Beckner promises more open government
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12/10/08 Seán Kinane
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Kevin Beckner was elected to the Hillsborough County Commission last month. Today, at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Tampa and the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County, he urged citizens to get more involved in the community.

“For too long we have focused on political agendas, self-interest groups, special interest groups, and too long I think some of our leaders have focused and have catered to those groups and not necessarily -- they’ve gotten out of touch with about who actually elected them to office. And so, what my promise -- through my campaign and it continues to be today that -- I believe that the whole formation of government and the way we run policy is not based on whether you’re a Democrat, whether you’re a Republican, Independent, no party affiliation, but it’s based on the needs and the values of our community.”

Beckner is a Democrat, but he said he had a lot of support from Republicans and Independents. He said more than 400 people volunteered for his campaign but he still beat Republican incumbent Brian Blair by a larger margin than expected.

“It was 55 to 45 percent; we won by nearly 50,000 votes. And we had built in, when we did our campaign plan, we had built in about 52 percent is what we wanted to hit. So, yes, it came as a little bit of surprise a surprise to us. … It got back down to again the real issues of making the focus of government once again about people.”

Part of how to put citizens in the driver’s seat, Beckner said, is by opening the doors of government. Two ways he plans to accomplish that are with open office hours in each district of the county and with open house meetings called "Coffee with Kevin." Beckner’s speech emphasized economic development within the county. He said there are three ways to help attract high-paying jobs to the region: increase affordable housing in the county, enhance education, and foster a more inclusive culture.

But even with an environment of inclusion and quality education, Beckner said, companies won’t relocate to Hillsborough unless there is enough affordable housing for their workers.

On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from supporters of creating an elected county mayor in Hillsborough. During the lunchtime meeting at the St. Pete Times Forum, Beckner said he neither supports nor opposes the idea of a county mayor, but he does support the issue appearing on the ballot so that people can decide by vote.

Tomorrow Beckner and the rest of the Hillsborough County Commission meet for a goal-setting workshop at 9 a.m. in Brandon. Kiwanis Club of Tampa

League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County

Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners

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