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Hillsborough leaders sound off on their wishes for change in 2012

Here at the St. Peters..., ahem, Tampa Bay Times, we expect to see plenty of changes in this new year. What will they be? We channeled 12 Hillsborough leaders to tell us what they foresee, or hope to see, in 2012. Here's what they had to say.

Improving lives, helping tourism

Alayne Unterberger, 46

Executive director, Florida Institute for Community Studies

The mission of FICS has always been to partner with people in marginalized communities to improve lives. We'll be able to do more of that in Hillsborough during 2012. For years we've educated farmworkers in southeast Hillsborough and we're putting the finishing touches on our renovated FICS Multicultural Family Center in Town 'N Country, which can finally accommodate our free cultural and educational classes, as well as our computer lab. This expansion fulfills dreams and will facilitate entrepreneurship with youth and adults who want to teach and hold dance events in the community. We expect to reopen this month.

But the fight to help the disadvantaged goes beyond Hillsborough. We're keeping an eye on what's happening with immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia — and now Mississippi and Florida.

It all started in 2010 with Arizona's SB 1070, forcing law enforcement to scan for "undocumented" people and essentially act as Border Patrol.

While I do not have a crystal ball, it is foreseeable that this kind of legislation, if introduced in Florida, would generate heated debate both pro and against. What we should remember is that Florida is not Arizona, Alabama or Georgia. Regardless of how we might feel about the issue of "undocumented immigrants," we can all agree that Florida is a mecca for tourism. It generates billions of dollars and fuels our economy. In this economic climate, can Florida really sacrifice one of our largest industries? We might not want to admit it but such policies would potentially turn international tourists off to Florida.

Remember that tourists CHOOSE Florida over anywhere else. That's why we cannot wait until the legislative session. In 2012, we need to be proactive and spread the message that this kind of legislation would literally kill tourism. Key leaders from business, the faith community, Florida Immigrant Coalition, labor and grass-roots organizations need to stand together now and clearly assert what we know to be true: We Are Florida! This is something already under way: We Are Florida is a Facebook page designed to foster dialogue.

More MacDill-community bonding

Col. Lenny J. Richoux, 44

Commander, 6th Air Mobility Wing and Installation Commander, MacDill Air Force Base

MacDill Air Force Base was a busy place in 2011. The 19,000-plus military and civilian personnel supported operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and humanitarian relief operations in Japan. As host to 37 units at MacDill, the 6th Air Mobility Wing supported U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Joint Communications Support Element, NOAA, as well as other active, guard, reserve and civilian operations. Our KC-135 air refueling tankers and C-37 passenger aircraft spent most of the year deployed, extending the reach of other military aircraft throughout the world.

We saw the opening of U.S. Central Command's new headquarters building, the completion of a new Child Development Center, as well as the demolition of the Bayshore Officer's Club. In the future, we will break ground on new accommodations for military personnel visiting the base.

We welcomed all of Tampa onto the base for AirFest 2011 in which some 150,000 citizens enjoyed the fabulous U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team as well as aircraft and hardware from Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, and Special Operations units. We are planning the next AirFest to be in April 2013.

I was particularly proud of our engagement and communication with Tampa, St. Petersburg, South Tampa, Brandon and Clearwater. A lot of time was spent canvassing various Rotary, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, and other organizations. I was pleased to be invited to join the board of the Tampa Bay History Center, the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society, the Florida Holocaust Museum, as well as other organizations as an ex-officio representative of the military community.

Our Honorary Commander Program brought civic leaders onto the base to learn more about the military's role in Tampa. Of note, we completed an economic impact statement that depicts MacDill's $4.9 billion contribution to the greater Tampa economy.

I am looking forward to 2012, and continuing to engage with the people of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, South Tampa, and Brandon. I believe you will see the MacDill-Tampa Bay relationships grow even more, which is incredible considering our current relationship.

Spotlight on black entertainers

Keisha Pickett, 31

Entertainment blogger for BlackintheBay.com, owner of Pickett PR Group

I'm a social butterfly and I've lived in various cities, including Los Angeles, the D.C. Metro Area, and now Tampa Bay. The area has some great offerings, but I think we are missing cultural arts and steady venues and opportunities, especially for African-Americans. I am a 30-something, laid-back African-American woman and it can be hard to find a consistent place to meet like-minded individuals. Many of my peers and the audience I reach out to on Blackinthe Bay.com don't necessarily like going to nightclubs, so we are constantly looking for different things to do. Tampa also lacks enriching African-American inspired shows, museums and entertainment. I can say, however, that there has been a steady increase in live shows and concerts within the last two months. That gives me hope for 2012.

