The lone race for Brooksville City Council pits a steady, six-year council member against a first-time candidate advocating visible changes to downtown: More community events and fewer red-light cameras.
Betty Erhard, 48, sales representative for a publishing company, is making her first bid for elected office after previously serving on the city's charter review committee. She brings a high-energy level to the race, but focuses too much of her platform on bringing festival-like events to downtown. It's an admirable goal, but one that is better handled by the private sector rather than a cash-strapped municipal government. The council's recent decision to waive fees for event promoters is the likely limit to government participation.
Erhard opposes the city's use of red-light cameras and its newly adopted two-tiered fees to finance the fire department. She said Brooksville should explore merging its fire department with Hernando County's if it can't pay for the service with the current property tax revenue.
Those positions are understandable and her opposition to the red-light cameras is mirrored by incumbent Frankie Burnett, 57, who voted against their use. Burnett, however, said he supported the fire fees after conferring with residents and community members and finding limited public opposition. Besides, he said, the fees always can be set at zero in future budgets if the city's property tax base rebounds from its several year decline.
A contract manager at Mid Florida Community Services, Burnett is familiar with needs of the disadvantaged in the community and with the financial challenges facing the city. He was part of a prior council that cut costs by merging some services with the county.
Burnett was first elected in 2004, lost re-election by 34 votes in 2008, but rejoined the council 14 months later when it appointed him to a vacancy. Even during his time away from elected office, Burnett continued trying to improve the city by joining a county-assembled task force working on the long-neglected South Brooksville neighborhood.
That type of community involvement, combined with Burnett's broader perspective on redeveloping South Brooksville, improving the city's infrastructure and balancing budgets gives him the edge in this non-partisan race.
For Brooksville City Council, Seat 2, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Frankie Burnett.
Opportunity to reply
The Times offers candidates not recommend by its editorial board an opportunity to respond. Replies should be sent by 5 p.m. Monday to C.T. Bowen, Pasco/Hernando editor of editorials, Tampa Bay Times, 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey, FL 34668. By fax to 727-869-6233 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Replies are limited to 150 words.