Bradenton mayoral candidates talk jobs, Riverwalk

mvalverde@bradenton.comOctober 3, 2012 

BRADENTON -- One of the mayoral candidates said he's not done yet, another said it was time for a new leadership image, and a third said it was time to get rid of the combined decades of experience of the first two.

The three candidates hoping to be elected mayor of Bradenton -- incumbent Wayne Poston and challengers Marianne Barnebey and Richard O'Brien -- faced off at a forum Wednesday hosted by the Bradenton Herald and Manatee Educational Television where they spoke about the Riverwalk, the economy and the location of Bradenton's City Hall and police department.

"I want to finish the job I started," Poston said, adding that his campaign was not about what he was going to do, but about the successes he's had. Poston has served as mayor since 2000 and is now seeking his fourth consecutive term.

The Cedar Hammock-Wares Creek flood control project, the renovated Riverwalk, the nonprofit created to promote downtown, all those have happened under his administration, Poston said. Government under his terms has been entrepreneurial, inclusive and transparent, he said.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Barnebey commended Poston for noting those achievements, which she said were Council-approved. During her time serving the city, she has seen what has worked, what hasn't worked and what shouldn't have been done, Barnebey said. The role of mayor is not one of a celebrity and is not to be used as a "stepping stone to a higher office," she said.

"And isn't it about time that our daughters and granddaughters and nieces got to see someone who looked like them in a leadership role?" Barnebey said.

Barnebey said there were too many bars downtown and that she would like to diversify the businesses in that corridor. Seeking technology grants could make vacant office space downtown more valuable and appealing, she said. Barnebey has served on Council since 1998.

O'Brien, a University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee professor, said Bradenton should not "be content with mediocre or nonexistent attempts to create jobs and spur the economy." He presented his "Buy Bradenton, Buy Local" plan which he said would help local residents and businesses by encouraging people to buy Bradenton-made products.

"We can do our own economic recovery," O'Brien said.

The key to downtown development is to link Village of the Arts to Old Main Street, he said, making it a continuous 30-block downtown.

Naming the amphitheater at Bradenton's renovated Riverwalk after Mosaic Company Foundation was the wrong decision, O'Brien added.

"You don't name a waterfront attraction after one of the largest polluters in the state of Florida," he said. "It's just like naming beaches after BP."

Barnebey said she opposed the recent naming and that she did not get information about it until the day before the council had to vote. Mosaic paid $95,000 for naming rights for 15 years. Poston called the deal "the appropriate thing to do."

The three candidates agreed that the location of City Hall and the police department along the waterfront was valuable and should be turned into commercial space once the right offer was made by a developer.

The most recent contribution and expenditures reports filed with the Supervisor of Elections office show that Barnebey has raised $4,040, including a $2,000 loan from herself to her campaign and spent $568.91 on the candidacy qualifying fee.

Incumbent Poston has raised about $48,700 and spent approximately $13,000 in fund raising, consulting and events, campaign signs, and the candidate filing fee, according to the Sept. 14 financial reports.

O'Brien has reported to have raised about $21,500, including a self loan of about $1,700, and has spent around $17,600 in employee paychecks, office supplies and repairs and supplies for his red double-decker campaign bus.

Bradenton citizens voted during the primary election to eliminate runoff elections, so the winning candidate does not need to get more than 50 percent of the votes, just the most votes. The general election is Nov. 6.

Bradenton Mayoral Candidates Name: Wayne Poston Age: 68 Hometown: Athens, Ohio Profession: City of Bradenton Mayor Previous elected office: Mayor and Police Commissioner January 2000-present Name: Marianne Barnebey Age: 55 Hometown: Bradenton Profession: Ward 2 Councilwoman Previous elected office: Ward 2 Councilwoman January 1998-present Name: Richard O’Brien Age: 45 Hometown: Sarasota Profession: University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee professor Previous elected office: None

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