Vero Beach candidates debate role in creating jobs

VERO BEACH – Ten of the 11 candidates vying for four seats on the Vero Beach City Council dais fielded several questions from the Indian River Tea Party and an audience of about 200 strong.

Such questions included their thoughts on selling the electric utility (watch related video), what makes them qualified to make such a determination, the government’s role in creating jobs, and others.

Candidate Craig Fletcher was not in attendance at the candidate forum Tuesday evening due to a prior engagement.

Candidates, in general, support the idea of selling the city’s electric utility – if it is in the best interest of the citizens and the ratepayers.

Candidates also mostly agreed that the government’s role in creating jobs should be a limited one.

Jay Kramer, a small business owner, said that as an owner he does most of the work for the government, collecting the taxes of his employees.

“I wonder sometimes what government really does,” he said.

Current-Mayor Kevin Sawnick said government should work to create a business-friendly environment to bring businesses – and jobs – to the city. He touted the city’s tax abatement referendum as a way to achieve that goal.

Michael Thomas, a local architect, said that government should stay out of the way of business. He added, though, that government could work to create the best possible location for businesses.

Pilar Turner, a retired project manager, said that government’s role should be the smallest possible.

Current-Vice Mayor Sabe Abell echoed Sawnick’s sentiments about the tax abatement referendum and added that government should streamline the development process.

“There’s no reason for delay,” Abell said.

Real Estate broker Al Benkert took the question in a different direction, though he agreed with Abell that the process needs to be streamlined. He touched back on a previous question regarding electric.

“We have a business,” he said. “We have an electrical business.”

Benkert added that he thinks “it’s a major mistake of this council” that no one has given the electric utility department the opportunity to get rates within 15 percent of Florida Power and Light.

Tracy Carroll, a small businesswoman, said the role of government is to spur on economic development and that she supports the tax abatement referendum – which would provide tax incentives for new or expanding businesses that add jobs to the area’s workforce.

Current-Councilman Ken Daige echoed similar sentiments from others that government’s role is to foster an environment conducive to bringing in businesses.

“We have to be welcoming,” he said.

Surgeon David Fromang also said government should help to streamline the process to make it easier for businesses to open. He added that if elected, he’d like to implement his plan called “Rehabilitate Vero” – a Habitat for Humanity-inspired program that would serve to place young families and seniors into refurbished Old Vero homes.

Commercial real estate broker Richard Kennedy said that government should keep taxes low, create a business-friendly environment, work to attract diverse jobs – not just development and citrus – support educating the city’s youth, and be aggressive in scouting businesses.


For more about the candidates, their stances on various issues and what’s on the ballot, be sure to explore’s Elections 2010 Section.

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