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Local elections: Before the campaigns begin

in city hall/news
(Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Campaign season has formally begun in Safety Harbor for the 2020 municipal election. Have you ever considered how the officials in our town get on the ballot?  Most of us are too busy to spend time learning how the process works, so the Safety Harbor Sun is delving into the procedural process to become a candidate in our city. 

Our next municipal elections will be on March 17, 2020, the same day as the national primaries. Safety Harbor typically schedules elections to coincide with presidential primaries and other state and county elections as this offers significant savings on printing and other fees. Safety Harbor will have two open seats; Mayor and Commissioner Seat Four, each of which is a three-year term. All Commissioners and the Mayor are elected in non-partisan, at-large elections. There are no term limits in Safety Harbor.  These are not full-time positions and commissioners typically have continued their careers while serving. Compensation for these positions is:   

  • Mayor:  $9,587.16/annually ($6,000/year + $3,587.16 per diem/year). 
  • Commissioners:  $8,387.16/annually ($4,800/year + $3,587.16 per diem/year

So, how does a resident get on the ballot for the March election?  A potential candidate must be a registered voter and a resident of the city for at least one year. The qualifying period for the upcoming election ran from noon on December 2 to noon on December 9. The qualifying period is when announced candidates have to finalize all the requirements to run for office in Florida. The requirements are mainly dictated by state law and are significant; the handbook runs to hundreds of pages.  

Before December 2, each candidate must purchase the Candidate Handbook for $40, appoint a Campaign Treasurer, designate a depository for a campaign account and submit an official Candidate Statement. This is just the beginning of a list of forms and required fees as mandated by the state of Florida.

Interested candidates meet with City Clerk and Safety Harbor Supervisor of Elections Karen Sammons to review all the requirements and begin the process. Some of the other steps include returning 100 petition cards from registered voters and filing eleven additional forms. There are fees to be paid from the campaign account established for this purpose. They are $160 for Mayor and $123 for Commissioner. Financial statements are required to identify sources of income and disallow someone who may want to profit from their position in government. Campaigns can be financed by the candidate or from declared donations.

Once a person meets all the qualifications for candidacy, they can begin campaigning. Signs may be posted 90 days prior to election (12/18/2019) and must be removed by March 24, 2020. Clearwater and Dunedin have very similar processes for qualification.

There are currently five declared candidates in Safety Harbor. These people have completed the initial steps for candidacy, opened campaign accounts, and submitted the necessary petitions. For Mayor, incumbent Joe Ayoub and Tanja Vidovic are qualified. For Commissioner Seat Four there also three declared candidates; incumbent Carlos Diaz, John Estok, and David Roth.

Residents must be registered by February 18 to vote in the March election.  So far, there are seven voting locations in the city. These election precincts are listed here.

Pinellas County currently has 685,996 Active Registered Voters. Safety Harbor has 13,553, consisting of 4248 Democrats, 5304 Republicans, 3860 with No Party Affiliation and 141 Other.

Statistics courtesy of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

slash pine and trash

in city hall/photos
(Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

The slash pine with a Traveling Tree Walk sign caught my eye as I entered Waterfront Park this morning. Late for any sort of sunrise photo, I decided to make this tree — one of my personal favorites — and its informational sign the focus of today’s photo. I was so focused on the sign that I didn’t initially see the trash in the photo background.

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History, People, and Places Series: A City Dedicated to Youth and Recreation – with thanks to Superman!

in city hall/news
Safety Harbor's new fitness center addition to the Community Center, under construction. (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

In the mid-twentieth century, The Safety Harbor Spa was a luxurious winter haven for New York’s wealthy. Many guests got to know the workers and would request their favorite server or attendant year after year. In 1955 and for several years thereafter, one such visitor was Harry Donenfeld, owner of DC Comics, publisher of Superman.

[Photo/Laura Kepner]

Longtime resident Betty Lou Douglas, recalls being a teenager in Safety Harbor in the late 1950s. “Harry Donenfeld somehow found out there was nothing for us to do,” she said. “He may have gotten to know some of our parents who worked at the Spa.

