CLEARWATER -- Penny For Pinellas, a 1 percent sales tax, passed the support of Pinellas County voters by 57 percent to 43 percent. Perhaps due to an expected low voter turnout (only 97,000 voters), the much needed 1 percent sales tax in Pinellas County will generate about $2 billion in such "Penny" tax fund that will last until 2020, unless renewed.
Penny For Pinellas sales tax passed.
With opposition to the "Penny" tax by Catholic Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, many elected officials wondered if the 1 percent sales tax would pass voter support. Bishop Lynch opposed the sales tax due to a difference of opinion regarding where the sales tax funds should be spent. Bishop Lynch believed some of the sales tax fund should be spent on aid to the less fortunate. Currently, "Penny" tax funds are spent on such things as roadways, jail house updates and city/county projects. Twenty-four cities in Pinellas County will likely share in some of the "Penny" sales tax funds. Many Pinellas County cities plan in advance on how to spend their share of this tax fund, it has become an important part of many Pinellas County city budget funds.
Originally passed in 1989, the tax was approved again in 1997 and now in 2007. Pinellas County sales tax is 7 percent.
Clearwater voters supported a downtown Clearwater 126 boat slip project expected to cost $11 million. Mayor Frank Hibbard was a supporter of the downtown project and was pleased with the narrow 52-48 percent passage. However, political newcomer Paul Gibson (endorsed by the Gazette) won the hotly contested city council seat over Norma Carlough. Carlough supported the downtown boat slip project (and had support of current city officials) while Gibson stated he questioned the project as well as some other decisions made by current city leaders. Gibson campaigned as an independent voice who was not beholding to any special interest group. Gibson took-on the establishment at Clearwater city hall and won. Paul Gibson won the open city council seat.
Clearwater boat slip project passed as well as electing Paul Gibson of Clearwater Beach.
Paul Gibson won the city council seat in a close vote, 51-49 percent.
At Indian Rocks Beach two incumbents, James Palamara and Ed Piniero lost reelection to two political newcomers who felt it was time for a change in the direction of Indian Rocks Beach. Terry Hamilton-Wollin and Bert Valery won the city commission seats.
This probably means trouble for mayor Bill Ockunzzi who has enjoyed support at city hall meetings from the ousted city commissioners. Commissioner Jose Coppen believes the election result is a reflection of the unhappiness of Indian Rocks Beach citizens with the way things had been done at City Hall. The election reflected that changes might be in store at Indian Rocks Beach.
In Belleair Beach Lynn Rives easily beat Donna Durante for the mayor's seat and Belleair Beach voters supported a change in police services, most likely to the Sheriff's Office. Rives ran a low-profile campaign that clearly had support from Belleair Beach voters. Rives' opponent Durante lost the last city election for a city council seat and again lost election for the mayor's seat.
One issue that has created discussion in Belleair Beach is what to do with the City Hall building. Now that the police department will not be housed at City Hall, a smaller city building might replace a large building once planned to house the police department and few city employees. Further, it is questioned whether the city needs a fulltime city manager since such management duties will be reduced (no police department to manage.) The new Belleair Beach city council will address all of these issues when Rives is sworn-in as mayor.
Belleair re-elected Steve Fowler to the city commission and added Stephanie Oddo and Rae Claire Johnson was again defeated in her quest to become a city official. Johnson has been a Belleair city activist in the cause to Save The Biltmore. Of course, recent reports have mentioned an investment group seeking to purchase the Biltmore property (hotel, Cabana Club and golf course) after completing due diligence.
Belleair Bluffs returned two incumbents Robert Russo and Troy Krotz to office while Wallace Witham lost in his attempt to be re-elected to office in Belleair Bluffs.