Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Safety Harbor candidates tout records, ideas at forum

SAFETY HARBOR — Mayor Joe Ayoub and former mayor and mayoral candidate Andy Steingold criticized each other's records as they and other Safety Harbor City Commission candidates attempted to distinguish themselves from their opponents at a candidate forum last week.

The forum, moderated by Marti Folwell of the North Pinellas League of Women Voters, drew a crowd so large, some audience members stood i the meeting room and others gathered in the lobby of City Hall to watch the proceedings on a television.

Ayoub fired the first shot. He stressed during his opening statement that being mayor is his "No. 1 choice" and said he is looking forward to serving a full three-year term — a slap at Steingold, who resigned the office mid-term in January 2013 to run unsuccessfully for county judge.

Steingold, a personal injury attorney, wasted no time slapping back. In his opening statement, he contrasted his time as mayor, when he said he "always listened to the will of the majority of the people," to the past year under Ayoub.

"It has become apparent that the will of the people, the will of the majority of the constituents, is not being answered," Steingold said.

That was a reference to the City Commission's approval of the Richman Group's controversial plan to build apartments on the former Firmenich Citrus Center site and the commission's initial decision to move this year's city election from March to November to piggyback on county elections.

During the forum, Steingold unveiled what he is calling the Safety Harbor Preservation Act, a plan he said he developed to "maintain the small-town charm" of Safety Harbor and prevent it from becoming "a concrete jungle."

That drew a pointed question from Ayoub, CFO of tech company Data Blue, who asked why, if Steingold cared so much about preservation, he didn't unveil the act during his tenure on the commission, and why he resigned early. Ayoub earned a warning from Folwell about personal attacks and staying on topic.

Commissioner Nancy Besore, who is the third candidate for mayor, touted her record.

"I'm not saying I'm a miracle worker," said Besore, a high school social studies teacher, listing items she accomplished while a city commissioner. "I've been your voice, you've come to me ... I listen to you, I care about what's bothering you."

The first question asked of candidates concerned the future of the Waterfront Park. Seat 4 candidate Carlos Diaz, who owns his own logistics company, said his main concern is working with the community to come up with a plan.

"I want to stress one basic principle: Everything around here in the city is for the community" including the waterfront, he said.

Seat 3 candidate Andy Zodrow said the park's development was what inspired him to run.

"I would like to see the Waterfront Park developed in a very low-intensity manner," he said.

Nearly all the candidates echoed Zodrow's desire for limited development, rejecting the idea of having a restaurant at the entrance to the park.

"One of the things we must do is treasure this piece of property," said Seat 4 candidate Ray Irvin, a former public works director in Indianapolis. "We will never, ever get another chance to get that kind of property on the shores of Tampa Bay for the rest of the life of the city."

The mayoral candidates, though, disagreed on the timing of park improvements. Ayoub said he wants to start the work this year using money the city allocated for the park. Besore said she'd rather see "slow attention to the property," and Steingold said he wants development to progress over the next 10-25 years.

The issues of tree preservation and flooding brought impassioned responses from the candidates. Besore again referenced her record, citing numerous instances in which she said she helped residents alleviate flood concerns.

Zodrow said the nature of his work — he is an environmental attorney for Hillsborough County — makes him an expert of sorts on tree and flood issues. He said he wants to see the city improve its floodplain management so the National Flood Insurance Program, the federal body that issues flood insurance and just recently raised rates in flood-prone areas to avoid insolvency, will reduce premiums for residents.

The tree issue provided Steingold an opportunity to deliver a blow of his own to Ayoub.

"I think he's for just pulling all the trees down and letting developers dictate to us what we're going to get, versus telling the developers what we the people … want for the city," Steingold said, because Ayoub voted against the city's tree ordinance when it was approved a few years back.

Ayoub later said he voted against it because the proposal did not align with recommendations of tree experts.

Candidates had the most diverse opinions, though, when debating the virtues of the city's new garbage program, which added single-stream recycling and reduced garbage pickup to once a week.

Seat 3 candidate Dean Harmeson, an intelligence contractor for U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, had a favorable opinion of the program, which has saved the city's garbage trucks 77 trips so far, translating into a reduction in fuel consumption and air pollution.

"Obviously, the trash pickup program is good for the environment, it's encouraging and motivating people to recycle, and reducing the amount of trash we have to take to the landfill," Harmeson said, "and I am happy that we've been able to make that a success."

Steingold said he was concerned that trash pickup has been reduced to one day a week, down from two, and yet fees have not been reduced.

Besore said she would like to appropriate any savings associated with the reduction in pickup to offset other town fees, like the street-light fee. "When we conserve in some areas, we can use that money to reduce fees in other areas," she said.

The city election is scheduled for March 11 to coincide with the special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Josh Solomon can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155. On Twitter @JSolomonTIMES

Safety Harbor candidates tout records, ideas at forum 01/31/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 6:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: Break out those sweaters, Tampa Bay, as cooler weather just a day away

    Weather

    Tampa Bay residents will finally be able to break out their sweaters and boots this week, but not until enduring yet another humid, rainy day to start the workweek.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  3. Here's what happened when 30 high school sophomores gave up their phones for a day

    K12

    LUTZ — They were everywhere at Steinbrenner High School. Teens with panic-stricken faces, furiously slapping one thigh, then the other.

    Grace Hayes, 15, left, and Kai'Rey Lewis, 15, talk and text friends after having a discussion about smartphone technology in Tiffany Southwell's English Literature class at Steinbrenner High last week. Southwell asked theme to give up their phones for a day and write about it. For Lewis, the ride home that day "was the longest bus ride in my life." [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  4. Cuban media treats visit by Tampa City Council as historic event

    Politics

    TAMPA — Delegations of one kind or another have been traveling from Tampa to Cuba for years, even before President Barack Obama took steps to normalize relations between the two countries in December 2014.

    A Tampa delegation to Cuba this week was featured prominently in reports by the state-run media in Cuba, including Granma. From left are Tampa City Council vice chair Harry Cohen, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice, Tampa philanthropist David Straz and Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin.
  5. As the curtain rises on the Straz Center's biggest shows, the spotlight is on parking

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The Broadway Series, the most lucrative shows of the year for the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, start this week, and this year the center wants all the drama to take place on stage, not during the drive to the theater.

    With downtown Tampa getting busier at night and on weekends, city officials and administrators from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts have been working on ways to unsnarl traffic and help visitors find parking when there are lots of events at the same time. CHRIS ZUPPA   |   Times (2009)