Thursday, February 22, 2018
Editorials

Buckhorn lays solid foundation for meeting challenges

Bob Buckhorn won Tampa's mayoral race in a come-from-behind victory by relentlessly selling a vision and sense of energy. The mayor continues to pound home a positive image of a city on the move, and he has demonstrated in his first year in office that his vision extends beyond the city limits to the entire Tampa Bay region. But while he is off to a strong start, Buckhorn's first term ultimately will be measured by how smoothly the city performs in the international spotlight during August's Republican National Convention. The potential rewards for success and the substantial risks of mishandling traffic, protests or other logistics are substantial.

One-year anniversaries are hardly a measure of any mayor. Buckhorn marks that occasion still carving out his priorities, reassembling his top leadership team and struggling with the budget demands of a fourth straight year of declining tax revenues. Like any rookie mayor, his first year largely reflects the state of the city he inherited. He can thank his predecessor, Pam Iorio, for cutting the City Hall workforce even as she tripled the city's cash reserves, enabling him to avoid layoffs and keep his promises to the politically powerful police union.

Still, Buckhorn has worked quickly to lay a new foundation for the three years remaining in his term. He asked a panel of developers to recommend ways to flatten the city's regulatory process, using down time in this slow economy to make the city more competitive once concrete starts pouring again. He also brought in the nation's best urban designers to craft a first-ever master plan for the downtown neighborhoods. Buckhorn is talking up the need to grow and diversify Tampa's economy through partnerships in commercialized health care and other high-tech industries. And he hasn't missed a chance to exploit the media attention for the Republican National Convention, which will be hosted in Tampa. The Democrat is a political animal, and a stage is a stage.

Buckhorn, 53, relishes the pomp and attention of the job, which he had wanted for most of his adult life. The newsletter his staff emails each week manages to capture hizzoner in all range of glory, from signing foreign trade deals and cutting construction ribbons to throwing out the first spring training pitch. But there is a symmetry between Buckhorn's self-promotion and the vision he sells for the city. He understands that the old days of waiting on tourism, retirees and service industry jobs to grow the economy are over; cities must be aggressive in selling themselves and smart about how they invest in education, transportation, the arts and other public amenities that define a community.

That's the reason Buckhorn has been looking at institutions throughout Tampa Bay as regional assets, from the Tampa Bay Rays and the gulf beaches to the area's colleges and universities. He is talking more seriously about the need to build a modern transportation system. And he has recast the discussion on economic development to compete against Dallas and Charlotte, not St. Petersburg. His flirtatious comments regarding a new stadium for the Rays show that balancing regionalism with a sensitivity to local concerns remains a work in progress. But that sort of open discussion and brainstorming is how leaders in metro areas should work together to preserve and enhance shared assets.

Buckhorn has banked a significant amount of goodwill in a short period of time. He hasn't made any major mistakes. But nor has he been tested by crisis. The Republican convention in August will test his leadership before a global audience. Then it will be back to basics — building a better transit system, attracting new jobs, preserving the parks and public order. Buckhorn will need to continue keeping one eye on the horizon and the other on the everyday details of running a city. But he is off to a solid start and preparing to meet the significant challenges ahead.

Comments
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18