Hibbard Wins Four More Years
by Carl Wagenfohr
Photo by Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - Clearwater's voters endorsed Mayor Frank Hibbard on Tuesday, reelecting him by a margin of 5,303 votes over his opponent, former Mayor Rita Garvey. Hibbard received 15,504 votes to Garvey's 10,201, winning by 60.32-percent to 39.68-percent.
Hibbard had praise for his challenger. "I appreciate anyone who has ever served in public office. I appreciate her volunteerism at the library and her past efforts as mayor and commissioner. I'm pleased with the fact that we had a very upbeat positive campaign that was issue based," he said of Garvey.
Moving Clearwater's municipal election to coincide with the Presidential Primaries more than doubled voter participation; 25,705 votes were cast in this year's mayoral election versus only 11,243 in the 2007 City Council election in which Paul Gibson defeated Norma Carlough.
Also on the ballot was a Clearwater Charter amendment that would extend the term of the city's elected officials from three years to four. Before all the results were counted, the outcome of that referendum was in doubt. Asked if he was looking forward to four years or three, Hibbard said, "I'm looking forward to whatever the citizens give me." That referendum ultimately passed by the narrow margin of 1,385 of the 25,315 votes cast.
One of the challenges Hibbard must face early in his second term is a continuation of the cost-cutting effort that the City Council undertook in 2007. While the outcome of the State-wide Amendment 1 tax reform measure was unknown on Tuesday evening, Hibbard implied that more city budget cutting was inevitable.
"We knew whether Amendment 1 passed tonight or we got some other iteration of it in the coming months that we were going to have to make additional cuts. The one thing that's important to me is making certain that we do it with the entire community engaged and that the cuts are equitable across the board," Hibbard said.
A combination of Amendment 1 having passed and a potential flattening or reduction in the taxable value of Clearwater properties will make the city's belt-tightening exercise difficult.
Budget Director Tina Wilson had been forecasting a $2.7-million reduction in 2008 city revenue if Amendment 1 passed. But if taxable value remains flat versus an assumed 3-percent increase, the deficit could mushroom to $4.2-million according to a what-if analysis she prepared last year.
In addition to passing the Charter Amendment referendum on extending the term of elected office to four years, Clearwater's voters approved several referenda, including donating property for workforce housing, granting of easements for underground utilities at Coachman Park, modifying election canvassing board membership, and eliminating a referendum requirement for city-issued revenue bonds exceeding $1-million.
City voters defeated a proposed Charter Amendment that would extend the interval between Charter Review Advisory Committee panels from five years to eight.
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