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Oster won't run for re-election

Daryl Oster fought off the tackle of 405 petition signers one year ago, only to run himself out of bounds Friday.

The beleaguered Crystal River City Council member did not file for re-election Friday, the last day to qualify as a candidate for the Dec. 9 contest. Of the three council members elected in 1995 with pledges to bring fiscal accountability to the city, Oster is the only one not seeking re-election.

It's not the first time Oster has been the odd man out.

Last year at election time, he was the subject of a campaign to recall him from his council seat. Organizers gathered enough signatures to oust him _ in fact, there were more names on the recall petition in 1996 than there were in his ballot box in 1995.

But a technical flaw in the petition prevented the recall from proceeding. As it turned out, organizers had listed too many reasons for pulling Oster out of office _ thus violating the word limit for recall petitions.

Oster, 34, an engineer for Pro-Line Boats, was elected as a voice of conservative financial management. He argued for lower tax rates and a streamlined city budget _ two goals the council accomplished.

Yet in the end, Oster would have preferred to see even lower taxes and an even tighter budget. Often, he compromised to reach agreement.

"He had his difficulties, but he did get a lot of things accomplished," City Council member Ron Kitchen said. "He compromised."

In his two years on council, Oster was criticized more for his tactics than his ideas:

He encouraged reform in the Police Department by arming himself with a banana and pointing it at fellow council members. He called 911 to report non-emergencies as part of a neighborhood watch program, then announced it at a council meeting. He refused to talk to reporters unless every word he said was quoted in full.

Then he stopped talking to reporters altogether.

Friday night, his policy hadn't changed. He hung up the phone when a reporter identified herself.

But it was his vote against complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act that roused the anti-Oster movement.

He argued that the federal government had placed too many restrictions on local municipalities. The new law, Oster said, was reminiscent of Communist and Socialist policies.

City residents, led by disabled rights advocates from the Barrier-Free Committee, took on the council member. Their recall effort ultimately failed, but they vowed to vote him out of office this December.

Now, it seems, Oster isn't giving them the chance to try.

Because he does not respond to reporters' questions, it is unclear why he chose not to seek re-election. Kitchen, however, tried to put Oster's term in perspective.

"I'm sure he will be remembered for things not very flattering," Kitchen said, "but he was as much responsible for the improvements in the city as anyone else."