Good music has always been an important element in all cultures. I see Tampa becoming a "must" on tour schedules for major and promotional tours. I also think that Tampa is becoming more in tune to neo-soul. More shows featuring artists like Jill Scott, Ledisi, Dwele and Raheem Devaughn are attracting other new-soul artists like Eric Roberson and Erykah Badu. Tampa will offer more meaningful and moving depictions of art like Black Girl Speaks, the one-woman show performed at USF (last February). There are lots of talented poets, writers and artists in our city. They tell our stories and shine light on the issues often hidden by our suits, jobs and cars. In 2012, we need to spotlight them and continuously support them by getting out, going to the events so that promoters see Tampa as a destination spot for African-American entertainment. With their promotion and our support, Tampa will become a more desirable place to live for young, progressive African-Americans.

Business out of the box

Maryann Ferenc, 52

CEO/proprietor for Mise en Place, board member of both the Tampa Bay & Co. and Tampa Independent Business Alliance

2012. Twenty twelve. It has a nice ring to it.

2012. Tampa Bay is poised and ready. Over many years we've done our homework, paid attention, listened to one another. It's time for change — and it is in the hands of each of us and all of us, collectively and individually.

2012. It brings possibilities and a way to test ourselves. The Republican National Convention is the performance of a lifetime. We must not miss this opportunity to show the world not only the richness of who we have been and how marvelous we are today, but who we are in our wildest dreams. We should paint the picture of yesterday, today and tomorrow and we should share it with clarity and commitment.

2012. A time to not just think outside the box but live outside the box. We can no longer recognize the sides of the box or the top of the box. The side boundaries of city/county lines and bodies of water must be seen only as meeting places — not stopping places. The top boundaries of self-image and self-sabotage are best left in 2011. It's time to take the top off.

2012. The opportunity to connect to one another has never been better or more important. Tampa Bay & Co. hired a new CEO whose achievements include spearheading regional collaboration to build the destination. Tampa Independent Business Alliance has reached across the bay to welcome and support Keep Saint Petersburg Local and this holiday shopping season brought exciting collaboration in the local movement. Honest and substantial collaboration will be the foundation of success in 2012 for tourism, local business and Tampa Bay.

Innovative approach to medicine

Stephen Klasko, 58

CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine

The year was 2000 and the revolution was a little white box that Steve Jobs brought to the party called the iPod. While everyone expected a computer, they got a 10-year journey toward a digital lifestyle led by Apple. So, what does that have to do with health care and its future in Hillsborough county and Tampa Bay? Everything.

As CEO of one of our health organizations, I am issuing a challenge to all my colleagues: Think differently. There are great hospitals, doctors and other health professionals throughout Florida, but what's DIFFERENT about us? How do we lead when the health care revolution and transformation occurs?

Well, there's plenty of evidence that individually we're changing and transforming:

At USF Health, we will open in 2012 in Tampa the world's boldest health simulation center. There, aviation and health simulation will marry and where we will be able to define technical and teamwork competence among providers. Companies from around the world who had never worked together will come to Tampa Bay .

Moffitt Cancer Center continues to lead the personalized health revolution, and we look forward to working with them as we launch our cardiovascular statewide personalized health campaign in 2012 through the USF Heart institute.

We are working with Dr. Jonathan Ellen from Johns Hopkins toward a transformative partnership in children's health education and research which will start to bear fruit in 2012.

And the major hospitals are investing here in 2012, including major commitments by Florida Hospital, HCA in their new Trinity hospital, and huge information technology investments by Baycare and Tampa General Hospital.

But the real revolution started last month when Carol and Frank Morsani announced that they are investing $37 million in the future of an academic medical center in Tampa Bay. As Buckminster Fuller said, "To transform things, don't change the existing reality … make a new model that makes the old one obsolete."

Just imagine if 2012 was not the year of individual accomplishments but rather the collective revolution that is happening in Tampa Bay — if we really did have a Steve Jobs moment. No one would be able to compete with the synergistic health excellence and ingenuity in this county and region.

By the way has anybody seen my iPad? I can't start 2012 without it.

New restaurant concept

Todd Sturtz, 30

"El Jefe" for Tasting Tampa

In the latter half of 2011, Tampa Bay fell in love with a new food scene: gourmet food trucks. The trend is inviting — food trucks appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds, and the local rallies are fun and reasonably-priced in a family-friendly environment.

Right now, there are about 50 vendors who participate or who want to participate in these rallies. They were such a success in the last six months of 2011 that Tasting Tampa is planning to host one almost every week in 2012.

