Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Politics

Carlton: A millennial on Tampa City Council goes old-school, too

Here is an interesting fact about Guido Maniscalco, Tampa City Council's newest and by far youngest member: The board's only millennial likes things old-school.

Yes, he'll make a pitch for efficient, modern transportation like rail over the controversial expansion of the existing interstate. He'll whip out a smartphone and call up a color-coded map to show which buildings will be lost and tell you how this will erase neighborhoods. He'll ride the No. 7 bus downtown and tweet about it to make a case for mass transit.

But Maniscalco, 31, is also a guy who paid $400 at auction for a suit worn in Mad Men, the slick '60s-era TV series he loves. It wasn't worn by the star — Don Draper items cost "stupid money," he says — but by lesser ad man Ken Cosgrove. Maniscalco collects vintage watches, drives a car like one Elizabeth Taylor once gave Richard Burton and is a big fan of John F. Kennedy Jr.

"Born in the wrong generation," he says.

So after eight months as the new guy in the sometimes rough-and-tumble world of Tampa politics, what's the view like?

I ask this over lunch at La Cabana, a Colombian restaurant in a West Tampa neighborhood at the center of the city's Latin roots and part of his district. It's down the street from Guido Morana Jewelers, the family business started by his Cuban-born grandfather from whom he got his name, and around the corner from his alma mater, Tampa Catholic High School, which had significantly more Johns and Matts than Guidos.

He pauses over his bistec encebollado — flat steak smothered in onions, a meal more traditional than millennial — to answer.

"I feel like I'm the kid," he says. " 'Here comes the kid.' "

It has not been dull. The City Council sparred with Mayor Bob Buckhorn over who had the power to establish and appoint citizens to a board to review police actions. This prompted the new guy to wonder aloud from the dais whether they were just a glorified zoning board, and to go talk to the mayor. Eventually, with council members working with Buckhorn, there came compromise.

Before council meetings, he works his way through the audience. During, he tends to listen more than talk.

Recently, Maniscalco was on the no side of a 4-3 vote that killed Buckhorn's proposed stormwater fee because he thought it would unfairly burden residents he represents. Last week, he met with the mayor and staff to talk alternatives.

"There's no lack of leadership in reaching across the aisle," he says, sounding a little like former mayor Dick Greco. He was 12 when he first met Greco and remains a fan of the ex-mayor's storied personal touch with people.

In his fledgling council run in 2011, he came in last of five. In the latest race, the first negative mailer about him arrived at the jewelry store and his mother called as he walked into a campaign event. "No one," he says, "wants to hear their mother cry." In the end, he thinks, those mailers energized the vote.

What do constituents want most? Roads paved and potholes filled, he learned. In his desk drawer he keeps a document Buckhorn sent detailing the first street Maniscalco pushed to get fixed, a request on his second day in office.

So maybe this is the old-and-new breed of Tampa politics, drinking cafe con leche at the old West Tampa Sandwich Shop with regulars but also breakfasting at the tony Oxford Exchange with the downtown powerful. And, tweeting about it.

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