A Times Editorial
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 23, 2000
John Wayne Clark is a reasonable voice for ordinary citizens disaffected by the big-money political system. His commitment to the environment and openness to public school reform reflect the conservative values that draw residents to the rural but growing neighborhoods of east Hillsborough County.
District 62 includes Valrico, Seffner, most of Plant City and parts of Brandon and Durant. Much of the rural landscape serves as a bedroom community for Tampa, and the quality of life that attracted residents is threatened by environmental degradation, congestion and sprawl. Clark, 57, has his priorities straight. He would establish more public woodlands and parks, encourage recycling and invest in technology to curb the reliance on groundwater pumping, and better plan roads to manage suburban growth.
Clark, a Democrat, is a Florida native with a long background in public service. He worked for the state childrens' welfare agency, then called the department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, from 1970 to 1996, serving 12 years as deputy administrator for the Hillsborough-area district. His background would give the Legislature a practical voice it needs to make sound policy on social services. Clark is a moderate Democrat whose thoughtful differences with his party leadership give him wide bipartisan appeal.
"Nobody's paying for growth management except the middle class," Clark said, citing gas and sales taxes. His grasp of tax policy, embrace of less government and openness to Democratic and Republican ideas give him the balance to effectively represent the district.
The incumbent, Republican Johnnie B. Byrd Jr., is a Plant City lawyer. He promotes the agenda of the Republican leadership -- tax cuts, school testing, less oversight of growth management and environmental lands. Byrd's partisan approach to legislation is a poor substitute for reasoned debate. His use of a loophole in campaign finance law also is emblematic of the problem special-interest money causes the democratic process.
Clark is open to the views of opposing voices and attuned to the real priorities of the district's growing neighborhoods. The Times recommends John Wayne Clark.
The Times offers candidates not recommended by its editorial board an opportunity to reply. Candidates in the races discussed today should send in their replies no later than 5 p.m. Wednesday to: Philip Gailey, editor of editorials, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. (E-mail: email@example.com; Fax: 893-8675). Replies are limited to 250 words.