While this seems like a no-lose situation, many traditional "brick and mortar" restaurants were discontent because of the advantages that trucks have in their mobility.

The first "Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta" at Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa was a busy day for the food trucks with well over 1,000 in attendance. Accordingly, established restaurants in downtown Tampa complained to media outlets and to the mayor's office that events like these would cause them to lose business. Interestingly, some restaurants actually made profits. Bryan Goodell, owner of Wicked 'Wiches food truck is also owner of Fresh Restaurant on Franklin Street and he commented that the restaurant had its best Wednesday ever on the date of the event.

The number of local gourmet food trucks increased during the past six months, while, sadly, a number of Tampa Bay area restaurants had to close their doors. It begs the question: Is staying current with industry trends crucial to success? I think 2012 should prove to be a year when we see substantial growth in the local food scene. Hopefully, this growth will benefit everyone from hungry citizens to established restaurateurs to the burgeoning gourmet food truck trend.

Trail system for cyclists

Alan Snel, 50

Director of South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers

People tell me on nearly a daily basis they would love to ride their bicycle in the Tampa Bay area, but they don't feel it's safe to ride a bike on our local streets. On that front, SWFBUD believes bicyclists, motorists, elected officials, transportation/road designers and police need to work together to make our roads more accommodating to bicyclists.

The group also believes Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa need to partner to build what SWFBUD has called the BAM Network, which stands for Bicycle Area Mobility. The BAM Network is a concept for a paved trail network that would function like a highway system for bicyclists and consist of three major trails tying into a single system. The three proposed trails being considered by area officials are: the Tampa Bypass Canal Trail from New Tampa to State Road 60; the South Coast Greenway from Apollo Beach to State Road 60; and the Selmon Greenway from State Road 60 to Ybor City and downtown Tampa. Right now the people look at the trails individually. It's time to look at them as a united system. That's vital, so everyone in the county can feel vested in the different trails.

Elected officials say they are concerned about bicycling and that they value bicycling. It's time for actions and not just words. Let's fund and start building the BAM Network in 2012.

Stronger Hispanic voice

Aileen Rodriguez, 39

Communications director for the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee for the Republican National Convention

Tampa Bay's Hispanic community has a rich cultural heritage and long history of contributions to the community. Being of Hispanic descent and a native of Puerto Rico, I am honored to contribute some thoughts on the opportunities the Hispanic community has for growth and progress in 2012. Some key areas where these opportunities can be realized are in civic engagement, education, and the continued development of young Hispanic professionals.

The tremendous growth experienced by the Hispanic community in recent years brings with it the responsibility for increased civic engagement. In other words, members of the Hispanic community have a personal responsibility to work together and develop a stronger voice within the community as a whole. This can be accomplished through assuming leadership roles within professional organizations and community groups, volunteerism, and by becoming more involved in local political processes.

In terms of education, individuals must continue taking advantage of the first rate institutions of higher learning we have in Tampa Bay. This includes earning a degree or completing degree work begun outside the United States. Members of the Hispanic community should continue supporting each other in efforts to accomplish their educational goals and continue the work to increase opportunities for higher education.

The up-and-coming generation of talented young Hispanic professionals has been afforded many opportunities to become more involved in the community and take on leadership roles with examples from the many Hispanic leaders who have come before them. Building on this, 2012 can be a year for the Hispanic community's best and brightest to grow and flourish.

The Republican National Convention, which comes to Tampa in August, will have a positive impact not only on the Hispanic community but the entire Tampa Bay community. It will bring opportunities for Tampa Bay to become a regional leader in economic growth and development. With the eyes of the nation and world on Tampa Bay, our community as a whole will be able to showcase the many wonderful things we have to offer. It is important that we put our best foot forward and work together to realize the benefits of this opportunity — in the immediate future and in years to come.

New venues, homes downtown

Christine Burdick, 62

President, Tampa Downtown Partnership

The Tampa Downtown Partnership is looking forward to 2012, as we help this wonderful city grow and shine! With the opening of the refurbished Floridan Hotel, and five positive proposals for redevelopment of the 1904 classic courthouse to a boutique hotel, downtown will have two unique hospitality offerings. USF Health's CAMLS will open in February, welcoming thousands of medical professionals each year for advanced training. In the Channel District, a new residential project will break ground, providing 360 rental units and a lush greenway, and anticipated new ownership will bring improvements to Channelside Bay Plaza. A key portion of the Riverwalk will be completed, further connecting downtown along the river.

