1. Opinion

Remsberg for Pasco County Commission

The Pasco County Commission needs Erika Jean Remsberg, the Democratic candidate for District 2. Remsberg, 43, of Land O'Lakes, is the homeless liaison and social worker for the Pasco County School District and will bring a much-needed perspective to a board too frequently dominated by business-friendly platitudes.

The District 2 seat is based in central Pasco and is held by retiring 20-year incumbent Pat Mulieri. Candidates must meet the district's residency requirements, but they are elected by voters countywide.

Remsberg, like state legislative candidate Beverly Ledbetter, took to riding the Pasco County Public Transportation system around the east side of the county to meet and talk to the people often overlooked in commission campaigns — disadvantaged residents relying on public buses to get around and on affordable housing to keep a roof over their heads. Those are the families Remsberg works with on an individual basis and she's seeking elected office to set policy and budget priorities to help a broader constituency. The problem, she said, is a disconnect between the policies the county is pursuing and many of the people who actually live here.

She wants the county to allocate its resources based on a data-driven needs assessment of public services, rather than setting budget priorities according to the desires of affluent special interests and anonymous on-line public opinion surveys. For instance, a gas tax increase just approved by the commission would be better spent paving roads in lower-income areas instead of financing enhanced maintenance and a long-range capital plan that the building/ development community advocated. And, she thinks the county should be encouraging affordable, workforce housing instead of discounting transportation fees for high-end homes just because of where they are built.

Her opponent is Mike Moore who easily won a three-person Republican primary in August. Unfortunately, Moore, 43, offers few substantive ideas other than a pledge to limit taxes. Transportation improvements could be devised by volunteer engineers and vetted by the public, he said, and road maintenance can be financed by spending reserves earmarked for future road projects. It's myopic thinking. Likewise, he believes the constrained county budgets that forced reduced services can be solved by growth if government would just get out of the way with burdensome regulations.

Moore lives in Wesley Chapel and moved to Pasco County from New Tampa close to seven years ago. He does have personal expertise in business development having built and sold a successful home health care company and he now owns a business brokerage firm. He said he wants to be personally involved in recruiting new businesses to Pasco. It's an understandable desire, but it's a duty that already falls to the Pasco Economic Development Council.

Moore won't elevate the debate on the commission; private business interests already have plenty of representation. Remsberg, however, will force the commission to consider a constituency too often dismissed as irrelevant.

In the Nov. 4 election for Pasco Commission, District 2, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Erika Jean Remsberg.