A four-way race for the lone St Augustine City Commission seat to be contested this year, has drawn responses from each of the candidates to a questionnaire that were posed by former mayor George Gardner and provided to Historic City News in today’s St Augustine Report.
An architect, retired guidance counselor, former county commissioner and incumbent city commissioner are campaigning for a spot on the November ballot in next Tuesday’s Primary Election.
Candidates in the only City Commission race this year include Roxanne Horvath, Errol Jones, Deltra Long, and Bruce Maguire. Two other commission seats, Mayor Joe Boles and Commissioner Leanna Freeman, were unopposed this year.
Unless a single candidate wins 50 percent, plus one vote, in the primary to win the office, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November ballot.
City Commission races are nonpartisan, so all voters within the city will find this race on their ballots.
To get more insight into the candidates, six questions were posed:
1. 450th Commemoration – Are you satisfied with the way it’s being managed, or how would you change it?
Three candidates say plans are going well – Horvath, Jones, and Long – while Maguire said the 400th commemoration should be a template, local businesses and organizations should be brought in, and the formal ceremony should be two weeks maximum. Horvath said a 501.c.3 nonprofit to raise funds is missing, and Long suggested more input from the community. Jones said the planning “has found a good place to grow at city hall.”
2. Visitor Information Center – The City Commission has authorized $1,525,520 to convert it to an exhibit hall. Good idea or not?
Horvath noted it would cost “4 – 6 times this cost” to create an exhibit hall elsewhere, the location is perfect, and visitor services will continue. Jones said “It’s being upgraded to serve as a community center for generations to come beyond the 450th.” Long agreed on the conversion, but “I would like to see comparison bids for determining authorized amount of $1,525,520.” Maguire said, “Extremely bad idea,” pointing out the Lightner as a “Class A historical museum facility” but needing repairs. He also dislikes potential event competition with the private sector.
3. Spanish Quarter – It’s being changed from city government to private sector management, and from interpretation of 1740′s civilian life complementing the Castillo’s 1740s military interpretation to representation of four eras of St. Augustine history. Good idea or not?
All four candidates agree on the change to private management, and expanding the experience to include other eras. Said Horvath, “Our objective is to tell, as accurately as possible, our entire history; the cradle of America, the first colony, a strategic military outpost.” Long noted the change “would allow more money to remain in the City’s budget for other purposes,” and local hiring for its programs is a plus for the economy.
4. 7-Eleven and Flagler classrooms – have each raised public protest. Both will go before the City Commission for final determination. As a commissioner, what would your stand be on these issues?
Neighborhoods won out over the proposed 7-Eleven and Flagler classrooms projects, while acknowledging difficulties with the 7-Eleven site being properly zoned and Flagler’s right to build on its property. Horvath might accept a scaled down Flagler plan. Long said, “The use of a PUD (Planned Unit Development) within all historical preservation districts should be reviewed and revised.” Jones praised having the college here “But we are a historic city and protecting our small town historic character is important.” For Maguire, the college’s “master growth plan must complement the neighborhood, the historic district and the City’s Comprehensive Plan.”
5. Here’s $100,000 in taxpayer money – how would you spend it?
Horvath would invest in “an updated Visioning Effort for our City” and dredging of Maria Sanchez Lake. Jones “would replace the two-inch galvanize utility lines that cause brown water.” Long would “address infrastructure in the City with improved equipment and technology to significantly decrease or eliminate continuous flooding/drainage in our streets,” and Maguire “would immediately put it into the Willie Galimore pool.”
6. 25 words or less – Why are you running?
Horvath would “bring my unique architectural skills to solve problems creatively to ensure that our city continues to be the most livable historic city in the nation.” Jones: “With all the challenges and goals before us, the city needs continued strong leadership. We are just starting to hit our stride! I love serving you and would appreciate the privilege to continue.” Long is “running to continue to give back to the community and to make a difference in improving the quality of life within the community.” And Maguire charges “the City Commissioners’ spending habits are foolish – too many boondoggles and not enough on the residents and neighborhoods. Let’s refocus on the people, businesses and community.”