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Manatee District 4 candidates debate issues

MANATEE — Jobs, crime and taxes kept finding their way into the responses of three Republican candidates for the Manatee County Commission District 4 seat during a forum Tuesday.

Robin DiSabatino, Norm Luppino and Tim Norwood fielded questions posed to them during a candidates forum the Herald, METV and the League of Women Voters sponsored. The three are vying to be the Republican candidate to replace incumbent Ron Getman, who decided not to seek reelection this year.

DiSabatino, who has been a Realtor for 24 years, said the commission needs to find other spending cuts to cover Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube’s department needs rather than raising property taxes.

“This is not the right time to increase taxes,” she said. “People tell me, ‘Please don’t increase my taxes’.”

Norwood, who calls himself a Tea Party Republican, said the commissioners could fund public safety if it went back to its pre-economic bubble spending plan.

“The sheriff has done a heroic job in keeping crime down,” he said.

Luppino took another tact, saying he is opposed to tax increases but because property values have dropped, county property owners will receive a $24 million tax cut.

“If we give the sheriff a .1 mill increase, the taxes still go down $21 million,” he said.

As for trimming the budget, the three candidates attacked the problem in different ways.

Luppino, a former planning manager for the county, said there have been a lot of cuts already and that “there’s not much fat left.”

But one place he would look at are the monetary incentives given to developers to build $175,000 homes and call them workforce housing.

Deciding what projects and services are not necessary and putting them on hold is one way Norwood would trim the budget.

“Raising taxes would be disastrous,” he said.

DiSabatino said the county needs to be run like a business by privatizing as many government functions as possible.

When it comes to job creation and luring businesses to Manatee County, the three candidates offered different options.

DiSabatino said the commission needs to start with offering incentives to businesses already in the county to create jobs.

Also, the county has not been letting people know about all the programs available now, she said.

Diversification is the way to spur the local economy, said Norwood, whose work experience has been in manufacturing.

The county used to have a strong manufacturing base and now has to provide the incentives to bring it back, he said.

Luppino said the county needs to market Port Manatee to attract companies with good paying jobs.

He also said the sports industry has played an important role in the local economy and the county should do what it can to encourage growth in that area.

Whoever wins the Republican primary will face the sole Democratic candidate Roger Galle in the Nov. 2 general election.

METV will be broadcasting the forum several times before the Aug. 24 primary election.