Two Clearwater City Council seats to be decided today

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Although much has been made of the Florida 13th Congressional District special election, a number of other municipal seats will be determined in Pinellas County on Tuesday, March 11.

In the Clearwater City Council, incumbent Bill Jonson defends his Seat 4 against challenges from 63-year-old construction company owner David Allbritton and 29-year-old pastor and businessperson Konrad McCree.

Jonson is a 69-year-old retired Honeywell project manager and Army veteran, who served on the board since 2001, with the exception of a required term-limited three-year interval.

In a recent debate, Jonson said he believed the city needs “quality jobs and innovative industries,” while McCree wants to add more support for the region’s children and libraries.

Replacing term-limited Paul Gibson in Seat 5 will be either Hoyt Hamilton or Jon-Paul Rosa.

Rosa is a 30-year-old former Army intelligence analyst who served three tours in Afghanistan. If elected, Rosa told the Clearwater Beacon that he would “promote an atmosphere where businesses can prosper, opportunities are created, and all families are treated with dignity and respect.”

Hamilton, 55, is a member of the family that owns both the Palm Pavilion and Palm Pavilion Inn on Clearwater Beach. He previously served on the Clearwater City Council from 2001 to 2006.

Each of the candidates favors relocating the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to the site of the old downtown City Hall. Rosa had initially voted against the move in the citywide referendum, but since changed his position. Jonson believes the new site should be an essential part of a downtown revitalization, which would center on attracting new businesses.

When the topic turned to the church of Scientology presence in Clearwater, Albritton commented that people are generally against things they don’t understand. He added that the city should move towards a better understanding of the group that is a large contributor to the tax rolls, although much of its property is tax exempt.

“One of the ways to deal with the situation is to communicate,” Jonson added.

McCree believes Scientology is “facing some of the same issues we are,” and both city and the church should cooperate with each other.

Hamilton invoked the separation of church and state, and agreed that the city and the church should work together to solve common problems.

Scientology has been a longtime part of Clearwater, Rosa said, and both should continue to have “open lines of communication and work together.”

All five candidates stand for Pinellas County’s “Greenlight Pinellas” transportation plan, which asks voters to approve a raise of the current 7 percent sales tax to 8 percent, making it the highest in Florida.

“We have trouble with our traffic now,” McCree said. “One thing we don’t need is gridlock.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.