Monday, October 13, 2008

Tampa Tribune Endorses Kevin Beckner

The Tampa Tribune in yesterday's issue, Sunday, October 12, endorsed Kevin Beckner, a thirtysomething gay man, financial planner, and former police officer, for city commissioner of district 6 of the city of Tampa.

The conservative paper picked Beckner over the incumbent Brian Blair, whom the paper deemed to be "not the sharpest commissioner." Blair has a tendency to ride roughshod over interest groups in a way that reminds one of his former career as a wrestling professional. The article makes no mention of Blair's previous attempts to use gay and lesbian rights as a political wedge issue, in a way similar to what his "comrade," former County Commissioner Ronda Storms did, who became infamous (and the laughing stock of some quarters) for her virulent campaign against gay books in country libraries. Neither does the article below mentions Blair's past racially tinged remarks.

Beckner, in contrast, is level headed and willing to listen to all segments of the population. If elected, his high-profile visibility as a gay official will hopefully make the board of commissioners more progressive, which in turn, could encourage investments and job growth. See HEREfor the entire article.

District 6
In countywide District 6, Republican incumbent Brian Blair faces Democrat Kevin Beckner, a financial planner and political newcomer.
The amiable Blair is not the sharpest commissioner, but he has grown in office. He's helped curtail extravagant salary increases for county employees, supported cuts in property taxes and advanced worthy measures such as go-slow traffic zones around communities for seniors.
Yet he remains prone to rash pronouncements, as when he complained that cutting his $600 monthly car allowance would take food out of his children's mouths.
While eager to please, Blair also appears to be easily led.
Early in his tenure, he patterned himself after former County Commissioner Ronda Storms of Brandon, who stoked a city-county divide for political upmanship. There was just one problem with Blair's copycat strategy: His district includes the city. But that didn't stop him from disparaging downtown interests, trying to mothball the trolley and preventing Tampa residents from serving on a county board asked to imagine an improved transportation system, complete with spending recommendations.
Blair also pushed hard to privatize the county's indigent health-care system, though he says political contributions from WellCare and other private health-care management companies did not influence him. Fortunately, Blair was unsuccessful. Today WellCare stands accused of defrauding Florida's health agencies of more than $20 million.
Blair also mounted an attack on environmental regulations, and listened hardest to developers who wanted to eliminate local wetlands protections. A public outcry caused the commission to retreat.
Since Storms left the board, Blair has become more reasonable. He promises to make city concerns his concerns, too. But his behavior is not easily forgotten.
In contrast, Beckner comes across as thoughtful, more independent and more likely to listen to a broad range of views.
He stresses the need for better planning and understands that sprawling development makes the county a more expensive place to live, a negative when trying to attract high-wage companies.
The former police officer believes the county should better prioritize spending and focus on building infrastructure that supports job growth. Beckner rightly believes the county can do a better job of partnering with its municipalities, and its state delegation, to advance the region's interests.
Beckner would approach each issue with an open mind and seems unlikely to be swayed by special interests. His role models on the commission are Mark Sharpe and Rose Ferlita.
The commission could use a new voice, one that is independent of special-interest agendas. Beckner would provide that. In District 6, the Tribune recommends Kevin Beckner.

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