We Oppose County Tax Increases
These are unnecessary. What is needed now is for the County to run more efficiently. As one specific example, current Mayor Demings is proposing a 1% sales tax increase to take an additional $600 million/yr. from Orange County Taxpayers. Such a sales tax increase is regressive – it hurts most, those who can afford it least. Many families here are hurting from the inflationary cost increases caused by government mismanagement; it is tone deaf to add to this burden.
Also, this sales tax is being promoted as necessary to expand mass transit. However Orange County’s mass transit system, the Lynx, is only 20% utilized at best. There are much better free market-oriented solutions. Partnering with ride-sharing services is one such example which could provide better transit at a lower cost. We need to “right-size”, not maximize, our spending.
We Support Freedom and Oppose Government Mandates
Dictates such as forced masking, mandatory medical vaccinations/procedures and business, church, school & playground closures are destructive. They also force people to report to the government, instead of the government to the people. This is both backwards and wrong! Mandates and government overreach have shattered supply chains. They are a root cause of the shortages we see across our stores.
It is especially important that Orange County publicly disavow any future mandates. Under our administration we will do so immediately. Another health emergency is inevitable. So we must proactively plan a freedom-loving, open information response. Currently much of mainland China is experiencing a second wave of a new coronavirus strain. Their response has been draconian. Crushing lockdowns, shattered businesses, slaughtered pets and starving residents are the result. Instead, we must follow the commonsense guidance of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He has declared Florida off-limits for future mandates. Instead we need to facilitate the free and uncensored flow of medical information and early treatment while allowing Orange County residents to make their own best decisions.
We Must Adequately Fund Public Safety
to Reduce Crime
The violent crime increase in Orange County over the past four years has been well-documented. However the reasons for it have not been well-addressed. “Defunding the Police” is a recipe for disaster! Instead we need to Fully Fund the Police. Anti-crime experts recommend a staffing level of 1 sheriff’s deputy or police officer per every 1,800 citizens. With Orange County’s growth, we are currently at roughly 1 officer per every 4,000 citizens. This is less than half of what our staffing should be.
In addition, Orange County must look at rehiring those first responders- police, fire fighters, and EMS- who were forced out by county mandates. These draconian policies robbed the county of countless years of experience. In order for Orange County to become the “most magical place on Earth” we need to make it more safe, not less.
Preserving the Sanctity of Life
Human life is sacred from conception to natural death. In Orange County we need both to promote this message and to resource mothers and fathers so they aren’t overwhelmed by an unexpected pregnancy. Crisis pregnancy centers such as the Fiona Jackson center in Pine Hills and Winter Garden deserve more recognition and support for their life-saving work.
Each one of my children was unexpected in some way. My beloved son has a genetic anomaly, for example. My youngest daughter was very premature. Yet with the challenges each has brought immeasurable joy. Orange County benefits from all of its children; they are our most precious resource. Our vision is that ultimately Orange County is the “friendliest place on Earth”, where children are cherished and abortions unthinkable.
Food security is a looming issue in Orange County. However, replacing ornamentals with food bearing crops, a concept known as “food forests” is a powerful approach that Orange County must pilot.
To the extent reasonably practical, the County should convert its properties to food forests, with the bounty donated to local food banks or otherwise offered to the community at no charge. In furtherance of this objective, the County should develop a comprehensive plan for transforming its properties into food forests. This plan will maximize biodiversity for plants and animals while minimizing the County’s carbon-footprint and costs. The County should consider not planting any new non-edible plants unless there are no practical edible alternatives. To the extent reasonably practical, applying any chemicals or other maintenance practices that would be inconsistent with the subsequent planting and use of “food forests” should be discontinued on all of its properties.
