Today, many fear our voices are not heard and some even question the validity of their votes. Over the years, county government has allowed unwise growth that is endangering our fresh water supply, congesting our roadways, and crowding our schools all for the benefit of powerful interests that fund their handpicked candidates for local elections. Your money, the taxes extracted from you for the value of your home and property, are being given to help developers and large businesses build and grow their personal wealth. We are told that is just the way things are done. Well I think it is time the status quo changes. The truth is, the status ain’t much to quo about! How about every tax payer, every Volusia resident regardless of their economic status be given priority treatment in the spending of their money. Let's make Volusia County safe, beautiful, and prosperous once again.
LIST OF ISSUES
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Safety For Your Family
West Volusia, and in fact, all of our county has a significant crime problem. DeLand has been blessed with a new police chief who is dedicated to working with the public to reduce crime and help families keep their person and property safe. We need to encourage his efforts.
We also need a Constitutional Sheriff. Our county charter has stripped Volusia residents of the office of Constitutional Sheriff, one of our most important positions. While the charter has served us well, it needs to be updated to improve efficiency and service. The county council will always have the last word on budgeting with the Sheriff's office, but we have no business determining the direction of their law enforcement efforts. The people elect a Sheriff. It is time we allow this official to do the job unimpeded by political posturing. I support Amendment 10 and will work to end the county's betrayal of your vote. Your votes need to matter again in Volusia County.
Illegal drug dealers and meth labs are a major problem in our County. We would benefit from going after these low life dealers who are destroying the lives of our citizens. Funding should be directed away from low level marijuana interdiction that fill Florida prisons and direct these funds to hard drug operations.
We could save millions in costs by turning over the security of the beach to the Sheriff's Department instead of duplicating services. Then lifeguards could do what they do best in keeping our beaches safe for Volusia county residents and our visitors.
Clean Water and Environment
Over the years, county government has allowed unwise and poorly planned growth. The result is stress on the aquifer that provides life sustaining water. That stress has now reached critical levels that can not be ignored or repaired by building more roads. You have probably seen the pictures of people walking through underground limestone channels that were once filled with clean water. Volusia County residents are on year around water restrictions. Our many independent small and large farms are constantly monitored while well drilling and water usage are restricted. Cyanobacteria is a toxic killer that is blooming all over our state, and right here in Volusia County. Leaking sewage treatment plants, over used pesticides, toxic runoff, and wetland destruction from huge developments in all the wrong places are a few of the reasons why.
Where is the concern for our current residents and businesses who see their water being restricted while local roads and infrastructure are not maintained and miles of new roads and pipes are added to service thousands of new homes? It is time you had a voice at the planning table to protect your water, recreation areas, and neighborhoods. The Volusia County Council has washed it's hands of concurrency requirements. Concurrency means no development can take place before infrastructure and services are in place. The State of Florida
turned that over to counties for local control. Unfortunately the majority on this council has taken that as an opportunity to ignore concurrency requirements and are happy to hand you the developers' bills sometime down the road. Jeff Brower will be the barrier to stop the changes to our comprehensive land use plan and provide a much more discerning view of zoning changes in order to protect our fresh water supply and quality of live.
Our current businesses must be better served by local government. While our county would benefit from the addition of clean manufacturing and high tech companies, the current practices referred to as "economic development" must stop. Comprehensive plans for the locations of new business must be driven by concern for responsible land use, traffic patterns, and reduced congestion. We also need low income housing and infill to the neglected areas of our county. Property rights are foundational to our republic and the right of land owners to use their land to it's greatest potential must be protected.
However, as with all of our rights, they come with responsibility. Our property rights can not infringe upon- and even destroy- the rights of others. Currently our County is suffering the consequences of poorly planned growth that is destroying wetlands sadly viewed only as "swamps". Our fresh water aquifer is being drained, creating empty caves creating sink holes and allowing salt water intrusion. Over development is destroying our fresh water supply, congesting our roads, crowding our schools, stretching law enforcement and fire fighters, reducing ambulance response times, and straining medical services beyond capacity. The time for business as usual must end. It is not just about clean water, it is about our quality of life, safety, and a future for our children.
