Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 2 of 32 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Bob Buckhorn made the right call not to run for Governor

Bob Buckhorn is a gregarious, ambitious and determined man, and I think he would have made a fine governor for the state of Florida. He certainly ranks among the best mayors the city of Tampa has ever had.

But I also believe he made the right call when he announced in an email to supporters Thursday morning that “I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018.”

Now, saying “I am not planning …” does leave a little wiggle room in case Democrats come storming to his door, but that is not likely to happen. There could be several viable options for Dems in 2018, including Orlando attorney John Morgan, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

But Buckhorn wasn’t kidding in that email when he said, “I have a job I love.” In his case, that was not the usual politician-speak for “I’ve sized up the field and decided I have no chance.”

Tampa has had some fine mayors dating back more than 40 years — people like Dick Greco, Bill Poe, Sandy Freedman, Bob Martinez, Pam Iorio — and none of them wanted the job more than Buckhorn. He loved saying that Tampa had its “swagger” back. Trust me on this; no one has more swagger than he does.

And Buckhorn came along at the right time, too. When he assumed office in 2011, the city’s knees were buckling from the Great Recession (Iorio deserves credit for how she guided Tampa during that time). But Buckhorn moved ahead with an ambitious plan to reshape downtown from a dead place where the streets didn’t wait until 5 p.m. to roll up.

There are so many things going on now that the biggest downtown problem is a lack of parking.

That’s not to say the mayor hasn’t had issues. Not everyone approved of the military-style security Buckhorn championed that turned downtown into a fenced-off encampment during the 2012 Republican National Convention. And when Buckhorn decides he wants something, he tends to bulldoze any opposition that raises a peep of protest.

He didn’t make a lot of friends in the African-American community, either, when a Tampa Bay Times report about the disproportionate number of black bicyclists stopped by local police led to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. Buckhorn defiantly supported the police on that issue.

When you’re in a job like this one, though, you’ll be judged on your overall score. On his watch, the long process of building Tampa’s Riverwalk finally went from concept to reality. It already is the signature landmark in the city.

He streamlined much of the bureaucracy on things like the permitting process. That helped speed his vision for transforming downtown into an urban dwelling center rather than just a place where people went to work.

He once famously quipped that infrastructure was the most important thing for city mayors, so while things like new firehouses and stormwater drainage improvements didn’t make headlines, those projects did make life better for citizens. He has been a champion for public spaces, and the Water Works park on the north side of downtown is a jewel.

He was an out-front supporter of Hillary Clinton for president, so there was speculation that he would have been off to Washington had she won. We’ll never know that for sure, just as we’ll never know if as governor he could have successfully worked with what likely will remain a Republican legislative majority in Tallahassee.

Here is what we can say, though. This decision not to run clears a lot of things off his plate and allows him to concentrate on the city he loves. I would imagine development on the west side of the Hillsborough River will be one of his priorities in the two years he has left in office.

And barring something unforeseen that can’t be controlled, he will hand the next mayor a city that has changed for the better. Not a bad legacy, eh?

The political class react to Bob Buckhorn’s decision not to run for Governor

Bob Buckhorn’s decision not to run for Governor is eliciting plenty of reaction in Tampa. Many people say they are not surprised Buckhorn has chosen not to pursue a path to the top political job in Florida.

“Am I the only one who felt he wasn’t heading in that direction?” asked City Councilwoman Yolie Capin.

“I truly believe that he made the right decision because he has not demonstrated over the past six months that he had a keen interest in running for governor,” said Councilman Frank Reddick.

Alluding to the fact that he has done little over the past year to travel around the state to get to know Democrats like potential candidates Gwen Graham and Philip Levine, Reddick said: “I think his chances of winning would have been very, very slim. So I think he did the right thing to wait this out.”

“While I absolutely believe that the State of Florida needs a course correction and a new direction, the timing for me and my family would be a challenge,” the Mayor said in his statement issued out shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday. “As the father of two daughters who are 15 and 11, the all-consuming task of running for Governor would cause me to miss the milestones in their lives that I could never get back.”

