Bob Buckhorn – Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gives Tallahassee an earful

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.

Again.

Jane Castor has already raised $250K for Tampa mayoral bid

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor has brought in some serious coin since she announced her run for Tampa Mayor in mid-April.

The 31-year TPD veteran has now brought in nearly $250,000 from more than 300 donors.

“The numbers are humbling,” Castor said. “When I kicked off my campaign in April—only two weeks ago—I said that our citizens are our city’s strongest asset. This show of support only reaffirms that conviction for me.”

Castor has spent the past few weeks spreading a “Tampa Strong” message, with the pillars being “a strong foundation, stronger neighborhoods, and a strong economy.”

Her fundraising numbers instantly turn her into a leading candidate in the race to replace Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who is leaving office next year due to term limits.

Castor, 58, was Tampa’s first female police chief, as well it’s first openly LGBTQ police chief. Though the Mayoral race is nonpartisan Castor’s longtime partner, Tampa-based lobbyist and political analyst Ana Cruz, is the daughter of House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz.

The $250,000 total puts her ahead of the next closest candidate, Ed Turanchik, who had raised about $155,000 as of March 31. He announced he would again run for mayor in 2019 in early February.

Of the other four candidates in the race, only Christopher “Topher” Morrison has posted fundraising numbers of any significance – about $16,000 over three months – though a couple of major candidates yet to announce their first fundraising numbers.

District 4 City Councilmember Harry Cohen, a prolific fundraiser, filed in the last few days of March and has not yet shown his April numbers. District 1 Councilmember Mike Suarez made his candidacy official on May 1, so his first report won’t show up until June.

The mayoral election will be held March 5, 2019, when Tampa holds its municipal elections. Also slated for the ballot are the district 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 city council seats. The new mayor and councilmembers will take office on April 1, 2019.

Joe Henderson: Tampa crowded mayor field gets another candidate

The official entry of Mike Suarez into the field campaigning to be Tampa’s next mayor is expected, as Florida Politics reported, as soon as today.

Suarez, a city council member, has long been expected to join what is becoming an increasingly crowded and interesting field.

So far, former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, District 4 Councilmember Harry Cohen, and former county commissioner Ed Turanchik are in the race along with a human named Michael Hazard and businessman Christopher “Topher” Morrison.

Businessman/philanthropist David Straz has been the subject of rumors about running, and last week he did change from Donald Trump supporter to a registered Democrat – for what that’s worth. Although the mayor’s race is officially non-partisan, no Republican has ever won.

Bob Martinez, who became the Republican governor of Florida, was known to be a Democrat when he successfully ran to be Tampa’s mayor in 1979. He changed parties after meeting Ronald Reagan, but I digress.

We’re talking about today’s mayor’s race in Tampa. It’s a lot bigger job than cutting ribbons and passing proclamations.

“Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, tell me how you’re going to fund it,” long-time Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda said. “Whoever he or she is going to face a billion dollars in infrastructure needs in water and sewer. One billion, with a B.”

Even against that, this looks like one of the strongest fields in recent memories.

Start with Castor, who served six years as Buckhorn’s police chief. He coaxed her into staying on an extra year with a special services contract after she reached her planned retirement. Needless to say, he is a big fan.

“She’s solid. She’s consistent. She’s a known commodity. She has proven she can run a big, big department with a big budget,” he said.

“And I have seen her in this city’s best of times, and certainly in its worst of times. She’s unflappable. She did a good job for me, and I think by extension she will do a good job for the community.”

Notably, Buckhorn did stop short of a full endorsement.

Castor has been meeting for months with community groups. Although this is her first try at elected office, she has a strong team to back her candidacy as well as a track record as an effective manager.

Running a major city’s police department is not a challenge for the meek.

“It’s the toughest department out of all the departments I have. Given the nature of what they do and the types of personalities you deal with in public safety, managing and balancing that relationship with the community, it’s complex,” Buckhorn said.

