Citywide District 1 hopefuls talk jobs & rail in Tampa
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02/17/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Early voting for the Tampa City Elections starts Saturday. Going to the polls ahead of Election Day is getting increasingly popular, as she look at the crowded District 1 race.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard was at the New Tampa Regional Library today, chatting with reporters as workers set up for the first day of early voting. There are seven early voting sites throughout Tampa. Lennard said the practice is appealing to more and more voters.

Starting Saturday, polls will be open from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon in some places and ten to six in others, every day leading up to the election except Sunday, February 20. Lennard said in 2010, early voting results allowed analysts predict election results and helped candidates tailor their messages.

The list of candidates on the Tampa ballot has some 33 candidates, vying for all seven city council seats as well as the mayor’s office. Today we look at the District 1 race. Guido Maniscalco, a 26-year-old businessman vying for the seat, said he’d want to tackle city budget gaps without any layoffs.

He added that he’d like to see the city council look at the sizable pension fund for city employees. Maniscalco said he wants to strengthen relations between the city and its public safety personnel.

As for dealing with unemployment, Maniscalco said he’d advocate for policies that would help bring businesses to the area.

Maniscalco is one of five candidates vying to replace Council member Gwen Miller, who is retiring. He said he would have voted differently from Miller on a Wet Zoning designation for the tasting room at Cigar City Brewing.

Tom Slaughter, an engineer also vying for the citywide seat, has advocated in front of city council on behalf of the environment for years.

He said public transit will be key in Tampa’s progress.

Slaughter said a modern transportation system would help attract businesses looking to relocate to or expand in Tampa.

Transit is also on the mind of candidate Mike Suarez, who in the last week received endorsements from the St. Pete Times and the Tampa Tribune. He said he’d like to see the state legislature give the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA), the power to take a more regional approach to transit.

As for jobs, Suarez said he’d like to see dollars from the Occupational Tax Revenue Fund get invested into local businesses. He said the money was originally used to pay down a utility bond, but now goes into the general fund.

Suarez said he’s running in part because he thinks the council’s current makeup is making it difficult to get things done. He said the recent debate over whether to ban panhandling is a case-in-point.

The two other candidates in the District 1 race are Curtis Stokes, who currently serves on council in the citywide District 3 seat. Stokes is a bank official and a former president of the Hillsborough NAACP. The other is Rick Barcena, owner of Rigatoni Tuscan Oven and former city code enforcement board member. Neither could be reached for comment by deadline, but we intend to speak with them before the election, which is March First. Early voting ends Saturday, February 26.

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