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Port Orange Observer Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018 7 months ago

Sarah Jones wants to make Port Orange City Council more people-friendly

Jones shares changes and policies she would advocate for if elected.
by: Lurvin Fernandez Staff Writer

Sarah Jones is running for Port Orange City Council against current councilman Chase Tramont.


What are your thoughts on potentially raising taxes?

I tend to be a fairly liberal people person, but I’m also a very practical person. I know that if you don’t keep the city financially sound, then you can’t do any good for anybody. I feel strongly about financial security, and I think if push comes to shove, we'd have to give up some of the luxuries we’ve enjoyed for about a year. In the long run, if you don’t keep the essential services going, it doesn’t matter how many baseball fields you have. I think it can be done, and also because as much as people may or may not like development, it’s increasing the tax base, so I think it’s doable.


What are some non essential services you consider luxuries?

The parks are essential, but some of the services, such as offering ice cream at the senior meetings, are nonessential. They can still have senior meetings, but you don’t have to give free ice cream. Same when it comes to various games at the field, they support recreational leagues, but also some competitive leagues. Those are money-making entities. If push comes to shove, they would pay the full price.


Does the money they spend locally not justify that?

These games are important to them, and it’s an important thing. It brings business and helps children develop, but at some point in time you have to say, “I can’t do this.”


Can you explain your thoughts on code enforcement?

Since the current city manager, Jake Johannsen, came on, they’ve gotten better. I hear criticism from small businesses. I think they could be more friendly and explain the need for things and why things have to be done, rather than just say that it has to be done.


Are city codes to strict? Is enforcement too strict?

No. It’s not too strict, but it’s sometimes not user-friendly. It doesn’t explain to people who are not in the construction business why it has to be so. If you explain to people why it’s important, they understand.


Do you think the city is friendly to businesses?

I don’t hear from the big businesses. People who open the little businesses are the one who have difficulty. A lot of dealing with the public is explaining to them why something is important, not just telling them why they have to do it.


If you were elected, would you suggest a change in how things are run? What would you improve?

I think their staff is right on as far as what they’re requiring, but they need a little more understanding for other people and more people training. They need to improve how they interface with the public.


What are some errors city council has made?

Dunlawton Avenue, and there’s nothing they can do about it. It just is. The error was allowing too many businesses in too confined a space without having different traffic diversions. There are too many entrances off Dunlawton, and it makes things difficult. It’s been ongoing for about 10 years, and it’s a done deal. I realize part of my perception is that I can remember when it wasn’t so busy. Dunlawton was a mistake, and it wasn’t a life-threatening mistake, but it should be a lesson learned and not repeated. If I was going to have many businesses in one area, I would have an entrance that could service several businesses. I wouldn’t have different entrances for each.


Do you think city council could be more responsive to residents’ feedback?

It’s a Tuesday night. We don’t serve food, and we don’t play music. This person comes, and he or she has to work the next day, and they have three minutes. They are there for a serious reason, and it’s a concern of theirs. You or I may not think it’s important, but they do. They say what is important to them, and nine times out of 10, they don’t get a thank you. Those gentlemen sit up there and give them the stone face, and that is so wrong. You say thank you or try to contact them later either to explain why their idea is not feasible or to accept idea. It’s really upsetting to me when I watch that.


What is your opinion of Jake Johannsen?

My opinion is that he is technically excellent. If there’s a hurricane coming down the pipe, I want to be behind Jake Johannsen, and I want to do whatever he says to do. Now, if you want warm and fuzzy and friendly, he needs a lot of practice in warm and fuzzy. He does try. I don’t know a single citizen that hasn’t sent a question that he hasn’t responded. Sometimes he says it can’t be solved, but he does care. What I think should be going on at city council is some meaningful discussion, and that members of city council should have discussion. So many decisions and votes are taken without discussion. Jake knows what he’s doing, but he’s not always right. He’s not as people aware as he could be, and maybe he is right, but I think he should present options two and three. As someone on city council, I shouldn’t have to dig up what options two and three are.


Do you think city council is environmentally aware?

I think with this rapid development, and the developers come in and they know their game. I think too much land is being given up to development. They don’t think out the consequences.  


Do you think people can afford to live in Port Orange?

Houses that are in the six digits blows my mind, but a lot of young people don’t mind paying the price. I think it’s becoming a problem, and I would like to see more affordable houses. This may be a personal preference, but usually things work better in smaller units. Port Orange is the city of homes, not of apartment complexes. I like that character of the city, and I would like to retain that. If we were to have multi-unit homes, I would prefer it be owner-occupied rather than rentals.


What do you think about the relationship between the city and county government?

It could be better, and part of it is because they don’t communicate with each other very much. I think a member of city council should be assigned to go to county meetings and report back. I would love to do that. One member of council should keep the council appraised of what the county is doing.


If it saved the city money, would you consider eliminate the police department and replace it with additional county sheriffs?

Not unless we were close to being broke. No only is it an essential service, but the Port Orange Police Department also has a different character than other police departments. It is user-friendly, and it can afford to be that way because the crime rate in Port Orange is lower.


Why should we endorse you?

I’m person. I’m retired. I have all the hours in the day to do this. I have the interest. It’s not a duty to me. I have no aspirations for higher office. I am committed to this particular thing.  I would also be the first woman on the city council in eight years, only the fourth since 1988. Women look at issues a little differently. In my life I’ve served on a lot of boards, and when boards are diverse, they work better.


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