The Times Editorial Board picks for Tampa City Council
After the March 7 elections, four council seats remain up for grabs.
The Tampa runoff elections are April 25. Early voting starts April 17.
The Tampa runoff elections are April 25. Early voting starts April 17. [ PATTI SAPONE | ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published March 23

The Tampa City Council faces many challenges, from expanding affordable housing and improving mass transit to modernizing the city’s aging infrastructure. Districts 1, 2 and 3 are citywide seats, open to all Tampa voters in this nonpartisan election. District 6 includes West Tampa, Riverside Heights, central Tampa and Beach Park. Council members are elected to four-year terms beginning May 1 and paid $52,060 per year. Early voting begins April 17 and Election Day is April 25.

DISTRICT 1: Alan Clendenin

Alan Clendenin
Alan Clendenin [ Alan Clendenin ]

Alan Clendenin got into the runoff by securing 40% of the vote in a four-person race earlier this month, a commanding result that reflects his compelling agenda. Clendenin’s support for neighborhoods, smart growth and transparency at City Hall make him uniquely suited for this citywide seat.

Clendenin, 63, is a retired air traffic controller and 37-year Hillsborough County resident with a long history of involvement in Tampa’s civic affairs. His depth across a range of city issues and appreciation for Tampa’s rich diversity gives him the rounded perspective essential for a citywide representative.

Clendenin is a serious, thoughtful leader who would bring competence and mature thinking to City Hall. He supports an expansion of multifamily housing in traditional neighborhoods, more investment in mass transit and a smarter approach to growth in densely-populated South Tampa. He also is keenly sensitive to the character of individual neighborhoods. That’s vital in a council member if Tampa hopes to avoid over-gentrification. He supports more spending on sidewalks, fire stations and other bread-and-butter basics, and his level head would help keep the council from spiraling into needless political spats.

Sonja P. Brookins, a 60-year-old physiology professor, placed second in the March 7 election with 22% of the vote, moving her to the runoff. She would prioritize housing and small-business development and expand mentorship programs at the Tampa Police Department to strengthen the department’s community ties. Brookins has long been involved in local civic causes. She believes that council is not reflective of Tampa’s diverse communities, and she wants to encourage more grassroots level activism.

Clendenin, though, seems equally committed to those priorities. He is open, accessible and attuned to what’s happening, and his energy and creative thinking would make council a stronger player in Tampa’s continued development.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Alan Clendenin for Tampa City Council District 1.

District 2: Guido Maniscalco

Guido Maniscalco
Guido Maniscalco [ handout ]

Guido Maniscalco is a current council member who’s termed out of his West Tampa seat and is now seeking election citywide. He is a sensible council member whose advocacy for working-class neighborhoods and small businesses shows the right priorities.

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Maniscalco, 38, was first elected in 2015 and reelected in 2019. He pushed to expand affordable housing, and wants to go further by increasing the use of garage apartments and other accessory units on single-family properties. Maniscalco would also spend more for new fire stations throughout the city, and he has called for increased spending in heavily Black East Tampa, which has historically been underserved, to pay for new sidewalks, parks and other basics.

Robin Lockett won 25% of the vote in the four-way race on March 7, placing second to Maniscalco, who won 47%, propelling both into a runoff election. Lockett, 58, has been active locally in tenants’ rights issues as Tampa Bay’s regional director of Florida Rising, an economic and racial justice advocacy group in Florida. She promises to bring more urgency to housing issues, a greater lens on neighborhood equity and an open mind to controversial matters, such as the mayor’s proposal to explore useful purposes for Tampa’s treated wastewater.

Maniscalco, though, would be more effective from Day 1. His agenda and approach to governing is similar to Lockett’s, but he has a healthier understanding of where the mayor and council can work together. Maniscalco needs to show more resolve at times, but his calm demeanor and common sense have come through in critical moments. His relative youth also makes city government more reflective of the population it serves.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Guido Maniscalco for Tampa City Council District 2.

District 3: Janet Cruz

Janet Cruz
Janet Cruz [ STEFANIE THEODOROPOULOS | handout ]

This race has become something of a proxy war over Mayor Jane Castor’s agenda and the balance of power between Tampa’s executive and legislative branches. But the winner will face more serious issues than personality or politics, and Janet Cruz’s proven ability to get things done makes her the strongest choice.

