Water is the most important resource in our lives and there are gross water problems in our state, district and county. Why are water, the protection of the environment, and development of alternative sources to groundwater pumping not given the highest priority?
Eileen C. Hart, Odessa
What would you do to improve the traffic flow in the county? Would you, for example, support light rail and high occupancy vehicle lanes on the interstate?
John G. Larkins, Tampa
I participate as a concerned citizen in various public hearings. The agencies solicit our comments, then ignore our input, as with the Florida Gas Transmission pipeline. What will you do to ensure that public comments are incorporated and not dismissed?
Ann O'Brien, Lutz
What do you plan to do to help get rid of the water bureaucracy, Swiftmud? All these people do is buy land to drill more wells. Meanwhile, billions of gallons of water are flowing to the gulf from dozens of springs.
Perry M. Norris, Tampa
As the president of Hillsborough Trails Inc., I am very concerned that Pinellas, Orange and other nearby communities have either developed or are developing recreational trail systems, while we have not. What can you do to promote this type of system in Hillsborough County?
Ed Crawford, Tampa
Is there a way to bring government closer to citizens? Do we need more elected officials? Smaller jurisdictions? A different form of government?
Tom Stearns, Tampa
Brian Rush to Eileen C. Hart:
Water is a top priority with me. Preserving our clean air and clean water is critical in my legislative career. I have twice received the League of Conservation gold star which is the highest award for protecting the environment. I believe we have a water emergency and I believe the Legislature should take immediate steps to protect lake levels, wetlands and our clean drinking water supply.
Brian Rush to John Larkins:
I would support high occupancy vehicle lanes and I would also support proposals to expand our existing road system. I am supportive of light rail proposals, but it is necessary that significant planning occur so as to guarantee that the light rail system will be financially viable. I do not want to build a light rail system that becomes a burden on the taxpayers. I do believe that light rail is a definite alternative in our transportation future.
Brian Rush to Ann O'Brien:
I meet with my constituents on a daily basis. I seek information from neighborhood civic association leaders, transportation officials, law enforcement officers and everyday citizens on a wide variety of issues. The obligation of an effective state representative is to listen to his constituents and then to meet with other government officials and then convey the constituents' concerns to those officials. I will continue to champion my constituents views both in the Legislature and in front of state and local agencies.
Brian Rush to Perry Norris:
Swiftmud has ignored the concerns of everyday citizens for too long. It is imperative that Swiftmud and local governments become more attentive to water needs and resources. The Legislature should enact a state water policy forcing Swiftmud to require better use of existing surface and subsurface waters in order to protect our lakes, our wetlands and our drinking water supply. I intend to lead the fight for this state water policy.
Brian Rush to Ed Crawford:
I have long been a supporter of the Rails To Trails program. If state money is available in the next state budget I will support Hillsborough County's effort to obtain matching funds. I will also support community and civic association efforts to convince our county commission to aggressively pursue a Rails to Trails program in Hillsborough.
Brian Rush to Tom Stearns:
I think elected officials need to spend more time listening to their constituents. I think elected officials should try to sit down more often with the people they represent and listen to them face-to-face in small groups. Unfortunately, many legislators only talk with lobbyists and insiders. I have made it a point to visit regularly in small groups with several hundred of my constituents where I can listen to their questions and concerns and I can respond directly to them face to face. These meetings are the key to improving our government.
Rob Wallace to Eileen C. Hart:
I have been a working environmental engineer for 20 years. My career stands for responsible environmental management. We need one district agency to manage water. That agency should be run by elected officials in order to be accountable to the public. The cost of water in our society has been too cheap. The price of environmental damage to wetlands and lake systems has been too great. We need to look at the expanded use of surface water systems to harvest surplus water during the rainy season for reservoir storage and use in the dry season.
Rob Wallace to John Larkins:
The high traffic problems are the result of our growing county and individual's personal preference for individual transportation. This not only causes traffic congestion but has adverse impacts on air quality. The primary cause of urban air pollution is vehicular traffic. We should encourage car pooling wherever possible. There have been successful cases of large employers such as USAA who encourage these programs. Light rail may be premature but needs to be prepared for in the future. High occupancy lanes foster car pooling.
Rob Wallace to Ann O'Brien:
I am running for office because I believe people need to get involved with their government. I encourage political activism in all citizens. In my work with the Sulphur Springs Action League, I too have felt that government officials often don't listen or merely provide lip service. Public hearings and public comment windows must be maintained. The public itself must maintain a strong voice and demand that its concerns be heard. Agencies do not always, and sometimes never, reflect the will of the people.
