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Candidates respond

EDITOR'S NOTE: On March 1, the St. Petersburg Times printed its editorial recommendations of candidates in the March 10 Safety Harbor city election. For Seat 1, we recommended Joe Ayoub, who is opposed by Robin Fornino and Karen Skiff; for Seat 2, Mary Lynda Williams, opposed by Barbara Ewert; and for Seat 3, Nancy Besore, opposed by Glen Caristinos. Candidates who were not recommended submitted the following responses.

Robin Fornino

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify some of my positions for the voters. Should citizens elect me, I will work hard to foster consensus among commissioners, residents and business people. I believe the best solutions come about when we put our differences aside and truly work together to solve problems.

Although Safety Harbor is a beautiful place to live and work, we face critical decisions. We must aggressively address a very significant budget shortfall estimated to be at least $1 million. We must ensure that city procedures avoid wasteful or inappropriate expenditures. We must better manage core services and bills to our residents. Recent and scheduled 2009/2010 utility increases have already burdened many residents.

We must protect what citizens time and again have said matters: our natural beauty, heritage and green space. That means supporting, and enforcing when ignored, our Grand Tree ordinance and providing incentives for businesses and homeowners alike to protect and plant more trees and drought-tolerant greenery.

The City Commission should extend a welcoming hand to developers who respect and work creatively to satisfy residents' concerns. Developers should comply with both the letter and spirit of our zoning requirements. Commissions should avoid even the appearance of unethical favoritism.

I believe we need to change course to achieve our vision for Safety Harbor. I commit to bring a new and creative approach to old problems and arguments. I promise to be steadfast in protecting our citizens' rights and voices, while supporting small businesses struggling in this economy. I will put aside my opinions and listen to all sides to help foster needed cooperation and consensus.

I thank the residents for considering me, and also thank city employees and staff, who have always been helpful, courteous and upbeat in what is surely often a difficult job.

Karen Skiff

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your article. You have taken me out of context, and your editorial is a grand distortion of fact.

Though I've resided in several different cities in Central Florida, I'd hardly call it "wandering the state." I averaged two to three years in each location. In our interview I explained that the homelessness was due to Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne back in 2004. It was then that I wandered from campground to campground and worked day labor until re-establishing residency in 2006. I had been an artist and fireside scholar prior to this.

I fully explained the two arrests. My godfather, Claude Rigsby, taught me to walk away from fights. I couldn't avoid this one. I had to defend myself. The incident with my dog happened out of desperation, toward the end of the homelessness. Charges in both cases were found benign.

Due to the benevolent people of this community, I've been able to re-establish my residency. This is also the village that raised me. I've been a volunteer ever since, not only because of the way I was raised, but also because I can't ask to keep what I've gained if I don't give in return.

I am campaigning for a role that few people want, and this is why. You've spent so much time on my past hardships, you've left no room for me to address the voter's issues. Anticipating this, I've established the Web site for the voters' sake. Again, thank you for this opportunity.

Barbara Ewert

Thank you for this opportunity to discuss my candidacy for Safety Harbor City Commission Seat 2.

First, I pledge to evaluate all projects and issues with an open mind and fresh initiative. I will make the best and unbiased decisions for the city, based on responsible development rules. Over the past 30 years, Safety Harbor has seen apartments, townhouses, gated communities and more. Now we must redevelop and become familiar with 21st century realities.

Vision, energy, creativity and commitment are some of the important attributes I bring to the commission. As a previous Safety Harbor business owner (Galleria 509), I have experienced firsthand challenges similar to the ones that a business faces in this economic climate. Through my involvement as a business owner, I have seen my participation to Safety Harbor contribute to the success of the city's special events. I am a passionate volunteer for our community and will continue to implement fresh initiatives and ideas to facilitate an even more dynamic and growing community.

Second, I deal with budgetary responsibilities on a daily basis and will be ever mindful of challenges facing Safety Harbor.

Finally, I pledge to be your commissioner and serve by the city's motto, "The resident is our priority." I am asking to be elected as a city leader on Tuesday, March 10. Please vote Barbara Ewert for Safety Harbor City Commissioner Seat 2.

Please visit my Web site,, to learn more. Your candidate. Your voice. Your choice.

Candidates respond 03/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 4:53pm]
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