Cruz is a 66-year-old lifelong Tampa resident who served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018 and in the Florida Senate from 2018-2022. While in Tallahassee, she championed housing, mass transit, civil rights and other issues, and she promises to bring those same priorities to local government.

Cruz wants to incentivize developers to expand affordable housing, and work to help seniors and blue-collar workers remain in their homes. She understands that higher rents and housing prices are pushing many in Tampa’s workforce to the relatively cheaper suburbs, where they face longer commutes that threaten to disrupt the city’s labor market. She wants more crosswalks, traffic lights and other safety measures to reduce the risks to pedestrians, and supports more focused recycling and environmental programs and grants to encourage small businesses.

City Council member Lynn Hurtak was appointed to this seat in April to serve out the term after John Dingfelder resigned. The Tampa native also embraces smart growth and would make expanding affordable housing her top priority. Hurtak wants to encourage so-called “middle housing” — duplexes, triplexes and quads — and put a greater emphasis on restoring rather than replacing existing homes. Hurtak also would expand mass transit in the city, explore more sustainable waste management practices and pay greater attention to the parks and other amenities throughout the city.

Hurtak placed first in the five-way race earlier this month, taking 43% of the vote to Cruz’s 39%. The issue that divides them most is a city proposal to convert Tampa’s treated wastewater into more useful purposes. Hurtak opposes the project; Cruz says that further environmental studies are necessary to make an informed decision. By keeping her mind open, Cruz shows the seriousness this matter deserves. Her stance also reflects a practicality that is essential for a citywide council member, who must continually balance competing needs of Tampa’s many diverse neighborhoods.

During a political forum last month, Cruz cast Hurtak as being anti-gay after Hurtak raised concerns that Cruz — whose daughter is Castor’s domestic partner — would have special access to the mayor. It was a cheap shot; the comment was baseless and it ignored the legitimate question of whether the relationship would pose a conflict for Cruz on council.

As for Cruz’s relationship with the mayor, voters will have ample opportunity to see if that relationship affects her performance. Cruz has demonstrated her independence throughout her career and deserves the benefit of the doubt.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Janet Cruz for Tampa City Council District 3.

District 6: Charlie Miranda

Charlie Miranda
Charlie Miranda [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Charlie Miranda fell only 53 votes short (out of total 8,162 cast) of outright winning this five-way race earlier this month, a testament to his dedication to constituent service as a council member over the years. He is by far the strongest choice in this race.

Miranda, 82, has served on council for eight terms over the years, and his experience, institutional knowledge and level head has been invaluable for city government as Tampa has grown economically and raised its national appeal.

Miranda has been a longtime supporter of upgrading the city’s basic infrastructure. He understands that reliable water, wastewater and other public services are essential to Tampa’s continued growth. Miranda has long pushed to expand and improve the city’s code enforcement division to maintain the quality of neighborhoods. And he has been fiscally responsible, keeping a close tab of city spending and hiring.

Miranda supports expanding affordable housing by, in part, allowing secondary units on residential lots to increase the residential supply. He is right to insist that the changes not harm the character of single-family neighborhoods. Miranda has advocated for greener, more sustainable development practices, and smarter approaches to urban design. And he has strongly supported mass transit, public safety and other priorities that directly shape a community’s quality of life.

Hoyt Prindle, a 38-year-old attorney, describes himself as a fresh voice with new energy, and his service on area transportation advisory boards gives him a firm grip on Tampa’s challenges in expanding mobility options. Prindle has creative ideas for making neighborhoods more livable, and he is solidly grounded on a range of issues, from housing to community policing. He says the current council is not up to the challenges of a growing city. That generalization is unfair, but on balance, Prindle is a serious, thoughtful candidate with a genuine desire to serve.

Miranda, though, would be far more effective, and his personal strengths and connection to his constituents help make city government work for the people. Miranda is the council member residents turn to when they have a problem. He is open, accessible and accountable, a strong advocate for open government and a voice for the little guy.

The Tampa Bay Times recommends Charlie Miranda for Tampa City Council District 6.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.