A Times Editorial
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000
Two candidates have challenged incumbent Brooksville City Councilman Pat Brayton, who appears to be on the downhill side of a six-year tenure on the council.
Joe Bernardini and Robert Pruitt have offered good ideas for enhancing the city's economy and improving government services. However, only one of the challengers brings a lifelong perspective of the city and its residents to the table. That candidate is Bernardini.
Bernardini's broad knowledge of the issues facing the city comes from having served 11 of his 48 years on the council. He was recalled from office in 1995 after he and two other council members were targeted by Brayton and others because they backed former City Manager Jim Malcolm's progressive efforts to streamline city government and lay the groundwork for revitalizing the city's uninspired downtown.
We agree with Bernardini's assessment that he "got a raw deal." The city lost a forward-looking policy-maker and a good listener in the very divisive process, which was rooted in revenge and fraught with hyperbole.
Bernardini has re-emerged as a viable and promising candidate who has overcome any bitterness he must have felt when voters rejected his incumbency, and now offers to bring his common-sense, open-minded approach back to the council. After a four-year absence, he still speaks authoritatively about the issues and has his eyes fixed on the city's future.
Bernardini recognizes that unless the city begins to grow economically, the expense of city government may soon result in increases in the property tax and related services. His immediate proposal to avoid that is to give more support to private groups such as Downtown Development Inc., which is laboring to rejuvenate the downtown area. He also advocates more spending on tourist and business development, especially in the Tampa Bay market.
But before that happens, Bernardini believes the city must prepare for visitors' arrival by obtaining and wisely spending state and federal grant money to make the downtown more accommodating to pedestrians. Realigning parking patterns and enforcing speed limits on Jefferson and Broad Street are two ways to accomplish that, he believes.
Also, Bernardini wants the council to do more to retain existing businesses. For instance, he says the council should have been more involved in trying to persuade the operators of Brooksville Regional Hospital to remain in the city. But now, given the almost certainty that the hospital will move, the council should be making plans to fill that void by finding an appropriate health-care enterprise for the facility, with an eye toward retaining businesses that supported the hospital, such as drugstores and doctors' offices.
Bernardini advocates stepping up law enforcement and placing greater emphasis on community policing, particularly in the high-crime areas of south Brooksville. Hiring qualified minorities to fill those positions should be a priority, he says.
The other challenger in this race is Pruitt, a relative newcomer to the city who has waged an open-minded, issues-oriented campaign for Seat 3. But Pruitt's candidacy has been marred by the recent disclosure that his business dealings are in disarray.
But even if we could put that concern aside, Pruitt's potential could not compensate for Bernardini's depth of knowledge about the city and its people, or his vision of the future. That is why we recommend voters in Brooksville support Bernardini on Nov. 7.
Candidates not recommended by the Times are invited to respond. The reply should be no more than 250 words and must be received no later than noon Tuesday, Oct. 31. Deliver to 161 E Jefferson St., Brooksville, or fax to 754-6133, or e-mail as a text-only file to email@example.com.