Our organization will be taking a more active role in the programming of events in downtown, such as the Cigar City Brewing Criterium and Street Festival, the Tampa Downtown Market, Rock the Park, two new food events, music concerts and a number of family play events.

As we welcome the Republican convention in August, it will be vital that we all are prepared to be hospitable, tolerant, observant, polite, proud, and perhaps, inconvenienced a little. This is Tampa's chance to be in an international spotlight unlike any other. This is really our time to shine, and the long lasting rewards we'll experience will be historic. Downtown Tampa will be ready, and we can't wait!

Most importantly, we will be working closely with the city as the large HUD urban planning process begins. This year-long, community driven process will yield development direction and implementation tools that will drive urban development in downtown Tampa, and beyond, for the next 20 years.

What is NOT going to change is downtown Tampa's exciting museums, entertainment and sports venues, restaurants, cool residential options, unique retail offerings, great commercial space, and beautiful parks and green spaces. It's Tampa's living room!

Housing for all income levels

Jerome Ryans, 62

Chief executive officer, Tampa Housing Authority

For over 60 years, the Tampa Housing Authority has been best known as the cornerstone of the affordable housing market in Tampa, assisting people in obtaining safe and affordable housing. And, as a major landowner, we also are an active partner in redevelopment that will be so crucial to our city's financial stability in 2012 and beyond.

In 2012, expect to see the grand opening of the Ella at Encore, the first of two planned senior developments in a master planned community called Encore that encompasses 28 acres in the historically rich Central Avenue District. The development is a partnership with Bank of America. Additionally, we will be breaking ground on Trio at Encore, the first multifamily affordable housing building at Encore, as well as likely announcing several retail establishment commitments.

Also in 2012, expect to see the housing authority actively involved in Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's downtown master planning efforts. We also will create strategies that may allow the future redevelopment of North Boulevard Apartments and Robles Park, which will both increase affordable housing and stimulate business and economic growth around the city center and Hillsborough River.

The Tampa Housing Authority is proud to serve Tampa and Hillsborough County with innovative residential and community developments that keep housing opportunities for all our citizens accessible and abundant. We're proud of the work we do and look forward to building a better community for all of us in 2012.

'Firsts,' construction ahead for UT

Ron Vaughn, 65

President, University of Tampa

As the University of Tampa celebrates its 80th year, we're pleased with what we've achieved, but are even more optimistic about our role in molding future leaders and productive citizens who are capable of competing in the global economy. We're fortunate in that our enrollment remains strong — almost 7,000 students, we're introducing new programs to address changing needs and we'll continue our trend of hiring 15 to 30 new faculty and support positions each year.

We'll recognize two "firsts" this spring: the inaugural class of student authors pursuing an MFA in creative writing, and the first UT men's lacrosse team match in February. Also, we're planning for the future construction of more than 300,000 square feet for a new residence hall, academic buildings, student services, athletic spaces and other facilities. Several of these are likely to be completed in 2012 and 2013. All these factors — enrollments, construction and employment — will add to our $600 million annual economic impact, putting UT in the forefront of Tampa Bay economic engines. They also ensure that the education students receive at UT goes beyond the classroom, into areas of leadership, service and character development.

Since 1931, the University of Tampa has always partnered closely with Tampa Bay's business and governmental leaders, and we are enthused by the foresight, energy and new ideas of our current leaders. The new downtown planning efforts offer the promise of a cohesive plan to develop the broad area in and around downtown — including UT. Every great city has a great university within its core and, together, UT and the Tampa community can create a living and learning environment that is unmatched.

Sidewalks, rehab in east Tampa

Dianne Hart, 56

CEO, East Tampa Business and Civic Association

I have a great love for east Tampa. It's a place where many longtime residents recall a time when their community was a thriving hub of family owned businesses, educational excellence and a collective sense of hope for the future that was evident in the quality of life enjoyed by its residents.

We hope and believe 2012 will bring about many changes with our new administration in place headed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and his renewed commitment to the east Tampa community.

Job creation is critical to east Tampa. We must create job opportunities within our community. This can be accomplished through new business development and expansion of existing businesses.

Our community will continue to see area beautification, neighborhood cleanups, and installation of sidewalks, lighting and a stronger increase in citizen involvement.

Through partnerships with the city of Tampa Housing and Community Development, we will see the rehabilitation of existing homes, increasing and renewing a restored sense of hope in home ownership and decreasing the number of abandoned homes in the neighborhood.

Changes especially to the parks and recreation cente there are about 50 vendors who participate or who want to participate in these rallies. They were such a success in the last six months of 2011 that Tasting Tampa is planning to host one almost every week in 2012.

