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    Dunedin candidates take on three tough questions

    By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 10, 2003

    DUNEDIN -- As campaign signs planted in yards and along sidewalks flap in the breeze and the last pieces of direct mail arrive in mailboxes, the time to choose draws closer.

    On Tuesday, Election Day, Dunedin's 23,992 registered voters can go to the polls to pick two people to serve on the City Commission.

    There are six candidates. The two top vote-getters will be elected.

    Mary Bonner, Dave Eggers, Manny Koutsourais, Mike Quill, Julie Scales and John Skolte have been getting the message out about their respective bids for office.

    Among the popular campaign topics are the city's financial state, its relationship with residents and redevelopment.

    The Times asked the candidates to discuss three other topics that have been in the news but not part of the regular campaign fodder.

    They are:

    -- Should the city rename a street after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.?

    -- What should the city do about the Nielsen Media Research property that will become vacant in the next couple of years?

    -- How should the city handle requests from religious organizations wanting to use public meeting rooms for gatherings at the Dunedin Public Library?

    * * *

    Bonner, a real estate agent who has served as both mayor and commissioner, said the city should name a street after King.

    "A lot of towns and cities are doing that," the 65-year-old said. "We do name streets after notable people who have had an impact on our society."

    "I know a lot of people don't like street names changes because they have to go through a lot of changes themselves," Bonner added. "I would like to see if we can assist them with those changes in some way."

    On Nielsen: "Hopefully the chamber will help to find a tenant for us. It's kind of a private matter between Nielsen and a marketing person -- but maybe the city could help out with the marketing."

    On the library: "Public libraries should be used for book reviews ... something to do with what public libraries are all about. But if you open a door to one, you have to open the door for everyone. It's either all or none."

    * * *

    Eggers, a past member of a number of city boards and committees, thinks a street other than a three-block stretch that runs through a largely black part of the city should be named after the slain civil rights leader. "Jackson Street is not the street that should be renamed. It is a minor street," the 45-year-old commercial real estate broker said. "We need to think about another street."

    "It needs to be a part of who we are," he added.

    On Nielsen: "We would like to start making some efforts with the county's economic development arm and Nielsen to try to start some preliminary marketing efforts to bring a company in that will provide equal or better salaries.

    On the library: "The (city) would like to stay away from religious groups or political groups. I just want to make sure we have some consistency with the policy. We really need to make our rooms available to folks who are taxpaying citizens of our city."

    * * *

    Koutsourais thinks a Dunedin street should be renamed in honor of King.

    "Definitely," the 65-year-old former mayor and commissioner said. "I'm not sure that little street (Jackson Street) that was proposed can't be expanded a little.

    "It should have been done a long time ago," he added.

    On Nielsen: "I'd hate to see it taken off the tax rolls, but it would be a good place for city hall. I'd like to see it as a place to house all of our departments in one area."

    On the library: "The library is a public facility, but I wouldn't want to see any religious groups in there trying to force their views on anyone. If they want to have a public forum, that's fine. But I think you should have to respect the separation of church and state."

    * * *

    Quill also thinks King should have a Dunedin street named after him.

    "Martin Luther King contributed to this country in a manner you can't put words to," the 44-year-old retired Gulfport police lieutenant said. "We should honor and set aside provisions for Martin Luther King and the city of Dunedin should recognize Martin Luther King day as a holiday."

    On Nielsen: "It's a great opportunity to attract new business. I think the city should probably do a public relations/media campaign and try to attract a business that would promote more employment to stimulate our economy. You have to be sensitive to the residential areas around (the site) and the green space, but I would still like to see people working there."

    On the library: "I believe in the separation of church and state. But if a gathering of several people in a municipal building disrupts the law, then we need to make an amendment."

    * * *

    Scales, also a past member of a number of city boards and committees, likes the idea of renaming a street after King.

    "It's a good idea," said the 56-year-old economic development attorney. "I would like more input."

    Scales added that she would like to see the city's staff research an appropriate street and to see what impact on those with homes and businesses there changing the name would have.

    On Nielsen: "They should go to the county economic development department. I don't think (the city) should be giving away everything. I would want the city to be business friendly, but I don't know about giving any economic incentives."

    On the library: "It's public property, but the policy has to be very clear so we don't get into this situation (again.) Whatever policy we have, it needs to be a policy what provides access within the legal parameters we set."

    * * *

    Skolte, a 67-year-old semiretired physical therapist and real estate broker, declined to answer.

    -- Leon M. Tucker can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or tucker@sptimes.com .

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