Grecos 'upset' after candidates forum, Ed Turanchik says
TAMPA -- Former Mayor Dick Greco and his wife, Dr. Linda McClintock Greco, approached former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik after Tuesday night's mayoral candidates forum, and it wasn't to say attaboy.
"They were upset," Turanchik said later of the post-debate exchange, though he declined to say anything more on who said what. Just minutes before, Turanchik had claimed in his closing remarks that from 1996 to 2003 the Greco administration made poor decisions that will cost taxpayers $99 million (for coverage of that issue, see www.tampabay.com/news/politics/in-tampa-mayoral-debate-turanchik-attacks-greco-on-city-spending/1151924).
Greco said after the debate that he wasn't going to get into any tit-for-tat exchanges with other candidates. His wife declined comment.
Though the last two minutes of the forum made the headline for the evening, the previous two hours consisted of a discussion largely focused on neighborhood issues.
No surprise there. The forum at St. Mary's Episcopal Church was sponsored by the Sunset Park Area Homeowners Association and more than a dozen other civic and neighborhood groups in South Tampa. By virtue of its high voter turnout, South Tampa includes the city's most hotly contested political precincts, so candidates pay close attention to its concerns.
"Many of the people in the audience are not only voters, but are opinion-leaders and role models," said Marlin Anderson, president of the Sunset Park Area Homeowners Association.
Tuesday night, those concerns included panhandling (everyone's against it, and most said they favor a total ban), the mayor's relations with City Council, consolidating services with the county, cell phone towers, flooding, the future of the Riverwalk and -- courtesy of a question from a 9-year-old girl -- why the Interbay pool has been closed during the summer.
On neighborhood issues, former County Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she would continue and build upon Mayor Pam Iorio's roundtable approach to listening to neighborhoods.
"Neighborhoods are where I started," said Ferlita, a past president of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association. "My logo says for all of Tampa, and I mean it. Neighborhoods will be a key partner in the Ferlita administration."
To make city business and land-use decisions more transparent, Ferlita said she would create a Tampa version of Hillsborough County's "PGM Store" -- a county website that provides online free public access to applications, staff reports, correspondence and other documents that developers submit for rezonings and other land use decisions.
To make sure that the city's culture changes from one where employees see themselves as public servants instead of civil servants, Ferlita said she would institute a "mystery shopper" program so that she would get feedback on, say, how someone approaching the city for a permit is treated by city employees.
Tampa City Council chairman Thomas Scott said he would involve neighborhoods and residents in the budget process through what he he calls a "service level analysis." The idea, he said, is for city departments to identify the costs of the services they deliver, as well as what a lower level of service would save, or a higher level of service would cost. Residents could then help city officials set priorities and decide what level of service the city could afford to provide.
On consolidation, Greco mentioned parks and local government-run television studios as candidates for a city-county merger.
"Once you do one or two, it'll be easy to do the rest," he said, adding that buying insurance is another area where the city might be able to save through teaming up with other agencies to create economies of scale.