Candidates for three constitutional offices at Tiger Bay

09/19/08 Seán Kinane
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Candidates for the Hillsborough County constitutional offices of supervisor of elections, tax collector and property appraiser were showcased this afternoon at the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa. But the incumbents for two of the offices were no-shows.

The race for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections is between incumbent Republican Buddy Johnson and Democrat Phyllis Busansky. Both candidates were invited to speak to the Tiger Bay Club at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center’s Maestro’s restaurant, but Johnson did not attend.

Busansky used the opportunity to criticize her opponent for numerous recent scandals.

“Let me just say that I could begin by telling you all the things that are wrong with Buddy Johnson. But I don’t need to because you know them. You read them, you see them, you hear them when you call up his office. You stumble over them. And every week something new happens. You know, the ballots are missing, the ballots are lost, the precincts are changed, he won’t admit that he actually didn’t notify people until two weeks later. He’s missing -- just like he’s not here tonight -– today.”

Hillsborough County School Board Member Candy Olsen asked Busansky why it has taken much longer to get Hillsborough County results on Election Day in recent years.

“Every year the results come in late since Buddy Johnson has been in office and every year Buddy Johnson said, as he said four years ago, ‘I’m going to fix it,’ and he doesn’t. It just doesn’t happen. And in this last primary, it was amazing because in fact there never was a trial run; there never was a practice run. The quality assurance was low and once again they came in very late. I think it’s an issue of competence.”

Just like for supervisor of elections, in the race for Hillsborough County Tax Collector, the Republican incumbent did not attend. Instead, Doug Belden sent a note about his accomplishments that was read by Tiger Bay Club of Tampa President April Schiff.

“I vowed to make the Hillsborough County Tax Collectors Office one of the most effective and efficient government organizations in the state of Florida by operating our public agency as a private sector company.”

Belden’s challenger, Beverly Harris, is running without a party affiliation. She pledged to bring consistency to the tax collector’s office if elected.

“I plan on bringing ethics back to Hillsborough County and promise not to embarrass you by any of my actions while I am in office. I plan on bringing consistency into the office to uphold the sterling award that his offices have won. If you go into one office and you get rejected, I guarantee you, you can take the same paperwork, walk into another office and they will pass it right through. Or you can go on to the DMB website, print up the manual, highlight the way it’s supposed to be done and walk back in and you’ve got everything you need. I do it on a daily basis almost. I work with Tallahassee and with the tax collector's office and I’m constantly fighting and proving the offices wrong.”

Both candidates running for property appraiser, Republican incumbent Rob Turner, and Democratic challenger Ken Ayers attended. Ayers said there is no government office he couldn’t improve by replacing a 12-year incumbent.

“For 12 years our taxes have done nothing but go up and up and up until the real estate market has come to a practical halt. If something is not done for higher-priced properties to remove the burden of taxes, then we are not going to improve the real estate market.”

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner said more changes need to be made to reform the state’s property taxes.

“We have a legislative agenda that we’re going to go not only beginning here at our local delegation but move to Tallahassee to help guide and give them some support in Tallahassee to modify our property tax system in a way that we know it will work today and it will be something that we can look back five, 10, 15 years from now and know that it was a good thing, not that we changed something only to create more problems.”

The Save Our Homes amendment put a 3 percent cap on how much a home’s assessed value can increase from year to year. In years when housing market prices increase more than 3 percent, many houses end up being assessed for property taxes at a lower price than their market value. A provision in Save Our Homes called “recapture” requires a 3 percent increase to the assessed value of a home, even in a year when a home’s market value has decreased, as long as the market value of the home is still above the assessed value. Turner said he hopes it will be considered by the Legislature in the next session.

“Now 12 years ago I advised the state Legislature that that someday would come to haunt the homesteaded property owners of the state and that attention was not given to that issue. But I think this year in session they will address that. That’s one of about 10 or 12 issues we need some further reform to improve our property tax system.”

Turner was asked if Gov. Charlie Crist made a mistake when he said property taxes would drop like a rock once Amendment 1 passed last January.

“I would say that the governor overstated [laughter] the influence of the effect of that. I also heard one of our county commissioners say that perhaps they dropped like a feather. Yes, to answer your question directly, I went to Tallahassee and on two occasions visited with Gov. Crist and let him know that some of the things that were going on were not going to provide that drop-like-a-rock impact. And so, yes, I have made it known to them that they didn’t and they still need to work to make that happen.”

The Tiger Bay Club of Tampa will hold three meetings in October with candidates for both the Florida and U.S. House of Representatives and also on Amendment 2.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 6. Early voting for the Nov. 4 election begins on Oct. 20.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Buddy Johnson or (813) 478-1783

Phyllis Busansky

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections

Rob Turner or (813) 215-2917

Ken Ayers (813) 232-2408

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser

Doug Belden or (813) 221-6464

Beverly Harris (813) 634-6675

Hillsborough County Tax Collector

Tiger Bay Club of Tampa

List of all candidates with links to financial reports

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