Friday, July 6, 2012

Candidates for Lee Board of County Commissioners respond to BikeWalkLee Questionnaire

 Candidates for BoCC have responded to BikeWalkLee's questionnaire.  Click here to read what the candidates are saying about issues we care about, and don't forget to vote in the August 14th primary! 
The local 2012 election for county commissioners (BoCC) is important for the future direction of Lee County and its commitment to complete streets and a balanced multi-modal transportation system.  This year, four of the five county commissioner seats are up for election, with three of the four seats having multiple candidates in the August 14th primary election.

In order to vote in this important primary election all Florida residents must be registered no later than July 16th.  (click here for instructions.)   If you're already registered to vote, you can call now for an absentee ballot--239-533-6919.

On June 18th, BikeWalkLee sent a questionnaire to all 12 candidates, and, to date, we've received responses from 8 candidates.  It is important to BikeWalkLee to elect county commissioners who support our values and vision.  This election will determine whether the policy framework put in place over the past three years to make our streets safer and more accessible to all users will continue and result in changes on the ground for Lee County residents.

What did we hear from the candidates?  First, we'd like to thank the candidates who responded to our questionnaire with thorough and thoughtful responses.  We have compiled all the responses into one master document, organized by the five districts.  Note: We have not received any responses from candidates in District 5.  Be sure to click here to read the full responses.

We asked five questions:-- implementation of complete streets, the Comprehensive Plan amendments and integration of land use and transportation, cost-saving changes to road projects, transit, and support for replacing road impact fees with a mobility fee plan.

On the first three questions, there was more commonality of response, while the last two--transit and mobility fees--there was a wider range of responses.  Throughout the various answers, there were comments about the importance of BoCC setting policy and giving direction to staff; the importance of safety for all road users; and the need for more citizen involvement in the planning process.

Complete Streets:  All candidates supported implementation of the county's complete streets policies and programs, which is very encouraging.  

Comprehensive Plan:  Candidates supported the integration of land use and transportation planning, and were committed to ensuring that the vision of the EAR is incorporated into the Plan amendments.  Some candidates mentioned their support for a shift from sprawl to mixed use, infill, and the importance of sustainability to our economic future.  There was support for eliminating transportation concurrency and changing the Level of Service (LOS) transportation planning tool.

Cost-saving approach to road projects:  Saving taxpayer money and doing business in the most cost-effective way was supported by all candidates.  The point was also made that the  road project prioritization and funding process needed to be de-mystified. 

Transit:  There was support for the current LeeTran system but less consensus on expanding the system.  The range of responses went from maintaining current system to supporting a major shift in investments to transit and even in high speed and/or light rail, with others in the middle wanting to move cautiously in terms of revenue sources, regional transit authority, etc.

Mobility Fee:  BikeWalkLee supports replacing the existing funding structure with mobility fees.  For some candidates there was some hesitancy to support a new 'fee'.    However,  the majority indicated that they would support replacing the road impact fees with a mobility fee so that the revenues could fund the whole transportation system, not just the roads.  Some didn't  want any increase in fees that developers would have to pay while others wanted to make sure that developers paid their fair share.  Others thought the mobility fee concept didn't go far enough and wanted an even more comprehensive funding source for transportation investments.  The importance of involving the citizens in the dialogue (both on this and transit) so that there was public support for moving in this new direction was noted. 

Click here to read the responses from individual candidates.  Remember, the primary is the key election in several of these races.  For District 1, there is no primary election but two candidates for the general election.  In District 2 (seat being vacated by Brian Bigalow), there is no general election opponent so whoever wins the primary will be the commissioner from District 2.  Don't forget to register to vote, request your absentee ballot, and PLEASE VOTE!!

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