Protecting & Promoting the Rights of Individuals with Special Needs
We envision a world in which people with disabilities are valued, included and given the opportunity to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Unfortunately we aren’t serving our residents with disabilities as well as we should. Key to my platform is protecting and promoting the rights of those with special needs from the very start of life, beginning with conception. I support legislation banning the targeted abortion of babies diagnosed in-utero with disabilities. After birth the challenge shifts to ensuring equitable access to healthcare where people with disabilities have been de-prioritized as we saw during the Covid pandemic.
As our children with disabilities move into the school system, we have to ensure EVERY student receives the high-quality education they deserve, especially those that have been historically underserved. Our schools need to be adequately funded so they can be resourced with the necessary special education supports. Families should be allowed to personalize the education of their children and I support Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities that gives families the option to direct their allocation toward a combination of programs and approved providers. Post-secondary options for students with special needs must be strengthened with continued partnerships with local colleges and universities with a focus on employment. We need to foster a collaborative culture with non-profits and agencies to better serve this community.
Transportation remains a challenge for people with disabilities, making it especially difficult for them to maintain regular employment. We need to engage with private sector ride-sharing services to provide a better solution than what is currently available on Lynx Access; waiting 90-120 minutes for a ride is unacceptable. Zoning must accommodate the needs of those who want to live independently but be in close proximity to their family of origin, who are often providing the much-needed supports. Current laws in Orange County make it difficult to add “mother-in-law” housing options. This issue and others will be addressed under my administration.
Protecting Our Environment
Orange County is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, largely because of its over 300 lakes with their flora and fauna. These need to be protected, along with the aquifers they feed. Protecting sensitive lands starts with good planning that preserves environmentally sensitive areas- in perpetuity. That principle has not always been followed in Orange County. While regional authorities have an important role in aquifer protection, lake protection should default to the local level – neighborhood lake management associations. This decentralization places the primary responsibility for the lakes on those most directly impacted by their health.
Sound environmental planning also requires that development be prioritized towards “infill” projects with existing utility infrastructure and main road access such as large vacant shopping centers. Orange County also needs more environment education to promote substituting chemical pesticide and fertilizer use with more sustainable approaches. Industrial promotion and diversification initiatives should focus on supporting “green” industries such as solar and clean tech.
Caring for Stray Animals & Abandoned Pets
Every animal deserves a fighting chance, even those who end up on euthanasia lists at Orange County Animal Services (OCAS). As a compassionate community, it should be our goal to ensure we have done all that is humanly possible to save the life, and perhaps even re-home, those animals that have been abused, unloved, or abandoned through no fault of their own. We will do this while reserving the right to euthanize the small minority of animals that attack people without provocation.
Even much smaller counties than ours manage to fund and maintain no-kill shelters where each animal is given the time and opportunity for placement with a family who will love and care for them for the rest of their lives. Orange County could be such a place. We have the resources, the volunteers, and the willing donors to make it happen. We will promote marketing initiatives to stop the often unnecessary euthanasia of these helpless animals.
Strengthening Our Relationship with Puerto Rico
Many in Orange County and Greater Orlando have ties to Puerto Rico. Since Puerto Ricans are American citizens like Floridians born in the state, travel between the “Isle Bella” and the “City Beautiful” is relatively easy. Orlando is 1,100 miles from San Juan, less than 3 hours by air. Orange County has the largest population of Puerto-Ricans outside of Puerto Rico, so opportunities for mutual empowerment abound.
However, commerce has not been fully developed between Orange County & Puerto Rico. Some of the constraints are federal, such as the Jones Act which limits shipping between the mainland US & Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico‘s lack of Statehood is another limitation. We favor removing both of these constraints while respecting the right to self-determination for the Puerto Rican people.
Other barriers are more easily addressed by fostering relationships between leaders. Our administration will focus on developing and expanding these ties. Among these initiatives we will promote “Sister City” programs and a Puerto Rico-focused business incubator. We can measure success by the number of collaborations, their economic strength, and the number of those employed. Additionally, we will deploy a staffed and accessible Spanish-language help line and local aid center to help Puerto Ricans navigate local government. Such as center would also help legal Hispanic immigrants.