We would walk from one end of town to another—we just hung out. Maybe he felt sorry for us. We were pretty much on our own.”

Whatever his reasons, Donenfeld donated funds to build a youth center. The 70’ x 30’ concrete block building was located close to where the Rigsby Recreation Center now stands, on 2nd Street North. “It faced sixth,” Douglas recalls, “it was located where the retention pond is now.”  

In April, 1957, the Safety Harbor Herald claimed the opening ceremony had “one of the largest crowds in the history of Safety Harbor.”

“We had to find the money to make it nice inside,” Douglas said.  “Seems to me we painted it turquoise and black. There was a lady in town named Carmel Creach. She got the idea that all of us kids could participate in a lip-synch to old songs. It was called Sentimental Journey. We made money. We bought a stereo system, a ping pong table. Our parents made the costumes. It was so good they booked us to go to the Clearwater Yacht Club. We even got to meet Guy Lombardo.” 

It cost a dime to get in to the youth center and the parents chaperoned. “You had to sign in and sign out,” recalled Douglas. “You were allowed to sign in and out twice. After your second sign-out, you could not get back in, and parents could always look at those books.

“We were very safe, but everybody knew your business. My two nieces grew up here. One is now back and she has two boys. Their lives are very much like I had,” she said. “They ride their bikes; they go to the pier to fish.”

Donenfeld continued to support the center and he even mailed comics from time to time. People who remember the youth center recall when he made a surprise visit. He apparently walked into a board meeting and donated the money for a new, larger TV set so the kids wouldn’t ‘ruin their eyes’.

Youth opportunities have expanded since then.

Now, sixty some years after Harry Donenfeld took an interest in Safety Harbor’s youth, the City employs a large staff dedicated to encouraging residents to take advantage of the opportunities that promote active lifestyles. Today, residents enjoy a community center, a recreation center, numerous parks and a thriving library.  In fact, the community center will soon house a fitness center that will be approximately 2,000 square feet of workout area. Equipment will include cardio, strength training, and free weights.

In an email, Shannon Schafer, Safety Harbor’s Recreation Superintendent, wrote, “The Fitness Center is a product of our commitment to our Health goal in keeping our residents active. Participants can also seek consultation from one of our staff for an orientation of the equipment or sign up with a personal trainer to create a more individualized plan to meet their fitness goals. 

 “The new addition will be open seven days a week and we will have daily, monthly and annual rates. The annual rate breaks down to only $.28 / day for residents of Safety Harbor.  The hours are flexible to meet a variety of participant schedules.”

The targeted date for the grand opening is November 16th  from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

There have been many changes with our recreational opportunities over the past sixty years but maybe it all started thanks to a real-life  Superman.

Note: A portion of this article was first published in REAL Magazine in fall, 2017.

Harbor Happenings: Week of August 19, 2019

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(Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

The City Commission meets on Monday, August 19, 2019. The Agenda is available on the city website.

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August 2019

Words & Wine Book Group

August 19, 2019 @ 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Whistle Stop Bar & Grill, 915 Main St.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray Read more about the book on GoodReads!

Find out more »

City Commission

August 19, 2019 @ 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
City Hall, 750 Main St.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
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The Agenda for the Commission meeting can be found on the city website: http://safetyharbor.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=6&event_id=1675

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Books & Bagels Book Club

August 20, 2019 @ 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every month that begins at 10:30 AM on day Third of the month, happening 4 times

Safety Harbor Public Library, 101 2nd Street N. FL 34695 United States + Google Map

Books & Bagels meets on the third Tuesday of each month. July:  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman  August:  Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith  September:  Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See  October:  Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 

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Wednesday Night Drum Circle

August 21, 2019 @ 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every week that begins at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, happening 30 times

Palm Tree Courtyard, Main Street
Safety Harbor, 34695 United States
+ Google Map

"On Main Street by the Happy Salmon Restaurant in the Palm Tree Court Yard. Drumming is good for you in every way. Come enjoy." (Facebook) Please check the Facebook page for cancellations before heading over.

