Tampa council member Curtis Stokes to host transportation tax discussion
Curtis Stokes, one of Tampa City Council's newest members, is hosting a forum on the proposed penny tax for transportation improvements on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the University Club downtown. The event targets black professionals, which Stokes said is a group often overlooked in discussions of important issues. Stokes said he's a big supporter of the tax, and he's coordinating Tuesday's event with the help of Moving Hillsborough Forward, the nonprofit pushing for passage of the tax in November. Incidentally, Stokes owns property very near to the downtown location that will likely serve as a station for both light rail and high-speed rail.
Stokes was appointed to the District 3 council seat in July after Linda Saul-Sena resigned to run for the County Commission. He is making the most of the position and has been pretty vocal for a new board member. He has come out strong on the side of small businesses, arguing in favor of requests from bar and restaurant owners to extend hours of operation despite objections from neighbors. He also proposed naming an East Tampa park after Gwen Miller, a longtime City Council member who in 2003 became the first black politician elected to represent the entire city. She's now term-limited out of the post, and her days as an elected official will be over in April after serving on the council for 16 years.
He also has suggested contracting out the reading of city water meters to Tampa Electric, which he says will save the city $300,000 a year, and privatizing the city's warehouse operations, which he says will save $700,000 in its first year and $400,000 every year after that. Mayor Pam Iorio suggested privatizing the city's warehouses earlier this year, but dropped the issue because of the council's previous negative reactions to privatizing city functions. Stokes said the timing for the proposal is better now because the "landscape of City Council has changed a little bit." Read that to mean: "John Dingfelder is gone." Dingfelder was one of the most vocal opponents of privatization, but like Saul-Sena, he left the council in July to run for the County Commission.
Over the past year Stokes has been wishy-washy about whether he actually plans to run for a City Council seat in March. When he filled out his application to replace Saul-Sena on the Council, he said he would not. Some council members had concerns about appointing council candidates to fill in for Saul-Sena and Dingfelder. Now Stokes says he will run for the District 3 seat he currently holds.
So far, the only person who has filed to run for that seat is Seth Nelson. "It's a typical politician," Nelson said of Stokes' change of heart. "You say one thing and do another. It's extremely troubling when all the applicants knew that City Council members didn't want to appoint anyone that was going to run, and he chose to hide his true intentions." Nelson, whose applications indicated he already was a candidate, also sought an appointment to the council after the resignations, but he was not selected.
Janet Zink, Times staff writer