INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Bill Ockunzzi retained his seat as mayor in Tuesday’s election, eking out a 71-vote margin over Cookie Kennedy.
Jose Coppen, a newcomer to the political wars, ran a very strong second to R.B. Johnson, for a seat on the commission. Johnson was the top vote getter of the day with 902 votes. Johnson was an incumbent and was returned for his third term.
These two earned two-year terms on the commission while Ed Piniero, a former mayor and member of the commission, took the third seat, a one-year term.
The differences in term years came about because of the resignation of Bob DiNicola as mayor last spring. Ockunzzi, as vice mayor, moved into DiNicola’s seat and left his seat that still has a year to run on its term.
Jean Scott was named to Ockunzzi’s vacant seat. She ran fourth in the voting, with 504 votes.
Probably the hottest issue in the campaign was a citizens initiative petition that asked voters whether they "approve the rezoning” of the 2500 block of Gulf Boulevard for a redevelopment project.
That lost, 947 to 577, in a vote that might actually have been moot. What is now moot for certain is the city’s action for declaratory judgment and injunction seeking to sidetrack the petition.
A second question, a referendum that asked voters if they favored a city program for undergrounding utilities in the neighborhoods at the expense of residents, fell, 832 to 670.
Ockunzzi and Kennedy, who ran hard-fought but clean campaigns, compiled 495 and 417 votes, respectively. Victor Wood ran third weith 350 votes and Larry Sandefer, a former commissioner, had 248 votes.
Maybe a first, or among the first, in innovative campaigning was the use of e-mail by Ockunzzi and Coppen. Each sent out a series of electronic letters, usually newsy and focusing on a city issue.
The biggest issue in the campaign, it seems, was not contending views of candidates, both for mayor and the commission, but the controversy over development in the 2500 block of Gulf Boulevard, or “the Publix,” as it was popularly known.
That referendum, styled a “citizens initiative petition,” was attacked and supported by signs throughout the city and was the object of two lawsuits, one by the city.
The first of the actions came last spring from a citizen who asserted the city had not acted properly. The second suit was filed in January with the city trying to quash the ballot question or, if it passed, to make it a nulllity.
The ballot question asked voters whether they "approve the rezoning of the city block between Gulf Boulevard, First Street, 25th Avenue and 26th Avenue to a planned unit development and granting variances and other approvals necessary to construct a multiuse, three-story building consisting of no more than a street-level grocery of 30,065 square feet with 29 ground-level parking spaces and loading zone, second-level parking for 119 vehicles, and 24 condominium units on the third level."
The city filed suit to have the initiative removed from the ballot or, in case it was approved, have it declared a nullity.
The overwhelming rejection by the voters puts to rest this hot issue that may return, however, in a modified form. The project would have included a Publix supermarket.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition