Mitch Perry Report for 1.22.15 – Hillsborough loses some of its swagger
Matt Gaetz. Image via AP.

It’s been almost impossible to go to any public event in Tampa over the past year when you haven’t heard Bob Buckhorn, Sandy Murman or Tampa/Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. CEO Rick Homans crow about how bad ass Tampa/Hillsborough is doing these days on the economic front.  Whether it’s the airport, the port, the EDC, the county and city governments getting along, it’s been all good for the movers and shakers of this community. And that was before the region got another boost of mojo last month, when Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik unveiled his master plan to develop the downtown waterfront region, with the first major piece being a new University of South Florida medical school.

But that plan has been derailed ever so slightly with two incidents that have occurred within the last 48 hours.

The first major piece of the Vinik plan has been the creation of a USF medical building. But a funny thing happened on the way to the construction of that facility yesterday, when the first major test — approval of $62 million of state funds — was delayed when the Florida Board of Governors delayed that vote, saying they didn’t have sufficient information about the plan. That occurred despite the fact that Mayor Buckhorn, USF President Judy Genshaft and Vinik had traveled to Jacksonville to sell the BOG.

They’ll now regroup and return J-Ville next month.

That setback came less than 24 hours after the Hillsborough County School Board voted 4-3 to terminate Superintendent MaryEllen Elia,  stunning most of the public, and angering most of the political and business establishment in the Tampa/Hillsborough County region.

That’s two blows in a week.

Now the question is: Who replaces Elia? As one consultant told one of the dailies today, the really gifted candidates are certainly going to be circumspect about coming to work in Hillsborough. It’s not an impossible situation, but that “swagger” has definitely taken a hit this week.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott was besieged by members of the Tampa press corps yesterday, all hot to talk about the Gerald Bailey scandal. Not surprising in the least, the governor responded with stale bromides about how much he appreciated “Jerry Bailey.”

Scott was in the Sabal Park yesterday to tout his latest education plan — $1 million to offer STEM teachers to intern at a number of Florida companies this summer.

And not everyone in the Tampa Bay area is sad that MaryEllen Elia will soon be leaving her job as school superintendent.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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