1. Florida Politics

Carlton: The mayor who said too much

MONICA HERNDON   |   Times Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn talks during an editorial board meeting at the Tampa Bay Times newsroom in Tampa, Fla. on February 20, 2018.
MONICA HERNDON | Times Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn talks during an editorial board meeting at the Tampa Bay Times newsroom in Tampa, Fla. on February 20, 2018.
Published Mar. 27, 2018

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is brash. You could even call the mayor mouthy. The man can full-on brag all day long about his town becoming a national contender.

The mayor, however, has also been known to sound less, shall we say, considered in his remarks.

There was that time he called Hills­borough School Board members "mean girls."

Or when he joked about aiming twin machine guns at reporters at a military demonstration and making them cry — that not-so-funny one making news in the Washington Post.

And most recently, there was Buckhorn's vow to appeal a federal jury's $245,000 verdict for a female firefighter who claimed she was subjected to discrimination and retaliation on the job. The mayor told the Tampa Bay Times afterward that the city would push back, that there was "more than one side to this story."

At best, this was refusing to shake hands after you lost the match. But it was way worse, given that the subject was the treatment of a woman in a mostly male job.

How hard could this be? The mayor could have easily heeded the example of all those savvy lawyers who, in the face of defeat, say something about respecting the jury and respecting the justice system even if you respectfully disagree with the verdict, with all due respect. Really, you can't use the word "respect" enough here.

Later, after post-trial rulings from the judge, the mayor said through a spokeswoman that the city wouldn't appeal after all — a wise move that will save taxpayers from shelling out more money.

And one that actually does respect — if not Tanja Vidovic, who filed suit — at least the citizens who got a jury summons, showed up and did their job.

It's absolutely Buckhornian: lead with your chin, then do what you should have done in the first place.

On the pointing-machine-guns-at-reporters joke, he first said critics were being oversensitive, but later apologized.

He once quipped that he didn't need support for his budget from a City Council member holding out for a public pool in his district because, the mayor implied, he had enough votes in the bag.

Then the mayor and council member were both there the day that pool opened to a platoon of kids, saying nice things about each other.

And back when the Times first detailed concerns from female firefighters, the mayor talked of "a few chronic whiners" who "complain about everything."

He also ordered up more diversity training and privacy for firehouse dormitories.

Say the wrong thing, do the right one.

On a recent Saturday, Buckhorn stood on stage in a pair of shamrock-green trousers to dye the Hillsborough River green, his own well-attended city tradition borrowed from Chicago and his Irish roots. And last week he was at his most mayoral: front and center with the thousands who gathered for Tampa's March for Our Lives rally, the mayor calling for commonsense gun laws and strongly supporting the voices of students against gun violence.

That's the Buckhorn you want to hear talking.


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