Tampa's City Council should fill two vacant seats with people who can move the city forward, not backward. Though the city charter leaves real power to the mayor, the council still plays an important role as a check on the mayor and as a sounding board for the neighborhoods. Council members should look for fresh faces who bring a real passion to growing the city.
The council will appoint two people later this month to replace council members John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena, who resigned to run for higher office. Though the terms expire in March, the appointees will face serious decisions over the budget, transportation, cuts to public services and a range of complex policy issues. This is not a sinecure for the lazy or the bored looking to cash in or coast along in retirement mode.
While the charter reserves almost all power for the mayor, the council plays a vital role in balancing the mayor's agenda and in ensuring that all areas of the city receive their fair share of attention. That job is especially important as the city, with fewer dollars to spend, must make more tough choices about how much to spend on roads, parks and other priorities.
Council members should look for appointees who grasp that the recession has fundamentally changed how government has to operate. Tampa needs to look toward consolidating services with Hills- borough County and other area governments. It needs a more focused, robust effort to attract clean, high-paying jobs. And it needs a plan to kick-start redevelopment of blighted urban neighborhoods. The mayor may control City Hall, but individual council members have a role in promoting these agendas, too.
The council needs appointees with vision and open minds who have the energy to get on the mayor's radar. It would be a lost opportunity if the council settled on career politicians from the past. One applicant, Joe Greco, left the council in 1998 after enabling an ambulance-contract scandal. Another, Mary Alvarez, dozed through two four-year terms. The days are over when council members could get by as placeholders. The council should look for appointees who bring a broad grasp of city issues and a record of being engaged.
Applications will be accepted through today, and council members will select the appointees July 19. This is a good opportunity for the city to groom the next generation of leaders.