You have to sympathize with the organizers of City Council forums in Tampa this election cycle. With so many candidates running (28 in all), these forums can be frustrating to both the candidate and the audience in terms of fairly sizing up the competition in individual races.
The organizers at today's Tampa Tiger Bay Forum at the Straz Center attempted to finesse their way through it by limiting the responses to only 30 seconds, which favored the quick-witted and the quick-speaking, but also prevented some candidates from giving a full response to the questions asked.
As (we believe) the only reporter of record there, we'll highlight every candidate's response to two of the most interesting questions posed today. First, what's the one idea they'd like to see implemented if elected? We'll leave it up to you to decide the quality of the answers.
District 1 candidates:
Curtis Stokes (Currently serving as interim City Council representative in District 3) : "I'd like to see us move into a two-year budget cycle. "
Tom Slaughter: He'd concentrate on improving transportation in the city, to inspire businesses to come to Tampa.
Mike Suarez: He'd like to tap into the Occupational Tax Revenue Fund for small-interest loans to businesses that have been in Tampa the last five years. Guido Maniscalco: Would offer incentives for small businesses "new and existing." He also mentioned reducing permitting fees and "start-up cost reductions." Rick Barcena: Wants to loosen regulations for businesses. "Probably I'm one of the only candidates here that can tell you today that my restaurant (Rigatoni's on Kennedy Blvd.) has got an economic impact of $30 million. Comes from a multiplier for the hospitality industry..."
District 2 candidates:
Mary Mulhern (running for re-election): She discussed the ideas she has already presented in her first term in office, like putting a focus on community gardens "as a way to help people with no access to healthy food."
Scott Strepina: He'd like to find ways to consolidate services with Hillsborough County.
Susan Long: She would like to freeze property taxes for businesses or individuals that want to move into a vacant building. "If they didn't come, we wouldn't be collecting those property taxes, anyway." She said if they stayed there for perhaps five years, then the city would raise rates to the property's assessed value.
District 3 candidates:
Chris Hart: Would like to see the city go after bio-tech industry companies to create a business cluster in Tampa/Hillsborough County. "From our airports and our seaports and MacDill Air Force Base, what a great resource."
Michael Ciftci: Would bring 50 interns from local high schools to serve in agencies in city government, which he labeled "unique."
Jason Wilson: Said he would like to review the benefits contract that the city of Tampa recently enacted for all city employees and their families to use medical clinics. The three-year, $7.6 million contract is with CareATC, a health care facility operator based in Oklahoma. Wilson says he'd rather see such a contract done with a company in Tampa, not out of state.
Seth Nelson: Says he wants to make sure Tampa works together with other communities on issues like transportation. "When we start acting as if we're working as a big region, together moving our entire community forward."
Yolie Capin (currently serving as interim candidate in District 4): Mentioned Tampa's assets (the airport and seaport). "High-speed rail. We were selected to be the first leg of connection nationwide. That will bring jobs."
District 6 candidates:
Kelly Benjamin: He said he'd give back 25% of his salary (council members make about $40,000 annually) to the city of Tampa to work on creating a sustainable green initiative to cut waste and "make Tampa a less energy intensive city."
Charlie Miranda: Says he'd continue to use the QTI (Qualified Target Industry tax refunds) for businesses as has for companies in the past.