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On Tuesday, City Commission candidates Heath Davis and Bryan Skarupski called a press conference to announce their positions in the upcoming election. Davis is the former commissioner who did not seek reelection last spring when his term expired. Skarupski, opposing him for the vacant seat left by Commissioner Vanessa Edmunds, who also decided not to seek reelection, has never held a commission seat before.
The import of the announcement was that Skarupski was withdrawing to endorse Davis because, as Davis put it, "I feel we're in touch with the constituency, and the more he and I talk, I realize Bryan and I have pretty much the same views."
Skarupski concurred, saying, "I think this is better for the community. Heath has more experience, and this gives me the opportunity to go to more meetings and prepare myself for next time."
When Davis left office last year, he said it was because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
"That's still the case with me," he said. "I want to make meetings more productive; give staff and commissioners the tools to be more effective and more in touch with the constituency."
Davis said his feelings about the recent dissolution of the Local Planning Agency also hold true for the city - that commissioners need to try to address and act on issues citizens think are important while the concerned citizens are on hand to contribute.
"I've seen people get engaged and come to a meeting and the commission doesn't know what to do, so they say they're going to workshop it. Months later after it's been workshopped to death, it comes back to the commission to act on, but the citizens are gone."
One of the first things Davis says he wants to address is the ongoing controversy over the police department.
"There will need to be some changes in the police department," he said. "Whenever you bring up the police in Cedar Key, there's a line between the two sides - either they're on one side or the other - and nothing ever gets done. The biggest hurdle we have to deal with is how to erase that line, figure out how to address that issue without animosity and bring back 'protect and serve.'"
Davis continued, "A police department is effective not through force but with the knowledge and respect of the people."
A question arose about the possibility of organizing a citizens' review commission for the police forced, which Davis rejected, saying, "The commission's got to be able to handle things like that."
In response to a question about the disparity between the 11 p.m. curfew for minors and the 9 p.m. closing time for City Park, Davis said the commission might revisit that issue, "especially now that the park is lighted."
Asked to talk about controversy over versions of the city's noise ordinance, he said, "If we're going to be a community, we'll have to learn to give and take. Some people don't like noise, and they're going to have to put up with some. The city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars learning how to stay together as a community. If we're going to stay together, we're going to have to complain a little bit less.
One of the most important issues, and one of the hardest to address is the matter of the CRA's $9.2 million bond. Citizens and commissioners alike have concerns about how the note will be paid off in a sliding economy, with property values and tax revenues falling. The note contains terms that allow for early payoff without penalty, and CRA board members have discussed reprioritizing projects for greater emphasis on debt service.
"I don't think we'll be able to have any serious discussion about reprioritizing until well after the election," Davis said. "As far as what we've already planned, I don't think the citizens will hear of any other priorities other than to pave the roads and do the water and sewer."