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Archive for July 2020

La Gaceta endorses Reddick for County Commission District 3 in Democratic primary

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga
Originally published July 31, 2020

This race offers several strong candidates and the public really can’t go wrong as far as finding a good leader, but this race also could create a big problem for racial equality and race relations in our community.
Gwen Myers started off strong last year but seemed to lose momentum this summer. She has an impressive resume in County government and tells of all the projects she led in the community. Her answers to present issues and needed solutions weren’t as strong as the other candidates and we were shocked when we asked her if the number of county commissioners should grow and she answered she would have to study the issue.
Rick Fernandez is a smart, passionate candidate. He is an attorney and a legal recruiter. He’s also been a neighborhood activist who has opposed FDOT’s plans to widen I-275 in order to add toll lanes. He does not want to see capacity added to our interstates and instead believes investment in mass transit can alleviate future increases to interstate traffic.
His campaign creates a dilemma for us. The current three-at-large/four-single-member district design of the County Commission created in the early ‘80s is starting to fail in its design to bring diversity to the County Commission.
When the four single-member districts were drawn up, District 3 was drawn to make it a predominantly Black district, which created the opportunity for the first African-American to be elected to the Commission in 1985. Since then, an African-American has always won that seat, but the percentage of Blacks in the district keeps declining as that population moves to other areas of the county. The current race could see four Black candidates split the Black vote and Fernandez receive enough of the white and Hispanic vote to win. We would then have a Commission that does not have a Black serving on it. To us, this would be a giant step backwards.
The fix is to increase the number of single-member districts or for racism in this county to end. While he hope for the latter, we believe we need to add single-member districts now so Blacks and Hispanics don’t have to wrestle over the same seat.
Fernandez has every right to run for office and his candidacy shouldn’t create this problem, but we failed to find four county commissioners willing to do the right thing for the 25 years we have advocated for more single-member districts.
Sky U. White is a nurse and is running for office for the second time. She is a smart, thoughtful candidate who has a good grasp of the issues. She is also a proponent of blocking FDOT’s plans to enlarge the footprint of I-275 for additional capacity. She wants rapid growth of mass transit to address the mobility needs of our increasing population. We could easily see White as a commissioner.
Tom Scott is a former two-term county commissioner and city councilman who worked well with other members on the board. That’s why his peers selected him three times as the chair of the County Commission. His style also allowed him to garner support for many projects in his district. He was a visionary in his support of the creation of CRAs, expansion of the Leroy Selmon Expressway and in laying the groundwork for the sports complex in Progress Village.
Voters wouldn’t be wrong to return him to the Board.
Our favorite is Frank Reddick. He has shown his willingness to fight for needs in the district. He had the respect of his peers on Tampa City Council and it showed with their selection of him as their chair twice. He was able to accomplish much, even after drawing the ire of the mayor for forcing the City to repair and reopen two swimming pools in the district that were going to remain closed.
He also battled with the administration for a citizens review board and police body cameras. He advanced this issue, but the program is watered down due to the strong mayoral system of government in Tampa.
With the Black Lives Matter protests and the exposure of police abuse around the country of Black citizens, Reddick’s fight was ahead of its time.
I have witnessed him advocate for the district he loves time and again.
La Gaceta endorses Frank Reddick in the Democratic primary for County Commission District 3.

La Gaceta endorses Morejon for County Commission District 1 in Republican primary

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga
Originally published July 31, 2020

Scott Levinson and Tony Morejon are trying to earn the GOP nomination to go on to November and face either Harry Cohen or Jen McDonald.
Levinson believes the County should be run more like a business and offers that the County should have saved money during COVID-19 and laid off some personnel who were unable to perform their normal work. He thinks leaders need to be held accountable, the County should do a better job and we don’t need additional revenue to upgrade parks, recreational facilities and County properties. Instead, we can pay for them with cost savings. The businessman and executive director of the Tampa Bay Youth Football League talks more about a philosophy of how government should work but does not offer practical details of how to get there. He is sincere and passionate.
Tony Morejon worked for Hillsborough County for 26 years as the Hispanic community liaison. In that role, he advocated for Hispanics with County government, would assist the Hispanic community with problems it was having with County government and communicated to Hispanics the services available to them. Morejon had to work with Republicans and Democrats and presents himself in a calm confident manner. His platform is light on details and offers no specifics on current issues, but we know he’ll be an advocate for the Latin community and that tilts the scales in his favor.
La Gaceta endorses Tony Morejon for County Commission District 1 in the Republican primary.

La Gaceta endorses Cohen for County Commission District 1 in Democratic primary

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga
Originally published July 31, 2020

Harry Cohen and Jen McDonald are competing to be the Democratic nominee.
Jen McDonald is an insurance broker and consultant. She has been running for this seat for a couple of years and over that time has become a better campaigner. She is bright, energetic and passionate about improving our community. She supports putting the transportation tax back on the ballot if the Supreme Court nullifies the current one and is strongly in favor of using new dollars for mass transit and enhancing our streets and communities for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Harry Cohen and McDonald aren’t too far apart on issues, but we find Cohen a little more nuanced and more practical. One difference between the two is Cohen would support growing the number of county commissioners, which is very important to this county’s future and to the cause of racial equality.
During Cohen’s eight years on the City Council, he proved to be a studious, smart advocate for his district and was responsive to constituents.
He will be a shining star on the County Commission. La Gaceta endorses Harry Cohen in the Democratic primary for County Commission District 1.