“Although I’m not surprised, I’m a little sad that we won’t have a representative from Tampa running for Governor,” said Councilman Mike Suarez. “I would have loved to have seen him go out and talk about the vision that he’s been able to put together in Tampa for the rest of the state.”

“I think that Mayor Buckhorn should be commended for putting the interests of his family and the City of Tampa first,” said Councilman Harry Cohen. “Being Mayor is more than a full-time job, and the continued success of much of what is happening in Tampa right now depends on having a strong and totally focused Mayor.”

“Bob Buckhorn is an extraordinary leader who has transformed one of Florida’s and America’s great cities,” Graham said in a statement. “His successful service in Tampa shows what Florida can accomplish if we work together and focus on creating economic opportunity and improving the quality of life for families.

“As a Tampa native, I’m incredibly thankful for his vision and leadership,” says Democratic operative Ana Cruz, a close Buckhorn ally.

A former official with the Florida Democratic Party, Cruz appeared wistful that Buckhorn will not be making a run for governor next year.

“Mayor Buckhorn has transformed our city, led with integrity and is exactly what we need in Tallahassee,” she said. “Bob Buckhorn will always be my favorite pick for Governor.”

“He would have been a strong candidate and a great governor, but can’t blame my friend Bob for putting his family and Tampa first,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
“The withdrawal of Bob Buckhorn leaves the democrats without a critical I-4  corridor candiates who has won an election,” said St. Petersburg political strategist Barry Edwards. “The I-4 cooridor is critical to the success of a democratic nominee in a general elction and this further errodes democrats pathways back to power.”

“His legacy will be that of a truly great man who loved Tampa and elevated our city to the national stage,” said Tampa state Senate Republican Dana Young. “Although he will not run for Governor, Bob Buckhorn is not going away by any stretch — except him to be a major player for years to come.”

Reddick said the same thing about the mayor, who will turn 59 in July.

“He’s still a young man, and he got a great future ahead of him if the timing is right for him, and that could be in another four years.”

The mayor himself had a news conference later on Thursday morning, which you can read all about here.

Email Insights: Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2M in February

The political committee backing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says it raised more than $2 million in February, bring total contributions to more than $9 million.

In an email  to supporters from Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, said the committee raised more than $2.25 million in February 2017. Hollis said that one-month fundraising haul brought total contributions to the committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s 2018 campaign, to more than $9.4 million.

“Support for Adam’s Florida Grown PC is not only evident through fundraising, however, it’s also seen on social media platforms,” wrote Hollis. “More than 170,000 people follow Adam on Facebook, while Phil Levine has just 44,000, Bob Buckhorn has just 17,000, Gwen Graham has just 13,000 followers and the newly announced gubernatorial candidate from the Capital City Andrew Gillum has just under 17,000.”

Gillum formally announced his 2018 bid Wednesday; while Levine and Graham have both indicated they are mulling a bid. Buckhorn is also believed to be considering a run.

Putnam is expected to run in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering a run.

Hollis went on to say that behind the scenes, the Florida Grown team is “working hard, traveling the state and building relationships.”

 

Fear grips Latino communities in Florida as deportations increase

There is palpable fear amongst the undocumented community after the Department of Homeland Security issued new memos that gives U.S. officials sweeping latitude to target “removable aliens” for deportation, effectively making most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. priority targets.

Under Barack Obama, immigration officials were told to focus on convicted criminals instead of the broader undocumented population. The memos issued out this week by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly instruct agents to also prioritize undocumented immigrants who have been charged with a crime but not convicted of it, or committed an act that may be criminal offenses but haven’t been charged for it. Those categories mean that almost any brush with the American law-enforcement system could make an undocumented immigrant a target for removal.

“I’m very, very afraid,” says a St.Petersburg housekeeper who only wanted to be identified by her first name of Melissa.

A Brazilian native who has duel citizenship with Portugal, Melissa came to the U.S. last year with her Portuguese passport but has stayed past the three months she was legally able to. She keeps her two-year-old daughter in day care, and says she is terrified that if she gets picked up by local police she may never see her again.

