In advance of the April 10 New Port Richey City Council election, Patch talked with the candidates about their views on issues facing the city.
There are two city council seats open and three candidates. The two top vote-getters will each win a seat.
Eric Rhodes' Biography in a Nutshell
- Rhodes is 85 and lives in New Port Richey with his wife, Barbara. He has owned property in New Port Richey since the late 1970s but started living in the city full-time last decade.
- After service in the Army, Rhodes enrolled in George Washington University and worked in the newspaper business at night, he said. Then he taught journalism and English in high schools, then worked for the National Education Association. Then he formed his own his own consulting company, he said. For 30 years, he performed consulting services for public agencies.
- His work as a consultant included crafting the master plan for the Virginia Community College System, which laid the groundwork for 22 colleges.
- He has also sered on the city’s Land Development Review Board for the past several years
- Now, he’s retired and writes books as a hobby.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for city council?
A: Rhodes said he’s not only seen the problems of “almost every kind of public agency,” but he’s also solved those problems
“Because I’ve successfully solved a bunch of problems, that’s why I’m offering myself here. And I think I can do the job with a lot more background than the other people.”
Q: What makes you a good steward of taxpayers' money?
A: Rhodes said he’s been a steward of taxpayers’ money in most of the situations he’s consulted on.
“Part of my responsibility always, whether it was given to me or I assumed it, was to protect the taxpayers always and to save the agency from unreasonable debt,” Rhodes said.
Q: What are the three major problems facing the city?
A: Rhodes pointed to concerns about the city’s revenue falling short of its budgeted costs. The city bought major properties and now has no tax or rental income from them. He has said in the past that the city needs to unload its purchased real estate. A third problem is the move of Community Hospital away from New Port Richey. Most of its operations have been moved to the main Medical Center of Trinity campus.
The real solution to the Community Hospital problem is to cooperate with the owners or find businesses and users for them that will “draw more people... and contribute more to the economy,” he said.
Q: Redevelopment is a major issue in the city. What would you do to spur it along?
A: “We need to find every source of financing possible,” he said, including grants.
Q: What direction should the city be taking with the Hacienda Hotel? (The city is currently looking at whether there is possibility of expanding the shuttered building east in the Gloria Swanson parking lot)
A: “We need two things: Somebody who wants to develop the property, so we have to listen to their ideas. Second, if there is the the (Gloria Swanson) parking area or other nearby areas used, we have to protect parking some other way so we don't just whipe out parking.”
Q: Should the city pledge money to the Main Street Landing developer as an incentive to complete the building?
A: “I don’t believe the city should participate in the construction,” he said. The cityvalready said it would do outside work and landscaping and tie it into the street system, which is a significant, he said
The developer needs to find tenants and financing, he said.
Q: What would you like to see in the First Baptist Church site?
A: The city is pursuing a plan for condos and possibly other residences, Rhodes explained.
“If we can do the Hacienda without intruding into that land, than I think upper-level condos would enhance the downtown and encourage some other businesses to locate downtown."
Q: Do you think the city has a crime problem?
A: We all know there’s crime in the city, Rhodes said. Yes, there’s a crime problem.
Rhodes said he’s “committed to not letting the city police department be reduced any further.”
Q: A revenue shortfall has been projected going into next year’s budget. What would the city do to balance revenue and costs? Raise taxes? Cut services?
A: Rhodes said he’s studied the last two years’ budgets and is coming up with ideas to save money and “hopefully avoid additional taxes.”
”I’ll be in a position to have ideas ready to go,” he said
Q: What should be done to generate revenue for the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center?
A: It appears the city can reduce the center’s shortfall, but it’s impossible in the immediate future to make it completely pay for itself.
“Nevertheless, it’s an asset to the city,” he siad. “We don’t want to have it go away. In the long-run, I think there are ways we can make it at least break even.”
There should be programs, contests and teams youth can use to draw people to it.