With your help Jeff Brower will work with local business leaders and residents who love our community, desire a future here for our children, and are environmentally responsible. With your help Volusia can look forward to a bright future with increased employment opportunities guided by a comprehensive reputation as an environmental leader offering a high quality of life.
Spending Your Money
Your tax dollars are being given away to help some of the wealthiest members of our county increase their fortunes. I hate class warfare and I am not against high earners or successful businesses. We are blessed to have neighbors who are talented entrepreneurs that add economic opportunities to our county. Every Volusia resident should have the opportunity to work hard and earn a good living. We need clean businesses coming into our county with good paying jobs.
However, Volusia County should also consider the needs of our current residents and businesses. They are over taxed and underpaid. We live in the second highest taxed county in Florida. Yet there is never enough money and new "funding sources" are added regularly. Echo and Florida Forever funds intended to preserve sensitive lands and historical properties are used more like slush funds for political favors. We buy the most valuable property available on the beach side, taking it off the tax roles forever, in order to put up a parking lot so beach access can continue to be limited.
We are told that is just the way thing are, the price for progress. Increased taxes are not the cost of doing business, it is the result of favoritism and reckless decisions instead of responsible planning. We are often told growth pays for itself. That is a lie, but let's call their bluff and give it a try! It is time to change the status quo. You need a voice of reason to say STOP and actually reverse course. Giving the hard earned money of our overtaxed underpaid residents as incentives to attract wealthy businesses may be the pay to play of the day but Volusia taxpayers have learned it comes at our expense. Our money has been given away on the promise of economic boom and the next best "game changer." But our own council has proven the only result is more closed businesses and a tax base that can't keep up with infrastructure costs. THEIR answer is to raise property and sales taxes. That is not the way to attract new business. It is just misunderstood as the easy way, the way everybody else does it! And the reason so many other counties and cities are on the doorstep of insolvency. So we chase the next big shiny object in an attempt to forestall the collapse.
Decades of tracking results and researching business incentives reveal poor results. Studies conclude incentives do not have a large correlation with the state's current or past unemployment or income levels or with future economic growth. Instead of creating new jobs or spurring employment, the main effect of incentives for the big shiny object is simply to deplete a community's tax base. Meanwhile our neighborhoods decline from neglect. The end result is to undermine the resources and revenues of the places that can least afford it.
We will attract more business and visitors when we are known as the county that guards its fresh water, offers the lowest taxes, and supports good businesses instead of a few politicians picking winners and losers. We should be promoting our three major colleges and local trade schools that provide well educated and well trained employees. Our high schools should be offering vocational training. Let's copy the success of Downtown DeLand and New Smyrna Beach to become the county with numerous family oriented opportunities and events that don't cost a lot of money. Volusia should provide access to our many recreational lands, rivers, and lakes to become the playground of the South. Our World's Most Famous Beach must be reopened without charging fees for residents and visitors in vehicles. The toll booths restrict traffic and are a horrible way to welcome anyone. Businesses and families will relocate to Volusia County when they know there is a great workforce here with a safe and attractive environment for families.
Our county government should have the reputation of being servants to the people who pay their salary, all the people. Volusia County should be working with our residents, farms, and businesses instead of making their lives harder with ever increasing regulation, taxes, permits, and permissions. Every tax payer and property owner in Volusia County should be given priority treatment, regardless of their economic status, in any business they must do with the county. Volusia should be the county known for low taxes, smart and respectful spending, where people matter and freedom is a priority.
Watch this important health and environmental alert! Poison Poles have been installed by our current County Council on YOUR public beach. Then go to Volusia Voices for recent updates.
Protecting Safe Access to Volusia's Natural Beauty
Our beautiful beaches became known as the World’s Most Famous Beach because of our wide white sand beach where the legacy of race car driving was honored by providing residents and visitors the unique experience of driving on the beach. We also learned it was the easiest and safest way to take everything you needed regardless of your age or mobility for an inexpensive day of rest and recreation. This easy access has always attracted visitors who loved the experience of driving on 47 miles of beaches. Now we have less than 17 miles of unrestricted beach use as county government continues to trade away our community treasure our tax dollars pay for to powerful special interests. What used to be a low cost family experience has become a frustrating and disappointing challenge with increased costs, poor maintenance, and daily restrictions that can not be anticipated. Our beaches need to be managed with the enjoyment of every tax paying citizen in mind as well as our tourists and day trippers.
