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Ferlita supporters want her to make bid for commission

From her seat on the City Council, Rose Ferlita appears to be building a case against Mayor Pam Iorio.

But Ferlita's supporters say she would be better set to run against Iorio in three years if she won a seat on the County Commission first. They want Ferlita, a Republican, to run this year for the seat being vacated by Democrat Jan Platt.

The commission would give Ferlita more visibility, and the job pays more.

Ferlita acknowledges that she has been encouraged to run but says she'll probably pass. She won re-election to the council last year and wants to complete her term.

EX-HUD HEAD HITS CIVITAS SNAG: Mel Martinez, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, hardly did a thing, he says.

In his last week as HUD secretary, Martinez got a call from executives at Civitas, a company that wants to redevelop the Central Park neighborhood. They wanted to talk about their project, he said.

Martinez said he told his assistant, "Look, I'm going to be leaving. This is my last week at HUD." His assistant must have connected them to then-deputy secretary Alphonso Jackson, which "would be the logical thing to do," he said. Jackson was the No. 2 at HUD, and has been named as Martinez's replacement.

"I don't even know what they're trying to do," Martinez said earlier this month.

He'll soon find out. As Martinez begins campaigning for the U.S. Senate, a Washington ethics group has asked for an investigation of the meeting, which they say amounts to illegal lobbying and influence peddling.

Campaign officials working for GOP Senate candidate Bill McCollum have also asked the group about the investigation, said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT: The race for the Hillsborough School Board District 7 seat has become something of a revolving door.

Two candidates who once hoped to replace incumbent Carol Kurdell for the countywide seat have now dropped out. One is now running for the state House. And a third candidate, who was running for a House seat, is now running against Kurdell.

Douglas Gibner, a central Tampa resident, has left the race. And Karen Perez, a therapist, school volunteer and single mother, has switched to become a candidate for Ed Homan's state House District 60 seat.

Perez said she felt her background in policy was better suited for the House, though she said education remains one of her main concerns.

A joyous Kurdell had the field to herself for a few days.

"The first time I ran I had 11 opponents," she said. "The second time I had four. The last time, I had a write-in. I would be very pleased without any opposition."

But that ended this week when Plant City resident Paul Noble, 32, a former East Bay High School teacher, coach and first-time candidate, filed his paperwork.

Earlier Noble had filed to run for state House District 62, being vacated by Johnnie Byrd, but he decided the School Board race would be more suitable to his experience.

A teacher's husband and father to a 20-month-old son, Noble said he hopes to boost teacher salaries and curb school district spending.

About five years ago, Noble quit his job as an alternative education teacher at East Bay because he said he could not longer afford to live on a teacher's salary. He now sells labels for a small manufacturing business.

SCOTT'S DRAMA: Perhaps no one showed more emotion last week as a proposal to remake central Tampa floated by the investment group Civitas went down in flames than Hillsborough Commission Chairman Tom Scott.

Scott appeared before the Tampa Housing Authority on the morning of Jan. 16 pleading with the group to give him one last shot to win over fellow county commissioners. He even said he would consider resigning his chairmanship if he failed.

He later broke down in tears when he couldn't get a board majority for his compromise.

It was the second major defeat for Scott. Last year he was behind a losing proposal to raise taxes and fees to pay for transportation projects.

Scott said Thursday that he has decided against resigning.

"In fact, I had been contemplating that over the weekend," Scott said. "But I received a number of calls from people asking me not to do that. Many suggested that this issue is long from being over. So I have reconsidered my position of resigning."

MANDATORY ATTENDANCE: Speaking of Civitas, it was well publicized last week that commissioners expressed their displeasure that Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio had not appeared before them to bless the redevelopment plan.

When a second meeting came, Iorio sent a letter to commissioners offering her support of creating a special taxing district as part of the package and asked commissioners to join in. But she was out of town at a conference in Orlando and wasn't at the meeting for the critical vote.

Commissioners quickly made known that the letter wasn't enough. They wanted to ask the mayor questions.

City Council Chairwoman Linda Saul-Sena, a supporter of the Civitas project, piped up, "I'm the acting mayor." Indeed, she is when Iorio is out of town.

Commissioners disregarded Saul-Sena, who was soon bailed out. Just as commissioners were preparing to go to recess until Iorio showed up, in she walked.

_ Times Staff Writers David Karp, Scott Barancik, Bill Varian and Melanie Ave contributed to this column.

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