Orange County mayoral candidate Bill Sublette called Monday for the next mayor to be someone who can continue Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ legacy of open government and offer a proven track record for being tough, and then offered what he called “a very aggressive agenda” involving growth, bikes, buses, education, the environment, and crusading for consumers.
Sublette, chairman of the Orange County School Board for the past seven years, offered himself as heir to Jacobs’ legacy, and touted a record of fighting hard during his time in the Florida House of Representatives and leading the school board for what he thought was right. And then he explored a wide range of issues including some that Jacobs and her predecessors all had discussed but struggled to forward, such as expanding Lynx bus service and linking the county’s bike paths for a countyline-to-countyline network.
After he gave a 14-minute speech introducing his campaign, Sublette explained the Lynx bus service expansion by offering a commitment to something the region’s public bus authority has been wishing for for many years: a permanent, dedicated source of tax money.
Sublette, a Republican lawyer from Orlando, faces Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, a Democrat from Windermere, and Orlando regional chamber of commerce President Rob Panepinto, a Republican from Winter Park, in seeking to succeed Jacobs next year. Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke, also a Republican, is expected to file soon to run. Jacobs is leaving office due to term limits.
“We need proven leadership at the helm of county government,” Sublette said. “We need leadership with a track record. We need leadership that understands sometimes you have to fight for what is right. I’m perhaps proudest of my role as school board chair that we’ve shown the willingness to fight when necessary.”
He vowed a “very aggressive agenda,” though many of his ideas have been pursued by past mayors, though perhaps not all with with vigor. The dedicated funding for buses issue is different. For decades, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority has run its bus system primarily with whatever money its funding partners, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, plus the City of Orlando, have been willing to give it each year. With no tax source of its own, it has never been able to envision, much less enact any major expansions of the the bus network serving Central Florida.
Sublette said later he does not know what dedicated tax source Orange County might recommend, but said there are five or six potential options and it is time the county seriously considered them.
‘I know we need it. And I intend for us to tackle that. I think you tackle that by creating a task force to examine the dedicated funding sources that are out there,” Sublette said.
For those who expect task forces to be roads to non-action, Sublette earlier proudly pointed to two he chaired in the early 2000s, one to deal with jail overcrowding, and one, before he was on the school board, to deal with the crisis of confidence in Orange County Public Schools. Both task forces made numerous reform recommendations he said were enacted and led to dramatic improvements in both.
Among other items in his agenda:
– Continued emphasis on fighting crime. “We are the premier tourist destination in the country if not the world, but crime is still a driving concern of those in our neighborhood, and those in our tourist corridor.”
– Balancing growth which he called inevitable with management of growth, only allowing growth “where we have an established infrastructure. We need to make sure we protect and cherish our natural resources, and we need to have lines in the sand beyond which we will not allow growth.”
– Expansion of bike paths, walkways and sidewalks throughout the county. Sublette is an avid bicyclist himself. “There’s no reason somebody shouldn’t be able to get on a bike in our community and bike all the from the East Orange Trail to the West Orange Trail without ever leaving a dedicated bike path.”
– Addressing traffic and gridlock with better systems of timing our traffic signals and planning for our road networks.
– Tackling “multi-generational poverty” by going after jobs for the working poor, and a transportation network with “frequent, regular bus service, so our working poor can get on buses and get to those jobs.”
– Hardening of power utility infrastructure, bury power lines, do better jobs with drainage systems and retention ponds. “We need to understand that we are going to continue to get hit with hurricanes.”