1. Opinion

Editorial: Bob Buckhorn focuses on human element in State of the City speech

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn warned about proposed federal spending cuts to housing and transportation and of threats to home-rule powers by lawmakers in Tallahassee.
Published Apr. 4, 2017

With two years left in office, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn used his annual State of the City address Tuesday to measure the city's remarkable progress over the past six years. Rather than offer any sweeping new vision for the remainder of his term, he sought to nail down some unfinished business and to implore residents to look beyond the nation's sharp political divide and make a contribution to their community. This is a mayor who knows the clock is ticking and understands the risks a sour national mood can have on a diverse and growing city.

Buckhorn departed from past State of the City addresses by shifting his attention from shiny new baubles downtown to the human dimension. He mentioned the redevelopment plan for the area west of the Hillsborough River, which would be the city's biggest remake in history, the new University of South Florida medical school downtown and a handful of smaller-scale efforts, from driverless vehicle projects to incubators for startups and high-tech industries.

But the overriding theme of the day was unity. A pre-speech video set above the pounding strains of rhythmic rock featured smiling people from all walks of life testifying to Tampa's culture of tolerance and diversity. Stand together and stand united was also Buckhorn's opening pitch and a point he returned to later in the speech. He warned about proposed federal spending cuts to housing, transportation and urban aid — an "unprecedented attack" on cities, he said — and of threats to home-rule powers by state lawmakers in Tallahassee. His point is that cities are more on their own and residents need strong local connections if urban areas are to thrive.

The crowd of several hundred in the midmorning heat at Kiley Garden heard a mercifully brief address that focused more on the nuts and bolts of where the city has come under Buckhorn than where it is going. There was no substantive talk about pursuing a transportation initiative, a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays or a framework for countering the budget cuts and power grab at the state and federal levels.

Still, the call for unity in his first State of the City address since last November's election seems timely. He announced a new campaign to make Tampa more accommodating to those with autism, and he linked the city's economic prospects to its ability to attract people across racial, ethnic and other lines.

Buckhorn's announcement last month that he would not seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 has freed him to focus on getting several high-profile projects in shape before leaving office in 2019. Tuesday's speech reflected the unique role of mayors in American politics. Rather than highlight downtown development, Buckhorn talked of how afterschool programs improve public safety. He called for civic obligation and stronger ties between citizens and police. Cities can rebuild their cores, but neighborhoods can crumble one flashpoint at a time. Buckhorn seems sensitive to preventing social gaps from growing as Tampa grows. It doesn't make for the most dramatic speech, but it's an intangible that shapes every city for better or for worse.


  1. Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
  2. Editorial cartoon for Saturday/Sunday Andy Marlette/Creators Syndicate
  3. Stock photo. MORGAN DAVID DE LOSSY  |  Getty Images/iStockphoto
    I’m a new mom -- again -- and please remember that many mothers would welcome government policies that make it easier for them to stay home with their kids than returning to work. | Column
  4. Josh Hensley, 43, was found in the waters of Kings Bay in Crystal River. He was known for dressing as Jack Sparrow. Facebook
    Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
  5. David Colburn was the former provost and senior vice president of the University of Florida. JAMIE FRANCIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    He believed that diversity is our strength, and that the way to overcome division is to shine light in dark corners, writes Cynthia Barnett.
  6. Adam Goodman, national Republican media consultant
    With Washington once again failing to embrace reforms following mass shootings, it’s up to Americans to create a movement to demand change. | Adam Goodman
  7. Couple, Lewis Bryan, 36, (back left) and Amber Eckloff, 33, pose for a portrait with their children, (From left) D'Angelo Eckloff, 14, Rasmus Bryan, 4, Ramiro Bryan, 10, Lothario Bryan, 6, and Alonzo Bailey, 17. The family has been living at the Bayway Inn on 34th St S. Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 in St. Petersburg.  MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    When about 40 percent of city households are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, something has to change.
  8. A judge ruled in June that it is up to Hillsborough County Commissioners to decide how much money the bus agency and other transportation projects get from the one-cent transportation sales tax voters approved in November. The board did just that this week.[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    Hillsborough commissioners follow through on transportation funding.
  9. From left to right: Florida Department of Transportation workers inspect damage to the Interstate 175 overpass at Sixth Street S caused by a roll-off dumpster truck that left its hydraulic arm upright, according to St. Petersburg police [JAMES BORCHUCK | Tampa Bay Times]; Former Pinellas school guardian Erick Russell, 37, is accused of pawning the Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol, body armor and two magazines he was issued to protect students [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]; Johnna Lynn Flores [AUSTIN ANTHONY | Tampa Bay Times] Tampa Bay Times
    Here are three examples of routine information Tampa Bay governments kept from the public this week.
  10. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos; Florida state Sen. Tom Lee presides over the Senate's committee on infrastructure and security in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. The committee is considering new legislation to help address mass violence. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) Times files/Associated Press
    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos and state Sen. Tom Lee speak up. When will others?