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    A Times Editorial

    3 candidates bring needed skills to Oldsmar

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001


    For mayor

    There is no easy choice in the mayor's race.

    Both Ed Manny and Jerry Beverland have strengths, including local government experience, familiarity with the issues and a deep sense of caring for the city. Both also have some liabilities.

    Beverland, 65, is a former council member and mayor who is in the antiques business. Last year he ran for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission and was beaten by Susan Latvala.

    Beverland is a political maverick. He doesn't concern himself with rules or process or appearances. His quick temper and tendency to jump to conclusions got him in trouble frequently when he was in office.

    Three years off the City Council have not mellowed Beverland. He is charging hard in this campaign, and we are troubled by some claims and promises he has made. He takes sole credit for many things accomplished during his years in office, though most could not have been done without a majority vote of the City Council. He presents material as "facts" without citing his sources and sometimes is just plain wrong. Other times, his judgment is questionable. For example, Beverland already has declared that if elected, he will vote no on the development of an apartment complex on Forest Lakes Boulevard. But the developer has made no presentation to the city yet. At the least, it is unwise to announce one's conclusion about a project before hearing both sides.

    Manny, 72, is a semi-retired real estate broker who was first elected to the council in 1997. He served as vice mayor the last two years.

    Manny is the leader of an effort to start a charter middle school in Oldsmar that would be operated by the city, at first in the old Oldsmar Community School and later in a new building. It is the centerpiece issue in his campaign, yet Manny seems fuzzy on some key issues. Would city taxpayers eventually be on the hook for the cost of building the school? First, Manny said no. Then he said the city might have to issue bonds to build the school. Then he said the state could provide all the money needed to buy or construct a building, but there is no guarantee from the state that the capital funds will always be there in sufficient amount to pay the mortgage. Is Oldsmar equipped to successfully operate a charter school and is the current plan a good one? We aren't convinced.

    Manny also has demonstrated some blind spots in judgment. For example, he went on a free dinner cruise sponsored by a waste-hauling company and failed to file gift disclosures.

    But Manny is professional, courteous, even-tempered and well-spoken. In his public appearances, he presents a good image for the city. We like his understanding of the need for Oldsmar to build good relationships with other levels of government and his involvement with the Suncoast League of Municipalities, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and other groups -- involvement Beverland eschewed when he was in office.

    We hope that Manny will give substantially more study to the charter school issue and find a way to involve more of the community in determining its feasibility and costs before charging ahead. On other issues, Manny wants to work harder on the city's traffic problems, including using traffic calming techniques to slow cars on residential streets; improve city parks, and finish streetscaping downtown.

    We recommend a vote for Ed Manny for mayor.

    Seat 2

    Three candidates, all newcomers to local politics, are seeking the seat being vacated by council member Ed Richards because of term limits.

    Deborah Chapman, 41, was raised in Oldsmar, then moved away. She returned in 1990 with four children and said she found there was little for them to do in the city. She began organizing children's activities as a volunteer and eventually was hired as a part-time recreation leader for the Parks and Recreation Department.

    Her volunteer activities throughout the city have continued unabated in recent years; but she was fired from her city job in 1996 because, city officials said, she did not perform her job adequately and failed to turn in money collected from children's activities until she was asked about it. Chapman denies any wrongdoing and says she was set up by city officials after criticizing the recreation department.

    Marcelo Caruso, 29, moved to the United States from Brazil about 12 years ago. He lives in the Eastlake Oaks subdivision, where he has been involved in the homeowners association, and runs a towing and auto repair business. Caruso has a lot of enthusiasm, but he has much to learn about how a city government operates. And there also is a troubling incident in his background: In 1992 he was charged with impersonating a police officer after flashing a New Jersey police badge at people brawling outside a Tampa bar. He pleaded no contest and was adjudicated guilty of a lesser charge, unlawful use of a police badge.

    In this race we think the best choice is Jean Jorgenson.

    Jorgenson, 77, is not a particularly well-informed candidate, but no one doubts her love for the city of Oldsmar and her desire to do right by it. A retired JCPenney department manager and custom decorator, Jorgenson has been a busy community volunteer for more than 15 years, working with the Oldsmar Cultural Arts Foundation, Friends of the Library, Top of the Bay Garden Club, the Woman's Club and the Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce. When something is going on in Oldsmar, Jorgenson is usually there.

    She recognizes that one of the city's biggest challenges is to grow gracefully. She has a list of traffic-related problems she would like to see addressed. She wants more youth and family activities in town and more parks. She understands the Town Center plan and the need to have a prosperous business community. And she supports continued study of the feasibility of a city water plant and charter school.

    We recommend a vote for Jean Jorgenson for Seat 2.

    Seat 4

    The two candidates in this race, Don Bohr and Dale Renbjor, are familiar to City Hall-watchers. Both have taken a keen interest in city politics for years.

    Bohr, 65, ran for City Council in 1993 and was beaten by Mike Rockwell. A former traveling salesman and retired code enforcement officer for the city of Clearwater, Bohr serves on the city Planning Board and formerly was a member of the Parks and Recreation Board. He regularly attends City Council meetings and is a better candidate now than he was in 1993.

    But in this race, we like Dale Renbjor. Renbjor, 50, also is a former candidate -- he lost a 1997 campaign for City Council. Like Bohr, Renbjor remained involved in city affairs and is a much stronger candidate today.

    Renbjor has been a telecommunications engineer for 22 years, handling large budgets and supervising employees. He served two years on the Oldsmar Planning Board and regularly attends City Council meetings.

    Renbjor is concerned about maintaining a high quality of life in Oldsmar as it grows, and he wants the City Council involved in discussion about amenities that could be added to improve the lives of residents. He says the city needs more parks and activities for families, especially north of Tampa Road.

    He thinks both a new water plant and a charter school could be good for Oldsmar but says both issues need much more study. He is concerned about the city's infrastructure, such as sewers and roads, and wants to make sure that it is being maintained and replaced as needed so Oldsmar doesn't experience the infrastructure failures of some cities.

    Renbjor has a professional demeanor and a calm, rational approach to discussing problems.

    We recommend a vote for Dale Renbjor for Seat 4.

    Oldsmar election

    WHEN: March 13

    AT STAKE: The mayor's post and two City Council seats. Three referendum questions also are on the ballot.

    TERM, SALARY: The mayor gets $7,200 per year. Council members make $4,800. Terms are for three years.

    * * *

    Candidates not recommended may submit a written response for publication. Responses should be limited to 300 words and may not attack opponents. Responses must be submitted by noon Monday, March 5, to Opinion Page, St. Petersburg Times, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Or they may be faxed to (727) 445-4119 or e-mailed to steinle@sptimes.com.

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