STATE HOUSE PART 3
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
Mary Figg to Eileen C. Hart:
I think it's a basic failure on the part of the Legislature to recognize it's a problem. Further, it's not recognized by the local business community either, though there are far reaching business complications caused by scarcity of water. I have had those on my agenda of issues for a long time and I will be at the forefront of setting statewide water policies when I go back to the Legislature, voters willing.... In Lutz they know it (is a problem), but they don't know in the rest of the district. "If my tap works, it isn't a problem," is the attitude.
Mary Figg to John Larkins:
Yes to high occupancy vehicle lanes. But that only works when you have a number of lanes and we don't have enough. When you have four or six lanes you can make it work. Light rail, we don't have the money for that, frankly. Local government is in charge of transportation planning. This is really a local government issue. Your local elected and appointed officials make those decisions. The answer is don't permit the growth unless the transportation is there. In the past, they did that so now they're playing catch-up.
Mary Figg to Ann O'Brien:
The noticing of public meetings needs to be in local newspapers, in the sports section if necessary, so people know in advance. Departments like transportation and others need to provide all the assistance they can to help people understand the process. I think public meetings are the most frustrating things for citizens. Agency heads are very arrogant. They forget they work for the taxpayers.
Mary Figg to Perry Norris:
Fresh water flowing into the bay helps keep the salinity balance so that the creatures can breathe and provide food for us. Secondly, Swiftmud does not drill wells, it's not responsible for supplying water. And third, I'd like a through investigation, as is taking place, of how Swiftmud and other water districts manage their tax dollars. Finally, I'd like to be part of the remedy to curtail some of the activities of the water management districts.
Mary Figg to Ed Crawford:
Pinellas acquired abandoned railroad rights-of-way to build the trails. To my knowledge, Hillsborough has no abandoned railroad right-of-way except in stretches that are too short to be of value. We're actively using our rail lines and would like to continue to use them as light rail commuter rail. Perhaps, when that happens we can do what they do in Vancouver, to have a trail underneath and a rail on top.
Mary Figg to Tom Stearns:
I don't think we need any more elected people. Certain parts of the county feel left out.... Lutz, Brandon, Thonotosassa, feel as though they don't get their fair share of attention, and at times feel like they would like to have their own city. I think that's a viable possibility in Brandon and maybe in Lutz.... Involvement comes from both sides, not only does government have to involve you, but you have to involve yourself, starting with voting.
Victor Crist to Eileen C. Hart:
It needs to be a priority and I will work to make it one. We need better statewide policy, we need better conservation efforts, and we need to make developing short- and long-term solutions a priority for our upcoming session.
Victor Crist to John Larkins:
I do support improving mass transit in Florida. We could certainly consider light rail and high occupancy vehicle lanes on our various highways, throughout urban, suburban areas as well as connecting major metropolitan areas throughout the state.
Victor Crist to Ann O'Brien:
I have been working with constituents in my district on similar concerns. We have held focus meetings which have been followed up with letters and phone calls from my office to the appropriate authorities confirming citizen concerns. In addition, I have been working with other legislators and civic leaders to seek action from various government entities. I believe the Legislature should require that public comments be listed on the record for future reference and consideration.
Victor Crist to Perry Norris:
Swiftmud was created with good intentions to help manage and preserve our water resources. I believe we need to take a good hard look at their performance and focus on improving their effectiveness. We need to make sure that there is a reasonable balance of individuals with knowledge and experience on their boards and in positions of decision making. Individuals should not be appointed merely out of political favor.
Victor Crist to Ed Crawford:
I have worked with the community and local government officials and have acquired needed bike paths in the areas that surround the university. I am working with the community and the Hillsborough County Parks Department to develop trails through a 28-acre park being developed in the heart of my district. I have also supported legislation that would expand a network of recreational trails through specifically identified areas throughout the state of Florida.
