, 4ward4.com. If favoritism is occurring, it needs to stop immediately. Whether you agree favoritism is occurring (or not), I think we can all agree code enforcement appears inconsistent. I don’t know if this is due to a policy issue, or an issue with an individual, but council and the city manager have been made aware of our concerns. These concerns have been before council in the past. I hope they address our concerns with seriousness and take appropriate steps to cure the inconsistency issue.

What is your proposal to improve Gulfport’s code enforcement process?

First, do away with the complaint-driven approach to code enforcement. If a violation is noticed by code enforcement, the violator gets one warning. If the problem is not corrected in a reasonable time-frame or there are repeat violations, the violator gets cited and fined. Residents may still submit complaints, and those complaints take priority. Second, do away with the inspection schedule. Why does it take five months to inspect all of Gulfport’s neighborhoods? It shouldn’t. Finally, if problems persist after these changes take effect, it’s time to consider a personnel change. Find someone who will perform the duties without bias.

In what ways do you propose to help the city raise revenue?

Increase fees on services that are underpriced to a more competitive rate, while maintaining them at current rates for certain customers based on income. Then do a better job marketing the services to increase the fee base.

Increase revenues from ad valorem taxes by increasing property values. Increase property values by improving neighborhood aesthetics, infrastructure, amenities and schools. Utilize code enforcement to ensure residents maintain a minimum standard.

Increase business-generated tax revenue by helping local businesses succeed in luring and capturing customers. It was done on Beach Boulevard. Let’s do the same on Gulfport Boulevard and 49th Street.

What are your proposals to help the city reduce spending?

Implement a better planning process. Recently, the city manager explained we had to resubmit applications for certain permits that had expired on the mooring field. So, we’re paying twice? To me, that seems wasteful, and probably could have been avoided with better planning.

Pay closer attention to how we spend our money. During the budgeting process, funds are appropriated for numerous items and projects. After the budgeting process, the city and council should review how we actually spend. What exactly are we getting for our money? Are we spending wisely? And, are we getting the most bang for our buck?

What is your position on making Gulfport a “sanctuary city?”

I don’t support making Gulfport a “sanctuary city.” I also don’t support the President’s travel ban. I’m sympathetic to the plight of refugees fleeing from war, poverty and oppression but we have an immigration system that must be followed (however broken). The federal government needs to fix this broken system so asylum seekers who pose no threat can be expeditiously vetted and approved for immigration.

We shouldn’t harbor illegal immigrants because it promotes the creation a sub-culture of people living in the shadows of our country. This is the land of equal opportunity. A subculture should not exist in our country.

What is your position regarding “chain” businesses in Gulfport, particularly in the Waterfront District?

I’m not opposed to “chain” businesses in Gulfport, even in the WRD. What I’m against is urban sprawl. It’s important that we review our zoning ordinances to ensure they preserve Gulfport’s character and prevent sprawl from taking root. I’m also against locally biased protective legislation. If “chains” comply with our ordinances, and don’t detract from the city’s character, then they have just as much right to conduct business in Gulfport as anyone else. We shouldn’t hinder competition. Let the free market decide which businesses remain in Gulfport. A few good chains may be a positive addition to our local business portfolio.

What specific idea would you propose to help reduce “crimes of opportunity” in Gulfport?

Create afterschool programs in the neighborhoods that keep pre-teens and teens engaged and off the streets. If we keep them in a structured environment, then we deny them the opportunity to get into trouble. Their environment influences their actions and social development. All of us have experienced peer pressure at that age. Therefore, a positive environment, rich with role models who will teach right from wrong, should exist. If this environment isn’t provided at home, in the schools, or by the city, what do these kids have? They have the negative influence and peer pressure that comes from the streets.

Name one specific improvement you propose for each of Gulfport’s four wards and how you would work to implement each one.

My list of realistic, affordable, and completely doable improvements:

W1 – Install artwork along Wood Ibis Park’s walking trail. Relocate current artworks or commission new ones.

W2 – Address incomplete art-walk. Allocate funds to complete the art-walk or move the artworks to a location where they can be better appreciated.

W3 – Spearhead basketball court repair at The Most Holy Name. Create privately funded (city-supported) initiative to repair the basketball courts used by our neighborhood kids.

W4 – Improve entry into Ward 4 across from Clymer Park. Fix the signage and repair the streets and curbs. Professionally landscape the median. Install reclaimed water system.

You have stated that city “information still isn’t getting to some residents.” What are your proposals for improving communication between the city/council and the community?