While this seems like a no-lose situation, many traditional "brick and mortar" restaurants were discontent because of the advantages that trucks have in their mobility.

The first "Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta" at Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa was a busy day for the food trucks with well over 1,000 in attendance. Accordingly, established restaurants in downtown Tampa complained to media outlets and to the mayor's office that events like these would cause them to lose business. Interestingly, some restaurants actually made profits. Bryan Goodell, owner of Wicked 'Wiches food truck is also owner of Fresh Restaurant on Franklin Street and he commented that the restaurant had its best Wednesday ever on the date of the event.

The number of local gourmet food trucks increased during the past six months, while, sadly, a number of Tampa Bay area restaurants had to close their doors. It begs the question: Is staying current with industry trends crucial to success? I think 2012 should prove to be a year when we see substantial growth in the local food scene. Hopefully, this growth will benefit everyone from hungry citizens to established restaurateurs to the burgeoning gourmet food truck trend.

Trail system for cyclists

Alan Snel, 50

Director of South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers

People tell me on nearly a daily basis they would love to ride their bicycle in the Tampa Bay area, but they don't feel it's safe to ride a bike on our local streets. On that front, SWFBUD believes bicyclists, motorists, elected officials, transportation/road designers and police need to work together to make our roads more accommodating to bicyclists.

The group also believes Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa need to partner to build what SWFBUD has called the BAM Network, which stands for Bicycle Area Mobility. The BAM Network is a concept for a paved trail network that would function like a highway system for bicyclists and consist of three major trails tying into a single system. The three proposed trails being considered by area officials are: the Tampa Bypass Canal Trail from New Tampa to State Road 60; the South Coast Greenway from Apollo Beach to State Road 60; and the Selmon Greenway from State Road 60 to Ybor City and downtown Tampa. Right now the people look at the trails individually. It's time to look at them as a united system. That's vital, so everyone in the county can feel vested in the different trails.

Elected officials say they are concerned about bicycling and that they value bicycling. It's time for actions and not just words. Let's fund and start building the BAM Network in 2012.

Stronger Hispanic voice

Aileen Rodriguez, 39

Communications director for the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee for the Republican National Convention

Tampa Bay's Hispanic community has a rich cultural heritage and long history of contributions to the community. Being of Hispanic descent and a native of Puerto Rico, I am honored to contribute some thoughts on the opportunities the Hispanic community has for growth and progress in 2012. Some key areas where these opportunities can be realized are in civic engagement, education, and the continued development of young Hispanic professionals.

The tremendous growth experienced by the Hispanic community in recent years brings with it the responsibility for increased civic engagement. In other words, members of the Hispanic community have a personal responsibility to work together and develop a stronger voice within the community as a whole. This can be accomplished through assuming leadership roles within professional organizations and community groups, volunteerism, and by becoming more involved in local political processes.

In terms of education, individuals must continue taking advantage of the first rate institutions of higher learning we have in Tampa Bay. This includes earning a degree or completing degree work begun outside the United States. Members of the Hispanic community should continue supporting each other in efforts to accomplish their educational goals and continue the work to increase opportunities for higher education.

The up-and-coming generation of talented young Hispanic professionals has been afforded many opportunities to become more involved in the community and take on leadership roles with examples from the many Hispanic leaders who have come before them. Building on this, 2012 can be a year for the Hispanic community's best and brightest to grow and flourish.

The Republican National Convention, which comes to Tampa in August, will have a positive impact not only on the Hispanic community but the entire Tampa Bay community. It will bring opportunities for Tampa Bay to become a regional leader in economic growth and development. With the eyes of the nation and world on Tampa Bay, our community as a whole will be able to showcase the many wonderful things we have to offer. It is important that we put our best foot forward and work together to realize the benefits of this opportunity — in the immediate future and in years to come.

New venues, homes downtown

Christine Burdick, 62

President, Tampa Downtown Partnership

The Tampa Downtown Partnership is looking forward to 2012, as we help this wonderful city grow and shine! With the opening of the refurbished Floridan Hotel, and five positive proposals for redevelopment of the 1904 classic courthouse to a boutique hotel, downtown will have two unique hospitality offerings. USF Health's CAMLS will open in February, welcoming thousands of medical professionals each year for advanced training. In the Channel District, a new residential project will break ground, providing 360 rental units and a lush greenway, and anticipated new ownership will bring improvements to Channelside Bay Plaza. A key portion of the Riverwalk will be completed, further connecting downtown along the river.

Our organization will be taking a more active role in the programming of events in downtown, such as the Cigar City Brewing Criterium and Street Festival, the Tampa Downtown Market, Rock the Park, two new food events, music concerts and a number of family play events.

