TAMPA — Crime is down, the budget is balanced, and the city has an inviting new riverfront park that's home to two museums.
In a time of too many foreclosures and not enough jobs, those are solid achievements. And in a recent St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 telephone poll, Tampa area residents gave credit to outgoing Mayor Pam Iorio.
Seventy-nine percent of the 400 adults polled rated Iorio's job performance as average or better. A majority, 52 percent, gave her good or excellent ratings.
"She did a good job," said Joe Muley, an 81-year-old retiree who lives in Seminole Heights. "She's done what she could with the money that's available."
Seventy-nine percent also is the percentage of the vote Iorio won when she was re-elected four years ago. And she said it's consistent with her approval rating in other polls she's seen over the past eight years.
"I get a lot of positive feedback about the past eight years wherever I go," Iorio said last week. "I'm out in the community a lot, and what I hear is that people seem very pleased with our team's performance over the past eight years and are sorry to see it come to an end. I appreciate that, and it's been a real privilege to serve."
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The poll was conducted Dec. 8-12 by American Directions Group, a national polling firm based in Washington, D.C., with an office in Lakeland. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
Iorio, who is leaving the Mayor's Office because of term limits, got some of her highest ratings for the city's record on crime.
Serious crime in Tampa is down 56 percent during her two terms as mayor. By the time she leaves office at the end of March, she expects crime will have dropped more than 60 percent over eight years.
During that time, Tampa police have reduced serious crimes largely by focusing on four key crimes: burglary, robbery, auto burglary and auto theft. The thieves who commit those crimes also commit more violent crimes, police say, so the benefits of stopping them ripple through the city.
"I can't say enough about our Police Department," Iorio said. "That is just a phenomenal statistic. Everywhere I go, particularly in areas that have had historically a terrible crime problem, they just tell me how the quality of life has improved."
Along with crime, Iorio got her other top rating for downtown redevelopment, which has included a $42 million makeover of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, home to the new Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer Children's Museum.
South Tampa resident Michael Patterson said Iorio has tried to work with employee unions and has made improvements to downtown streets and other infrastructure, despite the recession that overshadowed her second term.
"I think she's done well with those limitations," said Patterson, 67, a recently retired planning consultant.
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Curiously, Iorio got her lowest marks on a signature issue — mass transit. There, just 41 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very satisfied with her handling of the issue.
"Maybe they were dissatisfied that the (transit tax) referendum didn't pass," Iorio said.
She noted that the Nov. 2 referendum, which would have raised Hillsborough County's sales tax by a penny and spent the money on roads, rail and buses, did pass inside the city.
Gray Gables resident Carol Paris Wells gave the mayor credit for pushing the referendum.
"At some point, this transportation issue has got to be addressed, and she understands that," Wells said.
Iorio agrees that the issue is not going away.
"The next mayor's going to have to pick up that baton," she said.
Generally, 57 percent of those polled said things in Tampa were about the same as a year ago. Nineteen percent felt they were better; 17 percent said they were worse.
Muley was among the majority who said this year has been the same as last. But he expects money at City Hall to be so tight in the future that the next mayor won't have it easy.
To the contrary, he said, "it's going to be the roughest job in the world."