Candidates for several state and county officials at an Oct. 11 political forum discussed ways government can help businesses grow during the economic slowdown, among other issues…

District 3 County Commissioner Nancy Bostock, a Clearwater Republican, said that when “somebody throws out that the commission raised your EMS taxes 46 percent, that it true, but that doesn’t mean all seven of your commissioners voted for it. You have two of your incumbent commissioners here who did not vote for that tax increase.”

Elected in 2008, Bostock said she “has listened and has learned, and I have stood strong for you, your pocketbook and your priorities.” As a former Pinellas County School Board member, she said she has a lot of experience with tight budgets.

“I knew we faced some serious economic challenges, and we needed to dramatically change the way” county government looked at its spending.

“We must prioritize services that affect our safety,” Bostock said. “Things like law enforcement, disaster preparedness, emergency medical services – services we don’t necessarily think about, like our sewers, solid waste facilities, stormwater management, and services that affect our quality of life, like our beautiful beaches, our parks, our roads.”

She said the board has made tough decisions in the past four years, continues to provide high-quality essential services for the community and has improved the county’s budgeting process.

Her opponent for the at-large seat is Charlie Justice, a St. Petersburg Democrat who is coordinator of leadership development and programming at USF St. Petersburg. He is a former state senator and representative.

Justice said he’s running for County Commission “because he loves Pinellas County and I want to make things better.”

He believes county should have fluoride in its drinking water.

“Fluoride is one of the best public health decisions we can make for those who are impoverished and need that benefit,” he said.

He said that after County Commission made the decision to remove fluoride from the water, he received three phone calls from businessmen who were concerned that the commission “was going backwards – that it was taking Pinellas County to a place that we didn’t want to go. That we were going to be looked at as backwoods, not only backwards.”

“That’s not the kind of thing that brings new businesses and new entrepreneurs here to Pinellas County,” Justice said…