Reflecting on his 2010-2011 bid for Tampa mayor, Ed Turanchik said that in that campaign Bob Buckhorn schooled him on messaging — and he learned his lesson.
Perhaps that explains Turanchik’s emphasis on branding his candidacy as a “vision” to lead Tampa in 2019 and beyond — reflected both on his campaign website and in encounters Friday with the media upon launching his run for mayor.
“I see the larger issue is framing a vision of what the city needs to be,” Turanchik told Florida Politics just hours after officially filing for office.
“I’ve had this consistent vision, and it’s all about creating a 21st-century city.”
Key components of that vision: transit, community building and innovation.
In 2011, the attorney/developer/transit activist finished fourth out of five contestants, but that doesn’t accurately reflect the impact Turanchik had on the campaign.
Before the primary, Turanchik won endorsements from both the (late) Tampa Tribune and Creative Loafing, and those covering the campaign questioned whether the fresh ideas being espoused by both him and Buckhorn would be rewarded by the voters, who in early polling seemed more comfortable with old-school Tampa natives Rose Ferlita and Dick Greco.
The answer was mixed, with Ferlita receiving the most votes in the first round of balloting; Buckhorn beat out Greco by just 384 votes to qualify. Then, Buckhorn trounced Ferlita in the general election.
Turanchik, 62, entered that contest relatively late in 2010, which became a significant factor in his extraordinarily early entry into the election that is still more than a year away.
He also brings a formidable resume with him into the race.
In fact, while any of his presumed opponents (which already include businessman Topher Morrison and Michael Anthony Hazard) may ultimately offer a more compelling message than Turanchik, it’s doubtful that they’ll be able to match him regarding accomplishments earned over the decades in Hillsborough County
Those achievements include a body of work that seems to contradict the notion he’s more of a dreamer than an executor of policy.
Among the projects Turanchik played a substantial (or tangential) part include the creation of Tampa Bay Water, placing Amalie Arena in Channelside and the Cross-Bay Ferry (down this winter but expected to resume in the fall).
Turanchik also takes credit for projects that initially didn’t pan out, like his work in the early aughts to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to Tampa. Although that idea died at the hands of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2002, the bid did accomplish one thing — pushing the state to create a right of way for potential high-speed rail along I-4.
On that, his work with ConnectUS bore fruit in 2010 (only to be rejected in 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott).
While his mixed-used residential and commercial development (known as Civitas) died in 2004, Turanchik said it became the genesis of what Buckhorn is now doing right now with the InVision plan for the West River area.
A Hillsborough County Commissioner from 1990-1998, Turanchik also takes credit for helping pass an indigent health care tax in 1991 (sponsored by Phyllis Busansky), as well as the Community Investment Tax in 1996.
Since 2011, he’s worked in the public policy practice group at the law firm of Akerman LLP, where in 2016 he helped bring in WS Development, a Boston developer, to revitalize Hyde Park Village.
But to some, Turanchik will always be known as being a transit advocate.
That said, he wants to clear the air about what modes of transportation he does (and doesn’t) prefer.
“For the record, I’ve never been a fan or proponent or supporter of light rail, because it requires a separate dedicated right of way,” he said. “And it’s bloody expensive. I have always been in favor of using the CSX corridors with compatible technology.”
And without getting too specific, Turanchik also boldly asserts that “we’re going to have really brand new transit within two years of me getting elected into the mayor’s office without a tax increase.”
He’s not a fan of the recently announced regional transit feasibility plan that calls for bus rapid transit to run from Wesley Chapel to St. Petersburg. The product is a product produced by Jacobs Engineering, a transportation consultant.
“I have a very simple adage born from my Sierra Club activism days which used to be, ‘think globally, act locally,'” he says. “Mine is, think regionally, act locally. I’m a little bit concerned that this is being turned around, to say, let’s do big regional projects that don’t address local needs.”
News has surfaced in recent ways of Buckhorn trying to advance a long-discussed plan to turn some of Tampa’s treated wastewater into drinking water (affectionally known in some quarters as ‘toilet to tap’).
Unable to come to a deal with Tampa Bay Water, the mayor had local legislators attempt to push a bill in the Legislature this winter that would give the city the right to use reclaimed water to supplement its water supply. Vigorously challenged by officials with Tampa Bay Water, the proposal is now dead in Tallahassee.
Turanchik supports where Buckhorn is going on reclaimed water, but warned it would be calamitous to blow up Tampa Bay Water.
“Tampa Bay Water needs to embrace the project and get going,” he said, adding that if he were in charge, he would be going around throughout the region to all of TBW’s partners to sell the proposal.
“It’s a fundamentally sound project. It will have a huge benefit for the Bay, huge benefit for the environment.”
With the campaign still months away from starting in earnest, candidates — who range from former Police Chief Jane Castor to city council members Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen to philanthropist David Straz and perhaps others — still could enter the race.
Turanchik called them all “good people” and is looking forward to a “friendly public-policy-laden discussion, something he maintains Tampa voters prefer.
“We all live here. We all like each other Everyone cares about the city. We’ve just got different strengths and perspectives, and I am not running against any of those people,” he added. “I am running for the future of the city of Tampa, and it’s my credentials, my vision, and my approach is what I hope voters will look at, and the same with them.”