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    Safety Harbor vote to end low-key race

    Jan Tracy and Robin Borland are vying for a vacated seat on the City Commission.

    By LEON M. TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


    SAFETY HARBOR -- In a matter of days, Safety Harbor residents will decide who gets to finish out a term for a City Commission seat vacated last summer.

    Whether the responsibility of finishing the term's final year goes to longtime community volunteer Jan Tracy, who was appointed to the seat in July, or Robin Borland, a neighborhood activist who for the past year has loudly voiced concerns with the city's drainage issues, Tuesday will mark the end of what some have called a quiet campaign.

    "There is not a whole lot going on," said Bonnie Haynes, city clerk. "There haven't been any problems, so that, to me, means this election is quiet."

    When no one initially threatened a challenge, Tracy hoped to be automatically elected to the seat. Tracy replaced Commissioner Rollin Yanchar after he resigned in June and moved out of the city.

    Borland declared her candidacy one day before the qualifying deadline, forcing Tracy to campaign for the seat.

    Tracy received the endorsement of the St. Petersburg Times' editorial board as well as the Safety Harbor Fire Department. Borland has been endorsed by former Safety Harbor Mayor Art Levine, who held office in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    Despite the low-key nature of the campaign, both candidates say they have been busy canvassing the city with signs and letters in an effort to spread their messages.

    "I have been so involved in this campaign morning, noon and night, and it has been unreal," said Borland, 34. "I have knocked on at least 2,000 doors and spoken to people about the issues, and it has been really exciting and was worth the time and effort."

    One of the more contentious issues has been how the city spends its money. The candidates share interests in downtown development and infrastructure repairs but differ in where to begin.

    "The downtown development is definitely not finished, but it is moving along in a positive direction and I will continue working on it," Tracy said. "Infrastructure repairs would be a top priority, and promoting economic growth would be important to see that the downtown area continues to thrive."

    The argument that drainage and erosion problems and the need for street repairs have taken a back seat to beautification projects has been part of Borland's platform. She says the city should have made infrastructure a priority before it spent more than $800,000 on the Marina Park revitalization.

    "I agree we should have fixed the pier, and the war memorial should happen, but Bishop Creek and some of the main drainage problems should be put on the budget and need to be in the five-year plan," she said. "To dump that kind of money into the Marina Park project when there are other projects that need attention is just wrong."

    Campaign finance records show that Tracy raised $3,435, $100 of which was her own money. The 46-year-old had been concerned that she would have to spend much of her own money on her campaign.

    "I'm pleased," Tracy said. "I didn't expect it to end up this way, but I was very pleased I didn't spend as much money as I thought."

    Meanwhile, records show Borland was able to raise $1,865, almost half of which was her own money.

    "It was tough for me because I don't like to ask people for money, period," she said. "But I did it and I did it well, because I got some pretty big contributions."

    Records show that Tracy also received $75 from the household of fellow commissioner Nadine Nickeson and $50 from the household of Mayor Pam Corbino.

    "It does take working together to make things happen," Tracy said of the donations. "I certainly do not think anybody who gave me a donation will expect my support on a particular issue. Contributions are given with no strings attached and with the idea that I will use my expertise and common sense to make good decisions."

    Tracy said she will donate leftover campaign funds to local charities.

    Borland and Tracy say they received at least $1,000 in additional contributions and will file finance reports reflecting that today.

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