Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Blog

Robin Rukab is not afraid to speak her mind. And she’s hoping that her confidence and plan for the city are exactly what the voters of Jacksonville want as they head to the polls on March 22nd.

Rukab has a long history with the city of Jacksonville. She was born in Jacksonville, and began her career with the city right out of high school, then later worked as Division Chief for Mayor Tommy Hazouri from 1987-1991. After that she started a new communications business. From there she begin working campaigns, lived overseas for a few years, and then returned to Florida once more and she started a job at consumer affairs in city hall. Consumer Affairs was an instant love for Rukab. “I got to teach people how to protect themselves—I educated them about everything from lemon laws to internet identity theft. I loved taking phone calls and helping people.”

Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ramallah in 1948. She has four brothers and sisters; her father died when she was very young. Rukab says her mom is an inspiration—“she raised five children with no help and no money. She raised a doctor, a nurse, a public servant—all people who help others.” Rukab says her mom has always guided her, and before she passed away her mother said “Robin, you haven’t been happy since you left city hall.” Rukab knew she was right, and that was when she decided to run for City Council.

Rukab says her motivation to reclaim her seat in city hall is simple: “I want to do a better job than the current people.”

When asked why she enjoys public service so much, Rukab says it’s because “I’m doing something for the good of everyone, and that is the most rewarding thing. I’m a very cause-oriented person, and city council is a great cause. You inform and help people, and the gratifying thing is that you affect everyone, and you can affect everyone positively.” It’s the difference of individual acts versus policy changes. And Rukab is totally confident in her ability to creatively find the funding needed to solve Jacksonville’s problems.

Despite her extensive knowledge of Jacksonville, of both the people and the inner city workings, there are still challenging aspects to this campaign. Given the current economic woes in Florida, raising money to run a campaign can be a rough venture. Rukab isn’t worried though, saying that even though the system is all about who can raise the most money, she’s confident that people will vote for her because she is the right person. Florida’s early voting is already open, and she has already heard from individuals who have voted for her, which offsets the difficulties of campaigning in a recovering economic climate. “Really, the most rewarding part is running into people in stores, or on the street, and they start tell you what the city needs and about the problems, and it’s these one-on-one conversations that mean the most.” Rukab has missed that aspect of working for the city, noting “it brings you home and brings you back to reality.” She’s running for City Council because she doesn’t feel like the people are represented anymore, and the city has to be brought back to reality.

Rukab’s primary is March 22, 2011. Information about her campaign can be found at http://www.robinrukab.com.

Tom Korge loves to solve problems. He’s a tax attorney, an adjunct professor of at University of Miami, and he’s a first-time candidate running for Mayor of Coral Gables.

Korge describes Coral Gables as a residential area with a small town feel, where everyone pretty much knows everyone else. But now he’s getting to know his neighbors in a different way now, as a candidate and their potential mayor. Korge has found himself more than pleasantly surprised by campaigning, noting that he didn’t think it would be this much fun. It’s the meeting of new friends and neighbors, and getting to know people, that has really been a rewarding and eye-opening experience for Korge.

“Debates are my favorite” says Korge, with genuine enthusiasm. “I like fundraisers and I like to give a stump speech, but I really love the questions. It’s a chance to show people how I think and how I plan to solve their problems.”

There are plenty of issues to be addressed if Korge is elected. He notes that tax rates have been increased four times in 10 years, the city’s budget is down, and the pension system is underfunded.  Korge is running against the incumbent mayor, but says that even the people who are friends of his have been very positive to him. “When you’re going door to door, and talking to your neighbors as a candidate, you suddenly hear about problems and complaints you wouldn’t normally know about.” He explains that his opponent is a friend, but they have very different views on how to run the city. “People want to know how you’ll approach the issues, and they should know that. We, as candidates, have to make sure the promises we make are not only fair but sustainable.”

Korge has extensive background in law and municipal finance, two areas of expertise that he thinks will be particularly relevant if he’s elected. In addition to his day job as a tax attorney and his campaign work, Korge also teaches federal income tax law at University of Miami as an adjunct professor. In the last twelve years he’s served on two of the city’s largest boards, and Korge has been engaged as a volunteer for the city for 11 or 12 years, particularly where he could use his background in municipal finance. “I love the city and I want to make it better,” explains Korge, “I live here and I work here, and I know I can make it better.”

Korge thinks that Miami is ahead of the curve in terms of what people in Arizona are going through. “We [Miami] had waves of immigrants coming into Miami and Coral Gables in the past, and at first it was a culture shock but the community is more vibrant now because of it. It’s stronger and more diverse in the end, even if getting through the transition is painful sometimes. America will be better for it.” Korge himself is Lebanese American, and can recall there being a very politically active Arab American community in Miami when he was growing up. His dad was Congressman Dante Fascell’s campaign treasurer and friend, and he was always actively engaged with all the different constituencies. The level of involvement and the relationships built are always

Korge offers this message on the importance of voting: “Everyone should get involved; if you have the right to vote, you should be engaged because it affects your life. You don’t have to run for office, but even if you contribute or volunteer for a candidate, that’s showing your support beyond voting.”

In off-year elections, it can be hard to garner the same levels of voter interest and activity as mid-term or presidential election years. But Korge is quick to emphasize that “this election matters in a huge way— the city government affects our lives in really tangible ways: the amount of police, maintaining our streets, ensuring the garbage gets picked up.” He’s running because And we as candidates have to make sure the promises we make are not only fair but sustainable.

Tom Korge’s primary election is on April 12, 2011. You can find out more information about his campaign at www.korgeformayor.com.

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