Want to know more about who’s running for election? Check out The Beacon Voter’s Guide. Click here.
The race to represent Volusia County’s District 5 on the County Council has three candidates. Each lives in Deltona, and each began his political career by serving on the Deltona City Commission.
Each candidate, too, is linking the various challenges facing the county. Mention one problem, and it is bound up with many others, making for a dilemma not easily solved.
Victor Ramos, David Santiago and David Sosa are vying to succeed Dr. Fred Lowry on the County Council.
Lowry, who could not seek a third consecutive term because of term limits, is instead seeking the District 5 seat on the School Board.
Asked why they are running for the County Council, each of the three gave different reasons, but each insisted he is not making the effort for his own benefit or recognition.
Who are they?
“For me, I believe I’m a servant leader. I believe in servant leadership. I believe that my work in volunteering in the community has given me a better perspective of the diversity and challenges in our county,” Victor Ramos said. “I think these experiences have helped me to be better able to run.”
With experience in both City Hall and the Florida Legislature, David Santiago said he is ready to put his knowledge to work once again.
“There are several issues facing the county, and I’ve noticed a stalemate, economic uncertainty and infrastructure concerns, and I’m the only experienced candidate in these areas that has a record of successfully helping this county,” Santiago said.
David Sosa, as the relative political newcomer, said his current and prospective constituents want to reduce the expense of county government.
“Almost everybody I talk to is concerned about rising taxes, and I’m looking to reduce the tax rates and cut wasteful spending,” Sosa said. “I also oppose the future plan of a 1-cent sales tax.”
These talking points also relate to the surge of growth Volusia County is experiencing, realizing the environmental resources are limited.
“There is a need to make sure we have an abundant supply of clean drinking water, and I’m opposed to the current proposed program that’s known as toilet-to-tap,” Sosa said.
Along with the local economy, Santiago likewise sees water and growth as tandem issues in the contest.
“Questions concerning water and how Volusia should grow — I think those are two top issues,” he said.
For Ramos, the issues are bound up together and, taken as a whole, they affect the people with whom he works. The subject of growth is multifaceted.
“One thing we have talked about is the affordability of housing, both rental and homeownership. I believe that part of that is the quality of life and finding that happy medium with the environment,” Ramos said.
“Small businesses, the quality of life and infrastructure are things that impact the county overall,” he added. “When we talk about infrastructure and our road system, being on the TPO [River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization] has given me an understanding that we need to have a system of infrastructure, instead of just piecemealing it.”
Like pieces of spaghetti on a plate, the problems of transportation and growth are intertwined. Sosa voiced concern about the existing roadways.
“We have some of the worst roads, such as Lake Helen Osteen Road. I don’t think it’s been resurfaced,” Sosa said. “A lot of people have concerns about development. It has an effect on our water supply and infrastructure.”
Santiago suggested a fresh review of the land-development rules.
“I’m not satisfied with the current growth policies. I think they should be modernized. How growth affects the environment is very important,” he said. “The reality is that a lot of people want to move to Florida. We have to create policies that can favorably manage the growth.”
For Sosa, the surge in population and its ripple effects are concerns now, not just in the future.
“Right now there is great growth. I believe that Volusia County has experienced a great amount of residential growth with an imbalance to commercial growth. I would like to see a balance of residential growth and commercial growth,” Sosa said. “I believe we need light-industrial jobs, where you have fabricators, welders and the higher-paying jobs. I would like to see more technology-based jobs brought to Volusia County.”
Ramos agrees there has been an influx into Deltona and the surrounding area, and he said he understands why people from somewhere else are settling here.
“I think in this county, it is at a good pace. People are coming in and moving in in numbers we’re going to have to accommodate,” he added. “Sometimes it’s a challenge of ‘I’ve moved in, but I don’t want anyone else in, and I don’t want more development.’ That’s unfair. That becomes a challenge.”
While Ramos has mostly supported land-use changes and rezonings for more subdivisions in Deltona, Sosa has often opposed such moves that attract more new residents.
As city commissioners, however, both supported the six-month moratorium on processing new applications for residential planned-unit developments (RPUDs). Some of those have been quite controversial during the past two or three years because of their planned density and effects on the environment and traffic volumes. That moratorium went into effect July 1 and expires Jan. 1, 2023.
Riding the rails?
Speaking of traffic and transportation, the hopefuls have varying ideas about the commuter-rail system known as SunRail.