“It is very, very challenging. When it goes bad, it can go really, really bad. But when it goes good, it has a lasting impact. Certainly, for the six years she worked for me I never worried about the police department.”

Turanchik, who served previously on the Hillsborough County Commission, raised more than $100,000 in the first month since declaring his candidacy in February.

“The field may even get stronger and larger,” Miranda said. “But the public has to look at themselves in the mirror and decide what they want, and how they want to pay for it.”

Buckhorn’s nearly two terms as Tampa’s mayor has been about the rebirth of the city’s once-dormant downtown. The next mayor, which will be chosen in about a year, will be expected to build on that.

The plan for that will be laid out, hopefully in detail, on the campaign trail. One thing is for sure, though.

“It’s a strong field, but before I say anything I want to see what they all have to say about what they want to do,” Miranda said.

At this point, even as strong as this field looks, everyone should be saying the same thing.

Mike Suarez

Mike Suarez to join race to be next Tampa mayor

Sources close to Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez say he’s set to enter the race for Tampa mayor as soon as Tuesday.

Suarez, a third-generation Tampanian, faces term limits in his citywide District 1 Council seat and has long been thought to be eyeing a run for mayor. He was elected to the City Council in 2011 and served as its chairman in 2016 and 2017.

A few months ago, the second-term Councilman spoke on transportation issues, arts funding and “home rule” issues at a Café con Tampa event. He didn’t comment on his potential candidacy then, but it was clear he saw himself being involved in city politics after his time on the council was up.

Now that the election is less than a year away, it looks as if he’s ready to announce the next step for his political career.

When he enters the race he will join five other candidates vying to replace term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn: former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, District 4 Councilmember Harry Cohen, political unknown Michael Hazard, businessman Christopher “Topher” Morrison and former county commissioner Ed Turanchik.

Philanthropist David Straz is also expected to enter the race.

Currently Turanchik, who ran for mayor in 2011, leads the field in fundraising. He filed for the job in February and had raised about $155,000 through his campaign political committee as of March 31.

Outside of Turanchick, the race to succeed Buckhorn is wide open.

The only other candidate showing signs of life thus far is Morrison, who has raised about $16,000 since opening his campaign account in January but has only about $1,000 in the bank.

Castor filed for the seat two weeks ago and hasn’t posted her first campaign finance report. Cohen, a prolific fundraiser, filed near the end of last month and is also yet to report any contributions.

The mayoral election will be held March 5, 2019, when Tampa holds its municipal elections. Also slated for the ballot are the district 1, 3, 4 and 5 and 7 city council seats. The new mayor and councilmembers will take office on April 1, 2019.

JW Marriott - Water Street Tampa

SPP breaks ground on Water Street Tampa development

The development company behind Water Street Tampa said Tuesday that construction is underway on the first of 10 buildings planned for the 55-acre district in Downtown Tampa.

The first project in the pipeline for Strategic Property Partners is a 26-story, 519-room JW Marriott Hotel that’s set to open in 2020. The JW Marriott brand is one of Marriott’s luxury focused labels.

The hotel is one of three Marriott hotels planned for SPP’s mixed-use neighborhood. The developer announced last week that Water Street Tampa would be getting one of Marriott’s top-tier “EDITION” hotels, while the existing Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina is set to get a full renovation.

“Through our partnership with Marriott, we’re thrilled to offer a one-of-a-kind hospitality experience to residents and visitors alike across these three very unique hotels, while also elevating the hospitality experience in Tampa Bay,” SPP CEO James Nozar said in a press release.

“Breaking ground on the JW Marriott Tampa is a momentous milestone for the broader neighborhood we are creating. Water Street Tampa aims to add a fresh new perspective to Tampa’s ongoing urban renaissance, offering a new destination for travelers and providing Tampa residents with an exciting new space to explore and enjoy every day.”

The three hotels are part of nearly 9 million square feet of planned development for Water Street Tampa, which is also set to bring the downtown area its first new condominiums in nearly a decade as well as the first office towers in a quarter century.

