His great-great-grandfather George Nelson Benjamin was the second mayor of West Tampa and named Nebraska Avenue after his home state.
But ancient history might be the only common ground for the candidates.
Ferlita, a 57-year-old pharmacist, and Benjamin
, a 27-year-old theatrical stagehand, are poles apart in other ways.
describes himself as a populist battling a "narrow-minded elitist" and says the city has promoted urban sprawl, wasted millions on streetcars and forced poorer residents out of their neighborhoods with profit-driven redevelopment policies.
The local Sierra Club
recently endorsed him.
was a skateboarder in Ybor City in his
teen years.Raised by his
mother after his
father died when he
was 4 years old, he
has been homeless at times and lived in poverty.As a teenager he
operated a pirate radio station from his
home in Ybor.The station was raided by police and shut down by the Federal Communications Commission
also was charged with possession of marijuana, which Benjamin
says didn't belong to him.He
radio station, which aired local music and political talk, as an act of civil disobedience.The FCC
eventually rewrote its regulations to allow for licensing of such small stations, he
said. Now a resident of Ybor Heights, Benjamin earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of South Florida in December while working two jobs.He
belongs to a theatrical stagehands union that sets up and takes down shows at venues such as St. Pete Times Forum and Ruth Eckerd Hall.
If elected, Benjamin
will give half of his
$25,000 city council salary to nonprofit groups that help young people, he
drives a truck, but his
favored mode of transportation is a bicycle.
"I think I know the city better than Rose," Benjamin
said."I don't see it through the windshield of a car."
Ferlita's insistence on calling him "young man" at candidate forums rankles a bit.And Benjamin
has been stereotyped because of his
marijuana arrest and dispute with the FCC
"Joe and I don't agree on everything," Benjamin
, meanwhile, is knocking on doors asking voters to make him the city council's "voice of diversity."
On Fridays at lunch, he
routinely joins a band of antiwar protesters outside the federal courthouse.As a city council member, he says he would propose a resolution calling for diplomacy with Iraq, rather than war.
"I'm bringing these issues up and I'm getting them into the social consciousness," Benjamin