La Gaceta endorses Chronister for Sheriff in the Republican primary

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga
Originally published July 31, 2020

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister faces a Republican primary challenger, Charles Boswell. We didn’t interview either candidate in the race. We didn’t feel the need. Boswell’s chief complaint against Chronister is he behaves like a Democrat and Boswell offers up his qualifications as being — conservative values, defender of the Constitution and defender of religious freedom.
We are really just looking for protect and serve and feel Sheriff Chronister is doing a very good job of that. Chronister is professional, knowledgeable, accessible and prepared to lead a department that serves a diverse, urban and suburban community of 1.4 million people.
La Gaceta endorses Chad Chronister in the Republican primary for Hillsborough County Sheriff.

La Gaceta Endorses Stuart for Clerk of the Circuit Court

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga
Originally published July 31, 2020

Pat Frank is retiring as clerk and from a lifetime of public service to this county and state. Two well-known Democrats want to fill her big shoes – Kevin Beckner and Cindy Stuart. This race has no Republicans, no party affiliated candidates or write-ins running. Because of this, all voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in this Democratic primary race.
Kevin Beckner is a former two-term county commissioner and the former head of the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board. He wants to build on the advances Pat Frank has made in technology, going paperless and customer service. He feels he can make the relationship between County government and the clerk’s office more collaborative and efficient.
Beckner is a smart, prepared and compassionate public servant and would make a great clerk, but our choice is Cindy Stuart.
Stuart is a current School Board member serving her second term. She decided after receiving support from Pat Frank that she would forgo an easy reelection campaign for School Board and instead give voters a choice between her and Beckner for clerk of the court.
Stuart has proven on the School Board she is up for big challenges, able to work with people on opposite sides of issues and brave enough to speak truth to power.
Stuart, like Beckner, speaks highly of the office Pat Frank built but both know there is still more to do. The clerk’s office, because of the Florida Legislature, is starved for money and is too dependent on funding from fees on transactions through the office, such as traffic tickets and foreclosures. She knows to fund needed improvements in the office, she’ll need to find ways to increase revenue.
She wants to find better ways to handle the weekly jury pool, which is very inconvenient and confusing to those called up and most often sent home without serving on a jury. She wants to explore moving some services to the Plant City Courthouse that would allow the court to handle a wider variety of cases. She also wants to expand online services. Stuart’s time on the School Board taught her the importance of customer service and honed her skills in creating change in a large bureaucracy.
La Gaceta endorses Cindy Stuart for Clerk of the Circuit Court

La Gaceta endorses Griffin for Tax Collector

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga
Originally published July 31, 2020

Democrats April Griffin and Nancy Millan are vying to replace the retiring Tax Collector Doug Belden. The winner will face Republican TK Mathew in November.
Nancy Millan has served in the tax collector’s office for over 30 years. She is a senior manager with Belden and handled much of the outreach and communications with the public. Her boss strongly supports her candidacy.
We did not ask to interview Millan, as we knew at the end of last year we would be supporting our friend April Griffin. We have known April for over two decades. We met when she reached out to us when she was president of the Hillsborough County Young Democrats and ever since, we have allied to help Democrats and have advised her during her career.
April served on the School Board for 12 years. During that time, she worked hard and smart to accomplish many goals. She strengthened the career and technical programs, helped reduce the achievement gap with minorities, fought against attempts to discriminate against the LGBTQ and Muslim communities, expanded student healthcare and much more.
She was one of the first to realize School Superintendent MaryEllen Elia was hiding troubles in the school district with her iron-fist control over district staff and Elia’s battles against all board members who challenged her.
April was key to firing Elia and after her departure, new district leadership discovered Elia was spending the schools’ reserves on recurring expenses and had she stayed, the financial crisis would have magnified. During her elected career, she has been attacked for doing the right thing by the Christian right, Tampa’s establishment, the Tampa Tribune, and the Tampa Bay Times. She fought with tenacity and bravery against these powerful forces and won for students and taxpayers.
These groups still don’t like her today, but we do.
The tax collector’s office, according to the Tampa Bay Times, is failing to provide needed services in this time of COVID-19. The Times writes that appointments to get renewed licenses and tags stretch farther than 30 days out and many citizens are finding they are driving illegally on expired licenses and tags without it being their fault.
People trying to renew multiple mobile home tags are being told they have to do them one at a time or they can instead pay a separate service to do them all at once.
The lines have been long at the tax collector’s office and the office hasn’t been as nimble as it needed to be this spring and summer.
We think new leadership will help the office rise to new heights. April wants to make hours more convenient, use technology to expand services and reduce the need for clients to come into the office. She also wants to use mobile units to provide services in underserved communities. April knows how to fix people’s problems with the bureaucracy and address system-wide failures in customer service. It’s what she did for 12 years on the School Board.
La Gaceta confidently endorses April Griffin for Tax Collector.

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