If problems breed candidates, the number of people running for seats in this city's election must mean things are running smoothly.
At least, that's the theory about the relative quiet surrounding Oldsmar's election Tuesday.
Only two people, former Mayor Tom Pinta and newcomer Richard Schauseil, are competing for City Council Seat 3, now occupied by Jerry Beverland. Vice Mayor Rosemary Wiseman will automatically be re-elected to Seat 1 because no one opposed her before the closing date.
"If people are dissatisfied, they come out of the woodwork," said Mayor Jerry Provenzano.
Pinta said he decided to run after no one signed up to challenge Schauseil. Schauseil has said problems did not inspire him to run.
"I don't really have that many complaints about the city of Oldsmar," he said.
There is less to complain about in Oldsmar than there was a decade ago.
For the most part, cars no longer kick up dust or dirt on shell-lined roads, many of which were paved in recent years. The old city hall, where rain once dripped through a leaky ceiling, is now a computerized library. The new City Hall is an airy, gallery-like building where works of art are displayed. Two major remaining drainage projects have made it off the drawing board into near-future reality.
"We're not a backward city anymore," Pinta said.
Now Oldsmar is concentrating on its future: The arts. Activities for young people. Growth.
Pinta and Schauseil agree, with minor differences, on several issues. Both support controlled growth and annexation of more land. They agree with the direction the city has taken toward the arts and youth activities.
The Times asked readers to tell us what issues concern them. We have asked the candidates about some of those issues. Here's what they had to say:
Reader: Oldsmar's interest in the arts is all well and good, but should it be a priority issue?
For two years, the city has been involved in an aggressive campaign to bring cultural activities to Oldsmar. The Clearwater Symphony Orchestra came to town recently. The city filmed a 10-minute commercial celebrating art and history. The chamber of commerce sponsored a first-ever fine arts festival last year.
Art lovers hope those activities will lead to the construction of an arts and cultural center in downtown Oldsmar. There are no specifics about where that center will be or how much it will cost yet. The city is waiting to find out whether it will get a $25,000 grant toward a center from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Pinta and Schauseil said the arts should be a city priority.
Establishing art and cultural activities will be essential to Oldsmar, Schauseil said, especially if the city hopes to attract more businesses.
"Cultural base is definitely looked at," Schauseil said. "You've gotta have it here."
If the center is built, Pinta does not want it restricted to the arts. He supports the idea of a multipurpose building that clubs and organizations could use for their activities.
"I want everybody satisfied," he said.
Reader: We need to keep Tampa Electric Co. To go to a private utility . . . would be a disaster!
The City Council apparently thought the same thing when its members decided in October to negotiate a new contract with Tampa Electric Co. On the advice of the Electric Utility Review Board, the city abandoned pursuit of a study that would have determined the feasibility of the city forming its own utility.
As the chairman of the Electric Utility Review Board, Pinta said he stands by the board's decision.
"The hurdle was getting the city out of the (utility) business, which I didn't think they were ready for at all," Pinta said. "That would have been a tremendous thing for us to take over."
He said the new contract should allow for periodic reviews of TECO's performance.
Though Schauseil agreed that Oldsmar was probably not ready for municipal ownership, he thinks the city was too hasty in rejecting the study. The consultant might have discovered a way for the city to form a utility without bankrupting itself, he said.
"I think that was a mistake. They should have pursued the research," Schauseil said. "We would be in a better position to negotiate with TECO. Those franchise contracts last a very long time."
Reader: How can you justify the high salaries of the city manager, finance director and city engineer?
The salaries of those employees do not seem very different from those of their counterparts in similar-sized cities. Job descriptions do vary a bit from city to city. For example, Marguerite Burns oversees personnel as well as finance for Oldsmar, as her title indicates in the chart below. Salaries also may be affected by the length of time someone has worked for a city.
Pinta said it may be wise for Oldsmar to conduct a pay study. The study would be used to determine whether a cap should be placed on city employee salaries. A city of Oldsmar's size cannot afford to pay the same salaries that St. Petersburg or Clearwater can, he said.
"We're reaching peaks," Pinta said. "The question is, how high do we go?
"I want to make sure that the employees are treated right and I also want to make sure that the taxpayers are treated right."
Schauseil said he doesn't like the idea of across-the-board salary caps.
"I think that each case should be taken individually," he said.
The pay study Pinta is proposing should be as simple as calling other cities to compare the pay and job duties of certain employees, Schauseil added.
"If a study is needed, then you get on the phone and do your study," Schauseil said. "You can do it in an afternoon."
Here's a look at what they earn:
Reader: Do you have any plans or suggestions to help the mayor alleviate Oldsmar's teenage problem?
In December, Mayor Jerry Provenzano began a series of meetings for and about Oldsmar's young people.
People had expressed concern at City Council meetings about kids loitering in a Pick Kwik parking lot at night, vandalizing property and riding noisy motorcycles through residential areas.
The result was the Oldsmar Youth Council, made up of kids from elementary to high school age. The youth council is planning its first project, participating in the Oldsmar Days parade.
Schauseil said the youth council should have an adult volunteer liaison to bring the kids' concerns to the City Council. Intimidation could hinder the young people from addressing the City Council, he said.
"You would want an adult to bring this issue to the council in an adult format," Schauseil said.
Pinta suggested having a junior olympics, essay contests and other competitive events for young people. The events must be specifically tailored to different age groups, he said.
"You can't give something to a 9-year-old kid that you give a 3-year-old," Pinta said. "You've got to give each age group something that is acceptable to them."
Schauseil has said he wants Oldsmar to promote itself more as a waterfront community. Pinta said he's leery of that suggestion.
"I have a problem with it, yes," Pinta said. "I don't understand what he's talking about, exactly. Any time somebody mentions waterfront and doing something with it, it raises a few hairs."
Pinta said Oldsmar's attractive waterfront is no secret. R. E. Olds Park, which runs along the water, has been a backdrop for events ranging from turkey shoots to Oldsmar Days to Over 55 club meetings, Pinta said.
Schauseil said his ideas, such as fishing tournaments and seafood festivals, are innocent.
He said the city also should have an advisory board for natural resources to speed along environmental permitting.
"We're not going to fill the bay or build bridges or anything," he said.
Oldsmar (Population: 8,600)
City Manager Bruce Haddock . . . . . $64,452.96
Director of Finance/ . . . . . . . . $51,058.25
Administration Marguerite Burns
Public Works Director/ . . . . . . . $57,158.14
City Engineer Fred Schildhauer
Safety Harbor (Population: 15,100)
City Manager Pamela Brangaccio . . . . . $65,104
City Finance Director JoAnne Ryan. . . . $46,946
Capital Projects Director . . . . . . . .$49,150
Treasure Island (Population: 7,311)
City Manager Peter Lombardi . . . . . . .$66,560
Finance Director Darren LaFrance . . . . $35,720
Public Works Director Nell Odom . . . . .$44,520
St. Petersburg Beach (Population: 10,000)
City Manager Jeffrey Stone . . . . . . . $62,148
Finance Director Steve Gallaher . . . $48,936.11
Contracts Administrator . . . . . . . $41,467.65