For the latest in his series of creative press conferences on the campaign trail, mayoral candidate Cam Winton rented a tortoise and two rabbits for a media briefing earlier today to share his pitch for overhauling the city's regulatory process.
Standing outside the city's Public Service Center — the hub for applying for permits and licenses — he relied on his animal props to illustrate a metaphor that as mayor he would speed up the permitting process.
"The tortoise represents City Hall's creaky approach to issuing building permits and business licenses," he said. "The current system hinders job growth and scares off investments in housing. We need to make City Hall's enforcement of permitting and licensing nimble like a rabbit."
Winton, a wind power attorney running as an independent, said too often people hear conflicting answers from people in the city when applying for licenses and permits. As mayor, he would insist the city would be bound by the first thing an employee tells someone when they are going through the application process.
He said while the city has made inroads in speeding up the process in recent years, it's still too slow. If he was elected, he would reduce the number of licenses the city requires from 160 to about 10 that he views as essential, including ones for preparing/serving food, dealing with hazardous materials, fireworks, operating a funeral home, serving alcohol, selling tobacco, operating a tattoo parlor, operating a target shooting range and running charitable gambling.
Winton said the city shouldn't require licenses for things like selling Christmas trees, operating a bowling alley or providing a jukebox. He brought along a cardboard jukebox, too, to illustrate that point.
He would also change the process for applying for building permits by eliminating many of the permits needed for routine smaller projects. Under his plan, the application process would be online or by phone so people don't have to make trips downtown to the Public Service Center to fill out paperwork. Building permits would still be required for large-scale projects.
The change would free up "bandwidth" on the front end for city officials, he said. Random inspections would take place on the "back end" to make sure people are complying with city code.