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Open Jam Night at Brady’s

August 21, 2019 @ 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Brady’s Backyard BBQ, 340 Main St
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
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Blues Jam every Wednesday night at Brady's BBQ.

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Ukulele Open Mic

August 22, 2019 @ 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every month that begins at 7:00 PM on day Fourth of the month, happening 6 times

Whistle Stop Bar & Grill, 915 Main St.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
+ Google Map

Please see Meetup for information and updates.

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Market on Main

August 25, 2019 @ 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
John Wilson Park & Gazebo, 401 Main Street
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
+ Google Map
Find out more »

Wednesday Night Drum Circle

August 28, 2019 @ 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every week that begins at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, happening 30 times

Palm Tree Courtyard, Main Street
Safety Harbor, 34695 United States
+ Google Map

"On Main Street by the Happy Salmon Restaurant in the Palm Tree Court Yard. Drumming is good for you in every way. Come enjoy." (Facebook) Please check the Facebook page for cancellations before heading over.

Find out more »

Books and Brews

August 29, 2019 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Crooked Thumb Brewery, 555 10th Ave. S.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
+ Google Map

Crooked Thumb's August Book selection is Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict. Read more about the book on Goodreads.

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Rachel’s Law: The Movie

August 29, 2019 @ 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Safety Harbor Resort & Spa, 105 N. Bayshore Drive
Safety Harbor, Florida 34695 United States
+ Google Map
$15.00

Rachel's Law is a documentary about Rachel Hoffman, a 23 year-old college graduate from Safety Harbor who lost her life due to the corrupt practices and use of confidential informants. All proceeds go to the continuation of the Rachel Law. Tickets through Eventbrite.

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2nd Safety Harbor Art Walk

August 31, 2019 @ 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Safety Harbor Art & Music Center, 706 2nd Street North
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
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Start at Safety Harbor Art and Music Center and start your tour (self guided or with a tour guide) of local art in local businesses. Print out a map, or use an online map. Live artists creating art thru out downtown.

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Ocean Odyssey CAS Project

August 31, 2019 @ 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Safety Harbor Public Library, 101 2nd Street N. FL 34695 United States + Google Map

Teens from Palm Harbor University will raise awareness for oceans all around the world with a presentation, crafts, games, and snacks. (SH Library Facebook)

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September 2019

Market on Main

September 1, 2019 @ 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
John Wilson Park & Gazebo, 401 Main Street
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
+ Google Map
Find out more »

First Sunday Greyhound Meet and Greet

September 1, 2019 @ 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every month that begins at 12:00 PM on day First of the month, happening 6 times

Crooked Thumb Brewery, 555 10th Ave. S.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
+ Google Map

Meet greyhounds available for adoption at Crooked Thumb on the first Sunday of each month. GCGA also participates in Safety Harbor's Third Friday event and First Fridays in Tarpon Springs.

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Open Mic with Josh Plummer

September 3, 2019 @ 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Troubled Waters Brewing, 670 Main St.
Safety Harbor, FL 34695 United States
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Tuesdays at 7pm

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Add your voice for the future of transportation in Pinellas

in city hall/news
Graphic courtesy Forward Pinellas(Screenshot/Duncan Kovar)

It’s time again to give your opinion to Forward Pinellas, our consolidated planning board responsible for both land use and transportation. The 25-year look-ahead transportation plan, named Advantage Pinellas, will eventually spell out preferred methods and locations- prioritizing between transit, roads, bike & pedestrian access.

Give your opinion to Forward Pinellas, our consolidated planning board responsible for both land use and transportation. The 25-year look-ahead transportation plan, named “Advantage Pinellas,” will eventually spell out preferred methods and locations- prioritizing between transit, roads, bike & pedestrian access. Take just 5-10 minutes and give your opinion.

Long range plans become mid-range projects, then short term schedules. Items not spelled out years in advance run the risk of someday not receiving federal or state funding grants. Getting today’s long-range plan correct is not just an exercise. And your opinion matters.

