The Times offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply to the newspaper's recommendations. Here are some of the responses:
Ramon J. Gutierrez, candidate
County Commission, District 1
When I was interviewed by you I commented that Hernando County needs an adult vocational school. When I lived in New Jersey in 1978 they had a vocational school. Your response was county commissioners have nothing to do with vocational schools; this is a School Board matter.
The $1.8-million earmarked for HELP was a carryover from the last three years. Funds for rehabilitating homes have been around since the SHIP program's inception in the 1990s, according to Leslie Warren, a senior analyst in special programs at the state level. Why did it take the incumbent until July 2008 to bring this program to existence?
Why did we sell the old Brooksville Hospital, a more than 100,000-square-foot building on about 9 acres for $1.1-million when we were in need of a government center and a judicial building? Why did we give away the Hernando County Fairgrounds, and then permit the Fair Association to move forward in a cooperative effort with the county to finance and build needed improvements on property that is not owned by the county? Why purchase 16 homes on Elgin Boulevard and leave them empty? These actions bring a new meaning to the understanding of the appropriate role of government.
John Druzbick, candidate
County Commission, District 3
I want to thank the Times for its recommendation in the August primary. As stated then, Druzbick established a reputation as a good listener, a taskmaster and consensus builder.
The most important recommendation comes from you, the voter. Seventy percent of the residents of Florida passed Amendment 1. That amendment is the reason your property taxes went down. The county commissioners were then and only then forced to rein in their reckless spending.
Ms. Rowden stated she was against Amendment 1 and voted against a 0.5 mill reduction in our taxes in 2006 saying it was irresponsible. Do you really think she would have reduced our budget the $37-million that Amendment 1 did? It was stated that I have tunnel vision; if so, it is to see that your tax dollars are used correctly.
Unemployment is over 9 percent, 58 percent of people in Hernando qualify for food stamps and businesses are closing. I urge you to check the balance in your checking account, look at your tax bill and then ask yourself if you can afford another four years of the incumbent or do you want a change.
I give you 30 years of successful business, 17 years of community service, 12 years as a successful School Board member and proven programs to reduce government cost. Please compare my resume to my opponent's. Vote for change. Vote for John Druzbick!
James E. Adkins, candidate
County Commission, District 5
You applaud my opponent's advocacy of THE Bus. I am not opposed to having public transportation in Hernando County. I am opposed, however, to spending thousands/millions of taxpayers' dollars on often-empty and never-full vehicles. I believe we can find a way to have some form of public transportation that would be a great deal less abusive to the taxpayers that are footing the bill than the present one endorsed by Chris Kingsley.
As to his recently completed education, he either wasn't smart enough or honest enough to realize he didn't qualify to be a recipient of county financial education aid. When it was reported to him that he wasn't eligible to be in that program, he quickly coughed up the $3,600 to repay the funds, which proves he could have paid his own way after all.
I take issue with your statement that I believe all our problems can be solved by less taxation. I certainly do believe that we are overtaxed. I also believe that we could use a large dose of common sense, more transparency, and I realize businesses, both large and small, need to be treated like the important component of our local economy that they are.
As to your surprise at my winning the primary, I attribute it to recognition by the voters that my experience, leadership ability and integrity count, and they too want less government, less taxes and more accountability.
Joe Johnston, candidate
Brooksville City Council, Group 3
Your recommendation of the incumbent, despite the disparity in qualifications and experience of the candidates, was based solely on "we prefer Burnett."
For over 30 years I have served on state, county and city boards, including drafting the original comprehensive plans for the city and county, Library Advisory Committee, City Board of Adjustment and Appeal (chairman), Tourist Development Council (chairman), Hernando County Metropolitan Planning Organization (and representative to the state MPOAC), Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council (currently vice chairman) and City Council (four-time mayor).
While on the council, I negotiated the existing utilities service agreement with the county, a mutual cooperation agreement. I also negotiated an agreement to merge the city and county fire departments which maintained the integrity of the city department, the job status of city employees and provided an annual savings to the city of approximately $1.8-million a year, although it was not approved by the then-council.
The first two community development block grants approved by the city in many years were for infrastructure improvements in south Brooksville. After years of delay, the School Street sewer plant was closed and the new plant on Cobb Road was opened.
The sole objection to my candidacy was related to the Southern Hills development. Anyone wishing clarification of the development order and the resulting benefits to the city should contact me directly at 796-5123.
I urge voters to consider my proven record of experience and service to the community, and ask them to vote for Joe Johnston for City Council on Nov. 4.