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Clearwater Council Candidates Talk Issues During Forum

Clearwater Council | Politics | Election

By GRAHAM COLTON, Writer, TB Reporter

The four men running for the two open seats on the Clearwater City Council talked about downtown development, transportation improvements and regionalism.

CLEARWATER – Two of the candidates running for the Clearwater City Council said they want to bring fresh ideas to the table.

But most of the plans they offered at a candidates’ forum last month sounded a lot like those of their opponents.

Tom Keller, a salesman for Metro Bench, said, if elected, he would start with a “clean slate” and “fresh ideas.” Keller is running for Seat 4 against retired building contractor David Allbritton who serves on the city’s Community Development Board and formerly served on the city’s Downtown Development Board and Municipal Code Enforcement Board.

Keller’s ideas did not differ much from those of Allbritton, despite Keller’s status as a political newcomer. For example, both Keller and Allbritton agreed on the importance of incentives to attracting and retaining restaurants and other businesses to downtown Clearwater.

To encourage development, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency last June approved a loan-to-grant program that provides up to $250,000 to participating property owners and commercial tenants. Program participants can receive a maximum of $250,000 that must be dedicated to interior building improvements and business start-up costs. Building improvements include air conditioning upgrades and electrical improvements; start-up costs include furniture and fixtures.

John Funk, who is running for Seat 5 against incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, said he is the right candidate at a “time for new, fresh ideas.”

Although Funk was the only candidate who suppord SkyTran,a proposed elevated, magnetic levitation train between Clearwater Beach and downtown, he said little that set him apart from Hamilton. For example, they agreed on the importance of cooperating with the Church of Scientology, the largest landowner in the city of Clearwater.

Funk has been a licensed real estate broker at and owner of six real estate companies over the past 43 years. Hamilton, whose family has owned and operated the Palm Pavilion on Clearwater Beach for more than 50 years, said his business background serves him well on the council.

Transportation and parking were the other major issues discussed at the forum. Candidates debated the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s plan for shuttles to and from Clearwater Beach.

To pay for such a plan, Hamilton suggested using revenue from parking funds from the proposed downtown parking garage. Keller said the plan should be implemented only if buses are full. Without explicitly endorsing the shuttle idea, Allbritton said there should be multi-modal solutions to the problem of beach transportation.

Candidates agreed on the importance of regionalism in addressing these and other issues, stressing the importance of cooperating with local government in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Closer4 to home, candidates focused on cooperating with the Church of Scientology.

“We have to figure out a way to co-exist with them…and to work with them in the future,” Keller said.

Hamilton noted that the church, contrary to popular belief, pays taxes on almost all of its downtown property.

Candidates also addressed U.S. 19, with Allbritton and Hamilton explicitly advocating for enterprise zones as a means to promote development outside of downtown. Enterprise zones are areas receiving tax concessions and other incentives to stimulate economic development in those areas.

For information about Allbritton, go to

For information about Funk, go to

For information about Hamilton, go to

For information about Keller, go to

Photo shows, clockwise from top left, Tom Keller, John Funk, David Allbritton, Hoyt Hamilton.

Clearwater City Council | Politics | Elections | David Allbritton | Hoyt Hamilton | John Funk | Tom Keller | Tampabay News

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