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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Aug. 5, 2022 1 week ago

Candidate Q&A: Chris Messina, Orange County Mayor

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Read our exclusive Q&A with Orange County Mayor candidate Chris Messina.
by: Annabelle Sikes Staff Writer

BIO: 

Age: 64

City/town of residence: Winter Park

Family: Married with three children

Education: BS and MCRP from Rutgers University and an MBA from Harvard University

Qualifications: Rotary Fellow at Sydney University

How do you differentiate yourself from your opponents and why should voters vote for you?

We are in an economic war and we need economic warriors to address the challenges we are currently facing. I’m a tech entrepreneur and have founded and run several medical technology businesses. I was also a founding director of a regional industrial consortium, as well as an educational non-profit.

As the mayoral position is an executive position, my business background and experience positions me indisputably as the best candidate to run the county. I know how to build teams, lead leaders, manage budgets, forge consensus with multiple stakeholder groups and right-size or even down-size complex programs. These are all skills needed to run the county - I’ve developed these over 30 plus years in the business world. I am not a career politician, and unlike my opponents, will bring an entrepreneurial, solutions-driven perspective to solving Orange County’s problems.

Our greatest challenge is our economy. Twin pinchers are crushing our workers right now. Unprecedented government spending has fueled the worst inflation we’ve seen in our lifetimes. We have completely shattered our supply chains due to government mandates and overreach. Bad policy on top of bad policy has brought us shortages and price increases. I am vehemently opposed to Mayor Demings proposal to increase the sales tax. I acknowledge that something must be done to address the transportation issue in Orange County but a tax increase at this time is not the solution. Voters should vote for me because I am the candidate best able to address the current economic crisis we are facing.

What are the 3 most pressing issues – what would you change immediately in Orange County?

I’ve successfully tackled large economic challenges in my business career and am prepared to do it now. Mayor Demings is proposing we spend $600 million from the sales tax increase to buy more large Lynx buses. However big buses are a 20th  century solution for an urban, metro area like New York City. Orange County is a sprawling county of nearly 1,000 square miles, dependent on point-to-point transportation. Anyone can see that our large buses are 80% empty with wait times averaging 30 minutes and up to 2 hours for an ACCESS Lynx bus. It is not good planning to be pouring more money into ineffective, inefficient and expensive existing infrastructure. An out- of-box 21st century private sector approach would be to use ride-sharing technology like an Uber or Lyft to pool drivers, provide point-to-point predictability and decrease road traffic.

Mayor Demings has floated rent control to limit rent increases. Having lived in a city under rent control, I am against this policy. Landlords lose the incentive to keep investing in their properties - these communities end up becoming decrepit, attracting crime. My approach would be to increase the supply by targeting existing, underutilized commercial space (such as shopping centers and hotels) already fitted with basic infrastructure such as foundation, plumbing and electricity.

Another issue we need to address is adequately funding public safety to reduce crime. The violent crime increase in Orange County over the past four years has been well-documented with up to 1,000 people moving into our county each week. We have to increase our police force. Anti-crime experts recommend one police officer: 1,800 citizens. Currently with our growth, we’re at 1: 4,000 citizens. We have had trouble recruiting and retraining police and fire-fighters because we have not been treating them right. We as a nation have villainized our Men in Blue with “Defund the Police''. Organizations such as BLM have profited off mostly perceived (though sometimes real) police brutality. Though Mayor Demings came from the police force he has not done a good job of retaining and growing our police force. His forced mandates such as medical vaccinations have resulted in attrition. An immediate action item under my administration would be to adequately fund law enforcement so we can right-size our police and fire fighting forces to keep Orange County safe for all.

I share more about this and other issues, as well as my full “Freedom Over Fear” platform on my website: chrismessina.com

In District 1 growth and growing pains continue to be important issues for voters. How will you work towards solutions regarding those issues?

Growth has to be balanced with protecting the environment. We also need to account for and mitigate the impact of growth on local infrastructure. The best approach is one of transparency. This starts with clear and well-reasoned zoning. It includes robust communication amongst all stakeholder groups. Once decisions are made based on a balancing of interests the results should be measured so future common sense adjustments can be made.

District 1 constituents have differences of opinion regarding the representation they receive from the sitting District 1 Commissioner. As Mayor how would you address those concerns?

District 1, like all the other districts, has the opportunity to select their representative every four years. I plan to treat each and every commissioner with the respect they deserve, find common ground and work together to advance the interests of the citizens of both District 1 and Orange County.

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Annabelle Sikes is a staff writer at the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She graduated in May 2021 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.  Her past...

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