Six names will be on the ballot in New Port Richey’s City Council election scheduled for April 12th. Two council seats will be decided, and the two candidates earning the most votes will be elected. Voters may also select two candidates on their ballot, though as a former candidate myself, I might tell you that if you support one candidate in particular, voting twice might statistically make them less likely to win.
Voters must reside within the corporate limits of New Port Richey (illustrated here by the red line), and must bring proof of residency to the polls. Voting will take place at the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center at 6630 Van Buren Street between the hours of 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM. Voting is also available by mail. Interested voters can request a Vote By Mail ballot through the Supervisor of Election’s office. There, citizens can also check on their voting eligibility.
This race seems to have gone by much quicker than those that I can recall in the recent past, though that might be because I put so much effort in that the time stretched. Each of the candidates has something to offer, but in an effort to guide your vote, I have narrowed the field to three candidates who may earn my vote, and NewsPortRichey’s endorsement. First up, of the two sitting councilmen currently seeking re-election, I believe that Jeff Starkey has done good things for New Port Richey.
Mr. Starkey has been outspoken about supporting efforts to reduce crime, and he has been competent in the measures of his office in researching his votes and being outspoken and responsive to the community. Mr. Starkey is in a unique position to lead on the council because of his wide support in the community, and I would like to see Mr. Starkey given a chance to take a more active role on the council.
In contrast, Chopper Davis has been something of an enigma on the council, has been unresponsive, and has made some decisions and comments supporting those decisions that I have found to be questionable. Some of his official behavior as a councilor has been puzzling as well. In January 2015, Davis walked away from his seat while a city resident unsuccessfully defended his property from demolition. In February 2016, Davis abstained from a vote, despite that not being allowed by the city code. Council members must vote yes or no unless there is a declared conflict of interest. Mr. Davis has claimed that he has had a lead role in economic development in the city, but I have not seen that to be the case. While Mr. Starkey has certainly lead the council in his attentiveness to crime, there is no such clear definition for Mr. Davis.
Of the remaining candidates, two stand out in qualifications and message. Those two are Ahmad Fagouseh and Rob Oman. While I realize that a citizen only has two votes, and I am now recommending three candidates, I feel that most can make a decision between these three as to which represents theirs and the interests of New Port Richey best:
Mr. Fagouseh is the only candidate highlighting his business experience, and his platform focuses on crime and blight, which is still one of New Port Richey’s most pressing issues. Fagouseh does lack experience, and I disagree with him in areas, but he is also the only challenger originally from New Port Richey. I particularly have concerns that Fagouseh has stated he will raise the police department’s budget, where I can’t see how it could go any higher. Mr. Fagouseh will have to find a way to make the department more effective within the current budget.
Mr. Oman has put forward a platform to support the city’s neighborhoods and infrastructure, including adding sidewalks. He has talked about improving the City’s schools, but unfortunately that is not within the responsibility of the City Council. Oman also voiced strong support for the City’s green efforts, including up and coming community gardens. Mr. Oman is a recent transplant to the area.
The remaining candidates, Larry Andersen and K. Vance Ray, have offered some enlightening ideas, including Mr. Vance’s suggestion to place electric vehicle charging stations around town, but their platforms seem to be limited mostly to praise for the existing council members. Both Andersen and Ray boasted of a “can do” spirit, but both are also recent transplants to the area.
Whichever of the candidates are elected, it is my hope that the remaining four contenders will stay involved in city politics and in improving their community. There are spaces on community boards and volunteer opportunities that can benefit others as much as a seat on the City Council, if not more.
In summary, I am recommending that voters make a choice between two of the following: continued leadership and experience in Jeff Starkey, what appears to be business acumen and youthful fire in Ahmad Fagouseh, and a progressive and infrastructure focused platform but in a relative unknown with Rob Oman.
If you would like additional information about each candidate to help you decide on your vote, check out our original candidate profile article, and read our coverage of the Green Commerce Association’s Candidate Forum, which featured all six candidates.