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Tarpon Springs hopefuls respond

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Times allows candidates not recommended by its editorial board to write a response for publication. The following responses were received from Tarpon Springs mayoral candidate Costa Vatikiotis and City Commission candidates Spanos Harding and Joseph Pisani after the newspaper's recommendation of their opponents March 11. The election is Tuesday.

Costa Vatikiotis

In 1994, when I was named city manager, the Times proclaimed the death of professional city government in Tarpon Springs, and now it claims I'm "ill-suited" as mayor. I believe most people would say the Times was wrong in 1994, and hopefully on March 20th, the majority of voters will disagree with the Times again.

The "Our City Our Mayor" theme on my signs represents my strong belief that a mayor is elected by the people of the city to do what they think. I also believe the city should move forward as a whole consistent with its character and history. These fundamental qualities of good city government are now absent in Tarpon Springs.

As mayor, I will look to our city and its people for answers as I did as city manager, and not look first to other cities and consultants. In matters of progress, I will encourage using people from all areas of the city in committees to develop solutions and look to the city's history for guidance.

Specifically, I believe this approach assures the people that they have a say in how the city progresses and reduces the risks that the city's character and hometown feel will change. Past highly successful projects, such as the public library, the Union Academy Neighborhood Solutions Plan and the historic improvements to the main street area, were done in this manner. I will discourage using consultants who tend to import ideas from other cities and resort towns, try to force the city into the fast lane of development, and leap-frog the city into the future with unrealistic 20-year plans.

The current unguarded attitude toward development has invited recent, highly questionable proposals, such as a resurgence of gambling boats in the heart of the Sponge Docks, communication towers in residential neighborhoods and illegal activities, such as Tarpon Springs' "voyeur dorm" that has been allowed to operate for six months with the city government's knowledge while Pinellas Park and Tampa shut theirs down within days of being discovered.

Simply stated, Tarpon Springs needs a mayor who strongly believes in a city government of the people and for the people.

+ Spanos Harding

I want to thank the St. Petersburg Times for the opportunity to present my objectives as a candidate for Seat 3 on the Tarpon Springs City Commission.

I bring to the commission both youth and fresh ideas. My opponent had served honorably as a past commissioner, but in the last three years, Tarpon Springs has moved forward with new programs, a stable budget and a better awareness of the needs of our citizens.

I will work hard to continue this rebirth of our city, especially listening to the needs and concerns of our citizens.

I will run as a member of the team supporting my fellow commissioners through determination, compromise and what I feel is in the best interests of our citizens.

In order to make those determinations, I will encourage and seek citizen input on all issues, especially those relating to the health, safety and welfare of our community.

I pledge to work hard to hold down spending and will ensure our city manager and directors maintain strong fiscal responsibility.

Tarpon Springs is entering a new era of progress and prosperity and I bring to the City Commission a strong commitment to ensure this prosperity and growth is not at the expense of our business community, our citizens and especially, the future leaders of Tarpon Springs.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to present my position as a candidate for the Tarpon Springs City Commission.

+ Joseph Pisani

I thank the St. Pete Times for the recent editorial concerning the race for Seat 4, as well as for printing my response. I would also like to point out that the newspaper is endorsing my opponent, and this, my friends, is fine. On March 20th the people of Tarpon Springs will vote 71 Joseph Pisani.

For the St. Pete Times to suggest that I am uninformed is wrong! They are not listening to my message. I will walk to you, I will listen to you, I will act on your behalf. I am here to administer the people's will. That is how we will change the face of city government.

Open-mindedness and lack of self-interest allow me to serve Tarpon Springs in a more balanced manner. With studies at Saint Leo University in human resources, management and religion, I remain grounded yet educated, as well as joining the military and attending (Florida National Guard) Officer Candidate School in Starke. I am able to adapt and learn quickly. Serving as a hairstylist and business owner has allowed me to gel with all people, and with hands extended and thoughts conveyed, we could do even greater things together.

As for the issues, I will continue to walk and earn your support and see you on the street corners, as well as keep the door to my office and business open to all for discussion. This discussion will ultimately help the manner in which votes will be cast on issues pertaining to Tarpon Springs.

My thanks and good wish to serve you, the people of Tarpon Springs, with a greater level of honesty, sincerity and integrity in all the decisions pertaining to Tarpon's best interests for the next three years.