TAMPA — If you thought it couldn’t get any worse after Bill Carlson referred to Bob Buckhorn as a brutal third-world dictator, then you weren’t following their Twitter feeds Wednesday.
Buckhorn had been using the social media platform to rag on Tampa Bay Water and St. Petersburg elected officials since the latest dust up at a Monday meeting of the regional water utility.
Never one to mince words, Buckhorn linked the Sunshine City’s opposition to Tampa’s plan to convert 50 million gallons of highly-treated sewage into something you can drink to a recent Tampa Bay Times’ story revealing how St. Petersburg has violated state standards for the quality of the wastewater it pumps into the aquifer.
Then Carlson decided to weigh in. The new City Council member is no fan of Tampa’s controversial plan. He’s said he won’t vote for a city budget that includes any funding for the proposal critics have dubbed “toilet-to-tap.”
So he responded to Buckhorn’s tweet with what amounted to a leg sweep.
When a Times reporter called both of them, well, it was on like Donkey Kong.
First, Buckhorn. The man who ran Tampa between 2011 and three months ago said he hadn’t seen Carlson’s tweet. When it was read to him, Buckhorn had plenty to say.
“I don’t pay attention to him and I don’t know anyone who does," said the mayor about his nemesis, who runs the Tucker Hall public relations agency in Tampa. He said that, in his opinion, Carlson “tends to peddle conspiracy theories.”
“Hopefully, now that he has good health care, maybe he can finally get some help,” the mayor quipped in a verbal equivalent to a hard jab to the ribs.
Carlson, informed of Buckhorn’s comments, said it was obvious to him that the mayor had become unhinged.
“He’s gone off the deep end because he realizes he’s irrelevant. He’s fighting for an audience that he obviously desperately needs,” Carlson said. “His whole administration’s brand was based on him, not on facts. The facts show he did a terrible job.”
Just in case you’re wondering, Buckhorn and Carlson are both Democrats.
Buckhorn was a popular mayor right up until he handed over the keys to the city to Jane Castor. On Wednesday, he appeared in good spirits. Before he left office, he told the Times he wouldn’t insert himself into Tampa politics in Castor’s first few months, but Wednesday evening he acknowledged that Twitter was a tempting arena for the political combat he never ran away from while in office.
Speaking of Castor, the current mayor didn’t respond to a request for comment made through a spokeswoman about how she felt about all the drama.