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KNOW YOUR CANDIDATES | City Council District 4

Four candidates are running for this seat, and it has been a lively race. The candidates have staked out different positions and some have pointedly challenged the others' views. They do agree on some issues: All say they will vote to stop the Lens, and all oppose red light cameras. — Curtis Krueger, Times staff writer

Carolyn Fries, 46
Technology entrepreneur
David McKalip, 48
Darden Rice, 43
Communications consultant
Richard Eldridge, 51
Taxi driver
Back­ground Fries grew up in Indiana, has a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, and has lived in Pinellas County for 23 years. She's a past president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood and was a PTSA leader at John Hopkins Middle School. She has founded or helped found several local technology companies. This is her first bid for public office. McKalip has spent most of his life in Pinellas County. He received undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of South Florida and has a neurosurgery practice in St. Petersburg. He writes a blog about civic and political issues and has been active in the Florida Medical Association, antitax groups and has volunteered in disaster preparedness programs. Rice has lived in St. Petersburg for nearly 20 years and is a graduate of Eckerd College. She is the immediate past president of the League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg, and has been active as chairwoman of the PSTA legislative committee. She has worked for the Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network. Rice previously ran for City Council and County Commission. Eldridge is a Marine Corps veteran who has lived in St. Petersburg since 1996. He has a degree in biology from the University of South Florida. He also ran for mayor in 2009.
Why should voters pick you?She says other council candidates don't have her background in engineering and technology-based businesses. She also has lived in District 4 for 23 years, and is raising a family there. She's more of a moderate than a hard-line liberal or conservative.I'm running to return control of our city government to the hands of the citizens, to take it away from the political class who expect us to pay the bills and keep our mouths shut. I'm the best candidate because I will work to cut taxes and to responsibly cut spending while others will work to increase taxes.I have the longest record of working with the public on public interest issues, including on environmental and health care matters. Serving the public on the City Council is a natural next step for me. … I'm running to make St. Pete strong, that's my platform.He says he is running because he feels a civic duty to do his part. He said he is familiar with the city and wishing to bring his positions forward. He said others in the community share his views on the Pier and other issues such as having the Tampa Bay Rays stay in Tropicana Field.
Where do you stand on the Pier and the Lens debate?Will vote to cancel the Lens, reluctantly, she says, because so much time was invested. She thinks the design moved away from the original approach. When the three finalists were unveiled, her reaction was "none of the above."Strongly opposes the Lens. Says the city should select a private business to develop the site — similar to the Chelsea Piers project in Manhattan. This could create an excellent new nice attraction and also bring money to the city.Although I am not in favor of designing projects by referendum, I will be voting against the Lens because of uncertainty of cost containment and lack of engagement. The city needs a more open process to bring better public participation.Supports cancelling the contract with the Lens. "A private company that specializes in tourism should take over the Pier," he said, such as Disney, Universal, etc.
Do you think the City Council has been doing a good job managing your tax dollars? Why or why not?Overall, I would say yes. I think there's still some areas within the government that could be trimmed … possibly some midlevel management within the departments. The city should keep tax rate low even when assessments increase.Complains about "political class" he says is running the city now. Pledges to fight to lower taxes and focus on core city services such as public safety and roads, and also to scrutinize overlooked issues such as unfunded pension liabilities. I think we could be doing a better job, particularly with making the budget process more transparent and open to the public. But sometimes the city seems to resist ideas such as investments that could lead to more jobs and "sustainability councils."The city government has been cut to the bone. The current mayor and council should be applauded for that. If the economy got worse, the city might have to eliminate entire departments, but we're not there yet.
Do you support red light cameras?No. There's too many variations in yellow light timing and other factors for it to be fair. If people will just slow down for the yellow lights, "the problem will resolve itself."No. He says data show they actually increase the number of accidents and they're an "unnecessary intrusion on people's liberty." No. Says the project has become more of a revenue-generating plan than a safety plan. Plus, she says the cameras are error prone. It would be better to "engage the citizenry" in traffic safety issues. No. I oppose the government putting cameras on the people. We should never get comfortable with that. It is a path to tyranny.
What can the city do to attract more jobs?Create the right environment, with faster permitting, allowing businesses to place reasonably sized signs. She's also excited about city plans to work with Jabil Circuit on a new headquarters.The city " should be easing taxes, easing job-killing regulations and creating a level playing field for businesses." He objects to using taxpayer dollars to favor one business over another.The city should maintain good business contacts to learn the needs of those in financial, medical, marine and other sectors. A strong transportation network also is key.Among his ideas are seeing if local employers could be provided incentives to hire homeless people. Says city budget cuts have helped and economic development is improving.
Will you support the one-cent county sales tax increase for mass transit in 2014? How about light rail, specifically?The idea of investing in a world class transportation system is certainly intriguing and exciting and "I am open to the possibility." But she wants several questions answered before supporting it. Such as: Can a rail route connect Tampa International Airport and downtown St. Petersburg in Phase 1?No, and he says "the rail will not produce the results that have been promised." Similar rail projects elsewhere have under-performed, he said. A better approach would be to demand better bus service with smaller vehicles, customizable routes and private competition. Says she is a strong supporter of mass transit which "is critical to our economic vitality." She does not "inherently favor a sales tax," but with limited other financing options, she supports it. The community should have input in the route, which might follow I-275 but would ideally go to other downtown St. Pete locations also.I have not been sold on public rail, but some bus routes should run 24/7. He also said that "generally speaking, no to more taxes." However, he said he is open to listening. If there is a sales tax increase, he said it should be limited to purchases of $100 or less to avoid people making big purchases elsewhere.
Do you think the Police Department is doing a good job? What could be better?Statistics show crime has been decreasing in St. Petersburg, which shows "we are on the right track." Would like the department to continue studying ways of improving.The department is doing a good job in general and safety is at reasonable levels but could always be better. Advocates stronger police presence in Midtown to "drive out drugs, crime and gangs."Says she favors community policing and requiring officers to adhere to "professional standards of safety and diversity training and meaningful communications." Overall, they are doing a good job. The city is generally safe. Says the police "need to be busier in areas of higher crime." He favors legalization of marijuana.
PersonalFries and her husband, David, live in Crescent Lake and have four children. He is married with three children and rented an apartment in the Euclid St. Paul's neighborhood after redistricting.Rice has a partner, Dr. Julie Kessel. She is buying a house in Crescent Heights.He is divorced with two adult children and lives in Crescent Lake.
Website mckalip­
Email carolyn@
Twitter @carolynfriesfl @mckalip @dardenrice

About the job: The council member from District 4 represents a swath of central and north St. Petersburg, with neighborhoods including Crescent Lake, Euclid Heights, Euclid-St. Paul's and Meadowlawn. Council members serve four-year terms and are paid $38,000 a year.

Know Your Candidates: St. Petersburg City Council, District 4

Know Your Candidates: St. Petersburg City Council, District 4 07/26/13 [Last modified: Sunday, July 28, 2013 9:12pm]
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