SPP said when construction in the district hits its peak in spring 2019, it’ll require the use of about 20 construction cranes and up to 2,800 workers daily.

The JW Marriott Tampa hotel is being designed by Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, with interiors by Champalimaud Design. The hotel will be adjacent to the Tampa Convention Center and Amalie Arena, home to the Tampa Bay Lightning. SPP is a partnership between Lightning owner Jeff Vinic and Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment.

“Tampa has become one of the most sought-after cities because of its high quality of life, affordability, and culture,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Downtown Tampa has long been earmarked for development. The new JW Marriott Tampa and the Tampa EDITION will introduce an incredible hospitality offering with premium amenities to the city, complementing the transformational Water Street Tampa neighborhood and enhancing Tampa’s ongoing renaissance.”

Among the amenities touted for the new hotel are a full-service spa and fitness center, restaurant and retail space, and a rooftop lounge and terrace that will “boast sweeping 360-degree views of downtown Tampa and Hillsborough Bay, and will become the highest rooftop bar in Tampa Bay.”

Ed Turanchik kicks off campaign for Tampa Mayor with $155K, big crowds

Ed Turanchik launched his bid for Tampa Mayor in style.

The Tampa attorney/developer/transit activist raised more than $155,000 through the end of March, as well as drawing more than 500 people to a campaign kickoff event held last week.

“I am thrilled and humbled by the support our campaign has received,” Turanchik said Tuesday. “We have raised more campaign contributions in two months than we raised during my entire 2011 bid for mayor.”

Turanchik’s entry is among the earliest in the recent history of Tampa mayoral politics; nevertheless, several other candidates are expected to announce, giving incentive for a quick start. Former Police Chief Jane Castor, philanthropist David Straz and City Council members Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen are also expected to enter the race, which won’t take place for another year. Businessman Topher Morrison has already announced his candidacy.

At the April 2 kickoff, held in Tampa’s historic Armature Works, Turanchik was surrounded by an audience of hundreds of family, friends and supporters.

Among those listed on the host committee included Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and School Board Member Tammy Shamburger, along with former public officials like County Commissioner Joe Chillura, state Senator Jim Hargrett, state Rep. Elvin Martinez Sr. and Tampa City Council member Linda Saul Sena.

At the event, Turanchik told the crowd he was “reaching as far, as high as we can to aspire to become a great 21st Century American city that provides prosperity for all of us.”

“This is a campaign of unity, a campaign of Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, people from all walks of life, incomes and orientations,” Turanchik added. “We want to be the city we can be.”

Turanchik’s platform is based on three key local issues: housing, innovation and transit.

“They’re already a ‘HIT’ with people,” Turanchik said at the kickoff. In order for everyone to succeed, Turanchik said, Tampa needs a strong public education system, pledging to work with the School Board and other major educational institutions to improve schools.

A clip of Turanchik’s remarks is on the campaign’s Facebook page.

The $155K total includes money raised through both Turanchik’s campaign and political action committee.

“Tampa is blessed with a long history of leaders who have worked to get us where we are today,” Turanchik said. “I look forward to the coming month as we discuss how we can build on this legacy and make Tampa an even better place to live, work and play.”

Ed Turanchik raises more than $100K during first month on Tampa mayor campaign trail

Ed Turanchik is making an early statement in his quest to succeed Bob Buckhorn as Tampa mayor in 2019.

The attorney/developer/transit activist announced Tuesday he already raised more than $100,000 since declaring his candidacy February 2.

“I’m so humbled by the strong show of support from our city just one month into our campaign,” said Turanchik. “When I announced my candidacy, I said that this campaign was about a vision for Tampa’s future. Four weeks later, I’m so grateful that so many civic leaders have joined our team.”

Turanchik’s entry into the race is among the earliest in the recent history of Tampa mayoral politics, but with several other candidates expected to announce, it certainly makes strategic sense to build a coalition early on.

