Six candidates are running to fill the Tampa City Council seat of Lisa Montelione, who is leaving mid term to seek election to the Florida House. While all six are serious candidates, Luis Viera is best prepared to give this north Tampa district a strong voice at City Hall.
Viera, 38, a Tampa attorney, offers a solid mix of advocacy for neighborhood concerns with a bigger vision for transportation and job development. He sees a larger role for mass transit in the University of South Florida area, where thousands are employed on campus and at local hospitals. While Viera supports the recent investments downtown as a tool for boosting the city's economics, he notes north Tampa has too many unmet needs, from parks to recreation centers. A USF graduate, he knows the district well and has given back to the community through his work with a variety of civic and professional groups.
Jim Davison, 62, an emergency room doctor, wants to give the district's diverse neighborhoods a more unified voice. Orlando Gudes, 49, a retired Tampa police officer, wants to increase the police presence in New Tampa and turn vacant property and land into civic space. Avis Simone Harrison, 52, a home school evaluator and former teacher, would keep a lid on taxes and work to improve area schools. Gene Siudut, 43, an editor at the Tampa weekly newspaper La Gaceta, has a proactive agenda for addressing a range of issues, from jobs and poverty to blight and aging infrastructure. Cyril Spiro, 46, a physician and entrepreneur, would expand job training and look to attract startup businesses to the area.
All of the candidates in this race see a need to direct more attention to the city's north, and all offer substantive priorities, most relating to public safety and transportation. They all are familiar with the district and the process of governing.
Viera has the most depth. His urgency on transportation is a plus for a growing region that has experienced three failed transportation measures in recent years. He has the best grasp of how to maximize USF as a catalyst for economic growth. Viera also speaks thoughtfully about some of the city's hot-button issues, such as the creation of a police oversight board. His knowledge of city government, balanced agenda and measured style would make him effective on the seven-member board. Council races are nonpartisan and open to all voters. The district includes New Tampa, the USF area and Forest Hills. If no candidate wins a majority, the top two finishers go to a runoff Dec. 6.
For Tampa City Council District 7, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Luis Viera.