As we welcome the Republican convention in August, it will be vital that we all are prepared to be hospitable, tolerant, observant, polite, proud, and perhaps, inconvenienced a little. This is Tampa's chance to be in an international spotlight unlike any other. This is really our time to shine, and the long lasting rewards we'll experience will be historic. Downtown Tampa will be ready, and we can't wait!

Most importantly, we will be working closely with the city as the large HUD urban planning process begins. This year-long, community driven process will yield development direction and implementation tools that will drive urban development in downtown Tampa, and beyond, for the next 20 years.

What is NOT going to change is downtown Tampa's exciting museums, entertainment and sports venues, restaurants, cool residential options, unique retail offerings, great commercial space, and beautiful parks and green spaces. It's Tampa's living room!

Housing for all income levels

Jerome Ryans, 62

Chief executive officer, Tampa Housing Authority

For over 60 years, the Tampa Housing Authority has been best known as the cornerstone of the affordable housing market in Tampa, assisting people in obtaining safe and affordable housing. And, as a major landowner, we also are an active partner in redevelopment that will be so crucial to our city's financial stability in 2012 and beyond.

In 2012, expect to see the grand opening of the Ella at Encore, the first of two planned senior developments in a master planned community called Encore that encompasses 28 acres in the historically rich Central Avenue District. The development is a partnership with Bank of America. Additionally, we will be breaking ground on Trio at Encore, the first multifamily affordable housing building at Encore, as well as likely announcing several retail establishment commitments.

Also in 2012, expect to see the housing authority actively involved in Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's downtown master planning efforts. We also will create strategies that may allow the future redevelopment of North Boulevard Apartments and Robles Park, which will both increase affordable housing and stimulate business and economic growth around the city center and Hillsborough River.

The Tampa Housing Authority is proud to serve Tampa and Hillsborough County with innovative residential and community developments that keep housing opportunities for all our citizens accessible and abundant. We're proud of the work we do and look forward to building a better community for all of us in 2012.

'Firsts,' construction ahead for UT

Ron Vaughn, 65

President, University of Tampa

As the University of Tampa celebrates its 80th year, we're pleased with what we've achieved, but are even more optimistic about our role in molding future leaders and productive citizens who are capable of competing in the global economy. We're fortunate in that our enrollment remains strong — almost 7,000 students, we're introducing new programs to address changing needs and we'll continue our trend of hiring 15 to 30 new faculty and support positions each year.

We'll recognize two "firsts" this spring: the inaugural class of student authors pursuing an MFA in creative writing, and the first UT men's lacrosse team match in February. Also, we're planning for the future construction of more than 300,000 square feet for a new residence hall, academic buildings, student services, athletic spaces and other facilities. Several of these are likely to be completed in 2012 and 2013. All these factors — enrollments, construction and employment — will add to our $600 million annual economic impact, putting UT in the forefront of Tampa Bay economic engines. They also ensure that the education students receive at UT goes beyond the classroom, into areas of leadership, service and character development.

Since 1931, the University of Tampa has always partnered closely with Tampa Bay's business and governmental leaders, and we are enthused by the foresight, energy and new ideas of our current leaders. The new downtown planning efforts offer the promise of a cohesive plan to develop the broad area in and around downtown — including UT. Every great city has a great university within its core and, together, UT and the Tampa community can create a living and learning environment that is unmatched.

Sidewalks, rehab in east Tampa

Dianne Hart, 56

CEO, East Tampa Business and Civic Association

I have a great love for east Tampa. It's a place where many longtime residents recall a time when their community was a thriving hub of family owned businesses, educational excellence and a collective sense of hope for the future that was evident in the quality of life enjoyed by its residents.

We hope and believe 2012 will bring about many changes with our new administration in place headed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and his renewed commitment to the east Tampa community.

Job creation is critical to east Tampa. We must create job opportunities within our community. This can be accomplished through new business development and expansion of existing businesses.

Our community will continue to see area beautification, neighborhood cleanups, and installation of sidewalks, lighting and a stronger increase in citizen involvement.

Through partnerships with the city of Tampa Housing and Community Development, we will see the rehabilitation of existing homes, increasing and renewing a restored sense of hope in home ownership and decreasing the number of abandoned homes in the neighborhood.

Changes especially to the parks and recreation cente there are about 50 vendors who participate or who want to participate in these rallies. They were such a success in the last six months of 2011 that Tasting Tampa is planning to host one almost every week in 2012.

