Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn calls for rail, criticizes Tallahassee's obstruction

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, while focusing on transportation issues in his State of the City speech Tuesday, says it’s time state government got on board. “Tallahassee needs to let cities decide for themselves what their future’s going to look like.”


Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, while focusing on transportation issues in his State of the City speech Tuesday, says it’s time state government got on board. “Tallahassee needs to let cities decide for themselves what their future’s going to look like.”

TAMPA — In a speech filled with talk of teamwork and cooperation, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn delivered this don't-mess-with-us challenge:

"We can be a region with a first-class transportation system," Buckhorn said during his second State of the City speech on Tuesday. "We need mobility options now. That means bus rapid transit, that means (high-occupancy vehicle lanes), and it darn sure means rail.

"Tallahassee needs to let cities decide for themselves what their future's going to look like," said Buckhorn, who has lobbied the Legislature to let Florida's largest cities hold their own sales tax referendums. That could give Tampa a second chance at the kind of transit referendum that was defeated in unincorporated Hillsborough three years ago even as it won precincts inside the city.

He went on to allude to Gov. Rick Scott's decision to turn away $2 billion from the Obama administration to build high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando.

"Don't tell me that I have to listen to the mayor of Detroit thank me because he's building his light rail system with our money," Buckhorn said. "If folks in Tallahassee don't want to support us, we'll find folks in Tallahassee that will."

That got a big round of applause, one of 18 such interruptions during the 28-minute speech from a crowd of about 600 city employees, other local officials, business owners and neighborhood activists.

"This is the strongest statement I have seen him make about transit and rail during the two years I've been here," City Council member Mike Suarez said afterward. "It was much welcomed."

For the most part, though, Buckhorn stuck to themes he's focused on during his first two years in office:

• The improvement of the city's relationship with Hillsborough County officials. ("Never been better," Buckhorn said.)

• The opportunities to become a gateway to Latin America offered by the expansion of the Panama Canal and international flights to Tampa International Airport. ("I'm not playing second-fiddle to Miami. It's our turn.")

• The welcome re-emergence of interest in downtown. ("It's an exciting time. Three new residential towers have been announced in the last three months.")

• The need to make Tampa competitive with vibrant, tech-savvy Sunbelt cities like San Diego, Austin, Texas and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. ("We're not fighting with St. Petersburg. We're not even competing with Orlando. … I am not losing my two little girls to Charlotte, N.C. I will be darned to let that happen.")

• The goal of making the Hillsborough River the center of downtown activity. ("For too long, we've turned our back on the river. … For too long, we've failed to realize that that river is the best asset we have as a community.")

• And the importance of reducing blight in inner-city neighborhoods hit hard by the housing crash and foreclosure crisis. ("As Jackson Heights goes, so goes Palma Ceia. As College Hill goes, so goes Culbreath Isles. As East Tampa and West Tampa go, so goes New Tampa.")

With a projected revenue shortfall of about $20 million, Buckhorn said putting together the city's budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year will be tough, but "hopefully, this is the last bad year."

Buckhorn chose to give his second State of the City address inside the long-vacant former Kress department store in downtown Tampa.

Like the old federal courthouse, which is being turned into a boutique hotel, Buckhorn said the Kress should be redeveloped in a way that makes the best use of its high ceilings, pendant lights and other historic touches. (Owner Jeannette Jason said some development concepts are in discussion, including for the adaptive reuse of the Kress building, but there's nothing to announce.)

But Buckhorn also noted that the Kress stands next to the old Woolworth's lunch counter, where 53 years ago a 21-year-old Clarence Fort, who led the NAACP youth council, the Rev. A. Leon Lowry and 50 black high school students asked to be served.

The sit-in inspired similar protests that spread across Tampa Bay, and six months later city officials desegregated Tampa's lunch counters without incident.

Fort, who was in the audience, said after the speech that he's known Buckhorn for years and that during the campaign Buckhorn told him, "if I ever get in there, we won't forget you and this building."

To Buckhorn, the stories of Tampa's grand old buildings and brave young leaders both point in the same direction.

"These old buildings, the Kress building and the federal courthouse, are part of Tampa's history, but more importantly they're part of Tampa's future," he said. "We stand here today on the shoulders of many who came before us, people like Clarence Fort, and we are charged with transforming their history into a bright future. … Tampa, it's time to think big."

Richard Danielson can be reached at or (813) 226-3403.

Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn calls for rail, criticizes Tallahassee's obstruction 03/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 11:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill


    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.