“I believe we need to be part of the conversation about SunRail. SunRail is not coming — it’s here. We talk about diverse forms of transportation, and we need to look at it,” Ramos said. “I believe there’s been over $200 million invested in DeBary because of what SunRail can do. Being on the TPO, and being able to work together with other municipalities, it’s not about piecemealing our transportation; it’s about having a blueprint so that we can move forward.”
Santiago said he is ready to “work together” with others to improve SunRail and other parts of the transportation network.
“SunRail — they need to do a better job of attracting ridership. Volusia County entered into this contract years ago, and we’re legally obligated to participate. That being said, what we need to do is work with state leaders to offset more local infrastructure costs. I have the friendships and the experience in our state Capitol to bring more dollars to our county,” Santiago noted.
Sosa, however, favors something altogether different.
“My personal opinion: SunRail is a cool concept that will never pay for itself, and the taxpayers are going to be footing the bill for it,” he said. “My solution would be to privatize SunRail. It’s my understanding that next year, we’re going to end up with a $10 million bill that the Volusia County residents are going to have to pay.”
“As for other transportation, we need to repair our existing infrastructure before we go building new infrastructure,” Sosa added.
Speaking for themselves
The dedication voiced by each of the three gives each a claim of being the most able and most qualified to become the next District 5 County Council member.
“I’m the only candidate that has proven leadership. My history shows that I’m a doer, and I get things done, and that’s what our County Council needs now. My opponents are either social butterflies or leaving office early. That’s what makes me different in this race, and why I should be the clear choice,” Santiago said.
“Unlike others who say they are the proven leaders, I believe that my commitment and my work in this community should speak for itself,” he said. “I believe that with my experiences I am better able to meet the challenges ahead of us. I have worked in my community for six or seven years before I became an elected official. I think overall it’s not just about talking about it, but being about it, and I’ve done that in my community.”
Nor is Sosa shy about his record.
“I have the determination it takes to go to every meeting, respond to emails and make phone calls. I have corporate and small-business work experience,” Sosa said.
Who gets to vote?
Voters who live in District 5, regardless of their political-party affiliation, will all be eligible to choose among the three men in the Tuesday, Aug. 23, primary.
One of the trio could be victorious in the primary. If, however, none of the three gets more than 50 percent of the votes, the two highest vote-getters will advance to the Tuesday, Nov. 8, general election.
Running for a political office is usually not cheap. A campaign is an arduous and expensive enterprise, not unlike running a business with a high rate of failures.
Not every candidate can win, and raising money is probably the must-have skill to have even a fair chance of attaining the goal.
At this writing, Santiago led in campaign contributions, having raised $30,180. Public records show Santiago’s biggest donors include political organizations such as Floridians for Limited Government and Sunshine State Conservatives, as well as Sunrise Consulting Group, a legislative-lobbying firm.
In second place is Ramos, who has received $17,744. Among his contributors is Waste Pro, the company under contract with the City of Deltona to pick up and haul away trash and refuse. The law firm of Fowler Feeney and Associates, which serves as Deltona’s city attorney, gave $250 to Ramos’ campaign. Other corporate contributors are residential developers that have built in Deltona. Ramos has also collected donations from Volusia County Council Member Billie Wheeler and former Council Members Phil Giorno and Pat Northey, along with former Mayor John Masiarczyk and former City Commissioners Robert McFall and Nancy Schleicher.
Sosa comes in a distant third in fundraising, according to campaign finance reports, with a total of $9,638 at this writing. Sosa has made loans to his campaign, while collecting many small donations, mostly less than $100 per person.
The race is nonpartisan, but Santiago and Sosa are Republicans, while Ramos is a Democrat.
Want to know more about who’s running for election? Check out The Beacon Voter’s Guide. Click here.
This is such an easy one. David Sosa is the real deal and has the right ideas with no tax increases, a focus on protecting our water and natural environment, and working hand and hand with the City on growth issues. Growth does not pay for its self, all of us who are already here have to subsidize it through higher taxes and a diminished quality of life. David Sosa knows this and he knows Volusia County Government does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. I 100% support David Sosa. And remember, District 5 may not include the DeLand area but his votes on the County Council will matter to us even here in DeLand.
I’m voting for David Sosa because he voted against the ridiculous development going behind Pine Ridge High School. I hope whomever replaces him will vote the same way.
I thought RAMOS & Santiago were friends???