It was the kind of photo-op politicians love.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled plans Wednesday to turn a once-scuzzy stormwater pond near Osborne Avenue into a park with 110 new trees, an exercise trail and scenic boardwalk. East Tampa residents who had complained about the pond for years were grateful. Buckhorn, who had thought the city should do something to beautify the pond since serving on the City Council, was happy to deliver.
But where was Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, who represents East Tampa?
He wasn't snubbing the event, he says, and he wasn't being snubbed, the mayor says.
Instead, Reddick said he got word of the kickoff too late to attend.
And he's not happy about it.
"We normally get advance notice," he said. "I'm disappointed because this is part of my district."
The first Reddick heard of Wednesday's kickoff was noon Tuesday when he walked into a lunch for the East Tampa Community Development Corp., and a city employee handed him a flier about it. About two hours later, his office got an email with a notice about the event. Reddick had appointments scheduled Wednesday morning with people who had been trying to meet with him for a couple of weeks, and he didn't want to cancel them at the last minute.
"I was caught off-guard because I was unaware that this was taking place," he said. After the event, he said his office got a call, as he expected, asking him why he wasn't there.
Buckhorn said his staff didn't mean to leave anyone out.
"That wasn't by design or with intent," Buckhorn said of Reddick. "We want him there. Absolutely we want him there. He's been an integral part of all that we've done out there and we want that to continue."
What happened, Buckhorn said, was it took some time for the city to get the project going but his office didn't realize until very recently that a contract for the trail is going to the City Council on Thursday. Still, Buckhorn wanted to hold a public event to announce the project.
"It just came together rather hastily," he said.