Thursday, June 28, 2018

Who’s Running for County Commissioner in the August Primaries?

Collier’s five-member Board of County Commissioners (BCC) is elected by voters in their districts (find yours here) in partisan elections. Commissioners serve staggered four-year terms with no term limits. The post’s salary for 2017-18 is $83,345, set by state law taking into consideration the county’s population.

In 2018, the District 2 and 4 seats are on the ballot, and both incumbents are being challenged for reelection. But even if you don’t live in one of those districts, read on. The decisions of the Board as a whole affect us all!

District 2 - Republicans Brad Schiffer vs. incumbent Andy Solis; open primary
Since there is no Democrat challenger, the winner will be decided by the August primary, which will be open to all District 2 voters.

Brad Schiffer
Brad Schiffer (brad4d2.org) is an architect and planner who has practiced in Florida since 1976. He has served since 2012 on the Florida Building Commission, a technical body responsible for the development, maintenance and interpretation of the state Building Code. Previously, he served on the County’s Planning Commission, Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Development Services Advisory Committee and Building Board of Adjustments and Appeals; he resigned from the latter two to run for this office.

Schiffer says “citizens deserve a Commissioner who can help manage [the County’s] growth so that people living in the District can continue to enjoy their special lifestyle and thrive…. [and] right now we do not have that representation.” He says he “wants to help control the out-of-scale developments that are taking away our green space, over taxing our utilities and infrastructure and crowding our roads.”

He is a single-issue candidate; his website mentions no other.


Andy Solis
Incumbent Andy Solis (andysolis.com) is Commissioner for District 2 and this year’s Board Chairman. He was elected in 2016 to complete the term of Georgia Hiller, who had resigned to run for Clerk. Among his most recognized contributions as Commissioner is his leadership of and advocacy for development of a county-wide strategic plan to address mental health and addiction. More here and here.

Solis is a Director with the Cohen & Grigsby law firm and has practiced law in Collier County for 25 years. According to his firm’s website, he concentrates his practice in land use, site planning, permitting and related representation of clients before municipal and county boards and agencies. More here.

Prior to being elected, Solis served on the County Planning Commission and as President of the Council of Hispanic Business Professionals. He also participated in a number of economic development efforts and currently serves on the Opportunity Naples Committee charged with implementing the Strategic Plan. More here.

Solis is running on a platform of responsible county growth; addressing mental health and addiction; a diversified and sustainable economy; and protecting our natural resources.


Stephen Jaron
District 4 - Republicans Stephen Jaron vs. incumbent Penny Taylor; closed primary

Unlike in District 2, there is a Democrat running in District 4, so only registered Republicans can vote in the primary. The winner will face challenger Gary Petit-Dor in November.

Stephen Jaron (stephenjaron.com) is a state certified general contractor and 2001 founder/owner of Renovate and Restore, LLC, specializing in residential and commercial renovations and alterations. He held corporate positions in marketing, sales and operations before making a full-time commitment to real estate acquisitions, real estate investing and general contracting.

Jaron is Chairman of the Bayshore Beautification MSTU Advisory Committee, which assists in the implementation of the redevelopment plan for the Bayshore/Gateway Triangle area. He also serves on the Board of the Southwest Florida Land Preservation Trust/Gordon River Greenway and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council - Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, an nonprofit volunteer organization “striving for sustainable communities and green buildings.”

Jaron’s website lists as platform issues “environment; economy; housing; and development.”

Penny Taylor
Incumbent Penny Taylor (votepenny.com) is Commissioner for District 4. She was first elected in 2014 and served as Chairman in 2017. Prior to her election to County Commission, Taylor served for ten years on the Naples City Council including two years as Vice-Mayor.

During her years as an elected official, Taylor has chaired the Collier Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federally-mandated and -funded transportation policy-making organization, and the Tourist Development Council. In addition, she co-chaired the county’s first City of Naples/Collier County Sea Level Rise panel discussion in 2017.

According to her Candidate Statement, programs she initiated as a commissioner include:
  • Re-establishment of the 1996 Ethics Ordinance;
  • A post-Hurricane Irma program that resulted in a concert raising $82,000 for housing in Everglades City;
  • A process establishing formal input from and ongoing communications with Native American tribal interests through the MPO;
  • An annual solidarity walk during Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades in which community leaders of all faiths and ethnicities walk together;
  • The annual Mock Commission Meetings event for middle school civics class students; and
  • Re-establishment of the Summer Intern Program for high school students, requested by the NAACP.


Medical marijuana in Collier County — an issue at stake

In 2016, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana, but local government’s ability to limit where dispensaries can be located is severely limited by state law. The current Board has been unable to gain the necessary supermajority (four out of five members) support of the change to the Land Development Code (LDC) needed to allow them in the County. Most recently last month, Commissioners McDaniel, Saunders and Solis voted for the proposed changes; Fiala and Taylor voted no.

This year’s elections could change the result. Here’s (verbatim) how the candidates responded to my email asking for their position on the issue:

District 2 - Brad Schiffer - “Since the citizens voted to approve medical marijuana I don’t believe I should second guess them, thus I would support the few dispensaries in buildings that are in zoning that would allow pharmacies. Maybe the State should have required the medical marijuana to be sold by pharmacies.”

District 2 - Andy Solis - “The voters across the State and Collier County voted in favor of the Constitutional Amendment legalizing medical marijuana. I believe it is improper for Collier County or any local government to deny the residents the right of access to medical marijuana. In my opinion, a right guaranteed by the Florida Constitution cannot be arbitrarily denied by a local government, regardless of what the statute says.”

District 4 - Stephen Jaron - “I believe the people of FL (71%) and Collier County (65%) have spoken quite clearly..... I support amending the LDC to allow Medical Marijuana Dispensaries within Collier County. There is a large group of voter's of various ages and backgrounds in favor of Medical Marijuana. Many of these people need MM to survive on a daily basis, their right to MM shall not be denied.”

District 4 - Penny Taylor - “Medical marijuana has been legalized within the State of Florida and I support the right of a patient to use this medicine. What I do not support is the creation of a dispensary in Collier County at this time. Medical marijuana can be obtained from a dispensary in Bonita Springs and through mail order. If and when marijuana is legalized in the State of Florida, these dispensaries could become a place where recreational marijuana is sold. As long as the County has an option to ‘say no’ as currently authorized by State statute and medical marijuana is available to Collier County patients, I support the ban on dispensaries.”

County staff is expected to bring the matter back in November, presumably after the election.

Take-aways

There are significant differences between the candidates running in these primaries. I highlighted the issue of the marijuana dispensaries because it will likely be one of the first to face the newly-elected commissioners, but be alert to opportunities to learn more.

Seek out opportunities to speak with the candidates one-on-one; they are ALL approachable and would welcome your invitation. Pay attention to endorsements — they, too, say a lot.

Finally, be sure to catch at least one of the upcoming candidate forums and debates. The first is on July 9 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the Headquarters Library, Sugden Theater, 2385 Orange Blossom Drive. I’ll be posting them on my website’s Events Calendar and if you learn of any, let me know.


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For more on the August primaries, stay tuned for my next "Get Ready to Vote" post, and catch up on what you missed:

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