Tampa City Council Elections

Gwen Miller
TAMPA -

Gwen Miller has name recognition - 12 years on the Tampa City Council has ensured that. She also has money - about double that of her closest challenger. And Miller has connections. Everyone from George Steinbrenner to H. Lee Moffitt has given to her campaign. But her opponents say they will do the one thing Miller won't.

BARCENA: I will open my mouth.

That's restaurateur Rick Barcena. He's one of five challengers to Miller.

BARCENA: And I will clearly speak, so that everyone can understand what objections and what I'm trying to get across.

Barcena says Miller just doesn't talk. She doesn't speak at council meetings, so he asks, how could she speak up for her constituents? But Miller says she takes more of the speak softly and carry a big stick approach.

MILLER: A lot has been accomplished, and there's still more work to do. I have supported the storm water tax so that we can solve the problems we've had with flooding. I've had community centers built in the areas that did not have community centers;' I've worked so we can get affordable homes in the city of Tampa.

Miller's challengers aren't buying that she can execute her vision. While they attack Miller for not getting enough done - in part they say because she doesn't speak up - they criticize her when she does talk. Like when she said this about the polarizing property taxes issue:

MILLER: I will wait until the state makes its decision, that's when I can make my decision as a council member. Her challengers said this:

CHAVEZ: Gwen Miller said she would not reduce the taxes if elected again because we're doing fine as we are. I know that lots of people in my neighborhood and across the city are complaining about their high taxes - how they can't afford any more, but they can't move. And I think it's time something should be done.

BARRON: There's a reason why there's five challengers in this race - there's a perception that the incumbent has not provided the service we've needed over the past 12 years.

REDNER: The income from property taxes to the city of Tampa went up 20 percent last year. They lowered property taxes two percent. And this has been happening for years.

That was restaurateur Linda Chavez, Randy Barron, president of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association, and strip club mogul Joe Redner. They spoke recently at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club. But while Miller is taking a hammering over her silence and taxes, she has the clout of an incumbent, the endorsements of the police and fire unions - and the money.

Turnout is expected to be low tomorrow, according to the election supervisor. And if none of the six candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held in two weeks.

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