Candidate forum moved from City Hall to Safety Harbor Spa

The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, located at 105 N. Bayshore Dr., will host the 2018 candidate forum on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 6:00 p.m.

A change of venue has been made for the upcoming 2018 Safety Harbor candidate forum, with the event moving from City Hall to the Baranoff Theater at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

The event will still take place on Thursday, Feb. 1, starting at 6:00 p.m. with a meet-and-greet in the foyer of the ballroom, followed by a two-hour question and answer period.

According to officials for the event sponsor, the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and the city, the reason for the move is simple: with six candidates vying for three open commission seats, a larger venue was needed to accommodate the candidates as well as the crowd.

“It has been moved to a larger venue to accommodate the larger crowd that six candidates could draw, and we thank the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa for providing this,” chamber president Susan Petersen said via email on Wednesday.

“It is important to us to present a fair and open forum, where there is room for all, at which the candidates can be heard on current relevant topics, so that the voters can make well-educated decisions for the future of our city. The Baranoff Theatre is the perfect setting for this with seating for all.”

Officials said the Safety Harbor City Commission Chamber was too small to host the 2018 candidate forum, necessitating the move to the Spa.

City officials noted at the end of the candidate qualifying period that a different facility could be used if the field proved to be too large.

When the group grew to six candidates, it quickly became apparent neither the commission chambers nor the community center, where the event was held last year but had a conflict this year, would provide sufficient space as well as other amenities, including adequate parking, for an event of this size.

“The City supports the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of North Pinellas County in their collective desire to provide the most accommodating venue for a growing number of interested voters,” City Manager Matt Spoor said via email.

“A big THANK YOU to the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa who graciously volunteered to host the event in their Baranoff Ballroom. This location will allow for maximum voter participation, which is everyone’s ultimate goal.”

With the forum now taking place off city property, the rules and regulations for the event will be different.

Whereas candidates were forbidden from displaying campaign materials at the city-owned site, those materials, including pamphlets and campaign signs, will be allowed at the Spa.

The venue change forced the city to scrap plans to live stream the event, as they don’t have the capability to stream events outside City Hall.

Safety Harbor Connect will stream the 2018 candidate forum live on Facebook on Thursday, Feb. 1 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

However, the forum will be broadcast live by Safety Harbor Connect on our Facebook page, and the video of the event will be available for viewing here on Safety Harbor Connect, the day following the forum, February 2nd.

According to Petersen, the Chamber’s Board of Directors is supplying the event moderators from the League of Women Voters with questions for the candidates.

The public will also be given the opportunity to submit questions, upon entry, prior to the start of the forum, and the candidates will be given a two-minute opening statement, a two-minute closing statement, and two minutes to answer each question in between.

Petersen also noted a representative from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office would be on hand to facilitate voter registration and updating voter records.

The 2018 Safety Harbor municipal election is Tuesday, March 13.

For more information on the upcoming election, visit the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website.

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