Safety Harbor City Commission | Seat 1

Mayor Andy Steingold left the City Commission this year for an unsuccessful run for judge. His mayoral spot will be assumed by the vice mayor, but his commission seat will be filled in this citywide, nonpartisan special election. Three candidates, all newcomers to Safety Harbor politics, vie to complete his term. Stephanie Wang, Times staff writer

Richard Blake, 34

Real estate consultant

Ray R. Irvin, 66

Small-business owner, consultant

Robert Saltzman, 65

Retired Pinellas County employee

Nonpartisan
Experience Blake has served on the Safety Harbor Planning and Zoning Board for more than two years. He also is on the city's Waterfront Park Steering Committee. Born and reared in Clearwater, Blake has lived for 20 years in Safety Harbor. He works as a real estate consultant, with experience in marketing, website management and sales management. A longtime government employee in Indiana, Irvin moved to Safety Harbor two years ago and runs his own handyman business. He sits on the city's Finance Advisory Committee, recently promoted to a regular member from his alternate status. In Indiana, Irvin developed systems of bikeways, trails and greenways throughout the state. A former member of the Air Force, he was also elected in 1988 to the City-County Council in Indianapolis. Saltzman worked as an office specialist in Pinellas County Utilities for seven years before retiring in 2008. Earlier in his career, the New York native moved to Illinois and gained decades of experience in customer service at several tool companies.
EducationBachelor of science in business management, Samford University, Homewood, Ala.Attended 14 schools, colleges and universities worldwide, accumulating 240 credit hoursGeorge Westinghouse High School, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Given the decline in property values, would you consider raising property taxes or cutting from the budget? If you support budget cuts, what specifically would you cut?I do not support raising taxes. Nor do I support unnecessary budget cuts. My goals include implementing plans that will create additional revenue streams for the city so that we don't have to raise taxes or reduce our labor force. Soliciting businesses to sponsor our city events can bring in more revenue as well as attract new investors to our city. That is just one of many streams to implement.Raising property taxes is not an option until every possible solution has been exhausted. But there is not much left to cut in most areas of the budget. Quality of life and city services must be maintained, and I believe there are grant opportunities if we know where to look and write high quality requests. However, we must beware of the pitfalls of matching funds, timelines and other constraints. Finding solutions by looking around the country at the way other communities are dealing with similar issues would be one way to solve our financial shortfalls.Being the eternal optimist I expect the economy to recover. Home values are already on the upswing. But I don't see them escalating to the inflated values of the last decade. Fortunately our reserves are strong. Our quality of life should not be sacrificed nor should we be asked to tighten our belts to a breaking point. We will need to strike a balance of reserves and revenue collection to preserve the services essential to our well being. The city staff has done an excellent job of finding ways to reduce spending without surrendering our services.
What specific ideas do you have for spurring economic development?Two things can be done immediately to spur economic development. One is to implement a plan that exposes and promotes the grants and reduced development fees that are already being offered but are not well known. The second is up to our current businesses to understand that the way to success is to understand the value in reciprocity and supporting each other. Too many times have I heard that our business owners are scared when a new city event is introduced; or that a similar business that opens down the street will decrease their own revenue. This simply is not true. They need to capitalize on the additional exposure that is being created for their own businesses.We are a small town centrally located on the water; that's also our greatest asset for attracting people. We need to make Safety Harbor the kind of place people would come to and retire in. We have a good quality of life, community amenities, arts, culture, civic organizations, recreation, low cost of living. … We need to retain our small-town, friendly, livable lifestyle.As a mostly bedroom community we certainly don't want to see factories sprouting up along the McMullen-Booth corridor. Having a Safety Harbor address is prestigious. We need to declare Safety Harbor open for business but tread carefully. Our strongest attraction is our waterfront. Making Safety Harbor a family-friendly destination without infringing on our quaint small-town atmosphere will not be easy. As we advertise our attributes we should also emphasize that good things come in small packages.
