Pasco County voters are confronted with an imperfect choice of candidates in the race for County Commission in District 4. Former Port Richey Mayor Michael Cox, a Democrat, is challenging the incumbent Republican Ed Collins. We believe Cox is the superior candidate.
Experience as an elected member of Port Richey's municipal government is hardly a strong recommendation to higher office. The city was badly mismanaged and encumbered by petty politics when Cox served there. He was but one member of that government, however, and cannot bear responsibility for all its problems. What we find encouraging about him is that his performance in elective office steadily improved. By the end of his tenure he had begun to display some leadership qualities and communication skills. An additional point in Cox's favor is his success in growing and managing a successful small business in Pasco County.
Collins was elected in 1990 on a platform that exploited widespread voter discontent with incumbents of all stripes. He succeeded by attacking the incumbent, Commissioner Sonny Safranek, and County Administrator John Gallagher, despite their praiseworthy work to improve Pasco County _ major infrastructure improvements, it should be added, that cost a lot of money. While that made Pasco a much better place to live, the higher tax bill was easily exploited by Collins and others.
Four years later, Collins must run on his own unimpressive record. In his own words he describes his most significant accomplishments as "budget, taxes, setting a tone that required staff to look at how we were spending money, kind of separating our wants and our needs." In the next breath, he acknowledges that all of this would have occurred without him. Collins also cites his leadership role in passing a county bingo ordinance. For this he deserves real credit. Beyond that his record of accomplishment is virtually nil.
From the beginning Collins associated himself with an identifiable wing of the local Republican Party.
This group continued to attack the county's administration after his election. Their chief objective was to gain political control of county government. In 1992 they lost at the polls. Since then, Collins has tempered his image. The new Ed Collins is more cooperative but the entire record of his four-year term does not merit re-election.
As Pasco County grows its commissioners will face numerous and increasingly complicated problems. Revenue shortages threaten the operations of parks and libraries. The need for road and other infrastructure improvements will continue unabated. In this environment voters must elect commissioners who will work cooperatively in the public interest. Petty political partisanship will be bad business.
District 4 covers part of West Pasco, generally east of U.S. 19, north of State Road 54, south of State Road 52 and west of Moon Lake Road. Commissioners must live in the district they represent, but they are elected to four-year terms from throughout the county. The salary is $47,141 a year.
Opportunity to reply
Candidates not recommended by the Times are invited to respond by 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Deliver to David Hackett, Editor of Editorials, Pasco Times, 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey, FL 34668. The fax number is 869-6233 or (909) 521-0290 in Dade City.