Voters city-wide will choose the next representative for Gulfport's Ward Three. Incumbent Jennifer Salmon will step down in March; Paul Ray and Yolanda Roman have both successfully declared their candidacy. Tuesday morning they met for a debate at Town Shores; Tuesday night they rematched at Gulfport City Hall at a League of Women Voters-sponosred debate.
The Gabber strongly encourages all voters to watch the full debate, accessible here. Below we have included the points made by each candidate at the Town Shores debate and, when necessary, noted when a candidate presented facts we either could not verify or could only prove false. Anything enclosed in quotation marks are the words of the Again, this article gives only the main points; for elaboration, please watch the videos and then contact the candidates. Next week we will run our coverage of Tuesday evening's debate in print, although the article may appear sooner online.
In February we will sit down with each candidate for more in-depth interviews. Please contact individual candidates if you wish to clarify the statements below.
• Introduced "his other half", Wesley Sloat
• Expressed disappointment no council members attended and expressed his respect for Councilwoman Jennifer Salmon
• Said he did not favor outsourcing services
• Said the city is "only recycling paper and cans" and needs to move to single source recycling.
(As per city management and department heads, Gulfport recycles paper, cans, bottles, paperboard, cardboard, glass and yard waste, although does not offer curbside glass recycling)
• Said Gulfport will have more money after the marina upgrade, lower water bills after sewer fixes, and thus should not have to raise rates. Added that if the city has money left over at the end of the year taxes are too high.
• Defined the role of government as "least is best", but also should set policy, increase businesses, and increase safety and protection for the citizens
• Said city has a business closing because of zoning laws and can't rebuild because of a storm and the city may have to relax zoning laws (the Gabber pulled the permit records of the one business known to be affected by a storm, Yummy's, and found 15 approved permits and none denied. In addition, additions and ADA enhancements continue on that building. Yummy's had an expedited permitting process with the city and required no variances. Currently all permits have city approval.)
• Does not favor borrowing money but said city would to fix sewers
• Said city will work with ConEd to fix sewers (As per the Gulfport City Manager and public records of council meetings, city council opted to use the state's revolving loan plan and will not use ConEd)
• Said Gulfport had fish swimming on downtown streets because of bad sewers (the Gabber could not locate such fish or find evidence of fish swimming downtown and, as such, could not attribute alleged swimming to sewage)
• Said he could not address how to fix bocce ball courts on Gulfport's beach
• About golf carts, he said they would minimize parking issues. Said that compared to his experience to visiting relatives at The Villages, would approve in the city. Said they should have all safety features, drivers should have a license and register their vehicles with the city. Also said vehicles should have a minimum speed.
• Called the mooring field a "very good idea" and "source of revenue for the city".
• Said he did not favor chain stores south of 22nd but does think they offer a "viable alternative" on 49th Street
• About 49th Street, said Gulfport must work with Saint Petersburg or else it's "putting lipstick on a pig". He also said Gulfport "never applied" for brownfield funding (the Gabber confirmed with Gulfport's city manager Jim O'Reilly that Gulfport city applied for and received $400,000 in brownfield funds; Mr. Ray revised his statement at the evening debate; please see below)
• Advocated collaboration and transparency with Town Shores
• When asked, said he has registered as a republican and democrat in the past (Pinellas County records show him registered as Independent)
• Advocated for national healthcare system, but said the Affordable Healthcare Act has flaws and that government implemented it too quickly
• When asked why voters should elect him, he said because of his analytical and critical thinking. Said he ran "only because" Councilwoman Jennifer Salmon chose to step down and he wanted to bring her type of analysis to city council.
"If a UFO landed in the backyard I would flip it over and find out where it's made," he said. He cited his experience as a consultant, president of a company. He also said that living as an openly gay man allowed him to accept people.
• Introduced herself as a mother of three with expertise in project planning, team development and experience working with government
• Discussed marina, sewers and seniors as priorities (she also mentioned seniors as a priority as an earlier, non-Town Shores event)
• Said she did not support outsourcing city services
• Said recent tax hike came from a desire to "make sure we can depend on our quality of life"
• Defined role of government as "operational obligations" and amenities
• Stressed her ability to be available to all groups
• Defined her top three priorities as downtown parking, alleys and streets, and sewers
• Does not advocate long-term loans
• Spoke at length about how best to address bocce ball courts; said city staff needed to be made aware of issues
• Golf carts? In favor of them, within safety confines
• Favors a mooring field. Advocated measuring "environmental impact" in Boca Ciega Bay as well as an environmental pre-check to determine "is this going to have an impact?", which she said the city did.
• "I am not going to say 'absolutely not'," she said, pointing to McDonald's and Walgreens, when asked about chains .
• Advocated communication and transparency to determine what Town Shores residents want
• Said she took offense at saying 49th street is "worse" or "most devalued" part of our city – "we have restaurants working there, we have businesses, we have a bank, So49". She said she favored asking businesses what they need, said she doesn't want to insult those businesses. Says Gulfport "can't control St. Petersburg"; advocated looking at what Gulfport has the power to do.
• When asked, said registered she was a registered Democrat but reminded people the election was non-partisan
• Supports the Affordable Care Act but admits it needs tweaking
• When asked why voters should elect her, she said serving was "community service at the utmost" and that she was not afraid to reach out, ask questions, hear tough things and can challenge and research issues.
• "My commitment is to work hard" said she defines herself as the "bridge candidate".