Saturday, November 25, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa is in good shape, Bob Buckhorn says, but with challenges ahead

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Bob Buckhorn has always had a zest for big themes, big symbols and big songs.

This is a politician who, announcing a run for City Council in 1995, stood before an American flag that could cover a swimming pool and ended his speech with the PA system blasting Ray Charles' America the Beautiful.

So on Tuesday, in his first State of the City speech as mayor, it was no surprise to hear Buckhorn run through his signature themes to a stirring rock soundtrack.

His 28-minute speech was preceded by Bruce Springsteen's Land of Hope and Dreams, plus a video of entrepreneurs and activists talking about Tampa's vital spark.

His two main themes: a confidence in his city, tempered by the need to sharpen Tampa's competitive edge.

"The state of the city is good, but our future is so much brighter," Buckhorn said at the end, the chiming guitar of U2's Where the Streets Have No Name rising in the background.

Buckhorn, 53, often says feeling Tampa's optimism energized him during the first year of his four-year term. And that's good, he said, because balancing the coming year's budget will likely be as tough as it was last year.

But it's when times are hard and resources are tight that the city must pull together, he said.

And why?

Look at the symbols of the day, starting with the two dozen third- to fifth-graders from the Rampello Downtown Partnership school sitting on stage behind the mayor.

As he did during his campaign, Buckhorn argued that the future of those students is rooted in the business climate of the city.

"As I think about why we have to change Tampa's economic DNA, I think of Grace and Colleen Buckhorn, I think about these kids from Rampello, I think about the brain drain that has been leaving this community for a decade to Charlotte and Austin and to Raleigh-Durham," he said.

"To give these kids at Rampello and my two daughters a chance for a different Tampa, we have to change the way we do business, and this starts with transforming the culture at City Hall," he said.

That, Buckhorn said, is why he named an economic competitiveness task force, created a new one-stop service center for developers, is buying user-friendly permitting software and why he wants residents to have higher aspirations than ever.

"I can't cut my way out of this ditch," he said. "It doesn't work. We've got to grow this economy."

Buckhorn's other big symbol of the day was the setting itself — not the Tampa Convention Center, where previous State of the City presentations have been made, but Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

Buckhorn praised his predecessor, Pam Iorio, for having the vision to undertake a $15.7 million transformation of the park.

Now he said his administration is trying to make the riverfront an irresistible civic space. That will mean finishing the Riverwalk, lighting downtown bridges at night and bringing a waterfront restaurant to Water Works Park.

"This river is going to change downtown as we know it," he said. "When you think about major European cities … the focal point is always — always — the waterfront."

For Buckhorn, even the hecklers offered the chance to send a message by staying on message.

When he mentioned the Republican National Convention, a young man began shouting indistinctly from a small group at the back of the park. Buckhorn mostly ignored him, talking business instead.

"We will never get a chance on the international stage like we will next August," Buckhorn said. "Fifteen thousand journalists, 20,000 visitors, delegates, them" — getting a laugh at the hecklers' expense — "and thousands of others, will be here. We've got to be ready to tell Tampa's story."

Seated closer to the stage, the Rev. Bruce Wright, a homeless advocate, yelled more clearly, "Free speech is not a joke!"

No matter. Buckhorn pressed on, his goal, as ever, celebrating his city — and selling it.

"I don't care what goes on inside" the convention, said Buckhorn, a Democrat. "What I care about is the opportunity to tell the world what a great place this is to invest."

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

Comments

No. 7 Florida finishes No. 17 Gonzaga in 2OT; No. 1 Duke up next for Gators

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jalen Hudson scored a career-high 35, including eight 3-pointers, and No. 7 Florida downed No. 17 Gonzaga 111-105 in double overtime Friday night at the PK80 Invitational. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza added a career-high 26 poin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Region football: Plant 13, Lakeland 10

Region football: Plant 13, Lakeland 10

LAKELAND — The game — and the season — were supposed to be over.Lakeland was set to exact revenge. The Dreadnaughts had the lead and the ball in the final three minutes and were heading for a field goal. Then it happened. The magic continued.Plant’s ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Region football: Venice 48, Tampa Bay Tech 17

VENICE — Tampa Bay Tech not only had to stop a hot receiver in Friday night’s Class 7A region final against Venice, but a hot running back as well. That proved to be too much.Indians receiver Jaivon Heiligh caught 14 passes for 193 yards and three to...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Region football: Armwood 31, Ocala Vanguard 17

SEFFNER — Armwood appeared to be on its way to yet another rout through the first 24 minutes of football Friday night.James Miller delivered a crunching hit on the opening kickoff. The defense looked suffocating, holding Ocala Vanguard to a mere 23 y...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Region football: Immokalee 42, Lakewood 14

IMMOKALEE — The final score wasn’t truly indicative of what transpired on Friday night.Lakewood fell to a dynamic Immokalee squad 42-14 in a tough environment in a Class 5A region final.The Spartans (9-2) forced three turnovers and held Immokalee (12...
Updated: 4 hours ago
State semifinal football: Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna 49, Clearwater Central Catholic 3

State semifinal football: Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna 49, Clearwater Central Catholic 3

CLEARWATER — Stocked with a wealth of Division I-A commits and prepared by a heavy-duty schedule, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna spent three months building for Friday night’s Class 3A state semifinal game.The Lions played at another level against top-s...
Updated: 4 hours ago

State semifinal football: Hialeah Champagnat Catholic 38, Cambridge Christian 0

TAMPA — Hialeah Champagnat Catholic was well on its way to a third unanswered touchdown, but the Lions just couldn’t stop blocking their own path. In one second-quarter drive during Friday’s 2A state semifinal against Cambridge Christian, Champagnat ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning attitude under fire after loss to Capitals

Lightning attitude under fire after loss to Capitals

WASHINGTON — You don’t often sense frustration in captain Steven Stamkos’ voice, at least not this season. With the Lightning off to its best start in franchise history, there haven’t been many reasons to chide. Every criticism seems nitpicky. But af...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

The Bucs face the defending NFC champion in its new home Sunday in Atlanta.Here’s the Times’ Bucs coverage team’s predictions for Tampa Bay’s 1 p.m. game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:MATTY ICE-FOLLIESRick Stroud, @NFLStroud: T...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Freshman quarterback leads Pitt to 24-14 upset over No. 2 Miami

Freshman quarterback leads Pitt to 24-14 upset over No. 2 Miami

PITTSBURGH — Miami spent the better part of 13 months cultivating the nation’s longest winning streak behind a series of comebacks that returned the swagger to "The U" in all of its "Turnover Chain" glory. Sluggish through the first half against Pitt...
Updated: 5 hours ago