Venice

VENICE – Candidates for seats 3 and 4 on the Venice City Council had a rare treat Wednesday night at the Venice Aviation Society candidate forum when moderator John Moeckel gave them an opportunity to ask their opponent one question. 

a palm tree in front of a building: Candidates for Seats 3 and 4 on the Venice City Council each got to pose one question to their opponent Wednesday night. © HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE PHOTO Candidates for Seats 3 and 4 on the Venice City Council each got to pose one question to their opponent Wednesday night.

The majority of those questions involved either growth or environmental concerns. 

Venice City Council Seat 4 candidate Jen Lewis © EARLE KIMEL / SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE Venice City Council Seat 4 candidate Jen Lewis

Two of the three Seat 4 candidates – Jen Lewis and Chris Simmons – frequently cite a passion for regional, if not statewide environmental reform, while the third Seat 4 candidate, Jim Boldt, as well as both Seat 4 candidates, incumbent Helen Moore and challenger Sandy Sibley, were more focused on the environment within the city. 

As in previous forums, Sibley praised the current city plan to improve water quality that drains from 28 outfalls – including 10 that drain directly into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Venice City Council Seat 4 candidate Chris Simmons © EARLE KIMEL / SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE Venice City Council Seat 4 candidate Chris Simmons

Moore, who had the first opportunity to pose a question to her opponent, Sibley, asked if she had any additional ideas. 

Sibley continued to praise current efforts and noted, “I am not a scientist, and I think what the city has done is very commendable.” 

Venice City Council Seat 3 incumbent Helen Moore © EARLE KIMEL / SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE Venice City Council Seat 3 incumbent Helen Moore

Related: Helen Moore files to run for second term in Seat 3 on Venice City Council

Sibley then countered by asking Moore about her view on the hottest topic in the city, the prospect that the new city land development regulations would allow for taller buildings in the downtown core. 

Moore countered that the new land development regulations don’t call for that, but that the current draft of the regulations would solidify the limitations on height and do away with special exceptions. 

Venice City Council Seat 3 candidate Sandy Sibley © EARLE KIMEL / SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE Venice City Council Seat 3 candidate Sandy Sibley

The land development regulations deal with height but also lot coverage and property line setbacks. 

“It’s not about how many stories they are, it’s about how they fit into the invisible envelope that surrounds each of those buildings,” Moore said. 

Boldt used his question to ask Lewis and Simmons about the cost-benefit of potential environmental improvement projects and pointed to $72 million in capital improvement projects over the next five years as evidence of further progress. 

Venice City Council Seat 4 candidate Jim Boldt. © EARLE KIMEL / SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE Venice City Council Seat 4 candidate Jim Boldt.

Lewis praised the Utilities Department under the direction of Javier Vargas and said her local interest involved making the city more sustainable – ideally stepping up its investment in solar power and installation of electric vehicle charging stations. 

Simmons reached back to his experience as a soil and water conservation board member in Virginia to critique everything from the documented inefficiency of stormwater retention ponds in the reduction of nutrient pollution, the need to promote Florida-friendly yards, and the reduction of fertilizer. 

Much of that last came to the forefront in 2018, during the persistent red tide bloom, when the city did engage in an education program. 

>Land Development Regulations Update

That same year, the city council developed a new resolve to establish the stormwater outfall monitoring and cleanup program cited earlier by Sibley as a successful endeavor. 

Simmons asked his counterparts to offer three things to foster smarter growth. 

Lewis revisited the need to work towards sustainability and reiterated the need for more electric car charging stations, and Simmons’ own call for more Florida-friendly landscaping. 

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Recently: Candidates cross lines of decorum and accuracy in latest Venice council forum

Boldt cited the need to use the comprehensive plan to hold down explosive growth; get citizen input to develop the land development regulations and keep ahead of growth with up-to-date infrastructure. 

Lewis – who got into the race because of her environmental concerns – asked his opponents why they chose to run. 

Boldt said he’s answered that frequently on the campaign trail then later added, “There’s nobody on this dais that isn’t committed to trying to help the city.” 

Simmons, like Lewis, got involved because of his environmental concerns. 

He cited previous studies by https://www.environmentamerica.org that in 2009 and 2019 cited Venice area beaches as among the most polluted in the country. 

The 2019 study, which was covered in a story by USA Today used data from 2018 and prior, which was during the same time frame the city started its aggressive sampling of stormwater outfalls, to determine which ones should be fixed first. 

He also cited the 2019 Environmental Working Group study that referenced paperwork compliance issues for Venice’s water system with the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The quality of city water meets EPA drinking water standards. 

Related: There's 'poop' in the water at America's dirtiest beaches

More: Candidates cross line at Central Venice Coalition forum

Wednesday’s forum was lower key than the Oct. 14 forum hosted by the Central Venice Coalition, though Simmons did introduce himself as the independent candidate running for Seat 4 because Bold has been backed by the local Republican Party and Lewis by local Democrats even though she’s registered as an independent. 

The League of Women Voters recently scheduled a Zoom forum for the Venice City Council race at 6:30 p.m., Sunday. To register for that forum, visit https://bit.ly/3jlZRXm.  

Waterford has a forum for its resident on Oct 28.   

While the election day is Nov. 2, the early voting period begins at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 25, at the Supervisor of Elections office in Room 114 of Robert L. Anderson Administration Center, 4000 Tamiami Trail S, Venice. Early voting runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., through Oct. 30. 

Earle Kimel primarily covers south Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Venice Council candidates pose questions to opponents at VASI forum

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/venice-council-candidates-pose-questions-to-opponents-at-vasi-forum/ar-AAPOSog

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