Ex-student enters race for mayor


Published: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 at 11:16 p.m.
A fourth candidate entered Gainesville's race for mayor on Wednesday, widening the all-Democratic slate of contenders in the March 9 election.
Michael Belle, a 23-year-old former University of Florida student, said he's running to increase the representation of Gainesville's student population.
"The most well-represented demographic in this city gets no representation in the highest office of this city, and someone needs to stick their neck out and actually give this group a fair shake at expressing themselves," he said in a Saturday e-mail to the news media and supporters of presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. Belle is a full-time volunteer for Kucinich's campaign.
He said the former Cleveland mayor and current U.S. congressman inspired him to run for office.
"Kucinich teaches that all (people) should be engaged civically. He teaches that if you believe in something, you should stand up for it," Belle said.
Other mayoral candidates are incumbent Mayor Tom Bussing, banker C.B. Daniel, and Pegeen Hanrahan, an engineer and former hazardous materials manager. Candidates can qualify through Friday.
Belle, a native of Massachusetts, moved from Ocala to Gainesville when he was 18 to attend UF, where he studied history and then business for three years, but did not graduate.
"I really just fell in love with the city," he said.
Disillusioned with business studies, he moved to the Washington, D.C., area in May 2002, where he worked as a bank manager and then as a Saturn car salesman.
He moved back to Gainesville a year later and worked as a graveyard shift waiter at Perkins Restaurant and Bakery on Newberry Road during the fall.
Belle, who plans to spend every other day campaigning on UF's campus until the election, said his campaign will revolve around getting college students to vote.
If he wins, Belle said he plans to donate half his annual City Commission salary of $25,925 to high school and college voter registration drives. He plans to ask the city to match his donation.
Belle also wants to push for more bike lanes on 34th Street, Newberry Road and University Avenue, and wider bike lanes on 13th Street.
If he doesn't win the election, Belle said he plans to start philosophy and religion classes at New College in Sarasota this summer.
Ashley Rowland can be reached at (352) 374-5095 or rowlana@gvillesun.com.

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