City/council already has tools for effective communication. They just need to use those tools better. To reach people, city/council must start thinking like a business. Every modern business knows if you want to reach people today, it’s through their phones. Conveying information today is done via social media and apps. Supplement those electronic communications with more traditional forms of communication. Information needs to be easy to access and understand. Hire or assign someone as the PR/marketing person to oversee the processing and dissemination of information. Finally, be receptive and respectful. Respond to residents who took time to communicate their concerns.

 

Ernie Stone 

What is your position on allowing Gulfport to have a dog beach?

I am not in favor of a “dog beach.” Although many dog owners are responsible and pick up after their pets, I am concerned about those who would not pick up after their dog and would leave any waste on the beachfront.

Some of Gulfport’s alleys are in fairly bad shape and need improvement. What is your position on possibly paving the alleys in Gulfport?

I believe the city should look into paving the alleyways. First, it could make the alleyways more attractive. Second, it would make the alleyways easier to drive through not only for city vehicles but resident vehicles as well.

What are your thoughts on the perception of favoritism with regard to code enforcement in Gulfport?

I believe the perception of favoritism has more to do with the inconsistency of enforcement with our code enforcement department, and not a result of actual favoritism. Our code enforcement is more reactive rather than proactive. The city should require our code enforcement officials to actively seek out violations in order for the violations to be corrected. This may require more manpower in the code enforcement department. Code enforcement officials should also enforce code violations in a consistent and fair manner.

What is your proposal to improve Gulfport’s code enforcement process?

Eliminate city codes that are outdated or obsolete. For instance, if there is a current state law for a violation, there does not necessarily need to be a city code. Amend current codes that are on the books so that they may be enforced effectively and consistently. Require that the code enforcement department be more proactive rather than reactive with violations. The current process requires that citizens call in violations, which pits neighbor against neighbor. This does not seem like an effective process.

In what ways do you propose to help the city raise revenue?

The city should thoroughly examine the feasibility of paid parking on the beachfront. This is not to say that the city must implement paid parking or that I am in favor of paid parking. But, this should be looked into. Many other cities have done so and it has not negatively impacted businesses. The revenue generated from paid parking could enhance the beachfront, rather than relying on property taxes to be raised in an effort to keep and maintain our beautiful beachfront area.

What are your proposals to help the city reduce spending?

I am committed to making sure the city of Gulfport continues to be a “full service” city, with emphasis on public safety (police/fire). If elected, I will do my best to ensure that the city only spends money on things that are needed, and that taxes stay low. The city should seriously be looking into clean energy investments for city buildings, to reduce the amount of money which is spent on energy costs.

What is your position on making Gulfport a “sanctuary city”?

While I have the upmost compassion for those who have come to our country seeking a new life, those doing so must do so legally. There are consequences in making our town a “sanctuary city.” For instance, cities who have unwritten policies which block the federal government’s enforcement of immigration policy can be denied federal funding (i.e. grants). With that in mind, I am against making Gulfport a sanctuary city.

What is your position regarding “chain” businesses in Gulfport, particularly in the Waterfront District?

A chain business has just as much right to open a business in Gulfport as any other business does. If zoning allows for the business, then there should be no reason the city should not allow the business to be opened. Any business in Gulfport uses utilities (water, sewer, etc.) and pays those related fees, which increases revenue for the city.

What specific idea would you propose to help reduce “crimes of opportunity” in Gulfport?

Our police department does an outstanding job deterring crime and enforcing the law. That is evident by their recent annual report. I would encourage our citizens to be more involved with the neighborhood watch program, call the police when you see suspicious activity, and get to know your neighbors. These are the cheapest and most effective ways of helping to reduce a citizen’s likelihood of being a victim of a “crime of opportunity.”

Name one specific improvement you propose for each of Gulfport’s four wards and how you would work to implement each one.

I will support improvements for every ward, so long as the improvement is needed, cost effective and does not adversely impact the citizens of Gulfport. Having said that, if elected by the citizens of Gulfport as the Ward 4 councilmember, I will actively and aggressively represent Ward 4. My candidacy is based on the fact that the current Ward 4 councilmember has supported many projects and concerns at the expense of the ward he was elected to represent. He has also taken credit for things council has done as a whole which he, himself, did not initiate.

You mentioned that one of your priorities is to improve parking options at the beachfront. What are your specific proposals for improvement?

I believe the city should look into making Shore Boulevard a one-way street, east of Beach Boulevard, and adding angled parking spaces on the north side of Shore Boulevard. The city could also add angled parking spaces on 54th street, between Shore Boulevard and 31st Avenue. This could add twenty or more parking spaces for beach parking.

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