In what sounded like early shots fired in the 2027 Tampa mayor’s race, City Council members Bill Carlson and Luis Viera engaged in a near shouting match during a recent council meeting over issuing bonds to build new fire stations, with each accusing the other of playing politics.
Both council members are subjects of speculation, along with numerous other city political leaders, as possible 2027 mayoral candidates, and neither rules it out.
City candidates typically compete for the affections of the politically influential firefighters union, known for providing grassroots political workers to campaigns.
In the Jan. 11 meeting, with union President Don Snipes present, Viera ardently pushed for an initial step toward issuing 30-year bonds — $115 million plus $98 million interest — for four new stations and a maintenance and equipment facility, and called on Snipes for comment.
He and Carlson both favored building the stations. But Carlson, who has clashed with Mayor Jane Castor, also said he didn’t trust the city administration to spend the money as intended, saying it has failed to in the past, or to give the council complete information.
“I will probably never vote against firefighters,” Carlson said. “I just want to make sure that if we approve this that this administration’s going to spend the money in the right way and not move it to some frivolous project.”
Viera objected to “this whole thing about ‘We don’t trust the administration’ seeping into this.”
“I don’t care about politics with this issue,” he responded. “I just want to get this thing passed for Tampa firefighters. I’m not concerned with a war against any council member, against Jane Castor … I just want this damn thing to pass.”
That set off several minutes of back-and-forth with raised voices and personal criticism.
“Councilman Carlson, please have some respect for once, would you, buddy?” Viera said, as Carlson interrupted him.
Carlson responded, “You just accused me of having a political war, how am I supposed to not respond? … “Don’t call me buddy when you’re trying to pick a fight with me.”
Viera said Carlson was “escalating, as you always do,” and Carlson called Viera “passive-aggressive.”
Over cross-talk and invective, Council chairperson Guido Maniscalco twice sought to restore order, slamming his gavel down and saying loudly, “Enough, enough.”
Viera acquiesced to delaying the issue until the council gets further financial data from the city staff.
Correction: Due to a reporter’s error, an earlier version of this story misspelled City Council member Luis Viera’s name, and incorrectly attributed a quote. It was Viera who said, “Councilman Carlson, please have some respect for once, would you, buddy?”