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Turanchik proposes four mayoral debates



TAMPA – Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and candidate for mayor Ed Turanchik Wednesday proposed a series of four debates on the economy, neighborhoods, transportation and city finances.

“We know the city is facing numerous challenges and has numerous opportunities,” Turanchik said in a letter to fellow candidates. “The citizens of Tampa want to know how we each plan to address the issues.”

But with seven candidates, there’s no way to have a meaningful discussion of any major issue in a typical debate format, he added. So he proposes a series of 90-minute forums before early voting begins on Feb. 19. He also suggests that each have one or more nonprofit sponsor:

• Economic development, with a focus on job creation. Proposed sponsors: the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Tampa/Hillsborough County Economic Development Council and Tampa Bay & Company.

• Neighborhoods, community development and public safety. Proposed sponsor: Tampa Homeowners, An Association of Neighborhoods.

• Transportation. Proposed sponsor: Tampa Bay Partnership.

• City finances, budges and taxes. Proposed sponsor: League of Women Voters.

Before sending out the proposal, Turanchik contacted a member or representative of each prospective sponsor, and all indicated that they were open to hearing more about the idea, he said. If the sponsors think the debate topics are worthy enough to schedule the debates, he expects the candidates will be there.

Those are legitimate issues, said mayoral candidate and Tampa City Council chairman Thomas Scott.

“The problem with that at this point is you’ve already got some debates set up,” Scott said.

The St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 have been in contact with all seven candidates about organizing a debate in early February at a site in Tampa to be determined. Between that, other debates, candidate forums with neighborhood associations and interviews with groups such as the Police Benevolent Association, candidates will be pressed for time, Scott said.

“Given the debates that are scheduled now ... you’re probably not going to have candidates do that many debates,” he said.

Former mayor Dick Greco said he hadn’t seen Turanchik’s proposal, but added, “I think some debates are certainly are necessarily and called for, there’s no question about that. I don’t mind debating anybody or anything.”

Both Scott and Greco suggested candidates sometimes propose things like debates partly to get attention.

That's not the idea here, Turanchik said. His goal is to give voters something more than a "sound-bite campaign" where candidates show up at events, talk for two or three minutes and briefly answer a question or two.

"It's hard to talk about transportation or jobs in two or three minutes," he said. "I didn't do this to get attention. I did this to have a more substantive discussion on these major areas. ... We've planted the seed. We'll see whether or not it grows."

-- Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:09pm]


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