Our beautiful St. Johns River and her chain of lakes must be protected from polluting run off and overdevelopment.
Building a community that is attractive to business AND families
Is it a law written in stone that we have to bribe companies with your hard earned money in order for them to move to Volusia County? I don't believe it is. Furthermore if that is the only way some will come we have to ask, are they the kind of neighbors we really want? Did your next door neighbor ask you to pay their closing costs before they would move in? Let's change the paradigm and be THE county in Florida that attracts families and good businesses with clean, well managed, easily accessible natural resources protected by efficient and friendly public safety personnel. Every business and resident should be able to expect our valuable water recharge and percolation lands are preserved and protected to provide safe water and clean lakes, rivers, and springs. Volusia can be the leader in using new technology to provide ample and safe drinking water without depleting the aquifer. We should be known as the county that makes it easy for any family or business to move here. We should roll out the red carpet for every Volusia resident and potential business instead of picking winners and losers. Far to often our own local businesses and property owners are forgotten. We should have the necessary resources in place before overburdening our schools or crowding our roads and health care facilities with thousands of new residents. Let's make them welcome but do it in a well planned and managed way. We should only encourage growth that does not destroy our neighbors property or lifestyle. It is a basic tenant of liberty.
Finally, Jeff Brower believes we can be known as the county that has overcome racial and economic divides. Let's work together to end racially or economically based mistrust and prejudice. A trip to the Farmer's Market in downtown DeLand will reveal a seed of opportunity for what is possible throughout the county. There are people from all over our county of every ethnic background mingling with each other, the young, seniors, poor and wealthy all extending friendship and respect to one another. Volusia has a wealth of good people who are tired of fighting, suspicion, and hatred. This is not a right verses left issue, it is a matter of basic human dignity and respect for your neighbor. Let's raise our children to be good neighbors regardless of our differences.
Have you given up hope your downtown and neighborhood will be properly cared for like the shiny new projects on the outskirts of town?
Don't lose hope. We can make Volusia County a Vibrant Community. Other communities have already shown us how. They got tired of waiting on the government whose decades of action and planned inaction are yielding blighted core areas and downtowns, constantly rising taxes, and reduced quality of life. .
What is a Vibrant Community anyway? It is a place where our children and young people can choose to stay and still fulfill their potential, a place that attracts talent and private investments, a place where a strong tax base leads to financial health, and is safe and clean with a great education system.
How do we make that happen in a community that has adopted a “growth at all costs” philosophy that has seriously compromised our quality of life? It starts with us. We must change the philosophy that has taken over our government. It is time to reject the same old campaign season promises that high paying jobs and a stable tax base is just beyond the next big game changer.
That is why I am running for Volusia County Chair. I am leading the way to help the vast majority of Volusians who believe we must build for our own citizens and the businesses who have been loyal merchants and employers for decades. This does not mean we exclude all others. It means we build a community our current residents enjoy and want to stay in.
When we build a thriving community that restores our divergent districts to places we love, others will love them to. That will build confidence in our community and we will be attractive to good neighbors and businesses that also want to enjoy what we have.
"Confidence is the currency all neighborhoods trade in." Charles Buki, CZB, LLC. CZB is a leading urban planning firm that sees its success in being an urban truth firm. Here is how they pose the question,
"Can healthy, vibrant, and desirable neighborhoods be accessible and inclusive? Can distressed neighborhoods and struggling cities be revitalized and become vibrant? Can a downtown or commercial corridor with vacant storefronts become energized and competitive? Absolutely. If your community is willing to work hard."
Nobody wants to invest in an area that is declining- it is clear no one has confidence in that area. Residents and merchants stop investing in their own property when they see their neighbors are no longer maintaining theirs. Neglect is as contagious as confidence is encouraging.
We can't depend on elected politicians who are more familiar with the needs of their largest campaign contributors than they are the daily struggles of the merchants and residents they were elected to serve. They aren't restoring the blight and maintaining our most productive areas. They focus on the next exciting bright shiny project.
"No one is coming to save my city for me, so what is it that I can do?" Paul Stewart, Oswego Renaissance Association.