Rob Wallace to Perry Norris:
Swiftmud has ad valorem taxing authority without elected officials on its governing board. This is a structural problem which needs correction. ... They should give up taxing authority and merge with the state Department of Environmental Protection. We need to try to reduce our dependency on large potable groundwater sources and encourage the safe harvesting of surface water flows. I believe you are on the right track.
Rob Wallace to Ed Crawford:
The implementation of recreational trails is a good public project. I have some familiarity with the Rails to Trails project, where unused railroad right of way has been utilized for recreational trails and hiking. Other public right of ways such as the bypass canal and other environmental lands could be utilized for similar purposes. However, I believe that local projects of these types should be funded locally and should not be primarily funded by state government.
Rob Wallace to Tom Stearns:
People need to get involved with their government as this has been a prime purpose of my campaign. I believe more elected officials will not bring us closer to the goal. It will only encourage less responsiveness. We need very much to decentralize government. The most efficient government is small and close to the people it serves. This encourages citizen interaction, cost-effectiveness and public accountability. The form of government we have is the best there is. The people need to be ever vigilant to keep government on track.
Bill Butler to Eileen Hart:
I agree they should be given the highest priority. We will continue to have problems with water with the demands on growth in our area. We need to look at alternative methods, whether it's reclaimed water or desalination methods to add to the ground water we already have so we can meet the demands on growth in our area. It should be a higher priority and it should be looked at more closely.
Bill Butler to John Larkins:
We need to look at mass transit systems in this area. We also need to look at our highway system and focus on future needs, possibly a better beltway system around Tampa. It should be a priority as Tampa is one of the fastest growing areas in the state. A rail system would also be a plus to alleviate some of the congestion we have on our roads today. We have to look at those options, all of them.
Bill Butler to Ann O'Brien:
As an elected official we should be speaking for people we represent. We should be at these public meetings to speak up for the people that voted for us. I think that's the most effective way to make the system work.
Bill Butler to Perry Norris:
We need to look at these water authorities and boards. I believe these boards need to be made up of elected officials. These folks become more accountable that way and some of the rules and regulations can be changed by having them become more accountable.
Bill Butler to Ed Crawford:
I think as a legislator you can improve and educate people on the value of the environment in the Tampa Bay area. As a tourism state, I think that our natural resources should better be highlighted for people within the area and out of the state. I think it involves better educating people on the Tampa Bay area and its wonderful natural resources... We need to create an advisory council if there is not one on how to set up an organization to implement trail systems within Hillsborough County.
Bill Butler to Tom Stearns:
There is a way to bring government more to the people. It's a mutually beneficial situation. More people from a local level need to be involved and your state representative needs to be involved on a local level and not be in Tallahassee and out of touch on day-to-day concerns.
Jim Davis to Eileen Hart:
More emphasis needs to be placed on managing our water supply, particularly regarding planning for the future.... In the 1994 regular session I passed a bill which became law that requires cities and counties to more aggressively reuse reclaimed water for irrigation and indoor plumbing. One of the biggest challenges with managing the water supply is transporting water from rural areas to urban areas and accurately pricing water based on its cost. That issue plus other conservation measures will be considered by legislators in the 1995 session.
Jim Davis John Larkins:
I would support high occupancy lanes if we have clear evidence that they would be sufficiently used by drivers in our area. I would also support light rail once we have evidence that the rail will be sufficiently used by local travelers. I believe the state should work in partnership with local government to plan for those measures and other mass transit measures.
Jim Davis to Ann O'Brien:
I think the Legislature can pressure state agencies to make sure that they clearly and genuinely listen to valid concerns expressed by citizens affected by projects subject to approval by those state agencies. For example, I worked closely with the civic association in Seminole Heights to help convince the local Department of Transportation office to make changes to the proposed Hillsborough Avenue widening that benefitted the neighborhood and minimized the impact ....
Jim Davis to Perry Norris:
I was a strong supporter of a bill which passed the Legislature in 1994 requiring a thorough review of how the water management districts operate and what changes can be made to assure that the districts are more accountable to the public as to how they spend tax dollars and regulate.
Jim Davis to Ed Crawford:
If our county is ready to have a Rails to Trails park, which would be used by many of our citizens, I believe that I can work to make sure that the state supports the local effort to create the park. I think that a better job can be done of making public land available for recreational use and the Rails to Trails program is an excellent example of making public land available for use by the public.
Jim Davis to Tom Stearns:
We should continue to change the way state government operates to make it more accountable to the citizenry. I have consistently supported legislation to decentralize schools, environmental and other state agencies. The state can continue to delegate more authority to the local level. Decisions made there are generally more informed and more responsive to the local citizenry. With regard to districts governed by appointed boards, we need better oversight which can be achieved through performance auditing by independent third parties. I passed a law in 1994 requiring performance audits of the port authorities around the state.