While this seems like a no-lose situation, many traditional "brick and mortar" restaurants were discontent because of the advantages that trucks have in their mobility.

The first "Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta" at Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa was a busy day for the food trucks with well over 1,000 in attendance. Accordingly, established restaurants in downtown Tampa complained to media outlets and to the mayor's office that events like these would cause them to lose business. Interestingly, some restaurants actually made profits. Bryan Goodell, owner of Wicked 'Wiches food truck is also owner of Fresh Restaurant on Franklin Street and he commented that the restaurant had its best Wednesday ever on the date of the event.

The number of local gourmet food trucks increased during the past six months, while, sadly, a number of Tampa Bay area restaurants had to close their doors. It begs the question: Is staying current with industry trends crucial to success? I think 2012 should prove to be a year when we see substantial growth in the local food scene. Hopefully, this growth will benefit everyone from hungry citizens to established restaurateurs to the burgeoning gourmet food truck trend.

Trail system for cyclists

Alan Snel, 50

Director of South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers

People tell me on nearly a daily basis they would love to ride their bicycle in the Tampa Bay area, but they don't feel it's safe to ride a bike on our local streets. On that front, SWFBUD believes bicyclists, motorists, elected officials, transportation/road designers and police need to work together to make our roads more accommodating to bicyclists.

The group also believes Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa need to partner to build what SWFBUD has called the BAM Network, which stands for Bicycle Area Mobility. The BAM Network is a concept for a paved trail network that would function like a highway system for bicyclists and consist of three major trails tying into a single system. The three proposed trails being considered by area officials are: the Tampa Bypass Canal Trail from New Tampa to State Road 60; the South Coast Greenway from Apollo Beach to State Road 60; and the Selmon Greenway from State Road 60 to Ybor City and downtown Tampa. Right now the people look at the trails individually. It's time to look at them as a united system. That's vital, so everyone in the county can feel vested in the different trails.

Elected officials say they are concerned about bicycling and that they value bicycling. It's time for actions and not just words. Let's fund and start building the BAM Network in 2012.

Stronger Hispanic voice

Aileen Rodriguez, 39

Communications director for the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee for the Republican National Convention

Tampa Bay's Hispanic community has a rich cultural heritage and long history of contributions to the community. Being of Hispanic descent and a native of Puerto Rico, I am honored to contribute some thoughts on the opportunities the Hispanic community has for growth and progress in 2012. Some key areas where these opportunities can be realized are in civic engagement, education, and the continued development of young Hispanic professionals.

The tremendous growth experienced by the Hispanic community in recent years brings with it the responsibility for increased civic engagement. In other words, members of the Hispanic community have a personal responsibility to work together and develop a stronger voice within the community as a whole. This can be accomplished through assuming leadership roles within professional organizations and community groups, volunteerism, and by becoming more involved in local political processes.

In terms of education, individuals must continue taking advantage of the first rate institutions of higher learning we have in Tampa Bay. This includes earning a degree or completing degree work begun outside the United States. Members of the Hispanic community should continue supporting each other in efforts to accomplish their educational goals and continue the work to increase opportunities for higher education.

The up-and-coming generation of talented young Hispanic professionals has been afforded many opportunities to become more involved in the community and take on leadership roles with examples from the many Hispanic leaders who have come before them. Building on this, 2012 can be a year for the Hispanic community's best and brightest to grow and flourish.

The Republican National Convention, which comes to Tampa in August, will have a positive impact not only on the Hispanic community but the entire Tampa Bay community. It will bring opportunities for Tampa Bay to become a regional leader in economic growth and development. With the eyes of the nation and world on Tampa Bay, our community as a whole will be able to showcase the many wonderful things we have to offer. It is important that we put our best foot forward and work together to realize the benefits of this opportunity — in the immediate future and in years to come.

New venues, homes downtown

Christine Burdick, 62

President, Tampa Downtown Partnership

The Tampa Downtown Partnership is looking forward to 2012, as we help this wonderful city grow and shine! With the opening of the refurbished Floridan Hotel, and five positive proposals for redevelopment of the 1904 classic courthouse to a boutique hotel, downtown will have two unique hospitality offerings. USF Health's CAMLS will open in February, welcoming thousands of medical professionals each year for advanced training. In the Channel District, a new residential project will break ground, providing 360 rental units and a lush greenway, and anticipated new ownership will bring improvements to Channelside Bay Plaza. A key portion of the Riverwalk will be completed, further connecting downtown along the river.

Our organization will be taking a more active role in the programming of events in downtown, such as the Cigar City Brewing Criterium and Street Festival, the Tampa Downtown Market, Rock the Park, two new food events, music concerts and a number of family play events.

