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Be proud and think big, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio says in last speech

TAMPA — A 60-plus percent drop in crime. An inviting downtown riverfront. Half a billion dollars' worth of new water, sewer and storm drain pipes. A city budget with record reserves.

Mayor Pam Iorio looked back Wednesday on two terms as Tampa's chief executive. And it felt good.

"I exit the stage today one last time, and I must say, my heart is full," Iorio said in valedictory State of the City address at the Tampa Convention Center. "What a wonderful eight years."

Iorio, who leaves office March 31 because of term limits, is closing her tenure to widespread acclaim.

A poll commissioned by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce found she is viewed positively by 87 percent of city voters.

On Tuesday night, Bob Buckhorn and Rose Ferlita, who meet in a March 22 runoff to succeed Iorio, took turns heaping praise on her in a live, televised debate.

The following morning, Iorio turned to both in the front row and said, "I wish you the best."

"I ask only that you take care of the city that we love," she said. "Make decisions that are in the best long-term interests of all of its citizens."

Iorio said a "focus on the basics of municipal government," a money-saving reorganization of city government, a "methodical, businesslike approach" and teamwork during her tenure led to such accomplishments as:

• A $103 million widening and improvement of 40th Street in east Tampa.

• Nearly tripling the investment in neighborhood infrastructure projects such as parks improvements.

• Expanding the Riverwalk and opening the Tampa Bay History Center, the new Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children's Museum.

• Saving tens of millions of dollars by refinancing city bonds at lower interest rates.

"While many cities across the nation are looking at near bankruptcy and all kinds of fiscal trouble, we stand strong financially," she said. "That is possibly the best gift I can give the city."

Iorio praised the Tampa Police Department, whose focus on four key crimes — burglary, robbery, auto burglary and auto theft — led to a 61.5 percent reduction in serious felonies over eight years.

"This city is safer," she said. "Every part of the city is safer."

But as mayor, Iorio said, she became part of the Tampa Police Department family as a result of the deaths of four officers: Detective Juan A. Serrano, killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2006; Cpl. Mike Roberts, shot in 2009 during a struggle with a man in Sulphur Springs; and Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, shot during a traffic stop last year in east Tampa.

"I felt like I lost four members of my own family," Iorio said. "Our police officers are good people. They are salt of the earth. They will do anything to protect this community."

Toward the end of her remarks, Iorio moved away from the feel-good accomplishments and touched on a couple of disappointments.

Voters rejected a sales tax she supported to pay for commuter rail, roads and buses. That was a learning experience, she said, but the city cannot give up.

"It is not optional," she said. "For us to maintain our status as a great city in the United States, we must have a modern transportation system."

She likewise regretted Gov. Rick Scott's decision to reject more than $2 billion in federal money for high-speed rail. That, she said, is the kind of project that would have shaped Central Florida for decades to come.

A student of history, Iorio said it's also is the kind of big idea that has repeatedly shaped Tampa throughout its history.

One by one, she ticked them off: the railroad. Bayshore Boulevard (done during the Depression with federal funds). Turning the old Tampa Bay Hotel into the University of Tampa. Tampa International Airport. The University of South Florida. Bringing the National Football League to Tampa.

"I hope this city never stops progressing," Iorio said. "I hope this city never stops believing in itself. Remember its history. It has always made investments for the future. It has always thought big. It has always invested in quality. It has never allowed any setback to stop progress."

Be proud and think big, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio says in last speech 03/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 10:53pm]
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