Advertisement
  1. Tampa

Jane Castor, David Straz tangle over needs of Tampa's black community

Former Tampa police chief Jane Castor, left, faces retired banker and philanthropist David Straz in the April 23 runoff election to become Tampa’s next mayor. [Times files]
Published Mar. 14

TAMPA — The first mayoral face-off since the race came down to Jane Castor vs. David Straz took place in a historic West Tampa library. It was anything but quiet.

Emotions ran high during Thursday night's 56-minute forum between the supporters of both candidates. There was also occasional heckling from the crowd and one incident cleared some of the room and necessitated a brief pause.

FROM THE TAMPA BAY TIMES: Complete Guide to Tampa's 2019 mayor's race.

THE RUNOFF: Jane Castor will face David Straz in April 23 runoff for Tampa mayor

THE DEBATES: David Straz agrees to three debates. Jane Castor wants at least five more.

The stage was set earlier in the day, when Straz agreed to participate in the forum, organized by the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus, and three other debates on TV and radio leading up to the April 23 election.

The self-proclaimed 76-year-old underdog and philanthropist arrived at the West Tampa Branch Library ready to tussle with Castor, the 59-year-old former police chief who tripled his vote count in the March 5 election.

But Straz missed at least 10 candidate forums leading up to the election and has already missed one appearance with Castor. He plans to skip Friday's debate in front of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club, too.

In their first head-to-head meeting, racial profiling, "biking while black" and a City Hall culture that ignores minority communities and businesses were foremost on the agenda.

Castor again apologized for the Tampa Police Department disproportionately citing black bicyclists for minor infractions during her tenure as police chief, a disparity first reported by the Tampa Bay Times in 2015.

Then Straz seized on his outsider status and said he could do better.

"I didn't do it," he said to the cheers of dozens of his supporters. He vowed to tell his police chief if elected that "there will be no more of this stuff in East Tampa."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: David Straz has yet to commit to any mayoral debates. The first one is Monday

Castor rarely took the bait, although she occasionally flashed her irritation. When Straz said he would order Tampa police to stop making marijuana-related arrests, Castor noted that city had already decriminalized small amounts of the drug several years ago.

"That's been taken care of," she said. "So you don't have to worry about that, Mr. Straz."

And when Straz reiterated his apology for voting for President Donald Trump in 2016, Castor replied succinctly:

"I did not vote for Donald Trump."

Straz did not retreat. He criticized Castor's acceptance of campaign contributions from Domain Homes, a builder whose development in East Tampa has rankled some residents as unaffordable and aimed at newcomers, not residents. And he repeated his long-standing campaign theme that minority communities have been mistreated in Tampa.

"What's happened in the black community is simply not right," he said.

Most of the questions revolved around issues important to the city black community, which comprises about one-quarter of the population. Both Castor and Straz vowed to increase the percentage of city contracts awarded to black-owned businesses. However, both avoided naming a specific percentage that would be awarded, which was part of the question asked by moderator Ella Coffee.

Both candidates also said the city's municipal workforce needs to become more diverse, and both vowed to step up efforts to build more affordable housing and slow the speed of gentrification in poorer, minority neighborhoods.

Instead of substance, it was often tone that separated Castor and Straz, which was highlighted by their responses when asked how to mend distrust between City Hall and the black community.

"It's a good question, but I'm not the one to ask it to," Straz said. "I simply will not allow these things to happen."

Straz also promised to make sure the police chief reports to the mayor.

"The police chief has always reported to the mayor," Castor replied.

"That's the problem," Straz said.

"That's the problem?" Castor said, pausing while looking quizzically at the retired banker. "The relationships in our community aren't perfect, but they are good.

"And what it comes down to: a relationship — whether it's personal, whether it's professional, is communication."

Castor emphasized her 31-year career as a police officer, culminating in her tenure as chief from 2009 to 2015. She also displayed knowledge of city contracts and housing incentives that Straz himself admitted he needed to bone up on.

Straz highlighted his business experience and financial acumen and boasted of his relationship with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who he said he was going to meