BRADENTON — Voters going to the polls Nov. 3 will have a choice between two candidates for the Ward 3 city council seat who have different philosophies.
Political newcomer Richard O’Brien said he sees a greater role for city government in improving the local economy, while incumbent Patrick Roff said the economy is a problem the federal government can affect.
O’Brien said the city council needs to recognize the jobless problem and attract more business with incentives.
“Some ideas can be as simple as a ‘Buy Bradenton’ program,” said the college professor and business owner.
Roff says the city council only has limited effect on the economy.
“I know there are people out there saying they’re going to go out and create jobs,” the councilman said, “but all we (the city council) can do is make it attractive for business to come here.”
He said the council was doing its part by not laying off any city workers and keeping them off the unemployment rolls.
The two candidates have different viewpoints about crime and public safety.
O’Brien said he got into the race because he noticed a lot of break-ins happening in his neighborhood, including the house next door to his.
“My wife and I got married about six months ago and were hoping to raise a family here,” he said. “With the police department being cut and having the smallest force for a city of its size in the state, (the city council) is not seeing the problem.”
Roff said he and his fellow council members were faced with three years of tight budgets due to actions by the Florida Legislature, voters’ desires and a bad economy.
But even with the budget trimming, the council made sure the police department was funded, he said.
“We found money for the police department,” Roff said, pointing out the $1.7 million COPS grant the city was awarded.
“That’s money the city taxpayers didn’t have to pay,” he said.
Keeping city property taxes low is a priority for both candidates.
Roff said during the budget process he did not receive any calls for increasing taxes.
O’Brien also said he was against raising taxes, saying any program or spending he was advocating was budget-neutral, or could be paid for with grants or non-tax revenues.
One idea of using city resources he is promoting came from the Artisan Avenue project to connect the Village of the Arts to the city waterfront.
O’Brien suggested converting the first floor of the city hall into retail shops and restaurants.
“The idea is to have an anchor for the waterfront,” he said, “and it could be done inexpensively.”
Roff said his ability to rally support for projects, such as the revitalization of the Historical Wares Creek Neighborhood, which he co-founded, and the Tamiami Tomorrow project along 14th Street West comes from his desire to serve the city.
“I’ve been in the service business all my life,” said the professional arborist, from when he started as a paperboy at the age of 11 to owning his own business.
Four other candidates are seeking two more council seats.
Incumbent Marianne Barnebey is being challenged by political newcomer Lori Melton for the Ward 2 seat, and first-time candidate Joe Henry will face off against incumbent Bemis Smith for the Ward 4 position.
Council members are paid a salary of $27,834 a year.
All registered voters in the city are eligible to vote in all three races, but because the districts were redrawn voters should check their registration card for polling locations.