At the end of an electoral ballot filled with countywide offices and a U.S. Senate primary is a special election for Port Richey mayor. Two former elected officials, Perry Bean and Eloise Taylor, are seeking to fill the vacancy left by Richard Rober's resignation. The Aug. 14 nonpartisan election is open to all 1,800 voters living in the city.
Bean, 46, a computer consultant, is heavily involved in charity work including Rotary International and the Good Samaritan Health Clinic. He served a two-year term on the City Council before losing a re-election bid in 2010. He is pushing residential redevelopment and says the city still needs to be more business-friendly.
Taylor, 70, an attorney, won a special election in 2000 and was re-elected to two full terms before an election loss in 2005. She has a record of championing good government at City Hall. She fought the demise of the Police Department; led the repeal of a bingo ordinance crafted to benefit a special interest; and eventually led the council in dismissing a city manager mired in unprofessional behavior.
Both Bean and Taylor are strong candidates, but with differing agendas and styles. Bean is an in-your-face advocate for a better business environment, growth and a renewed effort to dredge residential canals. Taylor fears a return of the lack of civility that dominated city politics in the past. She promises no grand policy shifts and is focusing on the nuts-and-bolts of improving the city's infrastructure, including stormwater management.
The candidates' biggest differences are fiscal. Bean's tenure on the council featured an ill-fated revocation of the city's utility franchise fee — a move that came absent discussions about how to make up the revenue in the city budget beyond instructions to the city manager to go find $264,000. (Bean still defends the move as a much-needed tax break for businesses and homeowners and he said he was sorry a later council reinstituted the fee — a 10 percent surcharge on electricity bills.) A month later, the city proposed to fill that budget hole with redevelopment money that should have paid for capital improvements, code enforcement, community policing or other strategies to boost property values. Still later, Bean supported an unsuccessful attempt to charge tourists for boarding private boats from private property along the waterfront.
The financial machinations were indicative of a council majority acting without long-range vision. It must be noted that Taylor's era of service ended before the voter-approved Amendment 1 tax exemption and property value free-fall that has financially crippled many city governments adverse to tax increases.
Regardless, Taylor's even-handed stewardship and her attempts to alter Port Richey's reputation as a bickering, unprofessional city government stained by a critical grand jury report are noteworthy. Voters should return her to office. The Times recommends Eloise Taylor for Port Richey mayor in the Aug. 14 election.