Commission Candidates Address Timely Topics at Forum
Ray R. Irvin, Richard Blake and Bobby Saltzman got to answer questions submitted by audience members at the City Hall event, which was hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Three candidates vying for the open Safety Harbor City Commission seat were on the same stage together Wednesday night, responding to a variety of questions on issues currently facing the city.
The forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Chamber of Commerce, brought Ray R. Irvin, Bobby Saltzman and Rick Blake together in a public arena for the first time, allowing residents to see where each one stands on the issues.
While the candidates have been canvassing and campaigning around town for months, some residents have not had a chance to learn enough about them to make an educated choice as to who to vote for.
“We came here to hear what they have to say and find out who’s who,” longtime Safety Harbor resident Clare Moore said. “I like to see what they guy looks like before I make my opinion.”
Before taking questions submitted by the audience via a moderator, each candidate made an opening statement outlying their goals if they were to be elected.
Blake started by saying as a longtime resident and local realtor, he is "already a representative of this city's past, present and future," and as someone who is expecting his first child in December, he "can't think of a stronger purpose a candidate would need to make wise and thoughtful decisions for the future of our city."
Irvin, a former government official in Indiana who "grew up all over the world" said he would be like to see people get more involved in arts and cultural issues in the community while "considering development issues very closely."
And Saltzman, a longtime customer service employee, said he is "the real deal, what you see is what you get." He praised the community by saying "having a Safety Harbor address is prestigious", and therefore he'd like to attract more businesses and customers to the area.
Following those statements, they were given three minutes to respond to the audience questions.
Some of the key issues addressed included downtown and economic development, the waterfront park, the Firmenich property proposal and the importance of the arts, library and parks and recreation to the community.
Regarding the Firmenich property proposal, Saltzman said, “I am totally against the project. I view it as a tenement type project…and I cannot see it working for us.”
Blake, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Board, said he firmly believes that the proposed residential and commercial development “is the best use for that property,” while Irvin said he is not opposed to development, but “it’s got to be the appropriate development” for the area.
All three candidates said they are strongly in favor of growing the arts scene in town and supporting the parks and recreation department, but there was a minor dispute when it came to the library.
When asked, Saltzman and Irvin both admitted to owning a library card, while Blake confessed he has not gotten one yet because he has been busy with his businesses.
“It’s not something I use on a daily basis…but I definitely support it,” he said.
Their concluding statements reiterated their desires for what they want to see happen in Safety Harbor going forward.
“We need to get the word out and make sure people understand that we have something so special and so wonderful here,” Irvin said, “and I think that is marketable, sellable and worth cherishing and fighting for.”
“We live in a wonderful, quaint and special city,” Saltzman said. “I am a resident same as you, and I realize the decisions I will make as your commissioner will affect everyone that lives here. I will work for a better Safety Harbor.”
Blake got the last word of the night.
“The quaint character and small town charm that Safety Harbor has is what we all know and love,” he said. “But we’ve really got to start putting a plan together to create revenue for this city. We need to be saying yes to this outside money…and become more proactive in inviting business to our area.”
To learn more about each candidate and hear their opinions on the issues, check out our Safety Harbor Patch candidate guide.
Did you make it to the candidate forum last night, or watch it online? Let us know what you think about the candidates and their stance on the issues that are affecting the town in the comments.