Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Politics

Carlton: Would you pay $35 million for a park?

Shoot down a tax for transportation, if you must. Refuse to pay a taxpayer dime for some fancy new sports stadium, fine.

But it's hard to argue against a park.

This is especially true since downtown Tampa is finally getting parks right after those dismal years of sad, patchy stretches of grass with a waterfront hidden in there somewhere, and people not much interested in being there even in daylight.

Now the town's just showing off. These days, Tampa's parks teem with residents splashing in fountains and enjoying the river for its boats, surfacing turtles and, as I witnessed last weekend, manatees frolicking in a flowing spring (rented, I strongly suspect, from the nearby Lowry Park Zoo as ambience).

So, a question: How much is too much to pay for a park?

Thursday, the Tampa City Council will consider Mayor Bob Buckhorn's plans for "the biggest park project we've ever undertaken" — $35.5 million for a now sadly under-used but oh-so-promising 23 acres sprawled on the west side of the river across from the high-rises of downtown.

We're not just talking about adding a few amenities and opening up water views by razing the park's odd man-made hills (or "alien space mounds," as the mayor calls them, which does not sound like a compliment).

At Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, built in the 1970s and named for a previous mayor, we're talking transformation: a great lawn for events, a bustling riverfront with a boathouse, community room and deck, a promenade and facilities for basketball, tennis, soccer and football with bleachers. All of which could open next year.

So about that $35.5 million — $15 million of which would come from the $20 million Tampa got from the BP oil spill settlement:

Council member Lisa Montelione: "Yeah, that's way too much." Harry Cohen, whose South Tampa constituency has not been quiet about wanting fixes for flooding: "It's a lot of money and I'm taking my time making a decision. I want to hear what the public has to say and what the other council members have to say."

Council elder statesman Charlie Miranda: "I've never voted against any park in my life. The only drawback I see is that it is $35 million."

Funny, though, how politics can make strange bedfellows. Council member Frank Reddick, who represents some of the city's poorest neighborhoods and has clashed with the mayor more than once, is with Buckhorn on this one because of all it could be for the community around it. (The mayor "will probably be shocked himself," Reddick says.)

Here's why paying for this park will probably pass, and probably should. Two words: West Tampa.

The mayor envisions a thriving West River neighborhood, but to old-timers, it will always be West Tampa. The land — all those valuable park acres smack in the middle of a city — lies at the edge of the historic and hardscrabble Hispanic community that has seen its share of blight. And which has not gotten the same care and maintenance as some wealthier parts of town.

"It's about time we spend some money in West Tampa," says council member Yvonne Yolie Capin. Guido Maniscalco and Mike Suarez say they're in, too. "A hefty price tag," says Suarez, "but we have not put this much money into Old West Tampa in I don't know how many years."

Those other city parks, once neglected and now thriving, prove this much: If you build it, they will come, even if it's on the other side of the river.

Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]

Comments

Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real estate deals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)ATLANTA — On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson. "I know you have done a good job," Hannity said. "You are a good man."Carson’s presence gav...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Published: 04/23/18
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott’s first policy idea as a U.S. Senate candidate won’t happen and most of his fellow Republicans don’t support it.But it’s a surefire applause line at political rallies.Scott wants term limits for members of Congress: 12 ye...
Published: 04/23/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18
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...
Published: 04/19/18