St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver is seeking election to a third two-year term. She faces former St Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure in the August 28th Primary Election. Friday morning, the pair fielded questions during a program aired live with Kevin Geddings on local radio station WSOS. A tertiary candidate is out of the country and did not participate.
McClure asked the audience one question; are you better off today than you were four-years ago? He says that, by his measure, you aren’t. If elected mayor, he said infrastructure, vagrancy issues and traffic will improve.
Shaver said if she’s re-elected, the city will see more results on infrastructure and mobility, but she also wants real progress on affordable housing and for the city to continue to be a leader in addressing the challenges of sea-level rise.
Shaver: She said she keeps sea-level rise maps in the car to explain the issue to people. According to a city vulnerability analysis, by 2030 there could be 1 or 2 feet of sea-level rise.
“The moat will fill in around the Castillo,” Shaver said Friday. The state determined the city’s wastewater plant is vulnerable, and there’s $2 million in the city’s capital plan to harden it.
McClure: When asked if he believes in climate change, he said, “We have temperature differences in the ocean.” He added, “This is also a financial issue. You have a national flood insurance program that needs to be looked at. It’s funded by the taxpayers, and everybody loses when you have a major catastrophic event.” He said changing height restrictions would help.
Shaver: Combatting flooding is one of her top priorities. “The city has made incredible progress with very little dollars,” she said. She said the city has been focused on help from the Army Corps of Engineers, and she’s tapped many other agencies for funding. “Chasing money is a big part of it,” she said. She added in the meantime the city has gone forward with “duct tape solutions” including special valves and a pump station to reduce flooding in the city’s core.
McClure: He said the city doesn’t have a revenue issue, it has a spending issue. “After four years, to say, ‘We’ve got a duct-tape solution’ is really not the answer,” he said. He said flooding affects homes, businesses and cars, and St. Augustine needs stronger leadership when it comes to infrastructure.
This year the city enacted new rules limiting where people can ask for money.
Shaver: Laid out city statistics saying there are roughly 1,800 homeless people in St. Augustine. She said crafting an ordinance to limit panhandling was very difficult, but said it’s working because business on St. George Street say they’ve seen an improvement, and crime is going down. She said the city is doing the best it can to support the homeless. “We get the least federal dollars per capita for homeless people of any county in the nation,” she said. Shaver said the city is getting money to put in about 100 units of “supportive housing” for homeless people who suffer from mental illness or addiction. In addition, she said dozens of city agencies support the homeless.
McClure: Does not believe the city is doing a good enough job addressing panhandlers. “I think the mayor’s view is that we have homelessness in New York. We have homelessness in San Francisco, and so we’re just going to have to live with it. I completely disagree. I think we can do better,” he said. McClure said panhandling hurts businesses and the city’s image. He said most professional panhandlers are habitual offenders, and state statute says habitual offenders can go to jail, “and you go to jail for a long time.” He said working with all tiers of government to get the homeless who want help and resources is important.
Traffic and Parking
Shaver: “Traffic is getting worse. The way we’re managing it is getting better,” Shaver said. She said the city has been managing cut-through traffic in many neighborhoods. She added the city is also working with the Florida Department of Transportation on the problem. Shaver said a city study shows there’s enough parking because the main city parking garage operates at 60 percent capacity. “Our congestion downtown is caused by people circling around and looking for a parking place,” she said. She said the city is working on getting parking pricing right.
McClure: He said infrastructure and parking are part of the traffic issue. McClure said its important tourists pay for parking. “I think that we really have to have offsite parking where we have tourists that actually pay for those shuttles. Then we have places for employees to come downtown and work, and then we’ll just improve the overall infrastructure,” he said. He also said an additional parking garage would be helpful.
The Florida Primary is August 28, 2018. If one the three mayoral candidates gets at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one, they’ll be St. Augustine’s next mayor. If that doesn’t happen, the top two candidates will be on the November General Election ballot.
Image: The debate was streamed live on facebook by my904.