BRADENTON — The four candidates for the Manatee County Commission District 4 seat showed their stripes at the Tiger Bay Club luncheon Thursday.
The three Republican candidates — Robin DiSabatino, Norm Luppino and Tim Norwood — who face off in an Aug. 24 primary, and the lone Democrat, Roger Galle, tried to distinguish themselves among the others with their stances on the issues.
In an opening state- ment and answers to questions from some of the almost 100 members and guests, the candidates covered the major points of what they plan to do if elected.
The candidates said the biggest problems facing Manatee County were unemployment and the economy.
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Norwood, whose background is in manufacturing, outlined the situation and offered the most detailed explanation on how he would deal with it. He said the county has to create incentives to attract new businesses.
He said Manatee County was known for its manufacturing, especially in the corridor between 15th Street East and U.S. 41, south of State Road 70.
“The economy today offers the best opportunity to recruit manufacturers,” Norwood said. “Manufacturers are looking to cut their overhead.”
Galle, a painting contractor, said he was confident that the economy will pick up, but not just in construction.
“We have to get other businesses to come to Manatee County,” he said.
DiSabatino, a Realtor, said the county needs to revitalize its older neighborhoods.
While campaigning, she said people have told her they want three things — jobs, safe neighborhoods and a robust economy.
“We need to address the problems of our current businesses first,” DiSabatino said. “Then go out and recruit new businesses.”
For Luppino, a former county planner, neighborhood revitalization is the key to more jobs and an improved economy. In an answer to a question about Bayshore Gardens, Luppino said creating community redevelopment authorities was an effective way to accomplish that objective.
“One of the greatest tools would be to designate the area a CRA,” he said, “and use the TIFF (tax increment financing fund) to reinvest in the community.”
In response to a question about raising taxes, all four quickly and emphatically said they would not raise taxes to balance the county budget.
Galle said it takes common sense to balance the budget.
“There’s only so much money,” he said. “Until jobs and the economy pick up, we just need to tighten up.”
Norwood said the commission needed to push for the Port Manatee-Interstate 75 connector road and promote Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport more.
On the budget, he said his philosophy was, “If you don’t have it, don’t spend it.”
For Luppino, there would be no need for new taxes if there were no new programs.
He said he would emphasize improving neighborhoods to increase the tax base.
When asked if they would approve higher density and taller buildings along the U.S. 41 corridor, all but Galle were not necessarily in favor of such redevelopment, but would rely on community response.
Galle went even further and said he was against taller building heights.
“Leave our neighborhoods alone,” he said. “We don’t need condos on U.S. 41; it needs to stay the way it is.”