City Seat4/Mayor: Kristin Dozier
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’ve served on the Leon County Commission since November of 2010, and my term expires November 2022. I was born and grew up in Tallahassee, and I currently live in Betton Hills. I considered getting involved with Betton Neighborhood Board, but felt as a commissioner that it would complicate matters. I’m available to help as needed, and pay attention to issues impacting the neighborhood.
B) What event(s) led you to run for elected office?
I ran for County Commission in 2010 based on the need to achieve a balance between environmental and quality of life issues with the need to grow the economy and accommodate growth. I felt I could bring these issues together for smart and responsible equitable growth. I’m running for mayor because we still need to build consensus and strike this balance. I was heavily recruited to run and I take the need to meet the community’s needs seriously. I’m concerned about decisions made such as funding for the FSU Stadium, and I have a different approach to the job, and how the City should work with the community on these types of issues. I want to increase transparency and public involvement, restore trust, and to enhance collaboration with the County. I feel we can do better to address our challenges, and that I have the experience and approach to leadership to bring people together to collaborate and make decisions that benefit the overall community.
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 very familiar with the Comp Plan and have been actively involved with the process, having served on the County Commission since 2010.
B) What role should citizens have in deciding on growth and development policies for our community?
Community engagement is the bedrock of our form of government, and citizens should always be included in a meaningful way. I believe we’ve seen an erosion in the citizen’s ability to participate in many of our land use decisions. I’ve advocated for changes in process, and want a workshop to address enhancing our processes. Currently staff holds open house, few citizens show up- most don’t know about the proposed changes, and the commission doesn’t hear about them until later in the process, and then they don’t hear from the public until transmittal hearing. This indicates that our local governments need to do a better job of engaging citizens and stakeholders, and the commission needs to hear from the public at one or more meetings prior to the transmittal hearing. I’d like to see an increase in the notice requirements beyond 1000’. More effective community engagement would benefit the commissioners and provide them with more information for making decisions.
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?
We need to acknowledge that every property is different and each should be considered within its own context. However, we should have a standard approach to engaging the community on projects to ensure the property is put to use for the benefit of the community. The typical format for community meetings and soliciting feedback is frustrating to citizens who rarely see their ideas reflected in the decisions. Properties should be evaluated for how they best serve public need with a robust discussion with the community. We have work to do on how we engage the public and solicit ideas. On retaining ownership of public properties, I agree with one caveat. The need for affordable housing is one exception she would support for selling public property, but the sale should be structured to define how it will be used and developed in perpetuity, and with careful vetting of who is allowed to buy it with a requirement that they demonstrate the use will meet the needs of the community for the public good. Selling public land for student housing is not a good public use.
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?
I agree. I think we’ve made some progress with the bike/pedestrian master plan and changes to the CRTPA that have helped them to get additional grants and other funding for trails. There is a need for substantial investments in neighborhoods that have not seen many of the improvements, and have open ditches and no sidewalks. These infrastructure improvements increase property values and improve safety and walkability. We need more action in filling in gaps by investing in the areas that lack this basis 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 ensure growth is equitable and benefits all of our citizens?
No. Regarding the Southside neighborhoods, there was much planning done but little action in 2010, and the same is true now in 2022. We have good plans and funding set aside to implement, but we should be able to pay for the basic infrastructure needs out of the capital improvement budgets, and use the set-aside funds to assist with implementation of the Neighborhood First Plans, such as the robust plans developed for Frenchtown, Bond, and Providence. Folks in these communities have been asked to sit through a lot of planning and they have not seen much action. We should take quick action with the funds and implement the Plans.
5) Commissioner/Staff/Management Roles
What do you see as the appropriate role between staff and the commission in decision making?
The City commissioners and mayor are elected by community to serve as a board of directors, and we should be able to rely on the manager the commission hired and professional staff hired by the city manager to bring accurate, unbiased information to assist the Commission to make the best decisions for the community. Commissioner must do the job they were elected to do. They need to study the issues, read staff information, listen to constituents, including those with expertise, pay attention to the Community’s needs, learn from other communities, and ask questions to make good decisions.
Things have changed dramatically in recent years, and I’ve never seen so many commissioners willing to approve whatever staff puts before them, and some feel it’s disrespectful to question staff. It’s actually disrespectful to the public not to question staff, and this approach to approving staff recommendations without thorough analysis limits public engagement. The decision to reduce the number of commission meetings, and using Robert’s Rules of Order (process) as a weapon are bad decisions. I’m proud of community for taking notice of these issues and the lack of meaningful public engagement.
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?
City government needs to be more transparent and responsive to the citizens it serves and I would make this a priority. We have good people working for the City, and setting the tone starts at the top with the city manager, commissioners, and administrative staff. I’d advocate for a performance audit to improve efficiency/reduce cost/and enhance community engagement, and use the money saved from this analysis to address the community’s needs. I’d change the culture in City Hall so. Staff feels free to engage with citizens on issues, instead of the current approach of the City know best. The Performance Audit would be used to increase transparency, efficiency, and citizen engagement, and free us to work on the key issues, such as providing incentives for affordable housing and streamlining the process with dedicated staff, and seeking additional funding for low- and middle-income housing. I’d step-up collaboration on affordable housing and working with homeless providers. The building permit system is too slow and cumbersome, one of the slowest in the state. It takes too long to get new innovative and green products approved and new types of construction methods approved.
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 voted yes. I did so only after the hard-fought battle by ATN/KIR to have more public involvement and to get environmental changes into the Welaunee Master Plan.
Initially, I made a motion to postpone the decision until the commission could have in-person meetings (due to COVID-19). At the next meeting, the commission overturned this decision and the process proceeded. It was a bad decision to push through the process during the pandemic. I fought for more public participation, and felt the Comp Plan amendment/Master Plan was a terrible process. This highlighted some of the challenges with joint decision making especially since the City was the applicant.
B) How about the vote to give $27 million of Blueprint money to FSU for stadium upgrades? Explain your vote (rationale).
I voted no and led the opposition against the decision. We have many infrastructure needs and to set aside 12% of economic development funds for this was a bad decision and did not spend the money wisely. The funds should be spent on projects that support the entire community. This was the most anti-jobs and anti-business decision ever made, and will cost us 1000s of jobs, and impact the small and minority local businesses that need training, and financial support to grow their businesses. This decision was a setback, but we can move forward to expand our economy in a smart and sustainable way.
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?
As I have done as a County Commissioner, I would approach the mayor job working to change bad rules and procedures, and enhancing community engagement as the bedrock for how we should make decisions to do what is best for the Community. We should have additional information and more opportunities for feedback before making decisions.