Q & A: Donna Lutz
Published: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 7:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 7:12 p.m.
Candidates were asked to keep their responses to 100 words or less.
Birthplace: Boca Raton
Occupation: Broker and owner, Lutz Realty Group
Education: Bachelor’s degree, education, Spanish concentration, University of Florida (1967)
Political offices: Chairwoman, City of DeLand Airport Advisory Committee (1986-1988); member, Volusia County Status of Women Board (1986-1988); member, Gainesville Code Enforcement Board (2003-2006); Alachua County Community Agency Partnership Program (2011-present)
Past elections: None
Party affiliation: Republican
Community involvement: Member, Trinity United Methodist Church
Contact: 352-222-4072; email@example.com
On the Web: website | Facebook | Twitter
1. What are the biggest issues the city faces, and how would you as a commissioner solve them?
First issue: The electorate is not engaged in its governance. Since only 11-14 percent of the people vote, the commissioners that are elected feel they have carte blanche to establish their own personal agendas, and the agenda of the political machines that elected them. As a commissioner, I would initiate the process of changing the election date in Gainesville. Second issue: the budget. I would have a yearly budget as the state does, and we would live within its parameters. We need to be better stewards of the people’s money. In hard times, cut the fat.
2. The city is projecting a nearly $2 million shortfall for its two-year budget period ending in 2013. What initiatives should the commission put in place to raise revenues or cut expenses to make up the gap?
First order of business would be an assessment of all departments -- evaluate number of positions to accomplish the mission, equipment needed and used to execute the mission, and past cost-saving initiatives that should be continued. Would do a study of the retirement programs of other cities the size of Gainesville to make retirement possible and affordable. To raise revenues, I would streamline the process of doing business in Gainesville for new and existing businesses. We need to keep the new, innovative businesses we birth here. I would seek partnerships to foster ancillary business opportunities for the Innovation Hub.
3. What are your thoughts on the city’s 30-year contract to purchase biomass power?
My international contract negotiation experience told me it was bad business in many regards. The company that the city contracted with, the size of the plant, the lack of energy customers for the excess production, number of trucks on the road bringing wood, no buyout clause -- just a few. I would look at what was presented on an issue but would dig deeper. I would not be a commissioner who voted for something then regretted it, leaving the taxpayer with a $1 million, potentially a $1 billion liability. My big-picture experience would get it right the first time.
4. Do you support making changes to employee pension plans? Explain.
Reference No. 2. As a result of the study, I would bring it in line with other cities, if that is the result of the study. The firefighters reminded me that they provide more services than other departments their size -- that would be taken into consideration. Having negotiated health and pension benefits for thousands of workers, I know firsthand this can be one of the largest pieces of the budget. It is possible that we may have to extend the time for receiving full retirement past 20 years. It was one of the first changes initiated when negotiating.
5. What steps, if any, can and should the city take to improve the local economy?
Gainesville is an amazing community that has many facets -- education, medicine, innovation, recreation, arts and entertainment. The city should form partnerships to ensure that all these facets are nurtured and encouraged. Engaging the citizenry in the process and the participation in government will ensure a great place to live, a sense of community, a sense of respect for everyone, the knowledge that everyone is important and deserved to be fed, educated, kept safe, loved and entertained. Big-picture-thinking, consensus-building commissioners are needed. No labels -- no left, no right, just forward.