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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Latvala, Hackworth trade barbs, miscues in Pinellas



DUNEDIN -- Susan Latvala and Bob Hackworth traded barbs over their bonafides on taxes and spending Tuesday night in their race for Latvala's Pinellas County Commission seat in Nov. 2 general election.

At a candidate forum, Hackworth lashed at the lack of "fiscal responsibility" on Latvala's watch, noting he was trying to cut taxes in Dunedin around the time that she voted for property tax rate increases for 2002 and 2003. He told a crowd of about 40 people that he's "sick and tired" of opening the newspaper and finding stories of scandal and political corruption.

"On taxes and financial responsibility, my record is superior to my opponent's in the race," Hackworth said.

But Latvala said the county did well and the board worked well together. At first, she stayed away from even responding to Hackworth in the way she did defensively in her primary win in August. Then she tried to counter him at their closing statements, beginning miscues for both of them.

Latvala said the county only raised property tax rates once, only,for the unincorporated area service district, despite Hackworth saying it happened twice.

In fact, the county raised the countywide tax rate slightly for 2002, budget records show.

Hackworth rued the "1,200 layoffs" in the last few years of cuts. In fact, county officials have announced almost 500 layoffs the past few years (and 1,600 job eliminations since through retirement and vacancies since 2007), allow the Sheriff's Office layed off dozens several years ago.

"It's parsing," Hackworth responded afterward.

Like Hackworth, Republican Norm Roche critiqued the record of Latvala and County Commissioner Calvin Harris, a Democrat seeking to keep his at large post versus Roche.

"What have you been doing for the decade since you've been there, wrong sizing?" Roche said to chuckles.

Said Latvala: "It was right sizing before. The economy changed. We have to re-right size it."

-- David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 3:42pm]


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