In the August 23rd primary election, all Charlotte County voters – including more than 35,000 Democrats and 43,000 Independent voters – will have the opportunity to choose the County Commissioners representing Districts 2 and 4.
In an effort to inform the voters of the candidates’ positions on critical issues, Charlotte County Democrats asked all six candidates to answer the following questions. District 4 incumbent Stephen R. Deutsch’s (SRD) responses appear below:
- Clean and healthy water is an essential feature of our community. But Mosaic’s threat of mining upriver, antiquated, and unrepaired septic systems, and pollutants that result from increased development each threaten the water quality in the Peace and Myakka Rivers, Charlotte Harbor, and the surrounding waters. What would you do as Commissioner to resolve existing problems with waste treatment in old and new housing, and the looming issue of phosphate mining?
SRD: I believe that our water is our most valuable natural resource. Water quality has always been important to me. I led the battle for our septic to sewer program 10 years ago and we are beginning to see the benefits now. We are systematically installing sewers one area at a time throughout the county.
Our board voted this past year to prohibit phosphate mining in Charlotte County. I have long been an advocate for clean and healthy water. Our effort of supporting the new dam guarantees Charlotte County good quality drinking water for the next 60 years.
Planning ahead we know our landfill is good for another 100 years.
- Development is at an all-time high in a county where rapid growth is nothing new. Often residents see problems arising in their locales before public officials react. Residents of the Burnt Store corridor and Englewood are alarmed at proposed developments in their community. Likewise, daily commuters on US 41 and SR 776 in northeast Port Charlotte are dreading additional traffic snarls caused by West Port and other developments. This is true countywide. What will you do to answer these concerns, now and going forward?
SRD: We are doing it now by keeping our roads ahead of the projected growth. As a member and former chair of the MPO we lead the way to improve Burnt store and River Roads (in Sarasota County). We are widening Harbor View and are in the design stages for improving and widening Edgewater Blvd from Midway to 776. My planning background has helped move these projects ahead.
Our board has been very proactive, and we are working with DOT and North Port for a new access to the interstate.
- Speaking of growth, Babcock Ranch is becoming a major population center in Charlotte County. How do you propose to ensure it has all necessary vital services, and how will you seek to integrate this community into Charlotte County so we might all benefit from its vibrant, forward-looking nature, while ensuring its geographic location in our southeast corner doesn’t make it a de facto part of Lee County?
SRD: Plans have been in the works for both Sheriff and Fire facilities at Babcock Ranch and the funds are already allotted for them. Their High School is nearing completion and we have a good close working relationship with Babcock. I believe Babcock will be an asset to Charlotte County and an interictal part of our community.
- Babcock Ranch has a large fieldhouse that is also intended to be used as a hurricane shelter. Many of us have lived through a major hurricane. Some, more than one. We understand that threat all too well, and see an increased year ‘round population with insufficient places to shelter locally or routes to evacuate. A hurricane could hit anytime. How will you address this situation to ensure the safety of Charlotte County residents?
SRD: I went through Hurricane Charlie. I agree we have a great need for an adequate shelter. The Major problem is our elevation. Most sites that I have looked into are either too low and not acceptable for a shelter or would be impossible to get to because of elevation issues. We are constantly looking for solutions to the shelter challenge. At present, we are doing the best we can with what we have to address any pending emergencies. Our level of departmental training and preparedness is impressive, and I believe we are extremely well prepared to deal with any emergency. Our emergency management center is nothing short of amazing.
- Charlotte County hospitals rank, for the most part, on the lower end of the ratings spectrum. However, the nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals that we share neighborhoods with are working harder, under tougher conditions, and getting less respect. Most of your constituents are seniors and, maybe more than anything, we need top quality healthcare to be the norm in Charlotte County. Explain how you, as a commissioner, will lead this effort.
SRD: I have personally been comfortable with our hospitals. I know that all of our hospitals are facing critical staffing issues and looking for creative solutions. We work with and encourage more local clinics and drop in facilities to ease the pressure.
- Health care professionals, teachers, emergency response personnel, and essential workers such as waiters and cashiers cannot afford to live in Charlotte County. How will you address the affordable housing crisis in our local communities?
SRD: Affordable housing continues to be a major challenge for our county. We have several projects underway now that will be off the ground within the next 12 months including the County Bachman Property which will result in several hundred new rental units that will be available in the near future.
We have met with and talked to several local employers about creative housing solutions, and several concepts are now being reviewed including the possibility of an extended stay facility being used for short term rentals.
I thank you for the opportunity to share my ideas. I am a Republican and I should add that while I am fiscally conservative, I’ve always been a “People person”. One of the nice things at the Commission level we don’t get involved in partisan issues. We all work (with our own ideas) together to do what is best for all the citizens of Charlotte County.
If you desire any additional information or have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me.
Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch