Editor’s Note: Video of the entire Temple Terrace Candidate Forum has been posted on Temple Terrace Patch, however it has been broken into several clips. Find the links to each clip in chronological order at the end of this story.
Mary Rose Owens had picked out her favorite mayoral and City Council candidates weeks ago.
But after learning more about the contenders at the T Tuesday evening, she was reconsidering.
“I thought I knew who I was going to vote for when I got here, and now I’m not so sure,” she said.
An estimated 150 people came to the to listen to the candidates’ thoughts on the downtown redevelopment project, area schools and the city’s budget. Candidates had a few minutes to introduce themselves, and then they answered questions submitted by audience members on pieces of paper. Most questions centered on the .
“Every piece of paper has a question on it about the redevelopment,” said Jack Townsend, past president of the Temple Terrace Bar Association who served as one of the moderators.
Mayoral candidates Frank Chillura and Cheri Donohue agreed that communication is the key to get the redevelopment project moving again. City officials have to let citizens know what’s happening so they’ll be informed. Donohue also suggested forming an alliance of residents and business owners who could tell Vlass Temple Terrace, the developer of the project, what business they’d like to see in the area and help locate them.
Every candidate agreed that having retail on the ground floor of the proposed residential units in the downtown redevelopment area is essential.
“You want retail on the first floor because it energizes Main Street,” said City Council candidate Grant Rimbey.
City Council candidate Eddie Vance said the retail space must be marketed properly.
“Retail on the first floor is a must,” Chillura said. “It’s a vision of the people.”
City Councilwoman and candidate Mary Jane Neale said the city needs to retire its more than $20 million debt.
“Right now, we need to trust our council to do the right thing, and we need to trust our developer to do the right thing also,” she said.
“We do have to trust that these people are building this to make money,” she said. “If they make money, we make money.”
Schools were also a topic of conversation. Candidates agreed that area schools need to be improved and cited . They also agreed that the city has been making strides by working with the Hillsborough County School District and should continue.
Neale said her children went to public school and she volunteers every month at Temple Terrace Elementary.
Rimbey said he didn’t feel comfortable sending his kids to Riverhills Elementary so instead enrolled them in Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran School. Now that CORLS is closed, one son will attend Terrace Community Middle School and the other will go to Corpus Christi.
Vance said his children have gone to Temple Terrace Elementary Macfarlane Park Elementary, Terrace Community Middle School and King High School. He pointed out that he serves on the city’s School Support Committee.
Chillura said his children go to Lewis Elementary, and this coming year, his son will be going to Corpus Christi.
Donohue said her children went to Lomax Elementary, Greco Middle and King High Schools. Her daughter is now a teacher at Lewis Elementary. Donohue said parents should be involved in their children’s educations and help them do well in school.
Candidates agreed that the city should “think outside the box” to close the gap on the budget deficit. They pointed out that Temple Terrace’s sewer rates are controlled by the City of Tampa, suggesting a missed opportunity locally. They also suggested annexing more property to increase the city’s tax base.
“Additionally, it all does boil back down to the redevelopment,” Vance said, “and if we can get that going and get businesses in there, that will increase our tax revenue and that is really what we need.”
Meet Mayoral Candidate Frank Chillura
Meet Mayoral Candidate Cheri Donohue
Meet City Council Candidate Mary Jane Neale
Meet City Council Candidate Grant Rimbey
Meet City Council Candidate Eddie Vance
How Will You Get the Redevelopment Project Off Dead Center?
How Important is Retail Under Residential in the Redevelopment Area?
How Would You Close the Gap on the Budget Deficit?
How Will You Improve Schools?
What Do You Know About the Phases of the Redevelopment Project?
What Will You Look for in a City Manager?
Should Temple Terrace Increase its Influence in the Tampa Bay Area?