All three Orlando District 1 candidates wore gray suits at a candidate forum Thursday, but that’s where the similarities ended.
Commissioner Jim Gray spoke about his accomplishments since 2012 in the growth and development of Orlando’s largest and fastest growing district. He pointed to the fact that one out of three Orlando building permits are from District 1 and said it was a sign that “the market is telling us we’re on the right path.”
Gray is president of GrayPointe Capital, a commercial real estate investment firm that specializes in acquisition, capital sourcing, leasing, and repositioning.
Tom Keen, a Navy veteran who works in aerospace business development, said he would bring “forward thinking about the future, rather than concentrating on the past.” He said he was concerned about too much growth in the area and added that what was once a 10-minute drive five years ago has doubled due to traffic and congestion.
Sunshine Grund, a mother of four and former nonprofit consultant, told the 40 attendees that she would do a better job than the incumbent in controlling growth and saving the environment. She said rapid growth had taken too many trees and wetlands from the district.
Grund raised the issue that she was not accepting contributions so she could not be influenced by developers or local businessmen. When Keen chimed in that he has not accepted any money from developers or businesses, Gray told the audience that Keen accepted a contribution from Gate Petroleum.
According to Keen’s campaign finance report, he received $1,000 on March 30 from Herbert Peyton, founder of Gate Petroleum, a Jacksonville-based company that reported $1.44 billion in revenues last year.
Moderator Mike Lafferty asked the candidates how they would say no to Tavistock Development Company, which has developed the 17-square-mile Lake Nona community.
Gray praised Tavistock saying the USTA National Campus, the Orlando VA Medical Center and the KPMG learning and development center would not have chosen Lake Nona, if Tavistock had not initiated good development practices. Both opponents said they would just say no to the largest developer in Central Florida.
District 1 includes the Orlando International Airport, neighborhoods along Semoran Boulevard, Lake Nona, Vista East, Southport and a portion of the Boggy Creek neighborhood west of the airport.
The second forum in District 3 includes Commissioner Robert Stuart, who is running for his fourth term against real estate attorney Asima Azam. The event will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 at Princeton Elementary School, 311 W. Princeton Street, Orlando.
Seven candidates are vying for the District 5 seat, which includes West Orlando neighborhoods. Commissioner Regina Hill is running for her second term against Jibreel Ali, Ericka Dunlap, Sarah Abuobaida Elbadri, Betty Gelzer, Cynthia Harris, and Ondria James. The forum will be held at 6 p.m. October 12 at the Callahan Neighborhood Center, 101 North Parramore Avenue, Orlando.
Voters go to the polls Nov. 7.