In South Tampa, candidates mull transit and Amendment 4 at Chamber of Commerce forum

09/22/10 Kate Bradshaw
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For the first time in recent memory the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce is hosting forums for local and statewide candidates on the November ballot. Today marked the first of these and a handful of those vying for local office confronted everything from transit to class size. Compared to the fierce debates that are making this year unusually volatile it was pretty quiet. The only testy exchange happened between two candidates who aren’t even running against one another.

That’s District One candidate John Dingfelder, a Democrat who resigned from Tampa City Council to run in this year’s county commission rate. He’s responding to an earlier claim of Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan.

Hagan is a Republican hoping to replace Jim Norman in the Commission’s District 5 Seat, which is a countywide post. Staunch conservative Norman is running for state Senate. Hagan’s main opponent is former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena who wasn’t able to attend the forum. Independent candidate Jim Hosler is also in that race. Hagan says he knows he doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a firebrand.

Though a Republican and self-professed fiscal conservative, Hagan was one of five commissioners that voted to allow voters to weigh in on a penny-on-the-dollar tax increase to fund transit on the November ballot. He said the people should at least have the chance to vote. Had Dingfelder been on the commission this past spring,he most likely would have been a yes vote but for a different reason.

Sandy Murman, a former state legislator who is Dingfelder’s Republican challenger says while she thinks it’s important that the question is on the ballot the timing is off.

Another controversy voters will address in November is the question of whether to adjust the class size limits they adopted in 2002. Known as Amendment 8, it would remove hard caps for class size and instead require schools to determine class size limits by school averages. The two candidates in a run-off for the Hillsborough County School Board’s at-large District Six seat weighed in. April Griffin is the incumbent.

In the primary, Griffin was in a four-way race that also included Christian activist Terry Kemple. She now faces pre-school owner Sally Harris. There’s not much of a difference between the two, at least when it comes to class size. Here’s what Harris says about Amendment Eight.

A candidate in another nonpartisan race got some face time at today’s forum. Kelso Tanner is one of five candidates running Soil and Water Conservation District Five. He says the seat may be all the way on the bottom of the ballot but it’s nonetheless an important one.

An opponent of Amendment 4 also spoke though no one who was in favor of it showed up. Also known as Hometown Democracy, it would give voters veto power over every proposed change to their local comprehensive land use plan. April Schiff is the Government affairs chair for the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business organization that endorses Rick Scott for Governor and Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate. She says at a Chamber of Commerce event Amendment Four proponents wouldn’t exactly be preaching to the choir.

The next South Tampa Chamber of Commerce candidate forum will take place October 28 less than a week before voters go to polls November 2.

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