It was good to see Rose Ferlita step forward three days before the start of early voting this week and break radio silence about the agenda she would pursue as Tampa's mayor. There were a few decent ideas buried within the repetitive, 50-page document, but most were too unformed to measure, and several big ideas were little more than recycled promises from other candidates in the race.
If Ferlita was reacting to the criticism that she was dodging specifics, the "plan" unveiled Wednesday does little to help her case.
There were sensible ideas: Offer the private sector some tax breaks and concessions to jump-start the economy. Build stronger partnerships with the University of South Florida and other major institutions. Work harder as a cheerleader to sell the Tampa Bay area. Look for ways to cut the bureaucracy and the budget.
The problem is that every other candidate in the race had already said much of the same. Her challenger in the March 22 runoff, Bob Buckhorn, laid out much of the same material, as did the first-round challengers Ed Turanchik and Tom Scott. All three offered early, specific plans for integrating residential areas with businesses, bringing new housing and retail downtown and serving the neighborhoods better with mass transit.
Several areas where Ferlita did go further are problematic. She proposes a temporary waiver on fees that developers pay for the traffic impacts they cause. And she proposes giving homeowners who improve their property a tax break too. These policies would shift the tax burden from special interests to the general public. And they are small-bore efforts that distract from the larger task of crafting a comprehensive job development strategy.
Ferlita at least got on the board late in the game. Having thrown a plan out there, she has given voters something concrete with which to compare her to Buckhorn. If anything, the proposals show that there's not much difference between the extent that both would reach out to the private sector. The bigger difference is in who is more comfortable and responsible in handling the tools that the next mayor must bring to the table.