1. Florida Politics

Tuesday election have local issues for three North Pinellas cities

Voters in Clearwater, Safety Harbor and Tarpon Springs who aren't Republicans may think they have no reason to go to the polls during Tuesday's Republican presidential primary.

But Clearwater will elect a mayor on Tuesday, and Safety Harbor voters will choose two city commissioners. Also, Clearwater and Tarpon Springs both have referendums on the ballot.

Registered voters of any party — or no party — in these three cities can vote in their respective elections.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Besides Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, here's a roundup of what else North Pinellas voters will see on the ballot:


Voters will choose their next mayor — either City Council member George Cretekos or political newcomer Christine Marketos-Cuomo.

The new mayor will be sworn in Feb. 13, succeeding term-limited Mayor Frank Hibbard.

Two other open seats on the City Council won't be on the ballot, as they're being automatically filled by candidates who are unopposed.

Clearwater voters will also decide three city referendums. The yes-no questions are on:

• extending term limits for the mayor and council members from two four-year terms to three, starting with candidates elected this year;

• requiring the city to publicize its annual audit when it is released;

• convening the Charter Review Committee, a volunteer board that recommends changes to the city charter, every six years instead of every five.

Safety Harbor

Four candidates, including two newcomers to city politics, will be competing for two seats on the City Commission in the Tuesday's election.

Incumbent Commissioner Nancy Besore, a high school teacher, is being challenged by retired city accountant Elise Vinson. Incumbent Mary Lynda Williams, who retired from Honeywell, drew a challenge from first-time candidate Cliff Merz, an engineer and faculty researcher at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science.

Safety Harbor's campaign season was compressed this year because the City Commission decided to hold the election in conjunction with the presidential primary to save money. City elections are normally in March.

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs also has a referendum question.

The Tarpon Springs Hospital Foundation wants to sell less than an acre of undeveloped land at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital to a developer who needs it to complete a medical office building next door.

In exchange, the hospital foundation would get $500,000 and the developer would improve the parking lot in front of the hospital.

Hospital officials have said they don't need the 0.62-acre sliver of land on the north end of their parking lot, but they are eager to see the medical office facility built next door. They think it could help them recruit medical professionals to the hospital.

Voters approved this land sale 1,960 to 505 in 2008. That approval can't be used now, though, because the 2008 referendum question stated that the developer, in exchange for the land, would build a parking garage the hospital could share. But the developer has downsized the plan for the medical building from 195,000 to 60,000 square feet and needs only a surface parking lot, not a garage.

The property sale cannot go forward unless voters approve.