Welcome to our weekly series, "Candidate Question of the Week," on Gulfport Patch. We will be asking Sam Henderson, current Vice Mayor, and Bob Worthington, former City Councilor, a question each week until the City Elections on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Both men are vying for your votes for Gulfport Mayor. Below are their responses to our second question of the week.
This question was emailed to the Editor by a Gulfport reader.
Q #2: Can we use the Waterfront District's Tax Increment Fund to create a program of financial incentives to recruit artists to relocate to the additional re-zoned commercial corridors along 54th and 56th Streets and side streets connecting to Beach Blvd., creating artist live/work spaces and galleries? This has been done successfully in small cities such as Bradenton, FL and Paducah, KY with great, nationally recognized success.
"The short answer to this question is yes; we could offer such a program. In recent years we, the city, have subsidized event and merchant costs in order to promote local businesses and artists. While we have scaled back the level of that subsidy, we are still financially and administratively supporting events that bring people to Gulfport, and providing exposure for our artists and merchants. The important point is this: the pool of money from the tax incremental fund is not limitless, and the city has many options for how to spend that money toward the improvement of our waterfront district. There are also many groups in addition to artists who could benefit from financial incentives, such as local trades people and business entrepreneurs. While we have a decent amount of flexibility on how we can spend that money - subsidy of events and business costs, beautification projects, financial incentives to target groups, and physical improvements and renovations to structures and public spaces to name a few - the limiting factor is the size of the TIF fund. We can choose how to spend that limited amount, and financial incentives to artists is certainly one of many noble and reasonable ideas. Our job as a council is to understand that our budget constraints prevent us from pursuing every option available to the level we would like. We as a community must determine which of these directions we will take to maximize the benefit to our residents and stakeholders."
"This question took some research as the Gulfport Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan was originally approved on March 18, 1993, amended, October 17, 2000, and updated on August 4, 2009 as the Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan Update.
To quote, A. Amendments to Appendix E. Page 1 Waterfront Land Use Plan. Under land use categories, reads, in part, to encourage new or rehabilitative development within the redevelopment district the City may offer development incentives such as parking credits, density bonuses and financial incentives, if there is demonstrable evidence that such incentives promote implementation of the Redevelopment Plan.
As part of this plan, the City has put in new decorative street lighting, decorative tree lighting, improved sidewalks, added paver pads for street vendor use, added electrical outlets all along Beach Blvd, added traffic calming islands to Beach Blvd at 28th Ave. S. as well as adding 42 new parking spaces on Shore Blvd. This by far is not a complete list of incentives the City has accomplished as part of the Redevelopment Plan, but shows what can be done when an idea is brought to the City’s attention and effort is put forth to make the changes.
Although the financial incentives to benefit artists and bring them to our wonderful and art supporting community are a great idea, there is much room for speculation if this would be possible as it is not specifically defined in the Plan. Our Community Development Department Director, Mr. Fred Metcalf, would be the person who would present a formulated plan and would then present it to Council for discussion and/or vote. As these incentives are also tightly controlled by the County, it might possibly need further approval from the County."
For More Information:
The municipal elections are on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. The mayor serves a three-year term. The voter registration deadline is Monday, February 11, 2013 for the next city elections. For more information on how to register visit the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website.
Both candidates have set up Facebook Pages; here are the links:
Do you want to submit a question for consideration in a future post? Email the Editor at Cherlene.Willis@patch.com.