Whoever succeeds Bob Buckhorn next year as Tampa’s mayor will have a tough time matching his ability to deliver a speech.
His pace and timing are excellent, his voice rising and rising when he wants to engage the listener fully and hammer home a point.
Then again, Buckhorn’s message Friday in his “State of the City” address would have come through loud and clear even if Tom Fumbletongue had been speaking.
Buckhorn went beyond the usual cheerleading and optimism that has characterized most of his speeches. He blasted — and I mean BLASTED — the Republican-led Legislature for passing laws that have hamstrung the ability of big-city mayor, most of whom are Democrats, to raise money and provide services for a rapidly growing population.
Buckhorn called it “an outright attack on local governments by leadership in the Florida Legislature.”
He was just getting started.
“I’ve been around city government for 30 years, and I’ve never seen such a blatant attack to undermine local government and to strip away the powers of self-governance. It’s wrong, and it needs to stop. It’s not all of them, but it’s a lot of the leadership. And you can vote against those who vote against you.
“During campaign season they run around talking about their conservative principles, how less government is better, how smaller government is more efficient, how government closest to the people is the best government. Well, guess who the hell that is? That’s us, that’s us,” he thundered.
His voice kept rising, reaching a crescendo when he said, “ … or, God forbid, (when) we want to pass common-sense gun legislation, they say, ‘Oh no! We know better! We know what’s good for you! We’re going to decide for you.’ Tallahassee knows better? Are you kidding me? Not now, not ever. Let us do our jobs.”
He wasn’t finished.
“This is the same Legislature that pays a lot of attention to the NRA and very little attention to the PTAs.”
That sounded an awful lot like a campaign speech and not so much about the state of the city.
Maybe it was.
While Buckhorn decided against running for governor, he hasn’t ruled out taking the No. 2 spot on a Democratic ticket if he is asked. That idea has been floated.
I talked to him about that recently. The most telling thing Buckhorn said was that he would only agree to seek the lieutenant governor’s job if he felt he had a chance to really contribute to policy.
I’ve known him a long time. He doesn’t have the kind of personality that would handle four years of ribbon-cuttings and Kiwanis Club speeches.
In two terms as mayor, he was often on the business end of edicts from Tallahassee on issues that included attempts at gun control, so-called sanctuary cities, limits on the ability of cities to raise taxes, and even an attempt in the last Session for the state to pre-empt all local tree-trimming laws.
As a No. 2, Buckhorn might flourish as an enforcer and be the advocate for local cities that mayors across the state say is needed.
Would he do that?
My guess is he would, if the right person asked, said the right things, and then let Buckhorn be Buckhorn.
If that happens, one thing is certain. Tallahassee would get an earful.