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    Oldsmar candidates cover a lot of ground at forum

    On charter schools, traffic, parks and more, would-be officeholders pitch their views and themselves.

    By ED QUIOCO

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001


    OLDSMAR -- Speaking at their first public forum Wednesday, the seven candidates vying for a spot on the City Council touched on topics ranging from parks to reclaimed water to ways to slow down traffic.

    The two mayoral candidates, council member Ed Manny and former Mayor Jerry Beverland, spent much of their time discussing the city's proposal for a municipal charter school.

    Don Bohr and Dale Renbjor, both regular attendees of council meetings, are competing for Seat 4. Deborah Chapman, Jean Jorgenson and Marcelo Caruso are vying for Seat 2.

    The lunchtime candidate forum, sponsored by the Greater Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce, got off to a spicy start with Beverland criticizing Manny's charter school proposal. He contended that the school could end up costing the city millions of dollars.

    "I may be a little rough, but when it comes down to defending this city and these residents, I will be as rough as I have to be," Beverland said. "I'll always stand with the people."

    When it was his turn to speak, Manny opened with a line suggesting that Beverland's remarks were so much posturing.

    "Welcome to the wide World Wrestling Federation," Manny said. He went on to assure the crowd that there are a number of "alternative sources of funds" available for charter school.

    "The facts are we are not planning and will not spend any Oldsmar money on the school," he said.

    Manny said he wanted to look into using "traffic calming techniques" on roads that had a problem with speeders. Manny said his one campaign promise is to "serve the city well."

    "I will work hard and I will show respect to the citizens of Oldsmar," Manny said.

    Chapman said she was running to "champion the children and teenagers in Oldsmar."

    Jorgenson said she still needed to study the charter school proposal and was in favor of the city continuing to look into having its own water facility and expanding the city's reclaimed water program.

    "Oldsmar is a wonderful town, but it has some problems, growing problems," Jorgenson said.

    Caruso said that, if elected, he would look into getting a park north of Tampa Road, improving the Race Track Road and Douglas Road intersection and installing a traffic signal on Curlew Road for the residents of Gull Aire Village.

    Caruso also said he was opposed to the proposal to build an apartment complex on Forest Lakes Boulevard for low- to moderate-income tenants.

    "That is not going to match with the homes in the area," he said.

    Bohr said if he felt an issue would benefit the majority of residents of Oldsmar, he would vote for it regardless of his personal feelings.

    Renbjor said he would like to have more parks, especially one north of Tampa Road. He also said the charter school proposal needed "careful oversight."

    "I'm a consensus-builder," Renbjor said. "I'm comfortable with fiscal budgets and I've had leadership positions all my career."

    - Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or quioco@sptimes.com.

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