Thursday, June 21, 2018
Politics

Experience versus change is theme at St. Pete Beach forum

ST. PETE BEACH — The questions were both direct and far-ranging as candidates vying for posts on the City Commission stood before a full audience Tuesday to answer voter questions.

On the dais were mayoral candidates Maria Lowe and Steve McFarlin, District 1 candidates Lorraine Huhn and Terri Finnerty, and District 3 candidates James Anderson and Gregory Premer.

McFarlin and Huhn, who are running for re-election, strongly defended their records, as the challengers attempted to score points and make an impression on an electorate that will go to the polls March 11.

The candidates answered questions submitted by the audience to League of Women Voters sponsors before the forum began.

Hot topics were the city's aging infrastructure — particularly roads, sewers and stormwater systems — redevelopment rules, fiscal restraint, dog-friendly beaches and qualifications for office.

Finnerty said her role as "first lady" of St. Pete Beach when her husband served as mayor and previously as a commissioner has prepared her for holding office herself. She cited her leadership skills honed as a college-level educator and an organizational development and training consultant.

"I hope to bring about collaboration and cooperation and not the dissent that the city has experienced in the past," she said.

Huhn, the District 1 incumbent, said she hopes to be re-elected so she can continue working hard to improve public safety, encourage redevelopment, and protect both residential and business investments.

"This is a very important election," Huhn said. "The commission is taking action after years and years of talking about things."

Anderson, a retired firefighter, repeatedly charged that the city has failed to properly maintain its aging sewer system and called for studies on hurricane evacuation, traffic management and sewer capacity before major redevelopment is allowed.

"I want to make sure the city moves forward in a fiscally sound way," he said.

Premer emphasized his six years on the city's recreation board, 12 years as either vice president or president of the Belle Vista Civic Association, "countless hours" volunteering at local schools, and participation in community events as important to his ability to serve as a "positive influence" on the commission.

Premer criticized Anderson for costing the city more than $600,000 in legal fees for his actions against the commission and the city's comprehensive plan and said Anderson could be forced to recuse himself from crucial commission votes — thereby depriving District 3 voters of a voice in commission decisions.

Anderson replied by pledging that if elected he would "remove my name from the lawsuit" to eliminate any conflict of interest.

"The District 3 race is about positive versus negative," said Premer. "My approach is all about compromise and negotiation while my opponent is all about confrontation and litigation."

The comprehensive plan was cited in several questions from the audience.

Premer, Huhn and McFarlin said that if the plan is not upheld in court they would move to reinstate or only tweak the current plan, which was largely drawn up by a pro-hotel group and approved by voters in 2008.

"We need to increase the tax base," McFarlin said. "We have had no redevelopment to speak of in the last 10 years."

McFarlin, a retired business owner, said he is proud to be supported by the city's hotel industry and of the results of his first term as mayor.

He cited as accomplishments contracting with the Sheriff's Office for law enforcement, repealing red-light cameras, lowering taxes, increasing revenue and beginning serious study of redevelopment of the Corey Avenue area.

"I promised when I was elected to use my business background and my 50 years of knowledge of the city to make the city work. I feel I have lived up to that promise," McFarlin said.

Despite her short tenure in the city (she has lived in St. Pete Beach for less than two years), Lowe said her "lifetime of education and service in the military" equips her to lead the city.

"We must find a win-win solution. We must," Lowe said, referring to the political divides over redevelopment issues.

Lowe drew laughter when she said that eliminating "poop, potholes and polarization" were her main priorities.

"I have served globally and now I want to serve locally," Lowe said, adding that she hopes to heal the city's political rifts.

Comments
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18