County Commission District 3: Damon Victor

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’m an independent businessman, I own Victor Technologies, an orthotics and prosthetics company. I’ve lived in Tallahassee for 35 years in the Parkside/Park Terrace neighborhood for 23 years with wife, Rory Krivit. We’ve been together over 30 years.  We’ve both always been involved in neighborhood issues. My wife was president of our neighborhood association and I have served as past president of the Rotary Club. Through Rotary International, I did volunteer missions to Ecuador, El Salvador, and Ukraine to supply children with prosthetics and orthotics. I’ve also been active in defending my neighborhood’s character from incompatible development

B) What event(s) led you to run for elected office?

When Covid curtailed my international volunteer efforts, I began researching volunteer opportunities in Tallahassee. My research led me to conclude that not enough is being spent to combat homelessness and to fund affordable housing and social services. When I saw the huge expenditures of public money to Welaunee and the FSU stadium, I realized that our community priorities are really skewed. I went to speak at a Blueprint meeting and was very frustrated by the experience. As I watched the flawed process by which it all went down, I had to do something. I felt compelled to run.

2) Comprehensive Plan Update Process

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

Yes, I’m familiar with it and I’ve read much of the Comp Plan. It favors developers and does not require enough equitable sharing of resources. Its standards need to be tightened and it could do a better job of channeling inevitable growth into proper locations and activities.

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

Citizens should have a crucial role. Citizens know best what’s going on in their own neighborhoods and they know what they want. They should be engaged early and their input should direct the conversation and the eventual recommendations of staff, not the other way around.

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 and how do you think that should work, for example in the development of the Northwood Mall site?

Public input is again critical. I’ve been involved, for example, in the Northwood Mall public meetings. In the beginning, there was a lot of opportunity for public input but as it goes on, it seems that decisions are being made with less public input and in many cases, ignoring public input. The public is told one thing and then it changes. County and city owned land presents a great opportunity to meet pubic needs, such as affordable housing and addressing homelessness. Land could be put into public trusts and used for public purposes, instead of selling it off to developers. I recognize that each situation is different and my vote will depend on the individual situation and facts.

4) Growth and Development Decisions

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

One of my major priorities, if elected, would be to ensure that everyone has safe pathways to walk and bike. It’s important for kids to be able to walk to school safely or for people to walk to the grocery store safely. Many neighborhoods still don’t have safe pathways. We need to inventory the neighborhoods that still don’t have safe pathways and then make those the first priority in getting that infrastructure. Our priorities are out of balance. I’d also like to see that our new sidewalks and pathways are tree-lined and shady because this makes them more usable and attractive to use.

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 ensure growth is equitable and benefits all of our citizens?  

Tax dollars are not being used equitably. Welaunee and FSU are just two examples. (See answer above.) Campaign financing is also part of the problem. Lobbyists and wealthy individuals make huge donations and then they get to guide our public decisions. Donors should not be in control of government. Ordinary people can see the inequality and they know that the game is rigged. I’ve returned PAC money because I don’t want to be beholden to anyone. I want to be independent in my judgment and decisions. Although Citizens United prohibits limiting the amount of contributions, candidates should police themselves and this should be an election issue.

5) Commissioner/Staff/Management Roles

What do you see as the appropriate role between staff and the commission in decision making? 

A commissioner is elected to represent the whole community. Commissioners have a duty to do their own independent research, to talk to experts in the field, to read up on the issues, to take diverse public input, as well as the staff. Staff should be there to present the facts and issues in an impartial way to the Commissioners but I don’t think they should even be making recommendations. I also think it’s fine for commissioners to tell staff that they don’t like any of the options presented and to go back to the drawing board.

6) Issues of Interest to Candidate

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

One of my top priorities would be creating safe pathways and working with the City, Blueprint, and CRPTA to finish the infrastructure on the west end of Tharpe Street. This is doable and can be accomplished. I would also like to see better access to health care and fresh food for historically underserved areas, as well as better digital connectivity in poorer communities. Another top priority is protecting the environment, and more specifically our aquifer and water supplies. This would include maintaining and improving our systems of sewage spill reporting, septic to sewer conversion, wastewater and stormwater management.

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. 

I would have voted NO. When it happened, it was during Covid and many people could not participate. Online participation was sketchy. The decision was made by lame duck commissioners, knowing full well that new commissioners coming in might have voted differently. Processes felt undemocratic. The decision was a mistake. Including the Welaunee Arch, it added 10 times more acreage to the USA boundary than in the prior decade. It created a lot of financial obligations and liabilities because urban services, water, sewer, roads, and the like would have to be extended and maintained. Ultimately, it would cost more in tax dollar subsidies than it would generate in revenues. A higher portion of the tax dollars could have been better spent elsewhere to revitalize older neighbors and to infill inside the USA boundary. Despite paying the costs, most taxpayers in Leon County will never see any benefit from the Welaunee expansion.

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 it from the beginning. FSU making the ask was wrong, but the Commission should have had the courage to say NO. Blueprint didn’t even have the money to give them. The City/County would have to borrow the money and pay nearly $7 million in interest, money that is completely non-productive. Taking tax dollars from people who need it and giving it to people (FSU) who don’t need it is clearly wrong. It disturbs me that when the construction work is completed, FSU will actually have fewer stadium seats (several hundred fewer) so it could actually lower the revenues generated. I didn’t accept the explanation that because the Commissioners had given money to FAMU for Bragg Stadium that they were obligated to give to FSU also. Each decision should be judged anew based on its particular facts. Bragg Stadium was about to shut down without help, having a huge negative economic impact locally, whereas FSU was going to have a season regardless. The situations were very different.

8) Additional Comments

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

Over the years, I’ve studied up on the Alliance of Tallahassee Neighborhoods. I’m impressed with ATN’s website and mission. I think my neighborhood should submit an application. And regarding new developments, traffic issues, or environmental concerns impacting residents, I’d like to see neighborhoods being more proactive than reactive.

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