Lealman will get access to candidates

The community association is holding its largest political forum so residents can ask relevant questions before the November election.

Published September 27, 2006

LEALMAN - Concerned about taxes? Insurance rates? Annexation?

Those are likely to be among the topics discussed at an Oct. 4 candidates forum hosted by the Lealman Community Association. Candidates will have an opportunity to share their views about issues ranging from garbage service to the war in Iraq.

The forum was started three elections ago as one of the solutions to many problems in the unincorporated area that generally lies between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg on either side of Kenneth City.

"We think it's important that the people in Lealman engage the system because we were victims of the system," said Ray Neri, president of the Lealman Community Association.

The area, one of the poorest in the county, he said, was severely neglected and "literally, no one knew where Lealman was."

With candidates' searching for votes, Neri said, it's important for area residents to find out who's running and what their ideas are because many directly affect Lealman. And, at least, he said, there will be incumbents who "will remember there is a place called Lealman."

When the LCA first began the forum, it was attended mostly by candidates for the Lealman Fire Commission, Pinellas County School Board and judicial candidates. There also was a candidate or two for County Commission.

But now, candidates show up several weeks in advance of elections at the monthly LCA meetings themselves. Here's a sample of attendees at what's promised to be the biggest LCA forum to date:

- State Senate 16 candidates Republican Kim Berfield and Democrat Charlie Justice

- Democrat Janet Long who wants to win House Seat 51. Her opponent, Seminole Mayor Dottie Reeder initially accepted but then withdrew. She will send a stand-in.

- Democrat Rick Kriseman and Republican Thomas Piccolo who are running for state House District 53

- Democrat Samm Simpson, who's taking on U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, is likely to be the lone national candidate in attendance. Young, R-Indian Shores, is sending a representative. Write-in candidate Salvatore A. Fiorello has not answered the LCA invitation.

- On a more local level, Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni plans to attend, as will Leonard Dramesi, his write-in opponent.

- Calvin Harris, another county commissioner, will also attend as will Brian Roche, another write-in candidate, who wants Harris' seat.

- John Frank, who was kicked off the Lealman Fire Commission after allegations that he did not live in the district, and commission chairwoman Becky Harriman have both said they will be there.

- Added to the mix are four School Board candidates, Sean Michael O'Flannery, Peggy O'Shea, Mary Brown and Jennifer Crockett; and two judicial candidates, Pat Siracusa and LeAnne Lake.

"This is the biggest turnout in the variety of candidates we've had," Neri said.

He said that organizers have "some pretty pointed" questions for the candidates. But Neri played it coy, hinting at some potential topics: annexation, garbage service, fire issues, property taxes and insurance, affordable housing, government spending and school achievement.

If you go

The Lealman Community Association is holding an Oct. 4 candidates forum at the VFW, 4145 34th St. N.

Doors open at 5:45 p.m. to give candidates a chance to mingle. The forum begins at 7 p.m.

If you have any questions for the candidates, submit them in advance to wni2001@tampabay.rr.com For information or directions, call Ray Neri, 527-5352.