IRNA and CWC Questionnaire
Sebastian City Council Candidate Questions:
Herbicide spraying in canals and retention ponds:
Glyphosate has been implicated as a cause of cancer in humans. The city had a moratorium in place that banned its use of glyphosate herbicide spraying in the past. However, Glyphosate is not the only bad chemical used in spraying. Will you vote to ban the city's use of other toxic synthetic chemicals on public property such as the canals and the stormwater retention ponds? If not, can you think of an alternative to the spraying to deal with pollution and damages caused to our environment and likely public health by chemical spraying?
Matthews: I will vote against the use of glyphosate spraying. Other cities, counties, and states have banned the use of glyphosate-based products. It is time for Sebastian to join them. Vegetation growth has been managed without the use of glyphosate products; the use of synthetic chemicals is just as harmful. The state offers more than 60 other, safer means of controlling aquatic invasive plants. Are we looking into these other options. My plan would be to allow the experts to continue to steer the city through the healthiest and safest integrated pest management plans and actions.
The Graves Bros. annexation is back in front of the city council, almost twice as big as the failed initial proposal two years ago.
A. Will you as a city council member ensure that there is a fully transparent review process for any new Graves Bros. proposal?
B. How would you rate the process so far and how would you improve it?
C. Will you advocate for the city and the developer to follow the county's New Town rules and designate half of the annexation property for conservation and open space protection purposes as has been done in other large annexations, especially in Fellsmere?
Matthews: A.) I believe in proactive disclosure, which is voluntarily making information available. Constituents entrust their elected council member with the power to speak on their political behalf, represent their interests and ensure decisions made reflect the entire community.
B.) Annexation is one of the main means of growth for a municipality. It allows future and current residents and business owners that benefit from services to share the tax burden. I would advocate to slow the process down. Putting our differences aside to collaborate with all parties involved, investing the time to develop a well-conceived agreement. Communication and listening allows those involved to plan for their provision of services to help us grow. Allowing residents to be influential in the type and quality of development that occurs and being able to maintain the quality of life we have all come to expect!
C.) Sebastian currently has in place the Land Development Code and the Comprehensive Plan 2040. As a leader within a paramilitary environment, I am a strong advocate for following the rules.
Relations with the county:
What will you do as a city council member to mend and improve relations with the county administration and what do you see as the City’s relationship with the County and what it should be?
Matthews: Years of working with many different mindsets has afforded me an unparalleled ability to work with all parties to reach a common understanding, regardless of the issue. Being open-minded I am receptive to new ideas and acknowledge knowing all information is important when needed to think critically and rationally. Simply listening and respecting others’ beliefs will build better relations. Putting our differences aside and collaborating with all parties involved will always be the best interest of the community. The key to making any relationship better is the ability to be objective when approaching new things, listening to other points of view, and willing to learn from the experts on what you do not know.
The city is investing in a new stormwater management plan. There will be many controversial and expensive recommendations in this plan. In due course the city will be spending millions of dollars on projects to improve stormwater management. As a council member what will you do to improve public transparency, to gather public input on expensive projects that will impact people's lives and homes? Finally, how do you compare how the County maintains and operates it stormwater facilities vs. how the City does
Matthews: The city has invested in stormwater management plans since 1996. I would like to see a written strategy with timelines of how the city will move forward in following and implementing the newest master plan. Decisions about projects and priorities touch people’s lives daily - their homes, health, schools, taxes we pay, daily commute, our environment around us, economic growth, and opportunities to achieve their dreams and goals. I would advocate for residents and business owners to be involved in expensive project decisions.
Septic to Sewer:
A. Are you in favor of mandatory sewer connections where sewer lines are available?
B. Should the City offer any financial aid to help connect those homes that are house residents who are not financially able to afford up-front costs, i.e. financed through utility bill, obtain grant funding, etc.
Matthews: A. I will support improving environmental protection and sewer infrastructure. Working within the boundaries of the laws that regulate the process, the end goal is to protect the environment and work cooperatively with the residents.
B. I would support any assistance in funding for septic to sewer conversion.
The city’s natural resources committee has drafted and partly implemented a plan to encourage sustainable behavior in many things its residents and departments do. Some argue that this program is merely superficial and does not get to the heart of creating a truly sustainable community. What would you do to make this a truly effective sustainability program?
Matthews: One of my top priorities is a safe community. Sustainable communities meet the needs of everyone in the community and residents feel safe, healthy, and ultimately happy; our environment is appreciated, protected, and enhanced with minimal damage; and our economy is vibrant, employment opportunities are improved, and our working lives are more rewarding. Sustainable communities require strong leadership. An essential characteristic of sustainable behavior is resilience to disasters and how quickly and actively the steps or actions taken reduce our community’s vulnerability. Leaders must consider how their actions will affect residents, nature, and the economy.
Upgrading the city’s building and tree ordinances
How would you suggest these ordinances can be updated to require reducing residential and commercial lawns in favor of native vegetation species and protecting and planting native tree species?
Matthews: More and more homeowners are leaning toward native plant gardens. Although good for the local wildlife and ecosystem, some neighbors and homeowner’s associations do not like or allow. This would be an opportune time for the city to collaborate with the master gardeners of our community to offer educational programs for Florida friendly landscaping.
What do you think are the three most urgent, far-reaching and challenging issues facing the city over the next four years?
A safe community will always be one of my top priorities. A healthy and happy community can only exist if kept safe. I will ensure a collaborative effort where all residents, stakeholders, businesses of the community work together in a coordinated way. Putting our experts in the best positions to be successful and ensure they have the tools and equipment to do their jobs. I am committed to promoting the quality of life we have all come to expect!
Fiscally responsible. To make informed decisions regarding spending and the most effective use of our tax dollars, prioritizing our city’s needs. With an uncertain future of our economy, it will take a strong leader to guide the city and make the tough decisions. I am that candidate!
Growth is inevitable. The city of Sebastian will continue to grow with or without our involvement. My approach to growth would allow residents to be involved in developmental decisions building a strong sense of place. Accepting that growth and development will occur, I pledge to be a strong voice for maintaining Sebastian’s beauty and “small fishing village charm” as our community continues to grow.