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Local races in Pasco look easy for incumbents, but work ahead will be hard

It's a tough job and apparently very few people want it. The candidate qualifying period for the April municipal elections ended at noon Tuesday with 15 people winning undisputed races in five cities. Only Port Richey will have a contested election.

"Things are always contested in our city,'' deadpanned incumbent City Council member Perry Bean, who is seeking re-election and is one of four candidates running for three seats. Joining him on the ballot are council member Steven M. O'Neill, former council member Nancy A. Britton, and Terrence H. Rowe, who sits on the Port Authority Committee.

Certainly all of them will be able to point to experience in a city where the dominant issue is expected to be the effort to dredge residential canals and finalize a way to pay for the multimillion-dollar expense beyond Community Redevelopment dollars and grant applications.

The disinterest from potential candidates in other cities is indicative of the performance of the incumbents and the fiscal constraints facing municipal governments.

It's not much fun campaigning for public office when the most pressing task at hand is trying not to lay off city employees. In most cases, new initiatives are simply unaffordable and will remain so because of dwindling revenues triggered by falling real estate values and additional property tax exemptions.

Toward that end, cities are trying to find creative ways to complete capital spending:

• Dade City wants to build a new city hall and police station to replace its outdated structures. The city agreed to hire an architect for design work, but it needs a sizable federal grant to complete what is expected to be a $4 million project.

• Large-scale private-sector investment in New Port Richey's downtown redevelopment remains stalled even as the city works to complete the second phase of its Railroad Square streetscape and pedestrian walkway project along Nebraska Avenue.

• Zephyrhills City Council, which agreed to refurbish its flood-damaged fire department station downtown rather than erect a new building, likely will face the same considerations when deciding on the future of its downtown library.

The most surprising uncontested re-election Tuesday was that of Dade City Commissioner Camille Hernandez, the subject of a recall effort less than three years ago after she attempted to discredit the former mayor and ex-city manager with baseless allegations of malfeasance.

However, the public's zeal to replace Hernandez lessened last year when the commission appointed the man she defeated four years ago, William L. Dennis, to fill an open seat. Dennis also won re-election to a four-year term Tuesday.

"I guess people decided having both of us on there wasn't such a bad thing,'' said Dennis. "I guess maybe people aren't dissatisfied with the way things are going.''

Or, as Bean noted, people run for office for the same reason — they want to better their community. The disagreement comes over how to achieve it.

But, those disagreements are minimal in the 2010 municipal election season.

Local races in Pasco look easy for incumbents, but work ahead will be hard 02/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 5:31pm]
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