Meet Jonathan Tietz, City Council Candidate
Jonathan Tietz is a longtime New Port Richey resident whose campaign focuses on police and public safety issues.
In advance of the April 9 election, candidates running for the New Port Richey City Council answered Patch's questions about their campaigns.
There are two city council seats up for grabs. There are seven candidates vying to join the council.
Candidate Jonathan Tietz told us a little about himself and his stance on city issues in an e-mail interview.
Tietz, 24, is a freelance videographer. Tietz earned his master’s degree at the University of Florida last year. He touts involvement with the Richey Suncoast Theater and Leadership Pasco.
The following is a (mostly) unedited Q&A Patch participated in with the candidate over e-mail.
Why is Tietz Running?
Here’s what he says:
Improving my neighborhood.
Tietz on His Qualifications
Patch: What makes you the best candidate for City Council?
Tietz: My education and my motivation, as well as my youth. There is no one with more vested interested in making New Port Richey better than myself. Right now I live to see the city improve, to make its neighborhoods safe, to make it a great place to live.
Patch: What makes you a good steward of taxpayer money?
Tietz: I've lived 24 years responsibly. I have always done what is right, and I will always do what is right. I am uncompromising in that aspect. I own a business and work my tail off at what I love. I've been able to do what is honest in paying down my student loans. If I can do it in such a tough job market, then our municipality can too.
Tietz on the Issues
Patch: What are the top 3 priorities of your campaign?
Tietz: a. A greater police presence through better scheduling and community involvement. Bringing our officers out into the community as leaders and organizers, and approaching New Port Richey's crime with a proactive stance rather than a reactive one. We need more boots on the ground, and after extensive looks at the budget I believe we will have to do so without hiring more officers. This will mean significantly more civilian and citizen involvement. We can make staffing changes to have civic volunteers do tasks like fingerprinting, answer questions, and being community liaisons. Not to mention with more eyes on the streets we can solve our crime problems faster.
b. A greater focus on public safety and infrastructure improvements in our neighborhoods like bike lanes, better sidewalks, and improved street lighting to let our citizens get out and walk on safer streets. By making it pleasant to move around in the city we can increase civic involvement, be more neighborly, and improve the quality of life in our city. This, combined with my policing priorities and a greater emphasis on code enforcement will also raise property values.
c. A return to financial health. New Port Richey has maxed its credit cards. I will vote to reduce the city's burden in real estate holdings, focus on paying down the city's debt, and emphasize the importance of our city's utility system. Cities are not supposed to be real estate speculators. Rather, let's focus on what cities do best: police, fire, water, and sewer. A return to the basics.
Patch: Redevelopment continues to be a major issue for the city. What would you want to change to spur redevelopment?
Tietz: The best way to end the stalemate in development downtown is to focus on paying down the city's debts. The city has failed tremendously in attempting to utilize the Community Redevelopment Agency to revitalize downtown all at once while ignoring its neighborhoods. As a consequence we are now drowning in debt and interest payments. The CRA has essentially become a debt payment fund. By paying down the debt while continuing to try to find developers for idle properties, the city can refocus on projects one at a time and get back to revitalizing our neighborhood infrastructure. We all know that if you want to a buy a new toy, you have to save up first. That should be the city's policy as well.
Patch: What’s the biggest barrier private employers doing business in the city or wanting to move here face that can be changed locally? What can you do to remove it?
Tietz: I have heard one concern over and over from resident and business owners that I have met with: it is far too hard to open a business downtown because of permitting. Specifically, business signage. I would like to take a long look at as many city ordinances as possible and start removing those that are just too burdensome to our businesses. The same goes for residential ordinances as well, it's just too hard to open a business or improve your house and by proxy improve your city.
Patch: What is the biggest issue New Port Richey neighborhoods face and how would like to tackle it?
Tietz: Crime. Far and away: crime. I have literally witnessed drug deals on my street in the last week. A neighbor of mine was arrested for two counts of attempted murder as a known drug dealer a few months back. We also have a huge oxycontin problem in New Port Richey. Not to mention my neighborhood had a large number of vehicles broken into just last month! It might not be pretty to talk about, but we must fix these issues before anything will improve here. People and businesses will not come to an area that is unsafe. Pay down the debt, focus on our neighborhoods with better lighting and infrastructure, and continue to leverage civic involvement similar to the Hacienda cleanups as well as cooperation between the police and citizens. No one will solve this problem for us. We, as citizens, have a duty to step up. I am working separate from the city council race to start a neighborhood watch text alert system--something used to great effect at the University of Florida--which I hope to get some support for from the city even if I don't win. I am paying for this out of my own pocket. It will notify residents of break-ins, evacuation orders, fires, and other important safety information.
Patch: What ideas do you have for helping the Recreation and Aquatic Center raise its revenue?
Tietz: The new Recreation and Aquatic Center (RAC) went from a cost of $6 million to $15 million because of materials costs increases. Until that amount is paid off, no amount of revenue from the center will matter. Secondly, I think it is ineffective to look at the RAC as a revenue stream rather than a service provided to New Port Richey's citizens. It is important to receive benefit from taxation, rather than the chance to be taxed again with admission fees for a service bought with taxpayer money. Just look at the new summer camp rates! They've doubled and tripled in some cases. This is an undue burden on taxpayers. I would like to see much lower membership rates for residents at the RAC and a much larger emphasis on bringing in special events, swim meets, and expos which can offset the cost of running the facilities and even generate some revenue. Not to mention, Parks and Recreation has a lot of other properties including Peace Hall that can also support these types of events. Maybe we can do a better job of marketing these properties and making people aware of them.
Patch: How would you tackle crime and public safety issues in the city?
Tietz: I have done extensive research on reducing crime in an area like New Port Richey and academic research has shown that better street lighting has a direct effect on the amount of crime in an area. That, combined with reforms in our police department to make them more community focused and better community leaders, as well as better technology and data collection can lead to drastically reduced crime rates in our city. Our City Council so far has been appeased by the fact that crime isn't drastically rising. This is not going far enough to protect our citizens. By working on these issues we can make our city safer to travel and nicer to live in.
Patch: Should the city continue its Animal Protection Unit?
Tietz: In order to make a logical decision on something you need to have the background, the facts, and the figures from the educated people that put the program together. I would not want to attempt to make any type of a decision at this point until I have all of that information. But what I do know is that we are a very dog-friendly city. We could set aside areas in our parks for more freedom for dogs and their owners. Grey Park is one of my favorite parks in our area, and I think that would be a great area to take our dogs and be able to throw a ball or a Frisbee and have a nice time.
Tietz on Leadership
Patch: What makes you a good leader?
Tietz: Information makes me a good leader. I am charismatic and passionate about this city, and researching its problems and setbacks has made me confident that there are solutions to our problems, and that there is good reason to hope to make a great city. We have let our city leaders sit in a tower for far too long. It is time to organize, become involved, and our home back from drugs, crime, and debt.
Patch: Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you or your campaign?
Tietz: I am determined. I will be at your door, on your phone, at every city council meeting to do everything I can to be your next City Council Member. And it won't stop whether I am elected or not. If I am elected I will by far be the most accessible member of the city staff you've ever seen, and if I am not elected I will continue to be involved in organizing our community and coming back at it next year and the year after that. I will not stop until New Port Richey is a safe place to live.
Check back with Patch for more on Tietz and other candidates' thoughts on specific topics in the coming days.
Want to meet the candidates in person?
Come to New Port Richey Patch's Candidate Forum and hear them talk about their campaigns at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 20, at New Port Richey City Hall, 5919 Main St.