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Sue Carlton: Nearly half of Tampa City Council heading to Cuba

Tampa congresswoman Kathy Castor was in the news with her recent trip to Cuba, made in the spirit of lifting more than 50 years of sanctions and brokering a better relationship.

Next, nearly half the Tampa City Council heads there at the end of May as part of a Chamber of Commerce event, including first-timers Harry Cohen and Yvonne Yolie Capin, and fellow council member Mary Mulhern, who has been twice.

Seems some in this city intend to be on the cusp of change.

"I think that, clearly, the approach we've taken for the last half-century has not gotten us anywhere. It's time to do something different," says Cohen. "I am really going to learn. How can you possibly understand the different opportunities that exist unless you go?"

Says Capin: "Tampa is where the future of the relationship between the United States and Cuba will unfold. I truly believe that."

Council members would want their constituents to know the trip will not be funded with public money, and that it is scheduled for a week when there is no City Council meeting, so they won't be missing important votes.

Notably, the flight is expected to be out of Tampa, not Miami.

"When things eventually open up, I think it's very important that Tampa be ready to take advantage of whatever opportunities are there," Cohen says. "We want to be the gateway."

•••

Speaking of travels, turns out Castor's isn't the only interesting trip in the family of late.

Her mother, former Florida Education Commissioner and USF president Betty Castor, heads to Ethiopia as part of her duties on the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. President Obama appointed Castor to the 12-member group that helps pick students to study and work all over the world as part of the prestigious, highly competitive Fulbright program.

And here's something you don't hear much lately: "It's really great, because Fulbright has been really a bipartisan project, supported by both Democrats and Republicans," Castor says.

Well, she did mention politics. And because her name still bubbles up in talk of who is running for Florida governor (or not), I ask. Turns out lots of people ask, and there is nothing coy in her answer: No, and she is off to pack.

•••

Speaking of public faces who also happen to be women, it was interesting to hear Tampa police Chief Jane Castor (no relation to the aforementioned Castors) on a recent airing of NPR's Talk of the Nation, along with a female police chief from Washington, D.C., chatting about their varied experiences running things in a mostly male world. (You can listen at NPR.org under Talk of the Nation on April 2.)

•••

The news this week from Boston was brutal, the scenes hard to take.

I was riding to work one morning listening to the latest unfold on the radio when I noticed them:

The jacarandas are back.

Much of the year around here they are mild, green, unremarkable trees, until they suddenly bloom in a riot of purple across neighborhoods from Tampa to St. Pete. Our jacarandas have this way of making you stop and notice them, a sign that things change and bloom again, and the world keeps going.

Sue Carlton: Nearly half of Tampa City Council heading to Cuba 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 9:40pm]
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