La Gaceta endorsed David Straz for mayor, the paper announced Friday.
The endorsement is almost pro forma considering that Patrick Mantiega, the paper’s editor and publisher, is a member of Straz’s steering committee.
In the paper’s endorsement, Mantiega wrote critically of “three of [the city’s] largest tax increases in history” and lamented that despite them, it’s still broke. Mantiega references the 2017 millage rate increase and the recently implemented county sales surtax increases including 1 percent for transportation and one half percent for education.
“With all this additional revenue and property values going up, the city still has no way to repay a loan that is coming due. We have not been setting aside money,” Mantiega wrote. “Instead we’ve been paying for outrageously expensive parks and committing funds for infrastructure improvements for Jeff Vinik’s Downtown vision.”
“The next mayor needs to take hold of the budget. The next mayor needs to clean house and put us on a better financial footing,” he continued.
Mantiega’s concerns echo those David Straz shared during recent campaign forums. Earlier this month Straz called for an investigation into city spending on development contracts, including Vinik’s downtown Water Street Tampa project.
Mantiega’s argument that city has not been setting money aside is fair enough, but tying that to new revenue from the education and transportation taxes voters approved in November isn’t. The city won’t see any of the education tax revenue and has not yet begun receiving proceeds from its portion of the transportation tax.
Still, the sentiment is one on which many residents agree.
The city now owes money on debt service from more than 20 years ago on a $24 million public safety project under former Mayor Dick Greco whose son is now also running for mayor. The city will pay about $13 million a year on that debt.
Straz has lamented the city should have prepared for debts coming due rather than, as he frequently offers as an example, spending $35 million to renovate Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.
The bulk of Mantiega’s endorsement article centers on Vinik and what he describes as a dangerous power structure in Tampa.
“We are concerned that power is concentrating in Tampa. Vinik endorsed Jane Castor. Vinik holds a mortgage on the Tampa Bay Times. The Times endorsed Jane Castor. The Times only writes great things about Vinik and his developments. Castor’s partner lobbies for Vinik. The Times former top political writer now works for a firm hired by Vinik to run the transportation tax. That writer is now being paid by the Castor campaign. The Tampa Port Authority’s lobbyist is the company for which Jane Castor’s partner works and it goes on and on. Who is left to watch out for the taxpayer? Who is left to be our lobbyist,” Mantiega writes.
He’s referring to Castor’s long-term partner, Ana Cruz who works for Ballard and Partners, which does work for some of Vinik’s enterprises and does work with Port Tampa Bay. He’s also referring to former Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith who left recently left the paper to work for the public relations and strategy firm Mercury, which works on Castor’s campaign.
“We believe David Straz is the right person at the right time to watch out for our interests. He is unafraid to stand toe-to-toe with Vinik, the police union and the Rays to craft the best deal for the taxpayers and this city,.” Mantiega wrote.
La Gaceta is the nation’s only tri-lingual newspaper and has been serving Tampa residents including its Cuban-American community for nearly a century.