On Wednesday afternoon, the three candidates for Orlando mayor made their case before the Orlando Sentinel editorial board as to why they should be the one to lead “The City Beautiful” into the future.
During that discussion Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer pledged he would serve a full four-year term saying, “I am unequivocally not running for governor.”
Dyer was considered a favorite to run for the Democratic nomination in 2018.
The mayor — who is seeking a fifth term — was then asked if he would consider the presidency of the University of Central Florida, were it to become available.
Dyer’s response: “That would be the one position. I would consider it.”
Dyer continued, along with his challengers — businessman and veteran Paul Paulson and medical student “Sunshine“ Linda Grund — to discuss multiple issues during the hour-long interview.
When asked why they were running during introductions, Grund mentioned the 171 acres near the airport that were scheduled to be destroyed and the difficulty involved with having voices associated with the land heard with Dyer in office. Paulson used his familiar talking point of the 17.7 percent property tax increase passed by the City Council last year, and pledged to roll it back if elected. Mayor Dyer cited the city’s accomplishments through putting aside differences in policy, while reducing crime and making major projects in the city a reality.
When asked about an investigation regarding his law license, Paulson said there was nothing there and held up a mugshot regarding Dyer’s 2005 indictment involving election fraud. Those charges against Dyer were later dismissed.
Paulson continued his assault, adding he knows how to “balance a checkbook.” Dyer fired back that the city was in the best financial shape of any city in Florida, with a high credit rating, and steady reserves. He called Paulson’s tax rollback pledge merely “good campaigning,” explaining the drop in property tax revenue during the recession that led to the increase and maintained that levels are still below 2009 levels.
Grund added that it was a team effort with the council to make important future financial decisions.
The conversation then moved to the homelessness problem in the region. Mayor Dyer cited the progress made through partnerships with the county and private organizations.
Paulson said the county was better prepared to deal with the issue, and that the city should stick to its core functions. Grund said the issue was close to her heart, and she used to feed the homeless with her family. She added her professional background made her the best candidate to solve the problem.
Regarding public safety, Dyer touted improved police transparency measures like body cameras and the increase in police services in the city.
When Paulson said he was “reluctant” to make reductions in public safety expenses, Dyer told him it would be difficult for him to roll back the property tax increase without a reduction of spending on public safety.
When the interview turned to transportation, Dyer called Sunrail a success, while Grund said she had never been on the commuter rail system and Paulson wanted to increase its efficiency with accommodating services. Paulson added that Dyer was against ridesharing programs like Uber and Lyft and was in the pocket of the taxi companies. Dyer responded by saying he wanted ridesharing in Orlando, but insisted on safety by requiring commercial insurance and background checks.
Election day in Orlando’s municipal elections is November 3.