City Council candidates focus on areas to the south

Published February 16, 2007

People have long regarded Tampa's northern City Council district as the "New Tampa District."

And no wonder. The council member who has won two terms from that district, Shawn Harrison, got his start in Tampa Palms then moved to Hunter's Green. And the most visible candidates to succeed him are longtime residents of - yes - Tampa Palms and Hunter's Green.

But Harrison has a humbling insight for his neighbors: New Tampa doesn't control the "New Tampa District." The political clout in District 7 lies to the south. Harrison, a Republican from new suburbs, owes his success at the polls to Democrats from old suburbs.

"The candidate that goes outside New Tampa is the candidate that's going to win," Harrison said.

Consequently, Joseph Caetano, Frank Margarella and Charlie Perkins have been campaigning in recent weeks near District 7's southern corners. And Margarella, the candidate most in Harrison's mold, has been reaching into the southern communities for much of a year.

In Temple Crest, Margarella early last year began visiting meetings of a task force focusing on the city's widening of 40th Street.

"He assured me he won't just be a New Tampa representative and really will represent the entire District 7," said Terry Neal, president of the Temple Crest Civic Association.

Margarella contacted the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association last fall.

Margarella attended the January meeting of the University Square Civic Association, representing 154 homes south of the shopping mall, said Fred Zerla, the association's president.

"He has assured me that we will not be the stepchildren of New Tampa," Zerla said.

On recent Saturdays, Caetano walked door to door in Forest Hills, Perkins' home neighborhood. Perkins, 31, recently spent several days in Temple Crest, just southwest of Temple Terrace.

Perkins didn't return numerous Times phone calls .

'Need services here'

When Harrison began running for the seat in 1998, he learned that Forest Hills had a pattern of some of the highest voter turnouts in the district, while New Tampa's record was poor.

"The Forest Hills precincts were the No. 1 precincts I went after," Harrison said. "The people there are active, engaged and organized. "

Now, they're in the process of discovering a clear distinction between the two Republican businessmen running for the seat, both longtime civic leaders in New Tampa.

Caetano, 73, from Tampa Palms, wants to be an agent of change. In the late 1990s, and again two years ago, Caetano campaigned for New Tampa to form its own city. He has complained for years that City Hall has shortchanged New Tampa on services. He thinks taxes are too high and the benefits too thin.

"We don't have adequate infrastructure," Caetano says. "We're going to have all kinds of monuments being built downtown, and we need the services out here."

Caetano thinks too many studies delayed the 40th Street widening, and the only city park under development in New Tampa is being built for the benefit of nearby schools.

In a recent debate, Caetano referred to the proposed art museum as "that art monster down there."

Not rebel or radical

Margarella, 56, of Hunter's Green stresses that he intends to work within the system.

"I'm not going to be a rebel or a radical," Margarella says.

New Tampa deserves a larger share of city services, he says frequently, but people there should be realistic: "You're never going to get a dollar-for-dollar return on your tax revenue in affluent areas. You're going to subsidize older parts of the city."

Margarella's issues are likelier to play well in less-affluent areas - like the southern part of the district. A top priority is attracting quality jobs to Tampa, even if it takes incentives such as tax credits in redevelopment areas, Margarella said.

Caetano opposes business-development subsidies.

"Nobody gave me money to put my business up and running," he says.

Margarella advocates replacing the city's crumbling water and sewer lines through budget discipline, but with higher utility fees if necessary.

Caetano's against it. "I don't want to pay to repair the pipes downtown," he said.

Bill Coats can be reached at 813 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com.



The candidates

Joseph P. Caetano

Born: Sept. 9, 1933.

Political experience: Represented Woburn, Mass., on the board of a regional vocational school, 1980s. Lost races for Hillsborough County Commission in 1992 and Hillsborough County School Board in 1996.

Education: High school graduate.

Military record: U.S. Marine Corps, 1954-57.

Marital status: Married, two daughters.

Sources of income: Two hair salons, coffee shop, rental properties.

Net worth: $1,642,700.

Contact: www.joecaetano .com. (813) 977-1145.

Frank J. Margarella

Born: Feb. 11, 1951.

Political experience: First campaign for office.

Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration, University of New Mexico.

Military record: None.

Marital status: Divorced, three children.

Source of income: Commercial real estate sales.

Net worth: $114,500.

Contact: frankforcouncil @aol.com (813) 244-5762.






Charles A. Perkins

Born: Nov. 10, 1975.

Political experience: Lost race for Tampa City Council, 2003.

Education: Chamberlain High School graduate.

Military record: Not available.

Marital status: Married.

Source of income: Perkins Entertainment Inc.

Net worth: $32,000.

Contact: P.O. Box 82061, Tampa, FL 33682.