Take the survey

Click on advantagepinellas.metroquest.com and tell them your priorities. At the end, view how your neighbor’s replied. Forward the survey link to other Safety Harbor residents. Invite your neighbor who doesn’t get online – but may use and need public transportation – over to take it, too. This will give the planning department the widest citizen feedback possible.

Remember: 25 years in the future a new generation of residents will need new solutions to new transportation problems. Will we even be here? Take the survey- its only 5-10 minutes of your time. When you do, be thinking about the future of Safety Harbor and Pinellas County.

The survey will be open through the month of July.

Commission Notes: June 17, 2019

in city hall/news
Safety Harbor City Hall (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Tree ordinance presentation

Tanja Vidovic presented a proposal to strengthen Safety Harbor’s tree ordinance (see excerpt from email sent to Commission). Residents shared support for this idea, including: Carol MacNamee, who noted that the 2015 ordinance set a minimum standard and that Safety Harbor currently has just one class of “protected” tree, whereas other municipalities have more categories of protected trees; Cherie Moscardini who shared a situation wherein a tree was killed, apparently through extensive cutback, without any penalty; Heather Richardson who noted that “trees are even more important than ever, especially with our climate change issues.” Commissioner Zodrow reflected that the 2015 ordinance was a compromise that “needs to be beefed up.” He expressed the need for citizen involvement to insure a stronger ordinance. City Manager Matt Spoor noted that the Commission made changes to the 2015 ordinance, including the addition of fines, in 2016 and 2018. Commissioner Cliff Merz, noting the importance of the ordinance, suggested the city include it with updates made over time on the city website.

Additional public comment

Scott Long shared information about Watermelon Week and Melons for Moolah, a July 6 fundraiser for the Safety Harbor Public Library Foundation’s 20/20 Vision Campaign.

Joanne Fisher thanked the city for the support given to her family and Brady’s BBQ and for remembering Brady with planned artwork.

Recognition of Retiree Leonard DeGroat

Leonard DeGroat was recognized upon his retirement after 37 years of service to the city.

Consent Agenda

Consent Agenda items (approval of June 3 minutes, approval of a purchase order to Kamminga and Roodvoets for MLK/Powhatan sewer line replacement project, awarding of contract to Augustine Construction for Main Street intersection brick repair, award for purchase of brick from Oldcastle for brick street repair) approved, 5-0.

Ready for 100

Supporters of the City’s Ready for 100 Resolution, identified by yellow stickers on their shirts, packed City Hall. Public comment on the Resolution was overwhelmingly positive.

Brian Beckman of the Suncoast Sierra Club, who initially presented Ready for 100 to the Commission on May 20, answered questions regarding transportation issues, potential grants available, status of other local municipalities’ plans, and goal dates for the cities and communities. Commissioner Zodrow suggested addition of a clause pertaining to environmental justice in order to provide support for lower income households’ and marginalized communities’ participation in the Ready for 100 initiative.

After discussion, the Commission passed the Ready for 100 Resolution without addition of the environmental justice language but with addition of a 2050 goal date.


Asked if other cities include environmental justice in their plans, Brian Beckman said cities are encouraged to do so and shared Dunedin’s Resolution language that encompasses environmental justice: “The City of Dunedin, in pursuit of these targets, will seek to build inclusive community leadership, policy engagement, and provide regional leadership to address equity in climate and energy.”


New business

The Commission denied (5-0) request for a waiver to the land development code (Article VI Community Redevelopment District, Section 100.00 Waivers) due to technical impracticality, one of the allowable reasons for granting a waiver. The request was to increase lot coverage from 35% to 41% on a 5000 square foot lot. Residents presented a petition and spoke in opposition to the waiver.

The Commission approved 5-0, on first reading, change in land use and rezoning for an addition to Folly Farms at 1538 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

The Commission approved 5-0, on first reading, change in land use and rezoning for expansion of the Public Works compound east of 2157 Railroad Ave.

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