How much of a priority are the city's stormwater issues?After this year's abnormal and heavy rains, the stormwater issues have become front and center. The current commission did what needed to be done by raising the stormwater fees in order to balance the budget, and it will also be making some additional repairs to the infrastructure of the creeks that will result in long-term improvements.Stormwater management and community infrastructures in general are a critical part for attracting new business, supporting existing business, maintaining home and property values, while supporting a high level of community livability and the quality of life that Safety Harbor residents and businesses have come to expect from our city government.We need to be proactive and listen to the experts. Flooded streets are an inconvenience; flooded homes are unacceptable. We need to be ready for any and all scenarios. A head-in-the-sand attitude would be dangerous. We need to constantly be diligent, upgrading and staying ahead of the curve. The new increase in stormwater fee is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
What are your priorities for developing the Waterfront Park?I think there is some misconception as to where we are in the decision-making process with land the city has acquired. Nearly 90 percent of the property consists of wetlands, open green space or will be used for recreation. Less than 8 percent of the property is available for any kind of commercial development. That said, personally I would like to see a beautiful park and recreational area that promotes exercise and outdoor activities on the majority of the property, and I would like to see the city position the small commercial area as an opportunity to create a revenue source for the city.I have developed many successful examples of waterfront parks in my career. My advice is, do not rush into developing. Why not start the planning based on what we want the community to look like in 25 to 100 years? Planning a comprehensive community vision will be far more valuable and define our needs. Park space for passive use is the best. At the bay's edge, the park is in an environmentally fragile location subject to storm surges. A waterfront restaurant would only take from the bottom lines of Main Street businesses. There's also no boating access. Turning over the taxpayers' waterfront property to private developers would be unacceptable.Our new Waterfront Park should be just that — a park. We should consider building another gazebo and picnic shelters. It would be nice to have paths for walkers and bikers along with benches and water fountains. No large commercial restaurants, Ferris wheels or multistory parking garages. We have an annual Christmas craft fair that I would like to see moved down to the marina. End it with a boat parade similar to the Treasure Island and Clearwater events. This would make Safety Harbor a destination, instead of our Main Street businesses playing second to the fair vendors that block them out during the event.
AssetsSafety Harbor homeBank account and sailboatSafety Harbor home and retirement account
LiabilitiesMortgageBoat mortgage, contract to buy an estate from a trustMortgage, home equity loan, auto loan and credit card debt
IncomePalm Harbor-based real estate business, RichardBlakeHomes.com, and marketing businessProperty maintenance business Ray Fixed It; retirement from the state of Indiana; Social Security; and VA disability from the Air Force. Social Security and retirement from the state of Florida.
PersonalMarried to Katie Blake, expecting a baby in DecemberMarried to Marny Reed; three children: Bradley Irvin, Hilary Irvin and Mercedes ReedDivorced; lived with mate for 23 years; 33-year-old son, Jesse, a gunnery sergeant in the Marines
WebsiteVoterichardblake.comNone listedthinkbobby.com
Emailrichardblake@blakerealestate.comrayrirvin@aol.comsalty91747@yahoo.com

About the job: Commissioners serve three-year terms. However, this special election will fill an unexpired term that ends March 2015. The City Commission usually meets twice a month. Commissioners are paid $8,147.40 a year.

Safety Harbor City Commission Seat 1: Richard Blake, Ray R. Irvin, Robert Saltzman, nonpartisan

Mayor Andy Steingold left the City Commission this year for an unsuccessful run for judge. His mayoral spot will be assumed by the vice mayor, but his commission seat will be filled in this citywide, nonpartisan special election. Three candidates, all newcomers to Safety Harbor politics, vie to complete his term.

Safety Harbor City Commission Seat 1: Richard Blake, Ray R. Irvin, Robert Saltzman, nonpartisan 10/17/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 3:25pm]

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