Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Final Questions For County Commission Candidates

Fairhope, Alabama


March candidate forum
The Times asked the two candidates in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff election, incumbent Bob James and challenger Chris Elliott,  some last-minute questions on the minds of voters.

Since there is no Democratic opposition in the Nov. 4th general election, the winner will be the next commissioner.

[They answered some questions for the blog last April as well -- click.]

They also made some general comments (video below) at a forum held last April in Spanish Fort -- where James emphasized his commitment to open and ethical government in defending his record; and Elliott the need for cooperation and stronger planning for the coming rapid growth.


1.  In your opinion, what are the two biggest problems currently facing District 2?

Bob James:

The challenges of growth and maintaining our quality of life: 

1) Managing growth to protect our quality of life. 
2) Finding the capital to complete infrastructure projects.

Chris Elliott:

Baldwin County's projected growth and the issues surrounding that growth are staggering,. My number one priority is to maintain the quality of life that we presently enjoy in Baldwin county. In order to do this, we must be proactive in addressing the many issues arising from growth. We must engage decision makers within the private sector and at all levels of government to ensure that we are planning for and protecting that which makes Baldwin County so desirable. The next decade is monumental in determining what our county will become. We must make significant investments in our infrastructure, maintain our high quality public education system, and recruit new employers to diversify our economy all while adhering to common principles of efficient government that focuses on value for every tax payer's dollar.

2. What needs to be done about the ever-increasing traffic congestion on U.S. HWY 98 along the Eastern Shore?

Mr. James:

We are working with ALDOT to fund adaptive traffic signals to enhance traffic flow. We are also in the process of constructing roundabouts on Hwy 13 at Hwy 64, Gayfer Extension, and Fairhope Ave. We are working with our legislative delegation, ALDOT, to have an earlier start time and completion on Hwy 181.

Mr. Elliott:

Our County Commissioner must do a better job coordinating not only with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and South Alabama Regional Planning Commission (SARPC) but also with Eastern Shore mayors Kant, Haygood, and MacMillan to address the specific concerns of each municipality as well as the needs of the region and county as a whole. Our commissioner must then be able to leverage these relationships to obtain the funding needed to address the existing and developing congestion on Hwy 98 as well as other major arteries. There are several projects that have been on the books for years and years which would alleviate Hwy 98 congestion, few of which have come to fruition. There is heavy competition for federal and especially state and local tax dollars. Our nest commissioner must be able to deliver results and see these projects through to completion.. 

3. Is the current storm water runoff management in the District adequate?  How can it be improved?

Mr. James: 

No, it is not adequate. That is why 2 years ago I initiated the Water Shed Studies. We have used this data to improve our subdivision regulations. We are also pursuing regional detention in headwaters of our water sheds to prepare for future growth and minimize flooding issues.

Mr. Elliott:

Storm water management is a problem that every fast growing county must address. Baldwin county is no exception. There are several innovative solutions that I'd like to explore that turn the notion of storm water "runoff" on its head and deal with all water onsite but while we explore the viability, both economically and ecologically, of these new systems, we must realize that a sensitivity  to both economic and ecological concerns is the key to the long term health of Baldwin's economy and the environment that makes us so desirable.

4. Would you support additional property taxes to construct new schools? and/or making the "temporary" penny sales tax permanent? 

Mr. James: 

All three of my children attended public schools in Baldwin county. I support leaving the 1% sales tax for operations as it was voted on by the citizens of Baldwin County.

The Baldwin County Board of Education can call for a vote by the people for an additional 8 mils of property tax under current state legislation. The BCBOE would pay for the cost of the special election. This does not require a vote by the county commission.

Mr. Elliott:

An innovative and successful public school system is essential to maintaining our quality of life in Baldwin County. World class public schools are also key drivers of economic diversity as well as recruiting new businesses and their employees to our county. The Baldwin County Board of Education is responsible for planing and funding capital  and staffing needs associated with public education but we, as county commissioners, must do all within our power to ensure the success of our children, their teachers and that tax payers receive the best value for their investment in our future. I fully support a timely referendum to allow the voters of Baldwin County to decide how and at what level we want to tax ourselves to fund our school system.

5. Is the county's new Master Plan adequate? or does more need to be done to plan for the expected rapid growth?

Mr. James:

Yes, the new Master Plan protects private property rights and the new subdivision regulations better protect the public and environment.

Mr. Elliott:

Master Plans, by their very nature, are meant to evolve. Hers too, Baldwin County's Master Plan must continue to evolve to address the many and ever  changing needs of Baldwin County. We must be more proactive in finding solutions to the many issues facing Baldwin county and find ways to get to "yes" and solve these many problems rather than simply folding our arms and saying "no,"in effect ignoring our challenges.


Anonymous said...

I miss David Ed...

Roger said...

"Tea Party" Bob vs. "Establishment" Chris. Should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Tea Party Bob??? You do know that stuff you brought back from Colorado is not legal here, right?