Tampa City Council candidates face off
With city elections a year away, the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Monday held a forum for the three city-wide candidates -- attorney Seth Nelson, Sara Romeo and Scott Strepina -- and two candidates seeking to represent New Tampa -- realtor Dean Hale and hair salon owner Joseph Caetano, who is seeking re-election. Candidates seemed particularly interested in showing a connection to luncheon attendant Shawn Harrison, a state House candidate. Romeo noted that she spoke to Harrison often about New Tampa issues when she was in the state House and he represented the area on the City Council; Caetano praised Harrison for trying to lower property taxes as a city council member; and Nelson noted that the two worked together at a Tampa law firm. Harrison has endorsed Nelson. Here's what the candidates had to say on some of the issues:
On a proposed sales tax for light rail, bus service and roads: Nelson and Romeo said officials need to inform voters exactly how the money will be spent if they expect support; Caetano said the people he talks to say they can't afford more taxes; Hale said another type of tax that isn't in place forever makes more sense.
On reclaimed water: Caetano and Nelson said it will never be available in New Tampa for irrigation, but some use needs to be found for the 55 million gallons of reclaimed water that is dumped into Tampa Bay every day; Romeo noted that council member Charlie Miranda's suggestion that the water be returned to the drinking water supply will never get anywhere as long as people call it "toilet to tap.".
On job creation: Strepina said businesses need tax credits to entice them to the city; Nelson said the city needs to cut out bureaucracy and expensive red tape to make it easier to do business in Tampa; Romeo said addressing environmental and quality of life issues will attract and keep businesses; Caetano attacked some fellow council members (he mentioned no names, but said it's the same two every time) for not being business friendly, saying they don't know how hard it is to run a business. Clearly Caetano does. He closed his hair salon last year after filing for bankruptcy protection. He said he's opening another one this week.
Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer