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Hurricane Pam sweeps Children's Board

Some things, you just stand back and watch.

Like hurricanes.

And Pam Iorio.

Not that I'm comparing Tampa's previous mayor to what's swirling out there making us all nervous. But what happened over at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, the site of Iorio's current temporary gig, was a storm of sorts, a seriously destructive PR disaster.

Consider recent Children's Board headlines as reported by the Times' Jodie Tillman: Questionable spending. No-bid contracts. A majority of the staff doubting the ethics and integrity of the bosses.

And a CEO paid $171,330 a year to run a publicly funded agency the public knew little about.

That CEO, Luanne Panacek, could not seem to understand why bringing in a religious friend on a weekend to spread holy oil around the office might scare the staff Monday morning — not to mention make the rest of us wonder what's going on over there on the public dime.

And all of this when voters will decide in 2016 whether to reauthorize using property taxes for the Children's Board, an agency that finances child welfare programs for kids who need them most.

So here comes Iorio, a politician who can't stop to gas up her car without strangers wanting to know what office she's running for next, tapped to clean up the post-storm mess.

Already, she has slimmed 55 agency jobs down to 40. ("Too much staff, not enough to do," she says.) Less for salaries, more for actual programs, the Children's Board being out of whack with similar agencies across the state.

A clearer mission. Focus. Accountability.

And here's a big one: Transparency, even down to using less insider jargon, and enough already with the acronyms. (Did DACCO do an RFP PDQ?)

And does this start to feel kind of like that breeze when the rain's over?

Iorio wants to do her job as interim boss in a few months, with a new and permanent one coming soon, preferably with a title less "highfalutin," she says, than CEO.

When the previous administration has been accused of focusing on building an empire instead of running an efficient public agency, I guess titles do start to matter.

Iorio would also like a more modest top salary — in the $140,000s — instead of one that's more than the mayor of the entire city makes.

And how about letting the public know what they're paying for with those property taxes they'll soon be asked to agree to pay again?

She even wants meetings broadcast on government access TV for the public to see. To which I say:

Yawn.

But in a good way.

Those previous meetings might have made for some great reality TV, but if all goes well, these will be appropriately snooze-inducing, with talk of bids and budgets and nary a bottle of holy oil in sight.

If the calm after the storm can be a storm in and of itself, it's this.

• • •

Speaking of hurricanes, holy oil and such …

What do you suppose the Rev. Pat Robertson thinks God might be punishing Tampa-bound Republicans for with the impending Isaac?

Just wondering.

Hurricane Pam sweeps Children's Board 08/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:20pm]

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