Five Tampa City Council candidates vying for District 3 came together on Thursday to discuss issues on CL News & Politics Editor Mitch Perrys radio show, Last Call.
The candidates running are Michael Cifiti, Yvonne Capin, Chris Hart, Seth Nelson and Jason Wilson.
Right off the bat, Perry starts the discussion with the hot topic of the day high-speed rail and Gov. Rick Scotts rejection of $2.4 billion in federal funds toward the rail.
Chris Hart, former Hillsborough County Commissioner and banker, jumped right into the rail issue with the belief that Florida had the wrong vision with high-speed rail. People were only seeing it as a link between Orlando and Tampa, he said. According to Hart, Florida has the opportunity to be the first leg of the national high-speed rail and the capacity to change our economy.
Seth Nelson, a family law attorney and member of the city councils budget and advisory committee, was also disappointed in the governors decision. Nelson believes Scott should have first looked into private industry to supplement the balance. Public-private partnerships are the wave of the future and this is the perfect opportunity allowing the state to ask a private sector to make this happen, he said.
Adding to the diversity of the candidates is Jason Wilson, an emergency room doctor at Tampa General Hospital. Wilson already sees himself as a public servant to the community. What I do in the emergency department everyday is advocate for my patients, serve my patients, he said, adding that being on city council would only reinforce those goals. According to Wilson, health care workers in general are going to make great public servants for the future because of their consistent involvement. Hes also ready to take action on establishing a drug monitoring system. This week, Scott rejected Floridas proposal for one, but Wilson sees no reason why it cant be set up at the local level.
Representing small businesses and a leader in the green community is candidate Michael Ciftici, founder of the nonprofit organization, United for a Sustainable America. Ciftici wants to see people get back to work and feels hes unmatched by any opponents in this race when it comes to his knowledge on green jobs and the ability to provide that to the community.
Hart points to his background in banking and creating jobs. Through his leadership roles, he boasted that he has helped to create more jobs in Hillsborough County than anywhere in the state of Florida.
On the Tampa Bay Rays, Hart would like to see them come to Tampa, but feels the Gateway location in Pinellas County is a great option. Nelson agrees, but says the first and main issue for the Rays is that they need to decide what theyre going to do in St. Pete. You dont start looking for another date until youve broken up with the girl that you have, he said.
Candidate Yvonne Capin, Interim District 4 Councilwoman, wants to make sure we dont give the Rays away. As a small businesswoman and self-starter, she wants to see Tampa grow. We are the largest media market in Florida and because of that alone, we dont want to give anything away.
Towards the end of the debate, Ciftci took some whacks at the current council for being derelict of duty when it comes to to dealing with some of the issues that it faces, like panhandling and the homeless.
Capin took obvious offense at that, creating some tension at the end of the hour-long program.
The election takes place on March 1 and early voting begins tomorrow, February 19.