District 3: Similar goals, divergent ideas mark City Council race

February 23, 2011
By Jack Nicas, Times Staff Writer

TAMPA - Voters have a potpourri of candidates to fill the District 3 citywide seat: a lawyer, a doctor, a former small-business owner, a retired Army officer, and a young politico who trumpets green energy.

That variety emerges in their platforms. Some candidates demand light rail, while others are satisfied with buses. Some want to focus on luring large medical or biotech firms; others believe small businesses are key.

While they all share a desired destination - more money and more jobs - each has different ideas about getting there.

Yvonne Yolie Capin, 61, is a retired jewelry store owner who was appointed to the vacant District 4 South Tampa seat last year. She says she would lobby state government to accept remaining stimulus money that is in flux in order to help small businesses. And she said she would lobby state and federal lawmakers to push banks to issue small businesses more microloans.

Attorney Seth Nelson, 40, also emphasizes small businesses. He says a streamlined, less restrictive zoning code would encourage more entrepreneurs to open shop. He also thinks revamping the bidding process for city contracts would boost revenue. He wants to open bidding to businesses outside the city, and factor in job and revenue creation instead of simply choosing the cheapest bid.

Dr. Jason Wilson, who is an emergency room physician, and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Chris Hart talk more about attracting large companies to Tampa. They want to streamline zoning and permitting to encourage more growth.

Wilson, 32, says the city already has "an incredible network of research opportunities, biomedical and life sciences jobs," citing the University of South Florida, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Tampa General Hospital. To lure more, the city must brand and market what it already has.

Hart, 66, wants to add research jobs by supporting the USF business incubation program. But he also aims to attract large manufacturing firms, he said, and would welcome international business.

Michael Ciftci, 27, a former political adviser to a local developer, has campaigned on an ambitious, detailed and sometimes unorthodox plan to create jobs.

He said he would work with city, county and state governments to incentivize green businesses "to the point where it doesn't make sense to build anywhere but in Tampa."

He also promises to attract businesses by being "Tampa's best salesman," visiting business executives to pitch the city. And he pledges to personally work with other City Hall employees to expedite constituents' paperwork.

Each candidate also touts a unique skill set.

Capin says having owned a small business in Tampa gives her perspective into the heart of the city's economy.

Hart cites decades in the military, political and business sectors as unrivaled experience.

Ciftci says he brings fresh energy and a fresh perspective.

Nelson believes years in family law has trained him to "take in a lot of information orally . . . and quickly figure out ways to bring people together towards a common solution, even when on the surface it appears that their goals are polar opposites."

And Wilson says he has learned to solve problems swiftly as an ER doctor, and thus wouldn't harp on a zoning issue for months. "You solve problems, and you move on," he said.

But the candidates do agree on some points. Nearly all of them want to re-examine city departments for effectiveness, all are averse to publicly funding a Tampa Bay Rays stadium, and each wants less dependence on cars, whether it comes with light rail, better buses or more bicycle-friendly roads.

Jack Nicas can be reached at (813) 226-3401 or jnicas@sptimes.com.

[iCopyright] 2011 St. Petersburg Times.

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