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David Straz for Mayor of Tampa

Our endorsement for
Mayor of Tampa

The race to replace retiring Bob Buckhorn for mayor drew seven candidates. We have known six for a long time and been able to watch how they operate, govern and relate to our city. The seventh, Topher Morrison, is new to our political circle, but we had a chance to get to know him better when we both were traveling together in Cuba.
All of the candidates are likeable, love this city and want to do a good job.
We are looking for more than that. This city just had three of its largest tax increases in its history and yet, it’s still broke. We had two huge property tax fees assessed for storm water maintenance and storm water infrastructure. La Gaceta’s headquarters pays $2,000 in storm water taxes a year. That’s over 20 percent of our property taxes and yet, residents of South Tampa are still complaining about flooding. Why haven’t we fixed it and why haven’t we told the public when it can expect relief?
Ciy Council and the mayor raised the city’s property tax millage from $5.7326 to $6.3326 mills in 2017. That was the first millage increase in 29 years. In 2019, we passed a penny sales tax for transportation and a half penny for schools. 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. 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.
We are also concerned by the concentration of power in the hands of the few and the hijacking of the City’s long-term plans.
Developer Jeff Vinik is a great guy and is doing great things for our city, but we don’t have to, and shouldn’t, rearrange our priorities to fit his vision. Yet, that is exactly what we are doing. Vinik is building up South Downtown and Channelside not because it is the best place for that development, but because he owns the land and he’ll make money from it.
We have no problem with him doing the development, but why are we going to pay for the infrastructure improvements needed by his development?
When some small businessman opens a restaurant, brewery or other business, the City is quick to charge that business for the increased size of the water connection or sewer connection. Businesses pay for changes to roads adjacent to their development and also have to pay to upgrade parking.
We are going to pay Vinik back for all of this. In fact, we gave him a cut of public parking revenues south of Kennedy.
There are also plans to spread the development along our deepwater Ybor Channel along Channelside Drive. If this happens, taxpayers will pay dearly to develop deepwater berths elsewhere in the bay, which will also take a toll on the environment.
All of this taxpayer cost will allow developers such as Vinik to put condos and offices on what is a working port. This isn’t our community’s vision. It’s not a wise use of our dollars but at the moment, this is our track.
We don’t blame Vinik for being on this track. We blame our public officials. To change direction, we need an outsider.
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?
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.
He’ll work with the County and State to create a regional transportation plan. Tampa can’t have a different plan than the County if both are to succeed. He doesn’t have a client who is pushing a ferry. He doesn’t have an ego that insists his way or no way.
Straz has the connections to market this city to Fortune 500 companies. He’s on the board of The Met and has relationships around the country. We let Vinik become our chief salesman, but he is selling his property in Tampa. Straz will promote all of Tampa.
We need to move all of our focus from Downtown and spread the City’s investments to the neighborhoods. David Straz knows this city has been ignoring our neediest neighborhoods and he sincerely believes it’s unfair and needs to be fixed.
Straz is rich. We don’t normally like rich. But unlike a lot of rich people, Straz is also a boy scout. He wants to be fair and play by the rules. He won’t choose the easiest political pathway. He won’t flip-flop because of polls and pressure, but he will listen and carefully evaluate plans and issues. He will also change his mind if he finds facts that compel him to do so.
What we like most about Straz is he is truly independent and is running without desire for personal gain.
He has no active businesses. For all of his wealth, he owns relatively little property in the city. He won’t be seeking a higher office and he already has a building named after him.
La Gaceta strongly endorses David Straz for mayor of Tampa.

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