City Commission candidate field range of questions at first forum
Ten of the 14 candidates running for three seats on the City Commission talk about the budget and other city issues
Published: Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 10:33 p.m.
At the first forum of the Gainesville city election cycle on Sunday, candidates were peppered with questions on topics including budget cuts and the meal limit on soup kitchens.
While four of the 14 candidates in the running for three City Commission seats didn't show up, the field was still large enough to limit answers to a minute apiece, providing little time for any elaboration.
Of the five candidates for the at-large seat — Dikassa Dixon, Jeffrey G. Fiedler, incumbent Thomas Hawkins, Don Marsh and Richard Selwach — Dixon and Fiedler were no-shows.
It was a similar situation for District 3 candidates.
Ozzy Angulo, Susan Bottcher and Jimmy Harnsberger were there, while Ramon Trujillo and Rob Zeller, who had raised the most money in any race as of Dec. 31, didn't show.
All four candidates for District 2 in northwest Gainesville — Todd Chase, James Ingle, Robert Krames and incumbent Lauren Poe — were there.
Even with little time, platforms and priorities were able to shine through.
More than 100 people packed into United Church of Gainesville for the forum, sponsored by the University Park Neighborhood Association, and they didn't hold back when they got to ask their own questions.
The first was from a downtown resident, who asked whether the candidates were in favor of keeping a limit of 130 meals per day on soup kitchens.
“I think it just makes our city look bad, like we don't appreciate the need that's out there,” Krames said.
Opposed to the limit were Angulo, Bottcher, Ingle and Marsh.
Those in favor were Chase, Harnsberger, Hawkins, Poe and Selwach.
The moderator, Joe Schmid, a board member of the neighborhood association, asked six questions before turning it over to the audience.
The first was about proposals to close the city's $8 million deficit.
Poe, the first candidate asked, quickly corrected the question, pointing out the shortfall was closed in the budget cycle last summer through a series of decisions: passing the fire service assessment, lowering property taxes and cutting from various departments.
“We have further to go,” he said.
Krames said the city should be focused on police, fire and infrastructure services.
“Everything else needs to be reconsidered,” he said. “We need to find a way to reduce government like the way each of us has had to.”
Ingle said the city needs to reevaluate its plans and programs and see what can be put off while it focuses on long-term growth and job creation.
Chase brought up that politicians these days routinely say the fat has been trimmed from the budget, that cuts had gone through the muscle and are now hitting bone.
“We need a new perspective on defining what is fat, muscle and bone,” he said, adding that he would start with commissioners' annual salaries of $30,403.
Marsh suggested cutting some of the Regional Transit System's routes where he consistently sees empty buses.
Hawkins countered that he doesn't think anything the city does is “superfluous,” whether it be parks or RTS.
He said most of the funding for the bus system comes from riders and grants.
However, he said the city should work to be more efficient.
Schmid also asked the candidates whether they supported the fire assessment passed in July to raise about $5 million for the fire department.
Angulo, Bottcher, Ingle, Poe and Selwach said they were in favor of it, while Chase, Harnsberger, Hawkins, Krames and Marsh were against it.
Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.