“I’ll never call for some help, if I need the police here,” she says. “I’ll never call anyone to help me.”

There are approximately 610,000 undocumented people in Florida, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Daniel Barajas is the executive director with the Young American Dreamers, based in Auburndale. His organization has been hosting community forums this week, teaching the undocumented what to do if they’re confronted by immigration officers.

“We’re just trying to reassure the community by giving them the confidence in the means of learning their rights and keeping them organize, so when there’s actions where mobilizing the community would be strategic, we could do so,” he says.

Left untouched in the DHS directives is anything to do with DACA, an executive order imposed by President Obama  that provides 750,000 young undocumented immigrations a means to work and live in the U.S.

“We’re gonna show great heart,” Trump said in a news conference last week. “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you.”

“It’s not a security blanket, even though I do feel like I have a path to citizenship,” says Tampa resident Andrea Seabra, who is part of the DACA program. “It is what it is today, and I just hope every day that things get better.”

While big city mayors like Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman say that they will make sure that their police departments don’t go out of their way to detain undocumented immigrants, Edwin Enciso with Justicia Now says that isn’t the case in many other parts of Florida.

“The problem is that about 40 percent of the udocumented community live in rural counties and have sheriffs who have a history of cooperating with federal agents in this way, and so in those areas the undocumented community, especially farm workers, are more vulnerable,” he says.

Those sheriffs would include Polk County’s Grady Judd, who said at a news conference earlier this week that “our primary goal has got to be to get the illegal aliens committing felonies out of this country and keep them out.”

After the new directives were announced by DHS this week, Orlando area Democratic U.S. Representative Darren Soto held an emergency roundtable discussion, where he learned that students in Auburndale had been questioned by local school administrators about their immigration status. “Given the recent executive action and heated rhetoric on immigration, these unauthorized inquiries are deeply troubling to me and our constituents,” Soto said in a letter sent to Judd, Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings, Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson and more than 20 school board members.

“What we find disturbing is that he hasn’t even found time to sit down with the Hispanic community to discuss what their concerns are,” said Barajas of Judd, who he has worked with in the past. Barajas said DHS’ orders affects more than just the undocumented, since there are many Hispanic families with “mixed status,” that is, with some family members who are documented, others who aren’t or who have those who are on DACA.

Most Americans believe that cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes should be required to turn them over to federal authorities.

A survey from Harvard–Harris Poll published by the The Hill this week found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting to federal agents the illegal immigrants they come into contact with.

Seabra says she wonders whether President Trump has ever had the chance to sit down with DACA students or farm workers, and says such a meeting could have an impact on his viewpoint.

“I feel he was actually exposed to people that work for him, the people who clean his bathrooms, the people that built his building, maybe he’ll understand that we’re not here to destroy his country, but to make it better.”

‘Not that he’s running for anything’: Andrew Gillum visits Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum drove east on I-10 for a hastily arranged a Jacksonville roundtable event on Wednesday.

But, as an organizer said, it’s “not that he’s running for anything.”

Of course not.

And Gillum echoed that point.

“I ain’t here to make news today,” Gillum said, about “what comes next.”

Of course not.

Why would anything come next?

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In all seriousness though, Gillum is traveling like a candidate. Walking like a candidate. And talking like a candidate.

But he’s not a candidate.

And when we asked the 38-year-old Democrat, one who was first elected to office soon after her graduated from FAMU (Go Rattlers!), if he had a timetable for deciding whether or not to throw his hat into a ring that could include Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham, he said he had “no clue” about when or if he would decide to run.

Gillum has been linked to other bigger-stage candidacies before: there was talk of him getting into the 2016 primary race against Corrine Brown in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, but nothing came of it.

If Gillum is to get into the race for Florida Governor, though, he hinted during his remarks Wednesday to a few dozen Jacksonville Young Democrats what his timetable might be.

Gillum discussed an “18 month view of engagement,” one that would be central to his strategy of going beyond supervoters to reach those voters who may have participated in one out of the last eight election.

We’ve seen this before on the national level.

Former President Barack Obama brought Hope and Change to a set of those voters in 2008.

