In a joint project with the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County, the St. Petersburg Times is publishing questions and answers selected from questionnaires the League sent to all candidates for local office. The Times has edited some responses for length.County Commission District 1
Three Democrats are seeking the seat on Sept. 4. Incumbent Haven Poe has held the seat since 1986 and is being challenged by citizen Jessie Russell and Ed Turanchik, former head of the Sierra Club. The annual salary is $48,624. This will be a two-year term because of reapportionment.
Q What experience and qualifications make you the candidate best suited for this office?
A Poe, Haven: My education, work experience, resident 45 years, elected Tampa City Council 1979-86, Board of County Commission 1986-present, provide me broad understanding of total community. I have a working knowledge of county government from infrastructure needs, environmental concerns, to human service needs. I can make decisions with reasonableness and consideration of the broad issues.
Russell, Jessie N.: I've resided in Hillsborough County for the past 30 years, listen to people and what is said. I believe in individual rights in accordance with the laws of government.
Turanchik, Ed: I have a law degree and master's degree in biology. I have worked extensively on behalf of citizen and environmental groups to manage our growth better and protect our environment. My experience as a management labor lawyer and regional approach to issues will enable me to do a better job streamlining government operations and reducing duplication of effort.
Q How would you fund necessary services and infrastructure needs?
a. Increases in the current amount of user fees.
b. Increase ad valorum taxation.
d. Increase impact fees.
e. Eliminate services.
f. If yes, please specify.
A Poe: a. yes; b. no; c. yes; d. not all of them; e. reduce staffing. All of these sources of revenue are being used by the county. Depending on the need determines where revenue might be increased. The board has worked hard to keep millage rate stable. Impact fees are not sufficient to deal with problems and the higher they become they begin to have a negative effect. All departments should establish level of service and then budget by priority. Need internal audits to determine efficiencies.
Russell: a. no; b. no; c. no; d. yes; e. no. Increase impact fees on new development in accordance with increased prices on sewage, water and other services. Place the penny gas tax on the ballot again, stating roads to be improved, dates to start and finish. Length of penny gas tax or number of years. Flooding in District 6: I'd form a committee to find the cause and what needs to be done to ease flooding. I would like to help the disabled in any capacity so needed.
Turanchik: a. yes; b. no; c. yes; d. yes. We need to engage in zero-based budgeting and attempt to coordinate and, where feasible, consolidate duplicate services within Hillsborough County government, as well as between governments. Examples would be coordination or consolidation of recycling programs and housing programs.
Q Do you support an elected or appointed county administrator? Does the current mixture of at-large districts and single member districts adequately represent voters? What other changes, if any, would you recommend be made to the County Charter?
A Poe: The county has had five administrators and two interims since late '70s. This question has been raised for several years. I think the issue should be placed on referendum. From my experience I support the idea of an elected administrator. I think single-member districts give the public a closer identity to the county. The Charter Review Board is looking at several ideas such as elected chairman, elected administrator to changing administrative cone. Some change needed.
Russell: No, I do not support an elected or appointed county administrator as of this date. Yes and No. My opinion in regards to the County Charter depends on the new census currently taken.
Turanchik: I oppose an elected administrator. Other political subdivisions have made the appointed administrator system work well. I support the mixed system of at-large and district representatives. I would favor restricting delegation of taxing authority to non-elected boards or commissions.
Q What recommendations would you propose for care of the indigent in Hillsborough County? Please explain.
A Poe: The county must assume a leadership position in planning and developing the financing plan for the medically poor. The effort should be through neighborhood clinics to reverse care from emergency room to those clinics where preventive and primary care can be easily accessible. This year the board established a Health Care Advisory Board to look at broad aspects of health care and recommend to the commission program and funding sources.
Russell: Tampa General Hospital has decided to remain public from what I've read, so the indigent will be cared for there in the same way as the past.
Turanchik: Providing indigent health care is one of government's primary responsibilities, or at least it should be. USF and Tampa General simply have to plan and work together, to minimize duplication of effort and reduce overhead. The Legislature also must give Hillsborough County the ability to place an indigent health care tax on the ballot. But before we proceed with such a ballot measure, we have to restore the public's confidence in Tampa General and county government.