Former Police Chief Jane Castor, philanthropist David Straz and City Council members Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen are also expected to enter the race, which won’t take place for another year. Businessman Topher Morrison has already announced his candidacy.

Turanchik also announced the official kickoff for his campaign set for 5 p.m. Monday, April 2 at the Tampa Armature Works.

Among those listed on the host committee are Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and School Board Member Tammy Shamburger, along with former public officials like County Commissioner Joe Chillura, state Senator Jim Hargrett, state Rep. Elvin Martinez Sr. and Tampa City Council member Linda Saul Sena.

“When Tampa stands united, nothing will get in our way,” says Turanchik. “I invite everyone who is ready to fix our transportation system, increase access to affordable family homes, and put Tampa on the cutting edge of innovation to join us at our kickoff.”

You can sign up to attend the fundraising event by clicking here.

Bob Buckhorn now says Tampa may not appeal firefighter’s sexual discrimination ruling

At one time, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn “vowed” to appeal the federal jury verdict for firefighter Tanja Vidovic, winning her case of claiming that the city discriminated against her because she was pregnant and fired her in retaliation for complaining about it.

But the mayor’s office is now saying Buckhorn, in fact, has not decided whether to challenge the ruling.

“The mayor hasn’t decided on (an) appeal,” said spokesperson Ashley Bauman.

This revelation startled Vidovic during an appearance on Tampa’s WMNF 88.5 FM.

“Everything that I had heard from both [city attorney] Tom Gonzalez and from his statement in the newspaper was that he was [filing an appeal], so that’s news to me,” she said.

Before that, the perception had been that the city would indeed appeal the decision.

In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times February 14, Buckhorn said: “We are appealing this with valid legal reasons.”

The next day, a Times editorial opined: “Having had its day in court and lost, the city should have respected the verdict and moved on.”

The op-ed continued: “But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn defended Tampa Fire Rescue this week and vowed to appeal. That was exactly the wrong tack, legally and morally, and it could open taxpayers to even further financial exposure in a case that already has cost the two sides about $1 million in legal fees.”

In December, a federal jury found in favor of Vidovic in her case against Tampa Fire Rescue, awarding her $245,000 in damages. Last week, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ruled that she should be reinstated back to Tampa Fire Rescue within the next two months.

In the interview Thursday, Vidovic, a married woman, recounted how she had been sexually harassed during the first five years of her career at Tampa Fire Rescue, including having captains text or outright ask her for sex.

Initially, she never complained about it.

“There’s a system in there when you’re called like a rookie for the first five years,” Vidovic recalled. “You’re not supposed to talk. Harassment is supposed to be part of it.”

“I was hoping it would end, and then when it didn’t, when it became more severe, I decided I should speak up.”

Vidovic continued: “After speaking to some women in the dept. and explaining to them what happened, they’re like ‘yeah, it happened to me, it’s going to happen to you.’ There was one woman who said ‘it’s not the first time, it’s not going to be the last.'”

During her eight-year career with Tampa Fire Rescue Vidovic was pregnant three times. Her employment there ended the day after she filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2016. Vidovic never wanted to sue, but she wanted to go through mediation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Also during the radio interview, she complained there was no paid maternity leave at the time. “I requested it.”

Now, that leave is available for all city employees, as the mayor announced in early 2017 that the city would begin providing paid parental leave to full-time workers. The policy will offer primary caregivers with eight (8) weeks and secondary caregivers with two (2) weeks of paid leave after the birth of a new child or an employee with a child placed for adoption or foster care.

Ryan Torrens says he’ll allow local gun control laws

If elected, Democratic Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens says he would not enforce Florida law that prohibits cities and counties from enacting their own gun-control ordinances.

Local officials who do enforce them can face a $5,000 fine.

“It is blatantly clear that Gov. (Rick) Scott and our state Legislature are not willing to lift a finger to set in place any common-sense gun reforms,” Torrens said. “So, if the leaders of Broward County are ready to take action to protect (their) children and families, then I am going to support those efforts.”

