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Anna Maria city commission candidates divided on diverse issues

Anna Maria's five city commission candidates in the Nov. 4 election - current City Commissioner John Quam, 64, Carol Ann Magill, 60, Jeff Smith, 62, Randall Stover, 57, and Dale Woodland, 55, - met with The Islander staff and members of the public Saturday, Oct. 18, for a roundtable discussion of issues. Judging by the answers to questions posed by The Islander, there's little agreement among the candidates on how to solve some of the city's long-standing problems.

Carol Ann Magill has lived in Anna Maria for 25 years and is a long-time political activist in the city. She has been a member of the city's code enforcement board and environmental education and enhancement committee.

She said this is her first attempt at public office and her experience as a social worker and "finding compromises," along with her active involvement with the city, will serve her well as a commissioner.

John Quam is a first-term city commissioner who is seeking re-election. He retired to Anna Maria in 1997 after working for the BASF Corporation for 35 years. He has served on the city's planning and zoning board. He said his current commission experience will be an asset during a second term.

Jeff Smith is an eight-year Anna Maria resident who retired from Ford Motor Company after 31 years. He ran unsuccessfully for a city commission seat in February 2003. He believes his experience in business and industrial management are well-suited for a city commissioner.

Randall Stover is a first-time candidate for public office who has lived in Anna Maria 20 years. He owns his own company on the Island, and believes his 20 years experience as an independent businessman and "common sense" are what's needed for a city commissioner. Dale Woodland moved to Anna Maria when he was 4 years old. He also owns his own business on the Island and has twice run unsuccessfully for city commission. He is currently a member of the city's planning and zoning board and comp-plan review committee, and served on the 1999-2000 parking committee. Those experiences and his concern for the city will aid him as a commissioner, he said.

Parking

Most of the candidates are not completely satisfied with the current proposal to establish 171 designated public parking spaces on streets within the Beach Access Zone, an indication this divisive issue will likely still be a long way from an agreeable solution, even when the new commission is seated.

Quam voted for the current motion to create an ordinance to designate public parking spaces within the BAZ for a one-year trial period but, he said, a lot of homeowners within the zone "still need parking" in front of their houses. The proposal "needs some changes" and further review, he said.

Stover said that while the current proposal is better than what exists, it still doesn't address the basic issue of too many people coming from elsewhere to park in a residential city. He's not sure permit parking or parking by designated location is the final answer.

Magill, however, agreed with the current proposal to establish designated parking spaces that includes locations for handicapped parking.

Woodland was not in favor of designated public parking within the BAZ. He would recommend resident-only permit parking on a one-year trial basis, similar to what he proposed as a member of the city's 1999-2000 parking committee. It's "easier, simpler and cheaper," he claimed.

Smith said that with the current solution, the parking problem "is closer to being resolved now than ever" but still needs some modification. There's not enough law enforcement within the BAZ and parking violators need to be fined so they won't come back to park in the BAZ.

Of the five candidates, only Stover lives within the BAZ.

Capital improvement financing

None of the five candidates want to put the city into long-term debt with either a line of credit or bond program to finance capital improvements, although the current city commission has directed Mayor SueLynn to explore the possibilities.

Quam wants the commission to first review the proposed five-year capital improvements priority list recently submitted by the capital improvements advisory committee and determine what can be financed from the annual budget.

Smith agreed, but added that a line of credit could serve as a backup.

Woodland also dismissed any line of credit, saying that should only be a "last choice" for the city. He wants the commission and public to completely review the CIAC priority list and projects from the list should be planned in the city's annual budget.

Magill said she is also opposed to long-term debt for the city, but as a commissioner, would review any proposal for financing.

Stover said the city is "not in crisis" when its annual revenues though taxes are increasing more than 20 percent.

"Maybe we should ask the county to give back some of the [tax] money?" he suggested, noting the Island cities taxes provide 20 percent of Manatee County revenues, but only 3 percent is returned to the three cities.

Stover, Smith and Quam were against the option used in Holmes Beach of a special assessment to finance stormwater drainage improvements while Woodland said he was only in favor of "looking" at that choice. Magill said she would have to study such a proposal before making a decision.

Cell tower ordinance: May we or shall we?

The present city commission is divided on whether or not to have restrictive or directive language in the proposed wireless facilities (cell tower) ordinance and the candidates are no different.

Since the city has already spent nearly $56,000 to have communications consultant Ted Kreines write the proposed ordinance, which is "directive" in nature, go with Kreines, said Woodland.

Magill, Smith and Quam agreed, but Stover said the ordinance should be directive and mandatory to cell tower applicants. Quam said he has reviewed two ordinances written by Kreines for other jurisdictions and they seem to be working.

Administrative procedures and the city commission

With the recent controversy over the mayor's decision to grant the Bayfest celebration a permit, as she believes the new city charter allows her to do without presenting the proposal to the city commission, candidates were asked how much "micro-management" should the commission engage in.

Stover said the charter should never have been changed in the first place and while the new charter is "better written," the commission should "oversee" the actions of the mayor.

Woodland, however, said there should be a "delicate balance" on how much the commission involves itself in the mayor's business. The Bayfest permit should have been a "commission item," but handled administratively by the mayor.

Magill and Smith agreed there should be a balance that always has to be ironed out between the commission and mayor.

Quam, who serves as chairperson of the commission, said if the commission is kept "advised" by the mayor of what's going on with something like a special-event permit, there should be no problem. He did say discussion of special-event permits will be an agenda item for a future commission workshop.

Anna Maria Island Community Center

The Center has recently begun a vigorous fundraising campaign to expand the facility and candidates were asked if the city should fund more than its current annual budget line item of $23,000.

While all the candidates support the Center, Woodland and Quam said they weren't in favor of the city increasing its annual funding from the budget, and the Center doesn't want to depend on the city anyway. Smith said if the Center comes and asks for more money, the commission should listen and Magill agreed.

Stover said the Center can't get bigger to support more people because the city itself can't support more people.

Height of construction

The five candidates found an issue they could all agree on. None of the candidates favored increasing the city's current height of construction limit of 37 feet above the crown of the road.

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