A Times Editorial
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001
If you live in Safety Harbor, you might not know there is a city election March 13.
Only one seat on the City Commission will be filled in the special election. Only two candidates are running and for only a one-year term.
Nevertheless, the election warrants the public's attention. There are some unhappy residents in Safety Harbor who feel, with good reason, that the city has not been responsive enough to them on issues relating to flooding, drainage and street paving. Others think the city is moving too slowly on redevelopment and marketing of downtown. Some are upset about the city's plans to spruce up passive Marina Park with a big fountain, observation tower and refurbished pier.
Incumbent Commissioner Jan Tracy is running for election for the first time. She was appointed to Seat 4 on the City Commission last August. She beat out 10 other applicants for the seat of former Commissioner Rollin Yanchar after he moved out of town.
Neighborhood activist Robin Borland, 34, also is running for Seat 4. She is a professional artist who has served on the city's Public Art Committee for two years. As president of the Harbor Woods Village Homeowners Association, Borland has been a frequent speaker at City Commission meetings and has lobbied the city to help her neighbors along Bishop Creek who have watched their back yards slide into the rampaging creek after heavy rains.
Borland thinks fixing drainage and erosion problems, and repairing and paving streets should take precedence over beautification projects. For that reason, she opposed the city's plan for Marina Park and said the city's infrastructure problems should be fixed before the city spent more than $800,000 on prettying up a city park.
While attending City Commission meetings for the last year, Borland said she noticed that the commission often seemed unresponsive to residents' concerns.
"I really feel there's got to be more of a conversation between the citizens of Safety Harbor and the commission," she said.
Borland is smart, outspoken and probably could be an effective problem-solver. We hope to see her again as a candidate. But in this race, we think the residents' choice should be Jan Tracy.
Tracy has spent the past seven months learning the ropes as a city commissioner. It isn't an easy job, even in a small city such as Safety Harbor; and it often takes six months to a year for new commissioners to become productive. As this election is for a one-year term, we think the city would be best-served by choosing the candidate who already knows the job. Tracy, 46, not only has done her homework on the City Commission but has earned the community's trust as a busy volunteer for 21 years. She has served or is serving on the boards of a number of worthwhile organizations, including the Long Center Foundation, Community Pride, the Pinellas County Social Action & Mental Health Funding Advisory Board, the Parent-Teacher-Student Association at two Safety Harbor schools and the Junior League of Clearwater-Dunedin. She has helped raise funds for the American Cancer Society, the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and the Morton Plant Mease Foundation.
She did all that and more while serving as a career employee and consultant for the U.S. Postal Service, scouting and purchasing property for post offices.
Tracy now spends her time substituting in Safety Harbor schools, continuing her volunteer work and handling her City Commission duties.
Tracy has heard and accepts the criticism that the City Commission was too slow to address the creek flooding problem. She opposes using city money to repair private property owners' properties. But she points out that the city is now searching for a more global solution for the flooding problem, and she seems motivated to act once that study is completed.
Tracy supports the changes at Marina Park, which she said will bring needed shade and walkways as well as pier safety improvements; and she rightly notes that the city did not put off any scheduled road or drainage work to pay for the park improvements.
Now that she has been on the commission seven months, Tracy needs to establish herself as an independent thinker who asks questions and proposes solutions. In her community work, Tracy has shown she is a person who finds a way to help when she sees a need. She can fulfill the same role on the City Commission.
We recommend a vote for Jan Tracy for City Commission Seat 4.
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