The original law banning local gun policies was passed in 1987. The 2011 update exposed local officials to penalties for enforcing prompted ordinances.

Mayors from some of Florida’s biggest cities have complained about the legislation for years, most prominently being Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat and gun owner himself, who decried how the law prevented him from banning guns in downtown Tampa during the 2012 Republican National Convention.

If elected as the state’s chief legal officer, Torrens promises not to pursue local officials for putting in place what he calls reasonable ordinances to keep their communities safe.

“This law is an illegal encroachment on the authority of localities to achieve the very compelling interest of protecting their children and families, especially when we have a state legislature that always puts the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their own reelection before the safety of our children,” Torrens said.

On Tuesday, every Republican member of the House present on the floor voted against a proposal to bring a stalled assault rifle ban, pushed by Orlando Democrat Carlos G. Smith, out of committee and up for a vote.

“We know special interest money has corrupted our politics. Now, it is abundantly clear that the influence of special interest groups like the NRA is not just corrupting, but deadly,” Torrens said. “The Florida GOP should immediately return all contributions from the NRA and stand up for what is right – protecting our children, families, and first responders.”

His stance is by far the most progressive of anyone entering the race.

The 32-year-old Hillsborough County attorney was the first Democrat to enter the contest in 2018. Current Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is term-limited this year.

He’s since been joined by Tampa state Rep. Sean Shaw, a Democrat who has kept a relatively low profile on the campaign front since declaring his candidacy last month.

The four Republicans in the race—state Reps. Frank White, Ross Spano and Jay Fant, and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody—have previously spoken enthusiastically about gun rights.

In fact, Fant has claimed that Moody has been insufficiently pro-Second Amendment in her record as a judge.

Mike Deeson says city of Tampa participating in ‘sham’ regarding CFO’s address

Mike Deeson is pushing back on the city of Tampa’s official position regarding where finance director Sonya Little resides.

The former Channel 10 news investigative reporter filed a lawsuit Monday against the City of Tampa, claiming it is in violation of public records laws by denying him the home address of the city’s CFO, whom Deeson maintains resides outside of the city limits of Tampa. If that’s accurate, t would be a violation of the city charter.

Deeson says that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has always been aware of that, but circumvented that classification by listing Little as being the “interim” director for nearly six years, even though she’s served in his administration for almost the entire time he has been in office.

“The charter allows someone to be in an interim position,” Buckhorn told Deeson in December of 2016, “We are not violating the charter.”

Last year, the city said Little moved to Tampa. Deeson requested her address, but city officials objected, saying it was exempt from the state’s Sunshine Laws because she was a local government employee whose duties include revenue “collection and enforcement,” according to the lawsuit.

Deeson claims that the city only changed its tune about Little moving to Tampa after he began airing reports questioning Buckhorn about it. He says the address in unincorporated Hillsborough County remains her declared homestead property and carries the homestead tax exemption afforded under Florida law.

When asked to comment on Tuesday, City Attorney Sal Territo provided this statement: “Little is a Resident of the City of Tampa, and her address is exempt from public records because of her position as the Director of Revenue and Finance of the City of Tampa.”

Deeson exploded after he read those remarks.

“For the six years when the city blatantly and shamefully violated the city charter, it NEVER claimed that Sonya Little’s address was exempt from public disclosure,” the veteran journalist emailed Tuesday night. “After trampling on the charter for 6 years, the city is saying trust us to do the right thing. I don’t trust them and believe they only reason the city is trying this use this exemption  is because it is concerned I will expose the fact that Ms. Little spends the majority of her time living at her home in the county rather than the address she claims is her permanent residence.”

“I think the Mayor, Ms Little and those who have participated in this overt sham for the past six years and now continue to deprive the citizens of their right to know about their government should be ashamed!”

Deeson retired from WTSP last year after an illustrious career as a TV reporter. He continues to work on documentaries, as well as providing commentaries on his Facebook page.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons