HUDSON — County Commissioner Jack Mariano filed papers this week to run for a third term. His main campaign plank? Scrapping the new park fees that were adopted a little more than a year ago.
"To me these user fees are very inefficient, and they're unfair," he said.
The fees require people to pay $2 per car at 11 popular county parks, or buy a $60 annual pass. Families must also pay $10 per child to play in youth sports leagues. Since the fees were adopted in September 2010 to stave off cuts to the parks system, Mariano has waged a lonely battle to reverse course. He is often on the losing end of 4-1 votes when the fees come up at meetings.
To scrap the fees, Mariano is suggesting a slight increase to the property tax rate. For a $100,000 house with homestead exemptions, the taxes would go up by $2.12.
He says the fees broke a promise the county made in 1986 when voters passed a bond referendum to build new parks and libraries. The bonds, he said, would raise money to build the facilities, but officials promised to pay for operations.
Mariano, 51, a Republican, will kick off his campaign Dec. 9 at Hudson Beach. That weekend, he hopes to collect the nearly 3,000 petition forms required to qualify for the ballot without paying a fee.
"I'm going to run like I'm in it with somebody else and I'm 20 points behind," he said.
So far, Mariano is running unopposed for the District 5 commission seat that covers northwest Pasco. George Vera, a gadfly who ran for the office in 2008, opened two campaign accounts this election cycle but withdrew from the race each time.
Vera, who has been arrested nearly two dozen times, wrote his July letter from the Land O'Lakes jail; he had been charged with grand theft, burglary, trespassing and impersonating a police officer.
"I no longer wish to run for public office anymore," wrote Vera, 66. "Every time I file to run for this office I end up in jail."
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.