Port Richey politics are never easy to figure. There is such satisfaction with the status quo that Mayor Richard Rober was re-elected without opposition, an indication that, for once, strife is not the overwhelming sentiment. Yet, at the same time, 10 percent of the city's registered voters are so disgruntled, they signed a petition asking for a referendum to dissolve the municipal government.
The referendum will be scheduled for a later date, leaving the April 14 municipal ballot to decide one City Council seat. Incumbent Mark Hashim, the vice mayor, declined to seek re-election.
Running for his post are Bill Colombo, director of physical plant services for a Palm Harbor retirement center, and Amy Scott, a financial planner who also owns a small boat-building business with her husband. Both candidates are longtime Florida and west Pasco residents who moved into the city in the past five years.
Colombo touts an ability to bring greater professionalism to city government by exploiting the management and problem-solving skills he developed in the private sector. He advocates maintaining the city's level of services, believing it is a good value for taxpayers, and says he opposes the idea of dissolving the city government. He would provide a calm demeanor in a city known for his rancor. We don't doubt his sincerity, but the absence of civic involvement on his resume is disappointing.
Scott became involved as a community fundraiser for Save Our Sandbar and later helped plan special events for Gulfside Regional Hospice, the PACE Center for Girls and the SPCA, among others. She also sits on the city's review committee for its comprehensive land use plan and has been involved politically, serving as campaign treasurer for current council members Perry Bean and Phil Abts.
She holds a contrasting view from Colombo on the city government, believing taxpayers are financing an unnecessary duplication of services. To those who champion the quick response time for the city Police Department, she suggests an alternative — a special taxing district strictly for public safety. If voters reject the referendum this year, Scott said she will abide by the wishes of the electorate, but will provide a watchdog role on city spending and governing.
There is much to watch. The city has put substantial time and resources into a residential canal dredging project, for which environmental permits and a realistic financing plan have never materialized. It has talked of developing its waterfront with no progress. It chased away a city manager who raised the bar on employee accountability and who tried to make sense of Port Richey's hodgepodge finances and utility services. And, like other local governments, it is confronting a budget constrained by falling property values, additional property tax exemptions and reduced revenue from recession-driven drops in sales and gasoline tax receipts.
We don't doubt that either Colombo or Scott can serve adequately. Colombo, however, has been an observer, following politics from the outside. Scott rolls up her sleeves and gets involved. We prefer that engagement. The Times recommends Amy K. Scott for Port Richey City Council.