Victor Crist to Tom Stearns:
Yes, there is a way to bring government closer to its citizens. I have been successful in doing this for many years. Community forums, issue specific focus groups, public debates and town meetings give citizens an opportunity to discuss and learn about issues and voice their opinions to their elected officials. I held five town meetings before the '93 session and seven town meetings before the '94 session. I participate in public forums on a monthly basis.
Candy VanDercar to Eileen C. Hart:
Clearly water is one of the main priorities that people are concerned about. Here in Central Florida we have historically been rich with water and we are also on the forefront of a water crisis.... We will be forced to explore options. Whether or not we can continue with water management districts as a governing agency is a question. I have difficulty with representation without taxation but I withhold a specific recommendation until the water study commissioned by the Legislature is completed.
Candy VanDercar to John Larkins:
In accordance with the Growth Management Act of 1985, it is required that there be adequate infrastructure in place. Transportation, however, has been one area that does not appear to be in keeping with the current requirements. This is an issue that we are going to have to examine to meet the ever increasing growth of the state and that recommendation for light rail and high occupancy could represent a potential option. But I would need to study the issue in greater detail.
Candy VanDercar to Ann O'Brien:
You are absolutely right. Decisions are frequently made before public input has ever occurred and I think the impression is justifiable that public concerns are ignored. As your legislator, I promise to never be a party of such a sham of decision-making.
Candy VanDercar to Perry Norris:
I have serious concerns about the current design of Swiftmud, the lack of term limits and the lack of accountability. I believe that given the current inabilities to resolve conflict, that it may be necessary to look at alternate ways of making decisions pertaining to the distribution of water resources. This may entail a state management plan.
Candy VanDercar to Ed Crawford:
I regard myself as an environmentalist and have received the endorsement of the Florida League of Conservation Voters. Part of why people move to Florida is because of the beauty of our environment and the opportunity to enjoy it. Trails such as these should clearly be explored because we constantly have to be able to blend a developing business economy with recreational activities.
Candy VanDercar to Tom Stearns:
You express a feeling of disenfranchisement that many people including myself have felt. Clearly something needs to be done to address this feeling. The current district, for example, is laid out in such a way that it is unfair to the voters because the district spans such a large area and is so diverse. Smaller jurisdictions may represent an alternative. I would be hesitant to see more elected officials and if we don't fix our current broken system we may need to be looking at a different form of governing.
Carl Littlefield to Eileen C. Hart:
It will be given the highest priority in the next legislative session. Those of us involved in the issue of water have a real challenge before us. What is not perceived as a crisis across the state of Florida truly is a crisis. It's incumbent upon us who feel the problem firsthand to communicate the seriousness of it to other legislators.
Carl Littlefield to John Larkins:
I think all the options and alternatives have to be considered. When the Department of Transportation assesses needs based on outdated studies there can be real problems because the population continues to grow and transmigration across the communities continues to happen. We must have up-to-date studies to effectively combat the very serious traffic problems.
Carl Littlefield to Ann O'Brien:
I will make our legislative office available for those who feel like they are not getting a fair shake in a public hearing and as a legislator I will act as an advocate to ensure that they do.
Carl Littlefield to Perry Norris:
I am a proponent of mass performance audits across the state. When an agency is not doing the job, I believe that the citizens have a right to know why. I also believe that taxpayers should not be required to fund programs and agencies that are not working. I will continue to look into the performance or the lack of performance from Swiftmud and will vote to fund that agency only in accordance with its perceived efficiency.
Carl Littlefield to Ed Crawford:
These are some of the lands that I feel like the state should be involved in purchasing for recreation. Other massive land buys by the state have not proven to be in the best interest of the citizen due to a lack of accessibility. These are land areas that could and would be used by the citizens and therefore I am an advocate of trail systems.
Carl Littlefield to Tom Stearns:
I believe in decentralizing state government just as often as it is reasonably possible. We can certainly not make any worse decisions locally than many of the decisions that are presently being made for us in Tallahassee. Bringing government "back home" was the central theme of my first candidacy and it continues to be a passion.