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New Straz proposal promises ethics reform

The retired banker promises to reform city contracts among other aspects of Tampa city governmentT

TAMPA—With the race to become Tampa’s next mayor winding down to its final days, David Straz released his first detailed policy proposal Thursday since the runoff election began in early March.

COMPLETE GUIDE: Read everything the Tampa Bay Times has written about the mayoral election.

Straz proposes to make the following changes as part of what his campaign characterizes as “sweeping ethics reform,” according to a news release Thursday:

  • No city contract can be awarded to a company or firm that donates more than $2,500 combined from the owner, managers, employees and their spouses and family members of the contractor or subcontractor for the first 2 years the candidate is in office.
  • Institute “scored blind contracting” where during the selection process the names of firms are not revealed, only their score of qualifications, cost, etc.
  • Require all contractors to report any subcontractors hired within 24 hours of hiring them on a city contract.
  • Require all subcontractors to report any subcontractors they hire within 24 hours of hiring them on a city contract.

Straz, 76, has spent nearly $4.6 million of his own $426 million fortune on his first run for elected office. Much of that money has been spent on a series of negative ads.

In recent days, he has attacked Castor for accepting campaign donations “from the good old boys,” including a $200,000 from an unnamed Channelside developer in a television ad.

TAMPA MAYORAL RACE: Straz ad repeats broken pledge about limiting campaign contributions to $500

That unnamed developer is Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

Earlier in the campaign, Straz called for Vinik to be investigated for his undue influence over city government. After a public backlash, the Straz campaign backtracked, claiming the candidate had just meant Vinik’s role should be further explored. Later, the campaign said that Straz had been referring to the work of unnamed bloggers, not Vinik.

The ad doesn’t name Vinik.

MORE COVERAGE: Straz calls for Vink investigation

Domain Homes, which has given $26,000 to the Castor campaign, was named in the ad. The builder’s contract to build affordable housing in East Tampa has come under fire for being too expensive for most residents.

MORE COVERAGE: Domain Homes and East Tampa

The release included a quote attributed to Straz.

"As a private citizen I believe it is a conflict for politicians to receive huge political contributions and then award contracts,” read the statement. “These reforms mean that big money contributors to a mayoral candidate can’t do business with the city for two years.”

The latest campaign finance reports showed Castor has raised about $1.9 million between individual contributions and her political committee, Tampa Strong. That’s about 40 percent of Straz’s war chest.

The Castor campaign responded that Straz picked a strange topic in which to dive into policy.

“By election day David Straz will have spent nearly $5 million dollars on a negative campaign that has focused solely on tearing down Jane Castor with false attacks. He has yet to share his vision or any plan for how he will address issues of importance to our citizens. While I am pleased to see that he, at long last, has taken time to focus on a policy, it is perplexing that the focus is on campaign finance reform,” said Castor adviser Adam Smith.

“We imagine most of our community would like to see an end to uber wealthy people trying to buy elections.”

The election is April 23.