Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Politics

Bob Buckhorn, a mayor who knows what he wants, surveys constituents on what they want

TAMPA — Focus has not been a problem — or really, even a question — during the six-plus years that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been in office.

From his campaign on, Buckhorn has approached virtually every day as mayor with a self-generated agenda and a single organizing principle:

How will this task build or enhance Tampa's reputation as a place to live and do business?

It's an approach that shaped his work preparing for the Republican National Convention, updating development regulations, seeking deals for unused properties like the old federal courthouse, applying for federal grants to finish the Riverwalk, wooing millennials, hosting his annual Mac & Cheese Throwdown, and more.

Now he's doing something different.

With less than two years to go — 584 days, according to the countdown clock that Buckhorn keeps in his City Hall office — the mayor is reaching out via a survey to ask residents what they want him to focus on before he is term-limited out of office on April 1, 2019.

So on Wednesday, City Hall posted an online survey asking constituents to rank their interest in 10 topics so Buckhorn can, as the survey says, "make sure I focus on as many of your concerns as possible":

• Job creation.

• Downtown redevelopment.

• Streets and stormwater issues.

• Workforce housing.

• Police and community relations.

• Transportation options, including light rail.

• Sustainability and climate change.

• Keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the area.

• Protecting MacDill Air Force Base.

• Race relations.

Plus there's a space for anything else people want Buckhorn to work on.

"I'm sure people will be brutally candid as they are on social media," he said. "And that's okay."

This is not the first time Buckhorn has sought feedback on something. Public brainstorming sessions were part of the planning for his InVision Tampa plan for downtown and the urban core, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and the ongoing study of possible changes to the TECO Line Streetcar.

For each of those, however, the topic was already set. This is the first time the mayor has put the question in such an open-ended way. The survey went up at 10 a.m. Wednesday. By 4 p.m., more than 900 people had responded.

In that initial batch of surveys, 644 people ranked streets and stormwater as "very important" to them, the largest number for any issue. Following were transportation with 548 "very important" rankings, protecting MacDill with 511 and race relations with 495.

The most evenly divided topic was keeping the Rays in the area, with 223 respondents saying it is very important, 248 saying they are neutral, and 210 rating it "not important."

The comments likewise were a mixed bag:

"Lower taxes now," wrote a respondent from the 33634 ZIP code, home to Dana Shores, which is not in the city of Tampa.

Make "the city more pedestrian/bike friendly," wrote someone from the 33603 ZIP code, which covers South Seminole Heights and surrounding areas. "I know so many people that have been hit by cars."

"The new housing developments are great, but not enough are affordable to median income families such as myself," wrote someone from the 33606 ZIP code, which includes both Hyde Park and the more working class North Hyde Park. "It would be nice to have an option … to buy closer to downtown, especially because I work for the city of Tampa."

"Find better solutions to homeless/shelter issues near downtown/Tampa Heights," wrote someone in downtown's 33602 ZIP code.

And several of those surveyed weighed in on both sides of the controversy over removing a Confederate memorial from in front of a old Hillsborough County courthouse annex.

"Don't broadcast your personal donation on removing statues and history," someone from New Tampa's 33647 ZIP code wrote.

"Thanks for taking the progressive position on the Confederate statue in front of the old courthouse," a 33606 writer said. "My great grandfathers were confederate soldiers. I respect their sacrifice, but those statues were erected to inform black people of their place. They belong in museums, cemeteries and on battlefields, not in the public square."

The same writer added, "Please see if you can address transit. The county will not. Perhaps St. Pete and Tampa could work together and work around Hillsborough County."

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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