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TEMPLE TERRACE MAYOR

Redevelopment drives race: Joe Affronti wants to turn a multimillion-dollar project into reality. Opponent Kenneth Tozier says residents should have choices in the plan.

JOSH ZIMMER
Published October 26, 2004

With much of Temple Terrace giddy about a proposed $150-million redevelopment project, opponents can be hard to find.

Mayoral candidate Kenneth Tozier is one of them. The software executive, whose business off N 56th Street gives him a bird's eye view of the redevelopment site, lets his criticisms fly at anyone who will listen.

The attacks anger many. Some city officials disparage him in private. But Tozier's stubborn insistence that residents be given choices lends the upcoming mayor's race a passion not found in the City Council campaign, where all five candidates back the project.

His opponent, City Council member Joe Affronti, wants to be the mayor who turns vision into reality.

"The key issue in this race is clearly redevelopment," said Patrick Finelli, an Affronti supporter who chairs Strategic Teamwork and Revitalization, a pro-project citizens group formed by city government. "I think this election will really determine the future of Temple Terrace."

The winner will replace Mayor Fran Barford, whose popular six-year stint is ending because of term limits.

Tozier would seem to face an uphill battle.

Many citizens and officials have invested time and energy into the project, generating a sense of common purpose. Over the past two years, the city has borrowed nearly $20-million to buy up properties at the southeast corner of N 56th Street and Bullard Parkway, hoping a developer will oversee construction of a mixed neighborhood with homes, businesses and a new city hall.

Affronti is a well-known figure in Temple Terrace. Voters elected him to the council in 1998 and again in 2002. When council member Jo Jeter dropped out of the race, she quickly endorsed Affronti, citing his support for the project.

With only two years left on the council before term limits kicked in, Affronti said running for mayor is the only way he can remain a factor in the revitalization.

"That's my top priority," he said.

Meanwhile, Tozier campaigns like an underdog with a fighting chance.

Earlier this year, he led a successful effort to change the way City Council vacancies are filled. Historically, council members chose the new person. Tozier thought voters should decide. After collecting more than 1,200 signatures on a petition to put the question on the Aug. 31 ballot, residents approved the measure by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.

Tozier acknowledges that the victory emboldened his sense of mission in the mayoral race. Supporter and friend Stephen Jaros said the effort highlights Tozier's knack for spotting a problem and the determination to find solutions.

"His ability to see it through just emphasizes what's needed in government," Jaros said. "He'd really be an elected official for the people."

Tozier wants residents to be able to vote from a list of at least three redevelopment options, including the current plan. At the same time, he doesn't hide his disdain for the upscale vision, which would likely involve a tax increase to finance new public roads and buildings.

He thinks developers should decide what gets built. He also believes the project's housing component would create a traffic headache, and that the plan to relocate city hall to the site would waste money that could be used in other parts of the city.

Temple Terrace needs to focus more on annexation and the construction of a city-owned wastewater treatment plant, he said. The water project has been held up by environmental concerns over discharges into the Palm River. Tozier said a different consulting firm could have obtained the necessary permits by now.

Affronti said the city did everything possible to push the project through. If he becomes mayor, he said he will stress tough code enforcement and a careful approach to annexation so that residents don't end up paying more to provide services to new neighborhoods.

"An annexed area has to pay for itself," he said.

THE JOB

The mayor chairs City Council meetings but does not vote. The position pays $200 a month plus $100 a month for travel and expenses.

THE CANDIDATES:

JOE AFFRONTI, 72, a former paint company president, owns a truck repair business that employs 50 people. Elected to City Council in 1998, he is chairman of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. He is married and has two children and two stepchildren. ASSETS: business, home and car. LIABILITIES: bank loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: business. E-MAIL: joeaffronti@aol.com

KENNETH TOZIER, 54, started and owns International Computer Works, a mapping software company in Temple Terrace. He is married with two children. ASSETS: business, land, home, car. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCE OF INCOME: business and investments. E-MAIL: ken@icwmaps.com WEB SITE: www.tozierformayor.com

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