Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Mooney, Pinder join race; Forster retained

ISLAMORADA -- Jim Mooney, who sat on the first Village Council after incorporation in 1998, will take on incumbent Ken Philipson in November for another go-round on the dais.

Meanwhile, Buddy Pinder, a drilling contractor and construction consultant, filed a day before last week's deadline to challenge incumbent Deb Gillis for the council's Seat 1 and Councilman Mike Forster will retain Seat 5 for lack of a competitor.

Mooney, a Realtor and co-owner of Grassy Key Outpost, a restaurant and country store, filed paperwork to run for Philipson's Seat 3 on Aug. 19, the deadline day for registration. He was the last of 11 people to announce a run for the upcoming two-year Village Council term.

In an interview Monday, Mooney cited what he views as the council's growing friendliness toward national chains as the primary motivation for his council run.

"Corporate America walks in and they bend over backwards," he said of the village. "But for a local, it's just hoop after hoop after hoop."

Mooney helped pass a law severely restricting chain stores when he was on the council. Known as the formula retail ordinance, it was later struck down in federal court as protectionist. Mooney said he believes the law would have been upheld had the village defended it better. He's now a proponent of the upcoming referendum that would limit commercial buildings in the village to 10,000 square feet.

Mooney also said that if elected he would work to reduce the number of meetings and workshops the council holds in order to leave more time for staff to undertake day-to-day municipal functions.

Pinder filed his paperwork to run against Gillis, the current Islamorada vice mayor, late on Aug. 18. He said that his biggest motivation is to ensure that the village handles all permit and planning applications on an equal basis, regardless of the identity of the applicant.

"I just want people to be treated fairly," he said.

A near lifetime resident of Islamorada, Pinder also said he'll push to find new wastewater funding avenues if elected.

He is a consultant for the contractor Layne, which is building the Islamorada sewer system, and intends to continue that work if elected, he said. He'll handle conflicts of interest by abstaining from voting on Layne-specific issues.

Pinder and Mooney said they chose to run respectively against Gillis and Philipson mainly out of happenstance, since most of the council's five other seats were already contested. The decisions, they said, aren't a reflection on their opponents.

The one Village Council seat that won't be contested on Nov. 4 is held by Forster, who is finishing his second term, but his first after taking a break from the dais for six years.

Forster pushed hard in his recent term to limit the role of former Village Manager Ed Koconis, who instead chose to step down. He also successfully advocated for the replacement of the Weiss Serota law firm with an in-house attorney.

"I just take away that the majority of the people like the direction that I've been going in the village," he said of not drawing a challenger.

In his next term, Forster said he'll stay focused on finishing the $130 million sewer project. He also wants to improve communication channels with the Florida Department of Transportation and to convince the U.S. Coast Guard to limit openings of the Snake Creek drawbridge to once per hour.

Two other council seats will be contested on Nov. 4. Incumbent Dave Purdo will defend Seat 2 against ex-state attorney Dennis Ward. Hotelier Paul Bates, real estate agent Janet Wood and ex-councilmen Bob Johnson and Chris Sante are running for Seat 4, which will be vacated by Mayor Ted Blackburn.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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