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Candidates' ideas jostle and clash

The people who want to fill the New Port Richey mayor's chair or a council seat trade statements at a forum Tuesday.

By BETH GLENN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- A forum Tuesday brought together the six candidates for a City Council seat and the mayor's post in the April 11 election.

It is a race undefined by a single issue, but after fielding questions for about an hour, the New Port Richey candidates sought to define themselves in closing statements.

Mayoral candidate Bette Farmerie emphasized her "vast background" in dealing with people on numerous community boards and organizations. Mayoral candidate Ted Thomas offered his vision for the city, which includes making overtures to recent immigrant communities. Mayoral candidate Wendy Brenner stressed the importance of spreading downtown improvements into the surrounding neighborhoods and incorporating water and river considerations in city planning decisions.

Council candidate Scott Chittum said he would place a premium on code enforcement. Perennial council candidate Frank Janczlic repeated the same message he used to answer every question: "There's going to be a vacancy. I want to fill that vacancy." Council candidate Don Kirby zeroed in on fiscal responsibility, saying he wanted to assure any money spent benefitted taxpayers.

Shep Shepardson of the Grass Roots Alliance Show videotaped the forum. It will be broadcast on April 3 on public access (channel 19 on Time-Warner cable system).

Among the questions and responses:

Both Farmerie and Kirby spoke out strongly against the sale of alcohol in city parks by non-profit groups. Residents voted that idea down in a March straw ballot, but the law allowing sales in Cavalaire Square Park is still on the books. Council members would have to reconsider the ordinance to repeal it.

"I don't believe alcohol should be sold in city parks," Farmerie said. Kirby later agreed.

Not all candidates spoke on all issues, since the questions were assigned randomly and candidates could choose whether to rebut one another's statements or add their own.

Kirby was adamant that he would not support the city's purchase of Lindrick Service Corp. Although Port Richey has considered buying the utility and two additional water wells for $19.5-million, New Port Richey has a right of first refusal.

"I don't think it's worth what they're trying to sell it for," Kirby said. "I don't believe it's in the best interest of the voters to buy Lindrick. . . . I think it's a mistake to even consider it."

On downtown parking, Chittum said a parking deck was not the way to relieve the perceived parking crunch downtown.

"Right now parking's not that bad," he said, calling it instead a "minor inconvenience."

Brenner and Thomas both have prior council experience and have taken similar stances on many issues. They distinguished themselves Monday night in response to a query about the city's community cooperative.

Brenner stated emphatically that the group should "stand on its own two feet.

"It's important they show and prove that they can make some money and they have made some money," she said. "I do believe some accountability needs to be there. There isn't any and there hasn't been."

Thomas, by contrast, said he would continue the council's current stance, considering the group's requests on a per-event basis.

Thomas also indicated his support for using money from the water and sewer fund to finance special events.

"It's a good way to spread the cost of an event around and not put the total cost on city residents," he said, noting that many patrons of special events lived outside city boundaries.

- Times staff writer Beth Glenn covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is glenn@sptimes.com.

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