Jim Davison (center) is flanked by former opponents and now ardent supporters Avis Harrison (left) and Cyril Spiro (right).

After spending months just trying to get voters familiar with their names in a crowded six-person race, Hunter’s Green residents Jim Davison, an emergency room doctor, and Luis Viera, an attorney, are ready to start talking about issues and getting voters who live in the City of Tampa to the polls one more time — on Tuesday, December 6, in case you didn’t know.

“I think the name recognition part is pretty much over,’’ said Davison. “Now it’s about turning out the people that you think are going to vote for you.”

After taking the top two spots at the Nov. 8 General Election, Davison and Viera are headed to the Runoff Election on Dec. 6 to decide who will replace Lisa Montelione and serve her final 16 months representing District 7, which includes all of the city-based Neighborhoods in New Tampa, on the Tampa City Council. District 7 is a large and diverse area which runs north from Waters Ave. to County Line Rd., and includes Forest Hills, Terrace Park, New Tampa and the University of South Florida area.

Early voting for the runoff continues through t0day, Sunday, December 4.

Despite entering the race last and raising only $14,000 for his campaign — easily the least of the all the candidates — Davison received 9,158 votes in the general election, or 30.6 percent, winning 13 of the 20 precincts that cast ballots on Nov. 8. He was second in five others. Davison, 62,  celebrated his win on election night with chicken wings at the Hunter’s Green Tennis & Athletic Center.

Viera, who has raised more than $80,000, far more than any other candidate in the race,  finished with 6,689 votes, or 22.3 percent, to advance to the runoff. Viera did not win any precincts but was second in 10 of them and third in eight others.

“It was a difficult race,” Viera says. “We fought for every single vote.”

Arbor Greene’s Avis Harrison, a former school teacher, was third (4,781), followed by former police officer and Copeland Park resident Orlando Gudes (4,218), Cory Lake Isles resident Dr. Cyril Spiro (3,719) and La Gaceta editor Gene Siudut (1,319).

Now that the race has been whittled to two candidates, Davison and Viera say they are eager to start focusing more on issues that were overshadowed during the last campaign, due to the number of candidates and the overwhelming presence of a nasty and contentious presidential election.

Here are some of the issues both candidates say they will focus on if elected:

TAXES: Davison says the biggest difference between he and Viera is their position on taxes. “I never saw a tax Luis was not in favor of,” Davison says, adding that he would work to roll back the millage, or property tax rates, in New Tampa. He claims they haven’t been rolled back since 2008, and ad valorem taxes will set a record in 2018 to offset any cuts.

Luis Viera with supporter Mike Suarez.

Viera, 38, says he is in favor of a robust development of District 7’s communities. But, he says it is foolish to expect that those things can be accomplished simply by rolling back taxes. 

“We certainly cannot, given the development we need in this city and our communities, just frivolously lower taxes,’’ Viera says, adding that he isn’t pro-tax, but, “I haven’t seen a tax reduction that Jim is clamoring for that will benefit the community.”

Both candidates agree that New Tampa should receive a larger piece of the pie made with its tax dollars, in the form of the same community enhancements being made in west and south Tampa’s parks, as well as downtown. “Downtown needs to be spruced up but not at the expense of its neighborhoods,” Davison says.

Viera has long-referred to New Tampa as a “donor district,” and also does not agree with the way tax monies are dispersed.

“We give way too much of our money to downtown Tampa without proper development of our neighborhoods (in North Tampa),” Viera says.

TRANSPORTATION: Davison has been a transportation activist in New Tampa for nearly two decades. He adamantly opposed government initiatives like GO Hillsborough, which sought a half-cent sales tax to pay to fix and maintain existing roads, relieve congestion and build new roads.

luisDavison says those promises were lies, and that the money is already available in future budgets to help with transportation without more taxation.

That has been a theme of Davison’s in this campaign — that government officials aren’t being honest with the numbers. He says the city claims the half-cent tax would raise $3.5 billion over 30 years. Davison says that figure is actually closer to $6 billion, creating essentially a slush fund for the city. He says he has stacks of papers that prove it.

“Lets just say this: Jim is skeptical of a lot of things,’’ Viera says. “This goes back to the issue of being able to work with others. When you presume they are liars, you say they are lying to you.”

Viera says Davison is making “unfounded accusations” and, “to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never seen anything to prove that the mayor’s office is lying to us.”

Davison is in favor, however, of the ongoing Tampa Bay Express (TBX) project, which will primarily widen I-275, I-75 and I-4 with 91 miles of express or toll lanes. “Without more lane capacity on 275, that will strangle District 7,’’ Davison says.

Viera, a TBX supporter, says transportation is a huge issue and an important need, with $8-billion in needs in the coming years that need to be paid for. Realistic solutions, he says, cannot be implemented unless there is funding to pay for them.

COMMUNITY NEEDS: The 2017 budget unveiled earlier this year by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has $4.72 million in it for Fire Station No. 23, which will be located at 20770 Trout Creek Dr., behind the AutoZone and Christian Brothers Automotive off Bruce B. Downs Blvd.

Also in the budget but unfunded — and opposed by Davison — are plans for another fire station, No. 24, earmarked for the K-Bar Ranch area off Morris Bridge Rd.

Davison says that as someone who has spent much of his career in the emergency medical field, he doesn’t think New Tampa needs another fire station as badly as it needs more paramedics, as he claims 80-85 percent of 9-1-1 calls in New Tampa are for medical reasons. Davison adds, however, that he would like to a see a police station built in our area and an expansion of the New Tampa Recreation Center, which has been promised twice and never delivered by city officials.

Viera says he thinks a firehouse in K-Bar Ranch is necessary, especially as the area grows and expands.

And, he wonders if Davison is for community development, how can he expect to pay for such enhancements?

“You’re going to have more parks and rec centers, but you’re also going to cut your taxes?,” Viera asks. “Voters should be suspicious of that. You can’t serve both sides. It’s math: 2+2 equals 4, and Jim is for the 4, not the 2+2. I am for the 2+2. It’s a reality that if you make investments, you need revenue (to pay for them).”

KINNAN-MANSFIELD: New Tampa’s 100-foot stretch of unconnected road continues to befuddle local politicians. Despite some movement earlier this year — as Montelione and Pasco County District 2 Commissioner Mike Moore tried to force the issue — the connection of Kinnan St. in New Tampa to Mansfield Blvd. in Meadow Pointe remains in limbo.

Both candidates say they want the roads connected. Davison says the city should pay the $500,000 for a traffic study that Pasco County is requesting in order to move the connection along.

Viera says the link should have been made long ago. He says it is, “symbolic of the kind of respect we don’t get in New Tampa. If this happened in South Tampa, it would be fixed immediately. We need a sense of urgency on it.”

GETTING THINGS DONE: Because Viera has a long list of endorsements from high-ranking local Democrats like U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor and City Council chair Mike Suarez, as well as Montelione, Davison says Viera will just become part of the problem on a City Council already filled with Democrats.

“Luis is a nice guy but has fallen into that same political trap of telling people what they want to hear,’’ says Davison, whose most recent endorsements have come from former opponent Avis Harrison and District 63 State Rep. Shawn Harrison. “That upsets me about him. I thought he was better guy than that. That’s disappointing.”

Viera says Davison, a registered Republican and Donald Trump supporter who relishes his role as an outsider, lacks the temperament to work with others and get things done. On a Council with six other members, Viera says diplomacy will get more things accomplishment for New Tampa.

“I think that issues of temperament are important,’’ Viera said. “I believe you achieve results with vigor, and by being resolute, not by being the type of person who will make accusations and be a loose cannon.”

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