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New rule for Tampa City Council candidates blocks two ex-members from running in March

TAMPA — Tampa City Council members who leave office before their term is finished will have to sit out the next city election cycle.

The rule, approved Thursday by City Council, means John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena can't try to get back on the board during the city's March elections. Saul-Sena and Dingfelder resigned from the council to run for county commissioner but lost on Tuesday.

Council member Charlie Miranda came up with the idea earlier this year after Dingfelder and Saul-Sena announced their commission runs, but it was rejected by a 4-3 vote in May.

Among the no votes at the time: Dingfelder and Saul-Sena.

Both Saul-Sena and Dingfelder said they never had any intention of trying to get back on the council. And they both believe the ordinance targets them specifically.

Dingfelder called the measure "petty."

"There are more important issues that council needs to be focused on," he said.

Saul-Sena agreed.

"There are really substantive issues facing our community and to put effort into this is silly," she said. "It's to me a waste of taxpayer money and silly and mean-spirited."

Council member Joseph Caetano last month suggested bringing back Miranda's proposal, and Curtis Stokes seconded the motion.

Stokes was appointed to replace Saul-Sena on the council and has said he plans to run for the council in March, possibly for Saul-Sena's seat.

But Caetano, who often showed obvious frustration with Dingfelder and Saul-Sena when he served with them, said the rule isn't about any particular person.

"This will expand participation of new people who want to become City Council members. They will have new ideas, new blood. It will diminish the power of incumbency," he said. "This will reduce the opportunity of people who want to game the system."

Council member Mary Mulhern said she has heard from voters who don't like the rule. She said she would support changing term-limit rules to require people to sit out an election after two consecutive terms in a seat. That would keep people from skirting the law by switching between district and at-large seats.

"But to tell someone who only served one term, to say you can't come back and serve a second term, it doesn't seem fair," she said.

The ordinance passed Thursday by a 4-2 vote, with Mulhern and Yvonne Capin, who was appointed to replace Dingfelder on the council, voting no, and Miranda absent.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

New rule for Tampa City Council candidates blocks two ex-members from running in March 11/04/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 8:43am]

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