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Tampa Bay area mayors to Legislature: Hands off our City Halls

By Richard Danielson
RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, right, discussed business, regional cooperation, the search for a stadium site for the Tampa Bay Rays, transportation and bills pending in the Legislature at a lunch of the Economic Club of Tampa on Monday. Tampa Bay Times editor and columnist Ernest Hooper, center, moderated the discussion.

The Florida House of Representatives is making an unprecedented effort to seize power and local control from cities that drive the state's growth and economic development, the mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg said Monday.

"I have never seen the assault on local government on all fronts — our ability to self-govern, our ability to pass laws that are appropriate for our communities — as I have in this legislative session," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told a crowd of about 300 at an Economic Club of Tampa lunch.

Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said bills pending in the state House will eliminate the ability of cities use community redevelopment funds to promote growth in blighted areas, as well as the ability of local governments to address gun violence or protect the rights of LGBT residents. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said city and county officials have allowed the proliferation of "runaway regulations."

Local officials and the state also have clashed over efforts to pre-empt cities from regulating vacation rentals

"What’s good for Live Oak and Umatilla doesn’t necessarily work for St. Petersburg and Tampa," said Kriseman, a former state representative.

Buckhorn was more blunt, calling the initiatives an ideological attempt driven and supported by the Koch brothers "to reduce government down to virtually nothing."

"It is a frontal assault on us," Buckhorn said, "because we happen to be Democrats and because many of these legislators are rural and they don’t get votes from the city. … This is the very same crowd that pretends to say that government that is closest to the people is the most effective. Guess who that is? That’s us. Leave us the hell alone."

Both mayors also sided with Gov. Rick Scott, who is fighting Corcoran over the future of funding for Enterprise Florida, which offers incentives to businesses to relocate to Florida, and Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

"As business owners, you all know that if your organization isn’t running well, then you make corrections and you fix what the problem is," Kriseman said. "You just don’t disband your organization. If there’s problems in Enterprise Florida, they’re fixable."