Friday, December 15, 2017
Politics

'Ignored' millennials stake a claim on Tampa Bay community's political future

TAMPA — Millennials, the young and youngish, are much more than college students living on campus or with their parents.

"We are the generation that created Facebook and social media," said Cesar Hernandez, 30. "Sometimes we feel a little ignored, as if we are not contributing. But we are changing the game, we are saying we are ready to lead."

He and about 50 fellow "older" millennials decided to prove it.

They got together Sunday at the Aloft Hotel in Tampa for a panel discussion on issues important to this increasingly powerful generation of people from about age 20 to 35.

The occasion was the presidential debate, which they watched, cheering and groaning, after their nearly two-hour discussion.

Hernandez and the New Leaders Council Tampa Bay organized the panel of five local millennial business leaders.

The NLC is a national nonprofit group focused on recruiting, training and promoting "the next generation of progressive leaders."

"Millennials are getting a little older and a lot of us are beginning to have families. We need to change things," said Alexandra Esparza, 28, CEO of Jefes.co, an online network for Gen Y Latino leaders and entrepreneurs.

Other panelists were Roberto Torres, 36, CEO of Blind Tiger Café and Black & Denim Apparel Co.; Tony Selvaggio, 29, CEO of eSmart Recycling; Andrew Machota, 34, CEO of New Town Connections; and Sari Famig­lietti, 34, CEO of Creative Lab Studios.

"We wanted to give millennial voices a chance to speak," said Hernandez, who is government relations director at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

And speak they did.

It turned out there was tremendous agreement and even passion on a variety of issues.

They were also intensely interested in their businesses being socially responsible, particularly in leading the way to a better and more responsible politics.

"It's our turn to fix it, to voice our opinions," Selvaggio said.

Machota's suggestion that members of Congress be term-limited was a big hit with his fellow panelists.

Topics discussed ranged from a lack of ground transportation around the Tampa area, to failing schools, climate change, immigration, innovative technologies, and even the need for economic solutions for older generations pushed out of their careers.

"We are the first generation whose school classrooms were filled by technology," said Janelle Irwin, a Tampa Bay Business Journal reporter who moderated the discussion.

Leadership qualities, they said, can be adopted by anyone and should include empathy, experience, tact, integrity, vision, and the ability to communicate effectively.

Opinions became particularly heated when the panelists began talking about social and criminal justice.

"I don't see color or gender but the reality is a lot of people do," said Famiglietti, who tries to promote "hometown heroes" who do good deeds in their neighborhoods.

Selvaggio was particularly concerned about boys and girls who have no access to computers or the Internet in their homes. He has partnered with Pinellas County Boys and Girls Clubs to set up after-school technology labs.

When the audience wanted to know why so many new businesses fail, the panel had a lot of ideas, ranging from not planning enough to overplanning.

"Entrepreneurship is way more romanticized than it should be. It is a dirty, ugly, lonely road," Selvaggio said to laughter. "I love it, but it is not a romantic scenario."

New business owners usually work 80 hours a week for pennies, Torres said. "You don't need to be married to your business, you need to be married to the idea of being successful."

Locally, Machota suggested that the Hillsborough County Commission needs a "change of guard."

"There needs to be millennials on the County Commission to make transportation changes in Tampa Bay," he said. "This is one of the hottest cities in the U.S., and young, professional millennials want to move here but there is no transportation."

Famiglietti wants city and county officials to be more aware of opportunities provided by new technologies.

"We have to go out there and help make the decisions," she said.

And as for the presidential election, they all agreed that no matter how it turns out on Nov. 8, the decisions by the next president will affect not only the next four years, but the next 50 years.

"It is very important to me that millennials vote," Machota said.

Contact Sheila Mullane Estrada at [email protected]

Comments
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 6 hours ago
William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

William March: AG candidate Ashley Moody called ‘liberal;’ bill takes Orlando money for Tampa transit

Ideological divides in Florida’s Republican attorney general primary race are producing some early negative campaigning, with a strong Tampa Bay area flavor.State Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, one of four candidates, has attacked the early frontrunn...
Published: 12/14/17
Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Florida lawmakers want stronger college free speech rules amid First Amendment flareups

Rising up in defiance to Richard Spencer, hundreds of University of Florida students sounded off in a deafening chant."Go home, Spencer!" they shouted, as the exasperated white nationalist paced the stage, pleading to be heard.Were the students exerc...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17