Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bradenton City Council election ballot set

Three members of the Bradenton City Council are being challenged in their bids for re-election in November.

The qualifying period ended Tuesday with council members Marianne Barnebey, Patrick Roff and Bemis Smith drawing one opponent each. The election is Nov. 3.

The races shape up like this:

In Ward 2, which is comprised of neighborhoods in the west-central part of the city extending from the Manatee River to south of Cortez Road, Barnebey is being challenged by Lori Melton, who currently is unemployed. Barnebey was first elected to the council in 1997, and is seeking a fourth term on the council.

Barnebey said she has worked hard to be accessible and responsive to her constituents. She touted her work on homeless issues, and as the city's representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets transportation priorities for the region. Recently, the city won $1 million for the construction of a new Ninth Avenue West bridge at Wares Creek.

Melton, who previously has worked in the accounting field, including for construction companies, said she doesn't have a particular problem with Barnebey. They just live in the same ward.

Still, "I think people can get complacent," Melton said. "We've got new challenges today in our city."

In Ward 3, which is made up of neighborhoods in central Bradenton, including Wares Creek and Ballard Park, Roff is being challenged by Richard O’Brien, a political science instructor at University of South Florida. Roff was first elected to the council in 2005, and is seeking a second term.

Roff said two priorities of his have been the planned dredging of Wares Creek and the revitalization of Tamiami Trail. Progress has been made in both areas, he said.

“When I ran for office my first term I was into city-building," Roff said. "Little did I know we were heading into an economic disaster. I’m a natural problem solver, so I had to switch gears into crisis control and on to economic recovery. I can get us there.”

O'Brien's were some of the first campaign signs to appear on local lawns, as he has been busy knocking on doors in the ward. He said residents are worried about crime and the down economy.

"I'm running against decent people, but they are not doing enough when it comes to crime and jobs," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he thinks the city should consolidate some positions at City Hall and shift the spending to the police department. The city also needs to ensure that local companies benefit from spending on federal stimulus projects.

In Ward 4, which covers neighborhoods along the Manatee River east of U.S. 301 and along the Braden River, Smith is being challenged by retired city employee Joel C. “Joe” Henry. Smith was first elected in 2001, and is seeking a third term on the council.

Smith said he wants to continue working on redevelopment efforts in his ward, which have been hit hard by the recession. For example, several condominium projects planned for along the Manatee River have stalled as the real estate market collapsed.

"In running for re-election, I feel like there is more I need to do," Smith said.

Henry retired from the city parks and building department in July 2008, and would like to bring some of that experience to the council.

"I would like to pay attention to our roads and streets," Henry said. "I want to ensure good employees are compensated for their work and loyalty."

Incumbency has not been a guarantor of re-election in recent local political campaigns. In the 2007 elections, current council member Harold Byrd Jr. ousted incumbent James Golden, and it took a runoff for Mayor Wayne Poston to put away a challenge from former mayor Bill Evers.

And last year, two Manatee County commissioners, Jane von Hahmann and Amy Stein, were ousted after they lost their Republican primary races.

Bradenton City Council members hold nonpartisan positions, and are paid an annual salary of $27,834.

In the Bradenton election, the candidates have to be a resident of their respective ward, but all city residents can vote in each race.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. For those that are charged with running our city:T he challenge is to bring down the unemployment and crime rates. See to it that the funds to accomplish both tasks are properly appropriated.