BY THE OBSERVER STAFF
1) What should be done with regard to the housing market?
The county government can help rebuild our local economy. If people have jobs, the housing market will rebound. There are HUD grants local governments occasionally use for small, worthwhile projects, but those programs are dwarfed by the problem.
The federal government could have resolved the housing problem quickly, but it chose not to, a decision obviously wrong at the time and one proven wrong over time.
It left appropriated bailout money unspent, rather than help homeowners, and it refused to allow homeowners the same bankruptcy right that businesses have to reduce their mortgage to the value of the property. Since most of the middle class had a significant amount of its wealth tied up in the family home, no real economic recovery can occur until the real estate market, and the housing market in particular, recover.
There is, however, no reason why we should play the victim. I’ve been active in local issues for 20 years, which is long enough to see the problems and the possibilities. We need to develop our own economic development plan, one in which the benefits and burdens are shared equitably.
Economic development requires unity. We need Team Volusia to become a strong economic development organization, one that shows we are serious, that we are ready to grow beyond our tourism roots. Its role and the roles of the county and the CEO Cabinet need to be better defined, avoiding duplication and turf wars.
2) Is there room for further cuts to the county budget or would that mean sacrificing services too much?
There is always room for budget cuts. The county has done a good job of maintaining its core operations while dramatically cutting spending, but the magic can only last so long. I expect budget cuts from this point forward will be painful.
We may have reached an economic plateau, but given the problems in Europe and the problems in China and Japan, the future looks uncertain. Should further cuts be necessary, we need people with sound judgment and experience making them.
If economic problems persist, we should consider restructuring Florida government, rationalizing its tax structure, consolidating services and delegating power from the state to those governments responsible for the outcomes: cities, counties, school boards and universities. Consolidating services would lead to cheaper, more effective government, reducing duplication. Delegating power downward would improve efficiency, allowing for diverse solutions to the diverse problems of a diverse state.
3) Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?
I have the experience necessary to make a difference.
Following the questionnaire, we had each candidate come in for a follow-up interview. A sample of Daniels' responses is compiled below.
Doug Daniels said he was impressed with Shannan McLeish’s grassroots success, but sees himself as the more qualified candidate and a candidate who can make changes.
“The economy is not good and we have to begin to make that a priority,” he said. “(Volusia County) is, out of all the urban counties in Florida, it is one of the poorest; there’s no reason for that. The reasons are not preordained.”
Daniels said the bureaucracy tied to the county’s permitting system closely resembles “some sort of model from the 1920s,” and hinders economic growth in the area.
“I’ve been a member of Florida TaxWatch since 2009,” Daniels said. “(The organization's goal is) to conserve your tax dollars and make sure they are spent efficiently.”
Daniels said his work with Florida TaxWatch proves he has the ability and experience to make the county government more efficient.
He said the county has done a “good job” with the budget, but added that the next cuts will have to be for things having a more significant impact on the community.
“The tax rates are high because the economy’s terrible,” Daniels said, adding that a recovery requires hard work. “The economy’s terrible because of poor decisions that have been made in the past. … There's no reason that we should be in the position that we’re in.”
McLeish said that in the past, Daniels has favored businesses over the best interests of the county. Daniels responds by pointing out a contrast he sees between the candidates. “She should really be running for Congress; that is really where her interests lie,” he said. "To be critical of businesses … that are … staying here against their own economic interests is counterproductive.”
Daniels said his business experience will allow him, if elected, to “update” the County Council, to make it more efficient and responsive to the needs of the community.