It is up to us. We can bring the opportunity to Volusia County without just adding to our infrastructure bills and nightmares. There is much hope and a proven path found in communities all over this great nation that have decided to move ahead in spite of the doubters whose livelihoods depend on continuing the current philosophy. The truth is, a Vibrant Community is productive for every resident, this is not an us or them game. Anything can be done, this is still America, and We the People are still in charge. So let's work to bring people together and restore the community we were attracted to.
Here are four principles that are working all over the country by citizens who have built vibrant communities. There is a lot of freedom and flexibility within the principles to make it work in every downtown and community. Vibrant communities have these things in common:
Programming that brings lots of people to your downtown or district on a regular basis.
Diverse retail and entertainment options.
Office space options
Diverse residential options (this will not happen until the first three are underway).
With these principles in mind we can go about changing our "no confidence zones" where blight and business closings dominate the landscape. When government finally comes to the table with their top down approach they will spend too much of our money and ignore the desires of the community.
This is a bottom up approach initiated by the community. It is our job to direct our public servants and seek their help to make implementation possible. As the Volusia County Chair I will be your biggest advocate for meaningful progress in restoring our quality of life.
1. Pick a blighted street or failing downtown. Meet as citizens and walk the street, both sides. Make a list of what needs to be fixed and what improvements would make it a nice place. Don’t get bogged down with whose responsibility it is at this point. Just make the list. This is not a wish list, it needs to be a list of real needs that confronts the politically-charged challenges we face. Residents from the surrounding community as well as area merchants need to be included. We need to hear what they struggle with on a daily basis.
2. Categorize the list by grouping similar items like: maintenance and repairs, beautification, landscaping, safety and traffic control, slum lord identification, lighting and signage, etc.
3. Assign two or more people to each category and prioritize the list. What can we do right now? Start here. Do the smallest thing first. Then do the next smallest thing. This will necessitate each group identifying the proper responsible authority if permission to act is required or if government action is required. Progress must be seen to draw in more of the community. Don’t start with a master plan for redevelopment. That will grow organically. Report back to the main group in a week.
4. Decide by each category which items may need to be taken to the city, county, state or federal government. What items can citizens do on their own through donations of material and labor? What community events or programs can be held to attract people. Music festivals, food festivals, art festivals, farmers markets, local dance contests on a street...?Sometimes all four government entities need to be contacted for permission or for action. In such cases every layer of government under the appropriate governing authority should then contact the larger authority, i.e. the city and county contact the state with requests. The city, county, and state make their appeal to the federal government. But don’t wait for them to do it, citizens must contact their public servants as well. Establish and grow a citizen action email list. Bring people together. Have combined meetings with all the neighborhood groups in an area. Keep people informed.
5. Make a list of volunteers, craftsmen and artists who can help beautify the area. Again start with the least expensive and work up the list: Trash cans placed and painted by themes, be creative. Bike lanes painted on the road as a low cost trial, power poles painted to 10’ according to the theme of the street, murals painted on walls where possible, sidewalks painted with sea side or appropriate images, container gardens placed, trees planted, code enforcement contacted. Our neighbors have ideas and answers, talk to them. (Note: The best code enforcement will do is to establish a floor for what is tolerated. Remember, boarded up windows are code enforcement compliant. This is a necessary part but not the solution.)
6. Contact should continue weekly at first to keep the pressure on. This can be done in email or social media groups- set them up. Government bodies must be reminded of the list EVERY time they meet. Announce at every public meeting of our local governments the responses or non-responses of our elected public servants. Send updates to all the local press. We have not because we pester not enough nor from enough voices. We need active citizen participation regardless of economic status or political affiliation. We need to bring people together.
7. Once the process is started we have to keep following through and never take no for an answer. Once the area sees citizens are taking real action confidence will grow in the community and more people will participate. Throw a block party on an empty lot. Talk about what we want the area to look like. Seek donations, grants, and funding where necessary.
Yes, it is real work. But it brings communities together, relationships are strengthened and extended, and real wealth is built into the surrounding properties.
As potential investors see the support of the community they will come forward with their investment plans. No bribery is necessary. Confidence is the currency that all neighborhoods trade on. Cities and counties as well. We need to help each other. We need to build on the strengths and infrastructure we already have.
Please join me in building the Vibrant Volusia County we all look forward to. You hold they key. Vote Brower for a Plan B that works for you!