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Tampa Mayoral Race Exposes Fractured Community

February 25, 2019 - 8:00am

The 2019 Tampa mayoral campaign hasn’t brought out the best and the brightest, but it has cast a spotlight on the fractured culture and numerous special interest factions fighting for the heart, soul, and wallet of Florida’s fourth largest city.

The seven-candidate lineup resembles a parade of panderers. They have been appearing at forums ad nauseum hosted by more special interests than the grains of sand on Ben Davis Beach. All feel obligated to attend the succession of dog-and pony shows to avoid incurring the wrath of these pressure groups.

Here is a partial list from just the past five weeks:

  • 1/15 – Society of Real Estate Professionals

  • 1/16 – Downtown Tampa Partnership

  • 1/22 – TBBA & South Tampa Dems

  • 1/23 – Westshore Alliance

  • 1/24 – Hyde Park Preservation, Inc. 

  • 1/29 – Seminole Heights

  • 1/20 – South Tampa

  • 2/5 – Arts and Culture

  • 2/6 – Davis Island

  • 2/7 – Westshore Palms

  • 2/8 – Historic Ybor City Neighborhood Association

  • 2/9 – United Voices

  • 2/11 – West Tampa

  • 2/12 – Forest Hills

  • 2/13 – LGBTA

  • 2/15 – Tiger Bay

  • 2/19 – New Tampa

  • 2/20 – Sierra Club

  • 2/21 – Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Forum

  • 2/21 – NAACP

  • 2/22 – Hispanic Caucus

A comprehensive, integrated community vision is as rare as horse droppings on a carousel. Instead, the public has been treated to condensed white papers (by only three of the candidates), each on a narrow topic that go largely unread or undigested.

Rehearsing for these gatherings figured to be a bonzo job for the Unmagnificent Seven because of the special interest aspect. Yet, it has been more than challenging for the participants.

Having a professional and personal background with the arts, I was particularly drawn to the arts and culture forum three weeks ago.  It proved incredibly embarrassing as none of the candidates appeared to possess a true grasp of the issues faced by the arts community.  Outpromising  opponents with unrealistic plans and policies was the order of the day. 

With the candidates learning nothing, voters are learning nothing.  

Six of the seven candidates haven’t offered anything new or inspirational -- only Topher Morrison, owner of a small business and political neophyte, touts unique innovation and total inclusiveness.  Sadly, he is a long shot to make the anticipated two-person runoff despite energizing the youth vote.

The remaining aspirants are intent on perpetuating Tampa’s good ‘ol boy network that chains Tampa to third-rate status among the country’s big cities.  These candidates include a legacy candidate, two city council members with notably unremarkable records, an out-of-touch billionaire who hasn’t grasped the issues but is convinced he can buy the office, a former county commissioner with a checkered record whose rhetoric exceeds his accomplishments, and a former police chief who was castigated by the Department of Justice for racial profiling.

With that ensemble, Tampanians can only pray for the drumbeat of the status quo instead of the bugle of retreat and regression. Tapping Tampa’s enormous potential and thrusting the city into the national conversation remains a pipe dream.

Except for Morrison attracting the youth vote, there’s no reason to believe Tampa’s traditional 20 percent turnout for municipal elections will increase dramatically.

Term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn spent eight years protecting special interests. Under his stewardship, Tampa garnered an abundance of negative national headlines.

The primary is March 5 with the runoff in April. Reversing the buildup of adverse publicity will be a monumental task for the eventual winner.

Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog.


With all due respect, Harry, I’ll object. We have seven candidates. We brought one on a day and asked each the same questions and gave them one minute to respond to each. This in itself should assure you there was a level playing field. This was indicated in the copy, as I’m sure you heard. This was not a policy debate. It was a chance to see who the candidates are and how they handled everyday questions any of us have answered in a job interview. I’d like to refer you to Craig Patrick who covered each candidate and their respective platforms. Perhaps you just needed context. Either way, thanks for watching.

hmmmmm... "Tampa to third-rate status among the country’s big cities" seems a bit harsh. I do a lot of travelling for my business to cities large and small throughout the US, and I'm not so sure Tampa is considered "third-rate" among the vast majority of people I've met, and it certainly isn't third-rate in my eyes.

As far as I'm concerned, Tampa IS the jewel of the Gulf Coast. Aside from it's horrible traffic, it's a great city to live and work in. The mayor's job, is a difficult one for big cities. There's pressure groups in all cities. Big or small. Being mayor is knowing the right things to satisfy everyone. Not just those you care deeply about. It's being there in times of emergency, with pertinent information and actions. It's being there for fallen heroes, and their families. It's not an easy job. That long list of hands out organizations, should stand down.

"Tampons" have ALWAYS told themselves that they are more important than they actually ever were...

Funny how the Sunshine State News goes on and on in a very positive way about the mayoral race in Jacksonville ... but does nothing but dump on the mayoral race in Tampa. The difference? The Jax race is Republican dominated ... the Tampa race is Democratic dominated.

Yeah,it's pathetic,and there's so much positive going on in Tampa!If the folks can keep these fools out of City Hall Tampa will truly become the jewel of the Gulf Coast.The best the good people of Tampa can do is elect the clown that'll impede development the least.

What the heck is "comprehensive, integrated community vision" when it is at home. Typical woolly brain of a non thinker I wasted my time reading this none article, much like local news interviewing candidates

Was hoping to get better informed on the candidates by watching their interviews on Fox 13 out of Tampa. Unfortunately interviewer Laura Moody is only interested in asking softball questions and letting one candidate drone on for 5 minutes about his penchant for going to Buger King after the gym. Total fail. Journalism really is dead in this country.

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