Current President Donald Trump ran up margins with “silent majority” blue-collar white voters with his own change persona, expanding the voter universe even as Trump’s Democratic, Green, and Libertarian opponents were unable to make their own cases as change agents.

On the state level, however, it’s tougher.

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For one thing, midterm elections see an enthusiasm gap for Democrats.

Gillum noted that “black and brown” voters – key to any viable Democratic campaign – are especially prone to turnout attrition.

For another thing, Democrats have lately fielded underwhelming statewide candidates.

If you asked most people in Northeast Florida about Alex Sink, for example, they’d wonder why someone named a plumbing fixture.

Charlie Crist, when he ran for governor in 2014, had no campaign at all in Northeast Florida … except for some fans given out at churches that showed his picture next to that of President Obama.

Gillum, should he become a candidate, has a model to change that – but whether he has the time or the resources to do so is a completely open question.

Visiting young Democrats at this point in the cycle is essentially de facto recruitment of energized volunteers.

As the youngest candidate in the field, Gillum would – if he wants to run and win – have to engage the kinds of grassroots canvassers that helped him get elected to city commission in his 20s, then mayor.

He was able to pull that off in Tallahassee: he won his first race for city commission with little more than a budget for t-shirts.

However, on the state level, the effort would have to look more like Obama for America – disciplined, well-budgeted, and unrelenting.

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Can Gillum do that?

It remains to be seen.

The Tallahassee mayor’s remarks in Jacksonville pivoted between taking Rick Scott to task for his positions, and making an appeal to young voters – a tough demographic to turn out en masse.

Gillum described Democratic values being “under attack” in Florida for a long time, framing the 2018 election as a “real pivotal moment not only in the country but in the state.”

“My hope,” Gillum said, “is that after 20 years of turning the state over to the Republican Party,” that Democrats have a “fighting chance.”

Gillum also took the lobbyist culture to task, saying they were “buzzing all over the place” in Tallahassee, with legislators doing their bidding.

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The parallels between Gillum and a young Barack Obama are hard to miss.

In fact, they seem consciously cultivated, with Gillum telling those assembled in Jacksonville not to “fall for the okey doke” – a line that President Obama used to project authenticity to crowds over the years.

Does Gillum have what Obama had, though?

Key to Obama’s rise: his willingness to go to out-of-the-way places and make his pitch to rural populations, which helped keep John McCain’s margins down in those areas.

Can Gillum do that? That remains to be seen.

The appeal to “our generation of folks,” on issues ranging from LGBT rights to the Syrian refugee order, may not play as well in Jasper as it did to Democratic activists in Jacksonville.

While Gillum noted that appealing to “working class” voters does not mean “exclusion” of the white working class, he also seems willing to not bother attempting to appeal to a certain swath of the electorate.

“It may be too much to wrestle away the Fox News person who believes Obama is from Pakistan,” Gillum said, noting that a better use of activists’ time would be to cultivate voters who, were they “activated,” would vote Democrat.

Gillum, during a conversation after his remarks, noted his belief that the race for governor won’t come down to who has the biggest regional base of voters, but “what the candidate is saying” and “energy.”

That may be the case.

But, as is the case with many of the would-be candidates in the field, a delayed rollout may mean a lost political opportunity – if not for the party, then at least for the candidate.

Online poll shows Floridians support sanctuary cities

An online poll of 600 Florida residents conducted by Florida Atlantic University shows that by a 52-36 percent margin, Floridians do not want the Trump administration to cut off funding to sanctuary cities. And a plurality – 46-38 percent – don’t want the U.S. Justice Dept. to take any legal action against sanctuary cities.

However, the same poll also shows that only a slight majority (fifty-five percent) have ever heard of the term ‘sanctuary city,’ before being polled to opine on it. Sanctuary cities are generally defined as localities that help shield undocumented residents from deportation by refusing to fully cooperate with detention requests from federal immigration authorities.

After President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced that his county would abandon the practice of being a sanctuary city. That decision by itself could affect the fate of more than one million undocumented immigrants. By a 62 to 39 percent majority, those surveyed said that Miami-Dade County shouldn’t end the practice of being a sanctuary county.

