Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Editorial: Tampa should keep firm hand on redevelopment money

Tampa City Hall. Times (2018)
Published May 26

One overriding theme in Tampa's city elections this spring was the need to focus more resources on struggling neighborhoods. Toward that end, several City Council members have suggested shifting control of some tax-funded redevelopment efforts, putting them under the control of nonprofits instead of City Hall. This looks like a recipe for waste, mismanagement and a lack of accountability.

The winning candidates for mayor and council generally agreed more needs to be done to improve East Tampa and West Tampa, two neighborhoods with a large number of minority residents and pockets of blight that critics say the city has overlooked while redeveloping a glittery downtown. One possibility, several council members have suggested, is revamping Tampa's Community Redevelopment Areas - separate revenue-raising districts for nine distinct areas of the city. Tax dollars generated by rising property values in those areas is poured back into the districts, paying for needs within each area. As the Tampa Bay Times' Charlie Frago reported this month, several council members suggested that nonprofits might make the decision-making process more inclusive than management from City Hall.

But that change could be a big loser for residents, businesses and taxpayers. The redevelopment agencies already have community advisory boards that serve as the eyes and ears for what local residents want. These boards include residents and business owners who have lived in the districts for years or decades. They bring an ownership stake and an institutional history with the district that no nonprofit could match.

Critics also complain that redevelopment funds are spent on city salaries. But having city staff working with the redevelopment agencies is good for the neighborhoods and taxpayers alike. City staffers contribute valuable expertise in planning, property development, legal counsel, finance and other areas. Salaries consume only a tiny fraction of the redevelopment monies, about 4 percent of all revenues. The potential savings is hardly a legitimate selling point.

Having these operations under direct city control ensures some consistency in planning. The funds pay for everything from mass transit downtown to pressure washing Ybor City's historic streets and paying to beautify commercial corridors. Imagine the waste if a stand-alone nonprofit spent tens of thousands of dollars to plant trees along a street where the city had intended to widen the sidewalks.

The redevelopment agencies fund key public investments and core city services in targeted areas, projects the city augments with larger spending on public safety, job development, transportation and public utilities. The left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing. And elected council members oversee the redevelopment funds. Shifting the management to private nonprofits would reduce transparency and create an accountability gap.

This move looks less like a thoughtful policy proposal than an opening bid to challenge new Mayor Jane Castor. If this involves more than offering false hopes to the poorer neighborhoods and yanking the administration's chain, supporters have several months before the issue comes back to council to make a better argument.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Editorial cartoons for Wednesday from Times wire services Andy Marlette/Creators Syndicate
  2. The M-16 is a pure military weapon. File photo
    Wednesday’s letters to the editor
  3. State Rep. Chris Sprowls, 35, R-Palm Harbor, speaks Tuesday after Republicans selected him as the next House speaker.  Associated Press I Caina Calvan BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP
    The Palm Harbor Republican will become the second Florida House speaker from Pinellas.
  4. Hernando County community news Tara McCarty
  5. editorial cartoon from times wires Andy Marlette -- Pensacola News Journal
  6. Governor Ron DeSantis. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s paper.
  7. Chris Corr is the president of Raydient Places & Properties, Rayonier, and the chair of the Florida Council of 100, a nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders. Tim Nickens
    The Council of 100 focuses on new strategies to recruit and retain the best teachers. | Column
  8. Oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in April 2010.  [Associated Press]
    The House has voted to permanently ban oil drilling off the Gulf Coast. Now the Senate should approve it.
  9. Oscar-winning pop star Sam Smith, who is non-binary, announced Friday that they now use "they/them" as their third-person pronouns. On social media, they said that "after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am ..." JOEL C RYAN  |  Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
    The singer now uses they/them pronouns. It shouldn’t be hard for reporters to recognize — and explain — gender non-binary terms. | Ashley Dye
  10. After more than 18 years as a Times columnist, Ernest Hooper starts a new chapter as assistant sports editor. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After more than 18 years as a Times columnist, Ernest Hooper starts a new chapter as assistant sports editor.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement