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For a better City Council

In addition to choosing a new mayor on March 27, St. Petersburg voters will decide five City Council races. In Districts 2, 4 and 6, the two top vote-getters in the Feb. 27 primary are on the ballot. In Districts 1 and 5, no primary was necessary to reduce the field to two. Although the candidates reside in their respective districts, voters in all districts will be able to vote in every race.

Kriseman for District 1

Richard Kriseman was chosen to fill the remaining term of former council member Robert Kersteen, who resigned to seek a legislative seat last fall. In that brief time in office, Kriseman has shown the qualities that should earn him a full term on his own. He brings a positive energy to public service, and he has shown he will be accessible to constituents who haven't always found a receptive audience at City Hall.

Kriseman, a local attorney, ran a strong race against Kersteen four years ago, but he is a more knowledgeable and polished candidate now. He has concrete ideas for expanding St. Petersburg's economic base and for improving the safety and quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the city. He even promises to bring a new degree of civility and efficiency to a council with a deserved reputation for time-consuming bickering.

Kriseman is opposed by Dennis Homol Sr., a 10-year city employee who entered the race at the last minute and hasn't run an active campaign. The Times recommends Kriseman.

Bryan for District 2

John Bryan is a St. Petersburg native with an extensive history of professional and civic activity. His work as a home builder has given him a firsthand knowledge of neighborhoods throughout St. Petersburg, and his positions of leadership on the city Environmental Development Commission, Budget Review Committee and other local panels have given him a firsthand understanding of city government.

Bryan, 50, is opposed by Craig Patrick, a 28-year-old public relations director and former television reporter. Patrick has brought energy and substance to the race, and he has some innovative ideas for improving the quality of life in St. Petersburg neighborhoods. However, Patrick, who moved to the city only three years ago, cannot begin to match Bryan's record of community service.

The Times recommends Bryan.

Littrell for District 4

Voters have two good choices in this race. Virginia Littrell, 50, has volunteered for a variety of community service roles, recently serving as chairman of the city's Planning Commission. She understands the nuts and bolts of local government better than most first-time candidates. Just as important, she understands the need to return civility to council meetings.

Chris Eaton, 43, is another promising newcomer to politics. He has been less involved in city matters because his work took him away for long periods, but now he says he has the time to serve. His views are informed and thoughtful, and he stated an obvious truth when he said the current council members "don't seem to be a visionary body."

We give Littrell the edge because of her experience and progressive agenda. She would bring a valuable commodity to the council _ balance. She recognizes the need to modernize the development code and to protect historically significant buildings and the city's unique quality of life. She supports police Chief Goliath Davis and the department but believes there is room for improvement. She favors regional cooperation on the water issue and says she will work to improve St. Petersburg's already good effort on water conservation by expanding reclaimed water.

While we believe both candidates have promising futures in city government, in this race we recommend Virginia Littrell.

Bennett for District 5

James Bennett says he became directly involved in politics out of a desire to bring economic redevelopment and beautification to struggling areas near his Pinellas Point home. He has some practical ideas for bringing residents and city staff together to achieve those goals _ and they apply to many other areas of the city as well.

Bennett, 48, former chairman of the City Beautiful Commission, owns a landscaping and lawn maintenance business and has long been active in neighborhood and civic organizations.

Bennett is opposed by Robert Eschenfelder, 33, a former St. Petersburg city attorney who now works in the Manatee County Attorney's office. Eschenfelder is bright and knowledgeable about the workings of City Hall, and he and Bennett have conducted a respectful, issue-based campaign. However, Eschenfelder cannot match Bennett's record of civic involvement. His work in Manatee County also raises questions about his ability to devote adequate time and attention to the council's duties if elected.

The Times recommends Bennett in District 5.

Williams for District 6

Few St. Petersburg residents have given as much time to their city as Earnest Williams. From the Community Alliance to the Regional Workforce Development Board to the School Controlled Choice Task Force, Williams repeatedly has been willing to take on difficult and often thankless work on the issues most vital to his neighbors.

City Council members were mindful of that record when they chose Williams to serve the final weeks of Frank Peterman's council term after Peterman was elected to the Legislature. In that short time, Williams already has shown that he can be an effective advocate for the residents of his district, which includes much of the area targeted for economic help under outgoing Mayor David Fischer's Challenge program. Williams, who owns an insurance agency, also has a broader understanding of the social and economic issues facing all of St. Petersburg.

Williams is opposed by Dwight Chimurenga Waller, president of the National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement. In this race, and in his unsuccessful campaign for a School Board seat last fall, Waller has put forth thoughtful ideas for economic development and educational improvements in District 6. However, Williams was working constructively on these and other issues long before Waller chose to become active in city politics.

The Times recommends Williams.

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