County Commission District 2: Christian Caban

1) Interests and Reasons for Running

A) Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, and your involvement in your neighborhood (issues impacting your neighborhood).

I live in the Frenchtown/Griffin Heights area and I’ve lived in District 2 since 2011. I feel as if I’m a product of District 2 as I’ve run a number of businesses in the district and have come to know many residents as customers. For the campaign, I’ve also been knocking on doors throughout the district to listen to the concerns of residents to broaden my understanding. I’m in the hospitality business and run a variety of bars and restaurants for young professionals and college students. We’re also restoring the Governor’s Inn and I’m proud of the work we’re doing to maintain the character of this historical inn and restaurant.

B) What events led you to run for elected office?

It wasn’t events so much as an observation that our local politics is very divided and, I feel, counterproductive. There’s not enough working to find compromises that result in a middle ground approach that gets things done in a way that most people can support. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a middle ground candidate rather than one that takes a strong position but then won’t compromise.

2) Comprehensive Plan Update Process

A) Are you familiar with the comprehensive planning process and its role in guiding growth and development issues?

Yes, I have a basic understanding of what is commonly a complicated process.   My belief is that we need to figure out the destination of where we want to go as a city and county:  to get concrete on to what degree and how and where we want to grow and how we want to preserve what we cherish. I want to represent District 2. Residents have told me repeatedly that their primary concern is improved infrastructure. Infrastructure involves a variety of factors from roads, safe sidewalks, stormwater control, protecting water quality, etc. Within the comprehensive plan, to me it gets back to what I mentioned with regard to the restoration of the Governor’s Club:  the plan should specify how we can grow but not disrupt neighborhoods and not degrade our natural environment. I’m a strategist by nature. Building and maintaining responsive infrastructure takes a creative strategy. We haven’t approached infrastructure in that way sufficiently in Leon County and particularly in District 2.

B) What role should citizens have in deciding on growth and development policies in our community?

First off, we need to have more people voting in District 2. Currently, this is the lowest voting participation district. Citizens need to educate themselves on the candidates and get out to vote. Elections have consequences. On specific growth and development policies, we need to do a better job of getting community input and, as policies are implemented, make sure commissioners provide feedback to residents on how the policies are working. Finally, we need to educate residents on how to effectively advocate for policies they want. It’s difficult for commissioners to formulate a responsive policy based on receiving emails or by comments from mailed notices. We need to make better use of technology to gather and synthesize community input.

3) Process Used to Decide on the Use of Public Properties

What role should citizens and neighborhoods have in deciding on the use of public properties and how do you think that should work, for example at the Northwood Mall site?

Government needs to help nearby residents and neighborhoods clarify their vision for the property. It relates to the comp plan in a way- asking the people what’s their vision for the property and how can we get there?

From my perspective, the Northwood Mall site needs smart development. I don’t see that as being focused on affordable housing so much as retail and restaurants. Plus, I like the idea of the new police headquarters that will be built there being more integrated into the community, sort of a community policing approach not on the beat, but in the location and community outreach potential.

4 Growth and Development Decisions

A) ATN believes that growth and development decisions are key to making urban neighborhoods walkable, bikable, livable and desirable.  Do you agree?  If so, what specifically would you advocate to implement these concepts?

I am particularly focused on District 2 and within that want to have smart and safe infrastructure that serves kids. Too many kids have to walk to schools and they don’t have safe sidewalks to use. We need sidewalks that are first off, built, and then have lighting and, ideally, even covers of some sort to protect kids from bad weather. The same could be said for bus stops for schools and for city buses. I like making neighborhoods more walkable, bikable, and the rest, but I’d like to think bigger than that. My question is, how can we create the infrastructure that gets kids right for success?  Let’s build that infrastructure.

B) In your opinion has the Commission done enough to equitably share tax dollars and guide growth and prosperity generally, and more specifically to implement the Southern Action Plan?  What else should we do to address this and ensure growth is equitable and benefits all of our citizens?

There has been quite a lot of tax-funded projects in District 2 over the past few years. That’s good as this district needs to catch up on spending that historically it has not received at an equitable rate. I certainly want to continue that “catch up” approach. But we need to focus more on projects that can have a more direct effect on people’s lives. I would like to see the district build the physical and economic infrastructure to support many more small businesses, make it safer to walk to schools, and make sure we preserve and enhance the natural features within and near the district, such as Wakulla Springs.

5)  What do you see as the appropriate role between staff and the commission in decision making? Do you think staff currently has too much influence, about enough or too little? Explain.

I would approach this issue as I approach hiring for my company. I hire the best person for the job and then don’t micromanage them, but gather the data to objectively evaluate their work. Commissioners shouldn’t be micromanaging staff, but they do need to make sure they are doing their own on-going staff evaluations and listening to the comments of their district constituents to make sure staff are bringing the commissioners sufficient and accurate data to make sound policy decisions.

6) Are there one or two issues you would like to work on and/or take leadership on as a Commissioner?

As you can tell, I’m big on infrastructure that improves the quality of life, particularly for those in District 2. That is, making sure our roads are safe for cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists, that traffic flows well, that we have proper drainage and sewage management, and the like.  ithin that, I’m particularly interested in the development of the Airport Gateway.  e need to make sure we deliver as promised by getting citizen input early and throughout the development process. I’m also interested in improving the community benefit of Innovation Park.   feel the Mag Lab, particularly, is underutilized as an economic engine. Finally, and getting back to students, I would like to see Lively Technical College, city and county governments, and the local business community work together to get more students through high school, learn a trade at Lively, and transition to sustained employment in their chosen trade.  his approach could not only give students a viable career choice, it would give local trade=based businesses qualified workers, and for residents should result in lower housing construction and maintenance costs as we have a sufficient capable workforce.

7) Votes on Key Issues

A) If you had been a commissioner during the vote to expand the Urban Service Area to include the Welaunee Arch (2800 rural acres) north of I-10, how would you have voted? Explain your answer

This vote represents a difficult trade-off. We want urban infill vs. urban sprawl.  oo often, urban infill housing gets built as student housing or as housing developments unaffordable to low income residents.  ousing on the edge of town is less expensive, but the cost of infrastructure is high for the general public to bear.  lus, some people prefer to live out of town. I don’t know how I would have voted. I didn’t follow the issue closely enough to get the data I would have needed to make the decision. I consider myself a data-driven person when it comes to decisions like this; there’s no one size fits all solutions.

B) How about the vote to give $27 million of Blueprint money to FSU for stadium upgrades?  Explain your answer.

I would have voted against the funding, but I do have some qualifications on that vote. Like I said earlier, I consider myself a middle of the road candidate. I would have preferred that some compromise been made in the amount of the stadium funding. I’m an entrepreneur; I can appreciate the better financial decision for Blueprint economic development funds would have been to allocate them to help local small and medium sized businesses. However, we did support FAMU stadium improvements and similar funds for TC. I’m not anti-FSU.  FSU is the biggest economic driver in town I would have pushed for the commissioners to come together in the middle on a funding amount for the stadium.

8) Additional Comments
We appreciate your time and you sharing your thoughts with us.  Is there anything you haven’t had a chance to tell us yet that you would like our neighborhoods to know?

I want to be a voice for District 2. I want to improve the quality of life for residents in very specific ways. As I’ve mentioned, that starts with smart, comprehensive infrastructure, particularly making it possible for students to be able to walk to schools safely. We also need environmentally-sound physical infrastructure to improve transportation while not harming our lakes and springs. And, especially for District 2, we need the jobs infrastructure that prepares and enables small businesses to start and flourish. That means job training, especially for workers in the trades and business management support for new businesses.

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