Brody Wants City Returning to Fundamentals

Politics

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY FEB 20, 2017

Editor's Note: This is the sixth in an eight-part weekly series profiling candidates for Sarasota City Commission. 

Utilities. Infrastructure. Public safety. For Hagen Brody, these are the pillars of what municipal government ought to be providing, yet not what consumes the time of Sarasota politicians today. As he goes door to door introducing himself as a candidate for Sarasota City Commission, the attorney says many residents suggest the city has become distracted with “peripheral issues and pet projects.” He’d like to get government fixated again on what matters. “The vast majority tell me they want the city to focus its tax dollars getting back to the basics of what a municipal government is supposed to provide,” he says.

Brody is one of eight candidates seeking two at-large seats on the Sarasota City Commission, and hopes his background as a professional raised in Sarasota convinces voters to put him on the board. As a former prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office, Brody says he understands how scarce resources can be better used when it comes to issues like homelessness. He believes talk of a new shelter in town is “premature” as the city already has beds at places like Harvest House and the Salvation Army. But he’s also not a fan of the city’s Housing First approach, which he labels an “unattainable magic elixir.” “I don’t believe it’s necessary, first, because of our nonprofits, but it’s also so expensive,” he says. “We’re just paying rent to get them (the homeless) off the street and still not address problems like mental health and substance abuse.” All for a solution he says could cost around $10,000 annually per person helped. “It’s unachievable,” Brody says.

Brody also feels it’s been a solid 15 years since the city made any attempt at long-term planning, and notes many of his opponents boast of their time serving on the city Planning Board during that rudderless period of time. “We need to have a conversation with the public and address issues in our zoning code,” he says. He wants city regulations to ensure a thriving downtown, but one within the traditional bounds of the city core. “We can change course and this is a critical time to do that,” he says. “A lot of people are unhappy with the direction in the city." 

Brody’s own time at the State Attorney’s Office came to an end over a failure to keep his own law license up to date, a problem that threatened convictions and proved a “distraction” for the office that forced his resignation. But he notes he quickly got the problem resolved and still practices law in the city today; he even was selected by peers to serve on the board for the Sarasota chapter of the Florida Bar. “It didn’t cost the taxpayers one penny,” he says.

A citywide election is scheduled for March 14, with a runoff likely on May 9. Other candidates include: Tahiti Park neighborhood leader Jennifer Ahern-Koch; former Sarasota Mayor Fredd “Glossie” Atkins; incumbent City Commissioner Susan Chapman; Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association president Patrick Gannon; Gulf Business Systems owner Martin Hyde; pedestrian safety advocate Mikael Sandstrom; and former stockbroker Matt Sperling.

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