TAMPA — Ed Turanchik and Bob Buckhorn attacked Dick Greco on Friday during a Westshore Alliance mayoral candidates forum noteworthy for its substance and humor.
Turning to face the former Tampa mayor, now seeking a fifth term, Turanchik criticized Greco's idea of bringing in top Tampa business executives to give him unpaid advice on the city budget.
"When I go for a job interview, I don't tell a bunch of people that I'm going to go ask another group of people how to do the job," he said. "I know what we need to do."
Turanchik, who has a home-building business in West Tampa, also blamed his opponents with City Hall experience for creating "the morass of regulations" that candidates now say make it harder to do business in Tampa.
"I'm amazed to hear these recession converts talking about how they're going to get away from the rules and regulations that they put in place," he said.
As he does in every speech, Buckhorn worked to contrast his vision for Tampa with Greco's decades in city politics.
"It's time to turn the generational page," he said. "Our future, this city's future, is never going to be found in the rear-view mirror."
For his part, Greco parried the jabs with a smile, even suggesting he could bring in Turanchik for advice on mass transit, a specialty that earned him the nickname "Commissioner Choo Choo."
Greco noted he's the only one of the five candidates who has done the job, and touted his record building city projects, bringing in new businesses and strengthening police and other departments.
Yes, Greco acknowledged, he did all that in years past, but that doesn't mean he couldn't do it again. He compared his city experience to the marksmanship that won him skeet-shooting championships while he was in high school.
"I haven't done it in a long time, but I bet you I could beat everybody up here," he said. "There's no question about it, because I know what I'm doing. I've done it. That's what you've got to look at, gang. You want to shoot?"
At another point, Greco thanked the crowd of about 200 for hosting an event "that gives us a forum for saying the same thing."
There was general agreement on some points: The city should try again to create a local rail system, City Hall needs to get a handle on rising pension costs, and the city ought to look at consolidating some services, such as purchasing, with Hillsborough County.
But candidates also offered specific details on their agendas for the city:
• Former County Commissioner Rose Ferlita said the city's fleet maintenance also ought to be a candidate for a money-saving consolidation. On economic development, she discussed working with city employees to think of themselves as public servants instead of civil servants and to become goal-oriented instead of process-oriented.
• Buckhorn said he would create deputy mayors for economic opportunity and neighborhood empowerment.
• If necessary, Turanchik said, he would prefer cutting city employees' pay to laying them off.
• City Council Chairman Thomas Scott said that while the city is required to fund employees' pensions, maybe the city ought to steer new employees into something different, like a 401(k) plan, "something like what you are doing as business owners in this economy."
Despite a few pointed remarks, everyone appeared to leave on good terms.
Immediately after the forum, Greco embraced Turanchik with one hand on the back of Turanchik's neck and the other hooked around his elbow. Then Greco pulled the much taller Turanchik's face to within a few inches of his own and spoke for a moment.
Asked what they talked about in that clinch, Turanchik said, goofy stuff. Greco said he told Turanchik he loved him.
But didn't Turanchik just go after you? a reporter asked.
"Oh, no," Greco said. "He didn't go after me."