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What sets candidates apart? Priorities

The three have similar positions on the issues, but different ideas on their importance.

By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002

If you like doctrinaire conservatism in your county government, you'll like Ken Hagan in the District 2 Hillsborough County Commission race.

If you like folksy, anti-urban Libertarianism, you'll like Rod Gaudin.

If you're sensitive to the more blue-collar concerns of too much crime and too little health care, you'll like Ron Dyser.

Those are the choices in next month's election to an open commission seat. Democrat Dyser, Republican Hagan and independent Gaudin each hopes to replace Jim Norman, who has represented north Hillsborough County on the commission for 10 years.

In campaign literature and two-minute speeches around the district, Hagan and Dyser have avoided controversial positions, taking similar stances on issues. But all three candidates choose different issues as their highest priorities:

Dyser: law enforcement. "The sheriff's department is doing a good job ... We need to help them do a better job ... You're scared to let your kids even play in the front yard now."

Hagan: fiscal conservatism. "There's still a lot of waste."

Gaudin: water quality and supply. "Everything you do now in the county, you need to put the water factor in it. How does it affect water?"

Both Hagan and Gaudin have repeatedly stressed a crackdown on government waste.

Gaudin has personally needled county officials over spending and regulations, and advocates a 10 percent budget cut for the county's top administrators. Hagan has called for extensive performance audits. He has cited the bus service, the Solid Waste Department and the indigent health care program as centers of waste. Gaudin contends the health care program should screen out care for non-Hillsborough residents, particularly illegal immigrants.

Dyser, who grew up poor, has defended the plan.

"We need to make sure it stays strong and viable and is funded to whatever means it needs to be funded," he said.

Gaudin and Hagan have emphasized neighborhood services.

Hagan has pledged "unprecedented" levels of constituent service, with parks and recreation a priority. Norman once was Hagan's Little League coach.

Gaudin advocates community meetings to plan road changes, parks and youth centers, and pledges to have an office in District 2.

The water supply is particularly pertinent in north Hillsborough, where public wells supply much of the region's drinking water and two chains of lakes have shrunk from over-pumping.

Dyser has faith that the water supply is assured through 2020. But he contends Hillsborough's commission needs a more cooperative posture on the regional water supply board. Dyser hopes to represent the commission there.

Hagan advocates streamlining capital projects for the water supply system and more conservation measures such as low-flow toilets and xeriscaping.

"All industries, all groups have to be a part of that," Hagan said.

Hagan and Dyser both call for more economic incentives to redevelop run-down areas of the county, but they differ on development in new areas.

"I think we need to look at some of our building ordinances and code," Dyser said. "They may not be as strong in the environmental area as they should be."

Hagan says, "I don't think we really have a growth problem ... We have a growth management problem."

He has assured real estate agents in a letter, "I will be an ardent voice for our industry."

None of the three candidates is satisfied with Hillsborough's roads, but only Gaudin and Dyser have entertained the possibility of new revenues for them.

Hagan's homestretch mailing in the Republican primary slammed his opponents for that. He contends road money should be wrung from current budgets.

Gaudin opposes tax increases, but is open to higher impact fees assessed on each newly built home. Dyser would consider those, plus transfer taxes on property sales.

"I don't want to raise taxes," Dyser said, "but the facts of life are, something has to be done."

* * *

-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or .

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