PINELLAS PARK — Two candidates are seeking to fill the open seat on the City Council in Tuesday's election. The Tampa Bay Times asked both candidates, Patricia Johnson, 66, and Eddie Kosinski, 64, three questions about their goals if elected. The answers have been edited for length.
Johnson: I have a tremendous amount of experience in various fields. I have business experience with both small and large businesses. I have worked closely with government on the local, state and federal levels. … I have also enjoyed success in my personal businesses, which has allowed me to continue to serve the community in various roles from the Pinellas Park Board of Adjustment to the Pinellas Park Boys & Girls Clubs.
Kosinski: I am honest and "above board" with everything I do. I have never been afraid to think outside the box. I have the courage and ambition to keep making Pinellas Park the great city it is and I will work for all the citizens of Pinellas Park. I have had a very successful business in Pinellas Park for the last 44 years and I want to take that experience, along with common sense, and continue to move Pinellas Park in the right direction.
What do you think are the two biggest issues facing Pinellas Park in the next three years, and how would you solve them?
Johnson: Obviously, the most crucial issue right now is our loss of revenue and the local economy overall. … We must work harder to cut the budget and run the city as efficiently as possible so that our taxpayers get the best value out of every tax dollar. We can boost the local economy by maintaining our relationship with our businesses and helping them keep their doors open by thinking outside the box. There are various incentives and grants available for current businesses, and the city's willingness to work with businesses to secure these funds will also attract new business. … Another issue that will face our city is opportunities to establish interlocal agreements and consolidate services. … There will be many more opportunities that arise to establish interlocal agreements, and there will be many more pressures to consolidate.
Koskinski: One of the issues is keeping the taxes low. Our property values have plummeted, and with the economy the way it is right now, we need to work as a united group on council to keep the taxes low and still meet the needs of the city and its citizens. The second issue is, as Pinellas Park grows, there will be the need for more parks, safe playgrounds and recreational facilities. Our youth is a very important part of the future of Pinellas Park, and we need to have programs and places for them to go. This will take a lot of work as far as the budget goes, but I am confident that all things can be worked through.
Are you in favor of fire-based transport of patients to hospitals? Why or why not?
Johnson: I am in favor of fire-based transport. My response is not based on "the numbers," but on personal experience as a court-appointed guardian. I have witnessed individuals waiting too long for an ambulance, all the while fire department personnel have already arrived and treated the patient. Then, they have to wait longer while the fire department personnel exchange information with the ambulance personnel. I believe that overall, it would be a great savings to the taxpayer not just in Pinellas Park, but countywide. All of the fire departments across the county already cover for each other if units are busy. Fire personnel respond quicker and could likely have the patient stabilized and on the way to the hospital before ambulance personnel start their paperwork. It is a win-win situation for residents because they save money while still receiving equal, if not better, service.
Kosinski: Yes. EMS is usually the first on scene and their units are just as well-equipped as Sunstar ambulances are. As it is right now, EMS must wait for the ambulance to arrive to transport the injured. If they are dealing with multiple injuries, then Sunstar should be called out to assist EMS; otherwise, EMS should be allowed to load the patient and go without having to wait for an ambulance. Sun Star should be backup only. The turn-around time would be quicker, and we would be saving the taxpayers money. Duplication of services is not cost effective.