BY THE OBSERVER STAFF
1) What should be done with regard to the housing market?
We have the seventh highest foreclosure rating in the country, and since 2008, we've lost half our home values. We need to stop the decline. I would pull together a task force immediately upon taking office.
Other areas around the country are already in the process of addressing foreclosures through putting pressure on banks to work with homeowners and to pay for upkeep of abandoned or foreclosed homes, funding legal assistance for homeowners, involving outside investors, creating a county bank to help.
Information is out there and the situation requires immediate action in order to stabilize our communities and home values.
We also have monies, such as CRA funds, that should be used to support local small business owners and blighted communities, as areas like Delray Beach have done with great success. This issue is one of my top priorities.
2) Is there room for further cuts to the county budget or would that mean sacrificing services too much?
We must be fully transparent and accountable to taxpayers about how we're spending their money.
We have areas where we can cut, such as Beach Patrol. Armed officers and big trucks on the beach are not necessary or the image we want to project.
We need to make sure we're not top-heavy or paying higher than average for comparable positions.
Another issue is overtime. We've been paying at least some positions more, or nearly as much, in overtime, as in salary. That's expensive and could be unsafe if employees are overworked and tired. Also, if we need that many hours covered, that employees are working 60-80 hours a week, we could put more people to work who desperately need jobs.
We can't say we're cutting positions if we're just loading employees up with overtime instead.
Another area is management of the Ocean Center. Convention space around the country may be publicly owned, but it's privately managed because the management companies are connected to the convention center clients.
3) Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?
It's David and Goliath. I'm in the general election even though I was outspent almost 14-1. My opponent is the establishment candidate, advocating business as usual — exactly as it's been done for the last 20-plus years.
His first idea was yet another hotel requiring more of our tax dollars, even as other hotels and big developments all along the beach are bankrupt.
He sued this county on behalf of Walmart. His comment about the council's unanimous decision against building it on environmentally sensitive lands was that the council had "caved in" to citizens.
His latest "green jobs" idea, which he began touting after I talked about using solar energy to power our public buildings, create jobs, set us apart, and give taxpayers return on their money, is through some windmill company that is his client, a clear conflict of interest were he on the council.
Before that, it was drilling off our coasts. Florida Energy Associates is a lobbying company he founded for a secret group of oil companies in 2009, and was very nearly successful in lifting the drilling ban and allowing oil wells within three to 10 miles of our coasts. FEA still exists. It's listed as a lobbying agent for the 2012 legislative session.
My opponent consistently represented special interests over the best interests of the citizens. If you want to know who he would represent next, just go to the Supervisor of Elections site.
His contributors' list reads like a who's who of monied interests, including the insurance industry and developers. You can guarantee they aren't giving him thousands of dollars just because they like him.
My opponent is the voice of the largest corporations and special interests in this county and beyond. I'm the people's voice, because we need one.
Following the questionnaire, we had each candidate come in for a follow-up interview. A sample of McLeish’s responses is compiled below.
Shannon McLeish, during in her in-person interview, discussed her stance on the housing crisis compared to Doug Daniels' stance.
“I don’t think we can go out and just build our way out of this,” McLeish said. “The problem is really complex. Yes, it’s a national problem, but we have the mess. That’s why we want a task force … maybe it’s a variety of solutions.”
McLeish was critical of Daniels' reasoning for running for office as well as his vision. “He doesn’t have the motivation,” she said. “He doesn’t have the interest, and he didn’t see (foreclosures) really as a problem.”
She was also critical of his economic plan, consisting of building of hotels and other big projects.
“We’ve been listening to that for the last 20 years,” McLeish said. “That sounds really lovely. … If the area’s rundown and it’s crime ridden, which is exactly what’s occurring … then the word’s going to be out that is not the place to go, it’s not safe, that it’s not comfortable.”
McLeish portrays herself as a much different candidate from Daniels, calling him “the establishment guy.”
“He is tied to the money and the power in this county,” she said, adding that if “the will of the people is not carried out, the public process is circumvented.”
McLeish said she views herself as an outside candidate and said Daniels' “best ideas (are) the ones he took from my website and my talking points.”
She admitted she had little experience working with a budget the size of the county’s, but added Daniels has the same amount of expertise in that area.
“My motives are pure,” McLeish said, when asked why residents should vote for her. “My motives are that I love this area and I plan to stay here. I’m invested in seeing Volusia County improve because it benefits all of us. The only thing influencing me is my community. The people need a voice and they don’t have one.”