Scott Long. Credit: Scott Long
2017 Safety Harbor election candidate profile: Scott Long (Seat 1):
- Name: Scott Long
- Age: 44
- Place of birth: Columbus, Ohio
- Moved to Florida/Safety Harbor: My wife, Laura, and I moved to Florida in 1998, and we bought our first – and only – house in Safety Harbor in 2001.
- Professional background: I’ve been a newspaper journalist for most of my career, but in 2008 a business partner and I started Ante Up Poker Media LLC, a poker media company that publishes a monthly national poker magazine, promotes live poker events in casinos and on cruise ships and is involved in various other poker media (podcast, TV, etc.) It’s allowed me to travel the world, experience different cultures and see how other cities thrive.
- Civic background (organizations, volunteer work, boards, etc.…): I’m currently a member of the Safety Harbor Planning & Zoning Board and Board of Appeals and the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and formerly served as chairman of the Safety Harbor Public Art Committee and president of Harbor Woods Village Homeowners Association. I’m a graduate of the Safety Harbor Citizens Academy and have raised money for and volunteered time for the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center.
- Campaign website/Facebook page: VoteScottLong.com; Facebook.com/Vote Scott Long
- Email/phone: firstname.lastname@example.org, (727) 314-5664
What made you decide to run for Safety Harbor City Commission?
The tone of discourse in our city over the past few years has hurt my heart. We can disagree and still be respectful of each other. All of my success in life has come from working with people, not against them. Our City Commissioners should promote positive, inclusive discussion and let our citizens know that divisive rhetoric is not indicative of the friendly community we share. Our downtown has far too many vacant storefronts and lacks daily staple businesses, such as a grocery/market, hardware store and general store, that encourage the daily foot traffic that helps make all downtown merchants successful. Economic development must be a priority for our city moving forward.
What do you think is the most important issue facing Safety Harbor today?
Economic development. Our city is unique in that Main Street is our retail economic hub, and the overall vitality of our city is directly proportional to the vitality of our Main Street and surrounding streets. I have announced a “Safety Harbor Is Open For Business” initiative on my website that has four key steps: 1. Work with downtown merchants to find ideas for how the city can help businesses thrive, 2. Survey residents on the types of businesses they most want, and need, in our downtown and then go out and get them using strategies many other cities have successfully used, including public-private partnerships and tax incentives, 3. Hire an economic development director for the city whose job it will be to go out and attract businesses to our city and help them flourish here and 4. Create a joint marketing campaign between the city, Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Merchants of Safety Harbor (MOSH) to let businesses, and patrons, know that Safety Harbor IS “open for business.”
What are your thoughts on the state of the downtown development in as it relates to businesses as well as residential properties (i.e. smart growth)?
Daily foot traffic is the biggest need for our downtown merchants. There are a number of strategies we can use to increase that, including the aforementioned attracting of “daily staple” businesses to our downtown. But a key component of this is mixed-use commercial/residential space on our Main Street, which encourages residents to live literally right above the businesses that depend on that foot traffic. Further, creating a truly “walkable” downtown is vital to this success as well. “Walkable” doesn’t mean merely having sidewalks. It means a downtown that has all of the types of businesses residents need on a daily basis, so they don’t have to leave Safety Harbor to complete their errands and are encouraged to do those errands by foot rather than by car. And for our residents who don’t live downtown, it means encouraging them to come downtown to do their errands and park once and walk. Pedestrians, not cars, are what make a vibrant downtown really come alive.
What is your position on the R2 lot setbacks issue?
No issue is more the cause for the divisiveness in our community than zoning. It’s understandable that citizens are emotional over zoning issues – for most of us, our home is our biggest investment and changes to that investment can, and should, invoke emotion. But City Commissioners don’t have that luxury. They need to be able to cut through the emotion and make zoning decisions purely based on strategy. Is this the best course of action for ALL of Safety Harbor? What is the strategic intent of this change? Those are the questions Commissioners need to base their decisions on. I understand the emotions on both sides of the recent R2 changes, and I appreciate the desire to find a compromise, but I have not been convinced that the changes meet any strategic goal for a city whose downtown and surrounding neighborhoods depend upon a diversity of housing types.
What would you like to see happen with the Firmenich property?
I share the great disappointment many in our city feel for BayCare’s sudden withdrawal from its development plans on the Firmenich property, which I believe would have been welcomed by a large majority of our residents, and I am hopeful that a similar tenant can be found for the property. But, more importantly, the tortuous path development of this prime piece of property in our city has taken is proof of the need for the city to have an economic development director who can assess the best uses of the property and go out and attract suitable businesses or uses to occupy the land.
What would you like to see happen with future development of the Waterfront Park?
Our citizens were clear in the visioning process for what they wanted to see at Waterfront Park, and that’s a three-phase plan with some modifications, and I intend to see that vision through. That means providing a splash park for our children, a multi-use pavilion fronted by an impressive piece of public art and a launch for kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards.
If you could do one thing to stimulate economic growth in the city, what would it be?
I want the city to explore a public-private partnership that would result in a grocery/market on Main Street. That means the city borrowing against its healthy reserves to build a suitable, environmentally-friendly building, either on city-owned land or land purchased by the city, and strictly dictating the parameters of the tenant or tenants who occupy it to meet the strategic needs of our downtown. We’re not talking about a “Publix Jr.” where residents will do their regular weekly shop. We’re talking about a market that offers produce, meat, fish and staples – the types of products that our residents need for dinner that night or lunch tomorrow. It might even be a co-op, featuring locally sourced and grown products. If residents know they have a quality option downtown for these daily needs, they are more likely to go downtown to get them. And once they are downtown, they are more likely to shop in our unique downtown stores and eat in our terrific downtown restaurants, rather than leaving the city to do those things.
Name an issue you believe is not getting the attention it deserves or that is especially meaningful to you
With the incredible renaissance our arts community has enjoyed over the past eight years or so, it’s hard to say that the arts isn’t getting the attention it deserves in our city, but it most definitely is meaningful to me. The more than six years I spent as chairman of our city’s Public Art Committee were some of the most rewarding of my life. Through the passionate work of the volunteers on this committee, our city now has murals, sculptures and programs that enhance the enjoyment of living here for our residents and encourage more visitors to come to Safety Harbor. Paired with the exciting developments in our private arts community, from the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center to community support for private murals, Safety Harbor is quickly becoming a go-to arts destination. Why is this so important? A thriving arts community attracts creative people to make Safety Harbor their home, and creative people help Safety Harbor reach its full potential.
If you were to be elected on March 14, what would your priorities be for the city, and what are your long-term goals for Safety Harbor’s future?
Economic development is first and foremost. We need to create a welcoming climate for commerce in our city so our empty storefronts are filled with fresh and innovative businesses that lead to a vibrant, walkable downtown. We can, and should, do that in an environmentally sensitive way that protects our city’s most cherished treasures. We need to finish growing our Waterfront Park into the showpiece our citizens have asked for, we need to make future zoning decisions based on strategy and not emotion and we need to continue to foster our burgeoning arts community. And we need to do this all by showing respect to those who disagree with us.
Any final thoughts?
It’s been a great pleasure living in Safety Harbor for 15 years and volunteering on city advisory boards for eight of those years. I’ve knocked on more than 1,000 doors already this campaign, and the conversations I’ve been lucky to have with my neighbors reinforce just how special we all hold our city in our hearts. Our wonderful city doesn’t need drastic changes, but it must continue to move forward. Making economic development a priority will ensure our city’s future success, and treating each other with the same respect we expect ourselves will help us achieve everything we can possibly imagine for Safety Harbor. When we’re positive, we prosper.