As we welcome the Republican convention in August, it will be vital that we all are prepared to be hospitable, tolerant, observant, polite, proud, and perhaps, inconvenienced a little. This is Tampa's chance to be in an international spotlight unlike any other. This is really our time to shine, and the long lasting rewards we'll experience will be historic. Downtown Tampa will be ready, and we can't wait!

Most importantly, we will be working closely with the city as the large HUD urban planning process begins. This year-long, community driven process will yield development direction and implementation tools that will drive urban development in downtown Tampa, and beyond, for the next 20 years.

What is NOT going to change is downtown Tampa's exciting museums, entertainment and sports venues, restaurants, cool residential options, unique retail offerings, great commercial space, and beautiful parks and green spaces. It's Tampa's living room!

Housing for all income levels

Jerome Ryans, 62

Chief executive officer, Tampa Housing Authority

For over 60 years, the Tampa Housing Authority has been best known as the cornerstone of the affordable housing market in Tampa, assisting people in obtaining safe and affordable housing. And, as a major landowner, we also are an active partner in redevelopment that will be so crucial to our city's financial stability in 2012 and beyond.

In 2012, expect to see the grand opening of the Ella at Encore, the first of two planned senior developments in a master planned community called Encore that encompasses 28 acres in the historically rich Central Avenue District. The development is a partnership with Bank of America. Additionally, we will be breaking ground on Trio at Encore, the first multifamily affordable housing building at Encore, as well as likely announcing several retail establishment commitments.

Also in 2012, expect to see the housing authority actively involved in Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's downtown master planning efforts. We also will create strategies that may allow the future redevelopment of North Boulevard Apartments and Robles Park, which will both increase affordable housing and stimulate business and economic growth around the city center and Hillsborough River.

The Tampa Housing Authority is proud to serve Tampa and Hillsborough County with innovative residential and community developments that keep housing opportunities for all our citizens accessible and abundant. We're proud of the work we do and look forward to building a better community for all of us in 2012.

'Firsts,' construction ahead for UT

Ron Vaughn, 65

President, University of Tampa

As the University of Tampa celebrates its 80th year, we're pleased with what we've achieved, but are even more optimistic about our role in molding future leaders and productive citizens who are capable of competing in the global economy. We're fortunate in that our enrollment remains strong — almost 7,000 students, we're introducing new programs to address changing needs and we'll continue our trend of hiring 15 to 30 new faculty and support positions each year.

We'll recognize two "firsts" this spring: the inaugural class of student authors pursuing an MFA in creative writing, and the first UT men's lacrosse team match in February. Also, we're planning for the future construction of more than 300,000 square feet for a new residence hall, academic buildings, student services, athletic spaces and other facilities. Several of these are likely to be completed in 2012 and 2013. All these factors — enrollments, construction and employment — will add to our $600 million annual economic impact, putting UT in the forefront of Tampa Bay economic engines. They also ensure that the education students receive at UT goes beyond the classroom, into areas of leadership, service and character development.

Since 1931, the University of Tampa has always partnered closely with Tampa Bay's business and governmental leaders, and we are enthused by the foresight, energy and new ideas of our current leaders. The new downtown planning efforts offer the promise of a cohesive plan to develop the broad area in and around downtown — including UT. Every great city has a great university within its core and, together, UT and the Tampa community can create a living and learning environment that is unmatched.

Sidewalks, rehab in east Tampa

Dianne Hart, 56

CEO, East Tampa Business and Civic Association

I have a great love for east Tampa. It's a place where many longtime residents recall a time when their community was a thriving hub of family owned businesses, educational excellence and a collective sense of hope for the future that was evident in the quality of life enjoyed by its residents.

We hope and believe 2012 will bring about many changes with our new administration in place headed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and his renewed commitment to the east Tampa community.

Job creation is critical to east Tampa. We must create job opportunities within our community. This can be accomplished through new business development and expansion of existing businesses.

Our community will continue to see area beautification, neighborhood cleanups, and installation of sidewalks, lighting and a stronger increase in citizen involvement.

Through partnerships with the city of Tampa Housing and Community Development, we will see the rehabilitation of existing homes, increasing and renewing a restored sense of hope in home ownership and decreasing the number of abandoned homes in the neighborhood.

Changes especially to the parks and recreation centen centers will once again become a place where our teens and kids of all ages can utilize the recreational and cultural facilities. This can be one of the focal points for helping to reduce crime among our young people.

Hillsborough leaders sound off on their wishes for change in 2012 01/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 3:00pm]
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