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Mike Mikurak mailer portrays Charlie Justice as arrogant spendthrift

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Mike Mikurak has stepped up his attack against Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice in a campaign mailer that accuses Justice of raising taxes and wasting money.

Mikurak, a Republican is seeking to unseat Justice, a Democrat, who is running for his second term in the District 3 seat on the County Commission. District 3 is voted countywide.

The main thrust of the mailer is a $16.5 million judgment that hit the county in June. The ruling arose from a 2012 request made by the Richman Group that the city of Safety Harbor rezone a 34.55-acre parcel of land at the intersection of McMullen-Booth Road and 10th Street so that it could build a 246-unit apartment complex and 25,000-square-feet of single story office space. To accomplish this, the land — which had several zoning designations — had to be rezoned to residential. About 15.8 acres of the larger property was zoned industrial.

The proposal won preliminary approval with a 3-2 vote from the Safety Harbor City Council. The proposal had to win the county’s approval before it went back before the Safety Harbor council for the final OK.

But, after hearing from 308 residents opposed to the development, Pinellas County commissioners turned down the proposal saying they believed in the preservation of “industrial” land.

Richman appealed to an administrative law judge, who ruled that the commission had erred. Preservation of industrial land was not one of the reasons the county code listed as an allowable reason for turning down a zoning or land use change.

The case went back to the county commissioners who were cautioned by Bennett that they needed to follow what the administrative law judge had said. But commissioners ignored the advice and unanimously voted to deny the zoning and land use change.

The county has appealed the judgment.

Mikurak’s mailer has a picture of a dollar bill on fire and the headline: “$16.5 million of your money up in smoke.” It then asks, “What does Commissioner Charlie Justice say about wasting your money?? ‘I’m not going to apologize for that …’”

The other side of the mailer quotes from a Tampa Bay Times editorial that said the commissioners “squandered” the money “to protect their political futures.”

The mailer says, “Charlie is a lifetime government employee, not a lawyer! He should have known better. But arrogant politicians like Charlie Justice think they are above the law. It is time to hold him accountable.”

Elsewhere, Mikurak says that Justice has been on the “government payroll” for almost 20 years — referring to Justice’s time in the Florida House and Senate and his employment at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and as a legislative aide to former state Rep. Lars Hafner.

During those 20 years, Mikurak says, “he has wasted our tax dollars and raises our taxes too many times to count.”

Mikurak charges that “during his time in Tallahassee, he voted to increase our taxes by over $2 billion!”

Among those tax increases, Mikurak’s mailer says: increased fees on driver’s licenses and motor vehicle tags, raised cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, and voting against an increase in the homestead exemption, portability for Save Our Homes, and limits on future property tax increases.

The remainder of the mailer focuses on Mikurak’s background in business and his service on the Juvenile Welfare Board and the boards of the BayCare Health System and St. Anthony’s Hospital. He also says he has brought manufacturing jobs to Pinellas with CareerSource Pinellas.

Early voting ends Nov. 6. The election is Nov. 8.

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