Friday, April 20, 2018
Politics

Hillsborough commission to consider rotating chairman

TAMPA — Picking a board chairman is one of the more painful political decisions Hillsborough County commissioners make each year.

Arms get twisted by supporters of those vying for the title and the $10,000 stipend that comes with it. Feelings get hurt by the inevitable snubs.

"It creates bad feelings between the board members and puts them unnecessarily at odds," said Commissioner Victor Crist. "That creates a negative environment that lasts through the year."

So Crist is reviving an idea that the board has rejected before, most recently in 2011. He wants to create a rotation starting next year with Sandra Murman, the District 1 office holder who happens to have been passed over the last three years.

(Unless, of course, she gets picked as lieutenant governor. Her name is on a short list of people Gov. Rick Scott is considering for the vacant position.)

After Murman, the next chairman would be the District 2 office holder, Crist, on down to District 7, then start over again.

In a wrinkle, Crist is proposing that commissioners have the ability to skip a seat if the person in it doesn't want the largely ceremonial job that means attending lots of ribbon cuttings. They could also skip someone they don't care to have represent them.

"You've got to have a safeguard in there in case you had someone like a Kevin White," said Crist, referring to the former county commissioner who before getting sent to prison for accepting bribes was found by a jury to have sexually harassed one of his aides.

Commissioners will take up Crist's idea at their annual retreat on Dec. 8.

There's no telling whether the proposal has any better chance of passing this time than last. The same board members were serving on the commission when they voted 4-3 to reject the notion. They said at the time that they should not relinquish their ability to pick who leads them.

After initially opposing the idea, Crist was the lone Republican to join in supporting the board's two Democrats, Kevin Beckner and Les Miller, who had suggested the concept then in the interest of greater harmony.

Republican activists let it be known that they were not happy with the idea. The party's executive committee even held a vote to demonstrate its opposition.

With a 5-2 super-majority on the commission, Republicans say its leader should reflect the will of the people as reflected in the board's makeup. Some reached recently say they still feel the same way.

"If you're afraid to get in the ring, don't run," said Republican political consultant and blogger Chris Ingram, who fought the idea last time. "The idea of rotating rather than picking the best person suited for the job is just preposterous."

Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini says the proposal is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. It's not like Democrats are unable to have their issues heard, and often approved, despite the Republican majority. Just look, he said, at its recent repeal of a policy banning county recognition of gay pride events.

"This is a very non-partisan board policy-wise, more so than in years past," Pedicini said.

Those sentiments seem to be shared by other Republicans on the board.

Murman, who would be the next chairwoman, said she appreciates what Crist is trying to achieve. The annual selection does cause behind-the-scenes drama, she acknowledged, and this would help address it, making Hillsborough more like Pinellas and Pasco counties, which use some form of rotating chairmen.

Despite that, she added, "I'm not totally an affirmative vote yet, but I think it's time to have that discussion."

Current Chairman Mark Sharpe, who, like Murman, also had been passed over in the past, nevertheless opposed the concept the last go around. But he's keeping an open mind. He leaves the board after eight years in 2014 due to term limits, so it won't affect him.

He said the board has had a way of figuring out who best to lead it at the right time, in recent years that being Commission Ken Hagan. Sharpe said he's not sure commissioners should abandon that ability to choose.

Besides, he joked, "Now that I got picked, I kind of like this process."

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

Comments
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18
Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is "locked and loaded," ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again."I spoke to the president...
Published: 04/14/18