No one wants to be "that guy."
You know, the political candidate who through some quirk of circumstance faces token opposition on the ballot — and loses. Like when John Ashcroft lost his 2000 re-election bid to the U.S. Senate to Mel Carnahan, who died the month before Election Day.
In his re-election bid to the City Council, Steve Kornell doesn't quite face that possible ignominy. His opponent, Bill Protz, dropped out of the race in August. The city charter doesn't automatically award Kornell the seat. Instead, it asks voters to choose between Kornell and "New Election."
If voters choose New Election, Kornell would step down in January and the City Council would appoint a replacement before scheduling a special election that would decide the matter.
Kornell said he doesn't think that would happen, but he doesn't want to take any chances. So he said he's still running as if he has an opponent.
"I'll be at every debate," Kornell said. "I'll be knocking on doors. I still need to tell people I'm on the ballot and that they need to vote for me."
By the time Protz dropped out, Kornell had raised about $34,000. Much of that had already been allocated, Kornell said. So he still plans to spend most of it. His field coordinator, Mike Fox, will still earn $600 a week, managing the campaign.
"The people who gave me that money would be disappointed if I didn't run a full campaign," Kornell said. "If I wasn't on the ballot, it would be different. But since I am, I'm going to do everything I can to communicate with the voters."
Kornell even has a well-defined platform that, among other things, focuses on juvenile crime through job and youth programs; supports the tourism industry through initiatives such as the city's aid of the Salvador Dalí Museum; is seeking to create future music events modeled after Austin's South by Southwest festival; is pushing for a preschool element to the city's mentors program; and supports environmental initiatives, such as curbside recycling.
As for his opponent, New Election?
"With all due respect, I think I'm better."
Will red-light cameras make city streets safer?
Kornell: Maybe. They could, but I voted against them. The bigger question with red-light cameras is whether this is the biggest thing to address in regards to public safety. In a year in which we lost three officers, is this the No. 1 safety issue? I don't think it is. I think cameras take out the human element. I think they're a bad idea.
The city faces yet another deficit in the 2013 budget. The city's property tax rate hasn't increased since 2007 (giving residents a total tax decrease of nearly $100 million as property value has declined). Is it time to increase the rate, or, absent that, ponder a new revenue source?
Kornell: I think it's okay to talk about everything. I don't believe we've had a good enough look at consolidation. Maybe consolidating our library system with Pinellas County's is something we should look at. I hate to make cuts, but if we're going to do it anyway, and we can save money by consolidating, we should do that before we do anything on new revenue. Raising the rate is a real possibility, but we have to see what the numbers are. I'm not going to look at cutting our salaries and benefits of those working for us. That's irresponsible.
Is Mayor Bill Foster doing a good or bad job? Please explain.
Kornell: On some things he's been good, on some I'd like to see improvement. He's done a great job with Pinellas Safe Harbor (the homeless shelter). I've seen people there empowered and treated humanely. One of the criticisms I've heard is that people come in to the shelter drunk or high. But if someone is addicted, then it's not right to exclude them. What this shelter does is empower them, but doesn't enable them. But one thing I'd like to see (Foster) do differently is address the violent crime in the city. Allowing the guns to proliferate is not responsible. Reasonable regulation that reduces the number of guns on the street is something we should be looking at. This is an issue that our city needs to really talk about.
What will you do to address the stalemate between the Tampa Bay Rays and the city on the team's lease agreement binding it to Tropicana Field through the 2027 season?
Kornell: I'd get people together, get them focused. We should get a plan together that looks at financing, location, all of that. I'm not convinced we don't have a place in St. Petersburg for the Rays. Attendance is a concern, but attendance has been low in other sports in the market. The Bucs aren't drawing like they used to. It'll straighten itself out when the economy straightens out.
Are tax breaks good incentives for companies, or does that just erode the tax base? Please explain what the city could do to spur economic development.
Kornell: Tax breaks can be part of a package, but they aren't the entire package. The marine science hub in St. Pete didn't happen because of tax breaks; it got started because we had a great institution of learning there. But if government around you offers the incentives and you don't, then you're at a disadvantage. But if it's only tax breaks that companies want, then why don't companies in Silicon Valley relocate to Florida?