Interestingly, the poll also asked if Tampa should become a sanctuary city (the question posed said that it is considering becoming one). By a margin of a 61%-39%, those surveyed said Tampa should designate itself as such.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said that officially Tampa is not a sanctuary city and would not become one, but that he won’t be directing Tampa Police Officers to act as immigration agents anytime soon. Those responsibilities are actually handled by Hillsborough County. Last week, the Hillsborough County Diversity Council voted 8-1 to recommend that county commissioners look into becoming a sanctuary county, However, County Commission Chair Stacy White says that won’t be happening.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has essentially said the same thing, though he confused some people over the weekend by issuing a statement saying that, “I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws.”

Republicans were the only group who supported cutting federal funds with 70 percent in support and 24 percent opposed.

A full two-thirds  of those surveyed also said they do not want to pay for a border wall on the Mexican border (66 percent to 33 percent).

The poll also shows that 66 percent of those surveyed disapprove of President Trump’s job performance, with only 34 percent approving.

But the attitude of those surveyed was equally critical towards incumbent Democrats. Only 28 percent said he deserves re-election in 2018, while 72 percent said it was time to give someone else a chance.

The online survey was taken between February 1 and February 4, , with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson appears vulnerable in his 2018 re-election attempt in this poll, with 28 percent saying he deserves re-election while 72 percent said it was time to give someone else a chance.

Of the 600 people surveyed, 148 were Democrats, 147 were Republicans, 144 were independents, and 161 were not registered to vote.

With sanctuary city comment, Rick Kriseman defiant, but misguided

Whether you agree with the rules or you don’t, it’s never wise for a person in authority to say they are not going to follow the law. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman essentially did that when he stated the following in a blog post:

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” he wrote.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States. Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

Kriseman was forced to retreat Sunday after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his officers would enforce the law. That’s when Kriseman said in an interview that St. Pete isn’t really a so-called Sanctuary City — it just agrees with the concept.

That’s called trying to have it both ways. It usually doesn’t work.

That said, I agree completely with Kriseman that President Trump’s demonization of undocumented immigrants goes against everything America is supposed to stand for. So much about the president’s immigration policy is morally and ethically repugnant, designed to stoke irrational fear among the citizenry.

I just wish Kriseman had taken the approach of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He visited the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque Friday to support those jittery about the travel ban Trump wants to impose on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told them. “I don’t care what this President did — that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!”

See the difference in the approaches of the two mayors?

Buckhorn stepped up to the line and maybe jumped up and down on it a bit, but Kriseman stepped over it.

Buckhorn was supportive. Kriseman was defiant.

Both are Democrats, by the way.

Buckhorn told reporters covering the Friday event that Tampa is not a Sanctuary City, but he left enforcement up to his police department. When Kriseman said St. Petersburg police wouldn’t stop someone suspected of being here illegally, that took it a bit too far.

Hence, his retreat Sunday.

That could have repercussions for Kriseman in a re-election bid. While Pinellas County has only 245 more registered Republicans than Democrats (out of 641,484 voters), Trump won there in November by about 5,500 votes over Hillary Clinton.

A recent poll showed Kriseman trailing former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker in a theoretical rematch (Baker has not declared he is running).

That’s a discussion for another day, though.

For now, I’ll give Kriseman high marks for having his heart in the right place. On the rest of it, though, he gets an incomplete.

Rick Kriseman declares St. Petersburg a ‘sanctuary from harmful immigration laws’

Although St. Petersburg isn’t officially classified as a sanctuary city, Mayor Rick Kriseman all but declared that’s exactly what his town is on Saturday. And if the Trump administration wants to deny the city federal funds because of that stance, the mayor’s response is essentially, ‘We’ll see you in court.’

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” Kriseman wrote on Medium on Saturday.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States,” the mayor added. “Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

In general, sanctuary cities are defined as localities that help shield undocumented residents from deportation by refusing to fully cooperate with detention requests from federal immigration authorities. The right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies listed Pinellas (as well as Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando) as sanctuary counties in a 2015 reportbut that classification has been strongly disputed by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

“When they ask us to do things within the law, we operate with them and their programs to help them take those that are illegal who have committed crimes . . . and get them out of here,”” Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times’ Laura Morel last week.

Although sanctuary cities and counties have existed in some form since the 1980’s, they became a much more potent political flash point in the summer of 2015, after 32-year-old Kate Steinle was fatally shot while walking on San Francisco’s Embarcadero by a Mexican national with a criminal record who had been deported several times.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump vowed to dismantle sanctuary cities, citing those areas for harboring dangerous immigrants who commit crimes against Americans. He followed up on that promise shortly after being inaugurated last month, signing an executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities.

While nearly every mayor of a sanctuary city has brazenly defied Trump’s executive order with rhetoric indicating that they will dig in and resist the threat (and in the case of San Francisco, gone ahead and filed a lawsuit blocking that executive order), Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been one of the few local officials to heed Trump, ordering his jails to comply with requests from the federal government on detaining illegal immigrants.

There have been efforts by immigration activists in Tampa for months to persuade Mayor Bob Buckhorn to convert his municipality into a sanctuary city, and Kriseman acknowledges in his post that he too has received similar requests. Both have deferred on the issue, saying that the responsibility for holding undocumented immigrants is left to their respective county governments and law enforcement officials.

While the issue of sanctuary cities isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s been superseded by the fallout from Trump’s executive order signed last week banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

On Friday, Buckhorn attended Friday prayers at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque, where he called Trump’s actions “an attack on Islam as a religion.”

In his post on the online platform, Kriseman wrote that “the larger debate is no longer about sanctuary cities but about President Trump’s demonization of Muslims and the recent suspension of our refugee program.”

On Saturday morning, the State Department announced that previously banned travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S after a federal judge in Washington state on Friday night temporarily blocked enforcement of the president’s immigration ban.

“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under” Trump’s executive order, a State Department spokesman said Saturday. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”

Bob Buckhorn, other mayors trying to get Donald Trump travel ban reversed

Showing support for the Muslim community, Bob Buckhorn attended prayer services Friday at an east Tampa mosque.

Afterward, Tampa’s mayor ripped into President Donald Trump‘s executive order banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told congregants packed into the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque.

“I don’t care what this President did – that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!” he shouted toward the end of his seven-minute address.

Trump’s controversial executive action that he announced last Friday afternoon – which also indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee resettlement program – led to large protests in airports across the nation last weekend, and has been denounced by most congressional Democrats.

However, like opinions of Trump himself, Americans are divided on the move.

A majority of Americans — 51 percent — disapprove of the ban, while 45 percent approve, according to a CBS News poll released Friday.

The Trump administration criticized the media’s reporting on the executive order, denying it’s a travel ban at all.

But Buckhorn wasn’t buying that.

“For anyone, including the President of the United States, to demonize any religion, and make no mistake, they can call it what it is, but it’s a ban, it’s an attack on Islam as a religion,” Buckhorn said, voice rising in intensity. “It is not vetting. It is singling out a single religion. And specific countries.”

“We don’t have a litmus test based on religion in America,” the mayor added. “We never have, and we never will.”

A coalition of progressive groups, working under the title #WeAreAllAmerica, called for a national day of action with community rights leaders, activists and leaders to protest Trump’s actions Friday.

Buckhorn said he was contacted earlier this week by officials from the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay, and he leaped at the invitation.

Speaking to reporters after he shook hands and took selfies with dozens of men who observed Friday prayers, the mayor said he had participated in a conference call earlier this week with a handful of other mayors like Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti, New Orleans’ Mitch Landrieu, Austin’s Steve Adler and four other mayors representing the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“We’re looking at legal action,” he said about the group’s response to the executive order. “We’re looking at internal action, in terms of lobbying. We’re looking at every avenue we possibly can.”

Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington state all filed lawsuits in the past week, contending the order violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom.

The city of San Francisco is challenging another Trump directive – the tone that would deny federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities,” a term defined as cities having adopted sanctuary policies toward undocumented immigrants, which local officials argue help local police by making those immigrants more willing to report crimes.

Buckhorn said Friday again that Tampa is not such a city, but added he wouldn’t be directing his police to act as officials with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the White House confirmed an earlier story first reported in FloridaPolitics.com Friday that Trump will be making a stop at MacDill Air Force Base Monday morning.

When asked if he would be accompanying the president, Buckhorn quipped: “He hasn’t invited me.”

“He probably won’t after today,” he joked.

Buckhorn then took a serious note, saying that if Trump did ask him for a visit, he certainly would honor his request.

“He’s the President of the U.S.,” he noted. “We want him to succeed, because if he succeeds, the country succeeds. This is the wrong way to go about doing that.”

Bill Nelson and Bob Buckhorn call on Donald Trump to back up plans on infrastructure spending

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is calling on President Donald Trump to stand by his campaign pledge to spend up to a trillion dollars to improve the nation’s infrastructure needs.

“If there ever was an opportunity for us to potentially find common ground with the new president, it would be over infrastructure,” Buckhorn said at a press conference held in Senator Bill Nelson’s Tampa district office on Wednesday. “Because for us, infrastructure is the lifeblood of what we do. We can’t grow this country’s economy, I can’t grow this city’s economy without adequate roads, bridges water and sewage systems.”

You don’t need a weatherman to know if you’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area over the past two summers that both Tampa and St. Petersburg need hundreds of millions of dollars to improve their stormwater systems, after they were overwhelmed by major floods in 2015 and 2016.

“I am basically dealing with 100-year-old pipes, trying to push 2017 growth patters through 100-year-old pipes. It doesn’t work,” complained Buckhorn. “We haven’t had an infusion of capital in our infrastructure system for decades. And so for us, the ability to fix what we have, and then to grow and add additional capacity, for what we need…is absolutely critical. This should not be a partisan issue.”

It may not be.

On Tuesday, Nelson joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats in calling for a $1 trillion proposal that would potentially create 15 million jobs over 10 years. It includes $210 billion for road and bridge repair, $110 billion for water and sewer programs, $180 billion for rail and bus systems, $200 billion for new projects deemed as vital, $75 billion to rebuild schools, $70 billion for ports and $100 billion for energy grid upgrades. Democrats say they want to use taxpayers money to pay for the package, but Republicans have floated a plan to give tax credits out to private industry to help in the building.

“The question is: how is this going to be funded?” Nelson asked on Wednesday.  He said that’s where his GOP colleagues “are just in a war” about how they will figure that question out in the coming months.

Nelson said that there are over 200 bridges that the Florida Dept. of Transportation has ruled to be “structurally deficient,” including the 22nd Street Bridge in Ybor City near Ikea that crosses over the CSX rail line that takes over 25,000 cars a day; the 9th Street Bridge over Brooker Creek in Pinellas County, and the bridge at State Road 684 into Bradenton Beach.

Nelson dismissed the notion of public-private partnerships to pay for all of the nation’s infrastructure needs (as the Trump team has floated), saying that won’t help add broadband to underserved areas of the country.

Regarding possible funding for transit, Nelson bemoaned Rick Scott’s veto of the billions of dollars he single-handedly rejected for high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando back in 2011.

Buckhorn said federal funds could help Tampa with a much desired transit system.

Meanwhile, Nelson says the consequences of President Trump’s announcement earlier this week that he will impose a federal freeze on all government jobs is potentially “terrifying.”

Trump announced on Monday that he was imposing a freeze on all sectors of the federal government, with the exception for the military and other positions affected national security and public safety.

But Nelson says there’s already a shortage of air traffic controllers,  and says a lack of sufficiently trained new staffers in that department “could really harm our nation’s safety.”

Speaking in Tampa, Nelson also says that while the Pentagon is exempt under the new policy, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs is not, which he says makes little sense, alluding to the much reported on problems with that federal agency in recent years. “Not only do they need people working in the hospitals, but they desperately need people to do the administragive things to get the veterans the appointments that they need. That’s where we’ve had so much fo the problems over time that you’ve read about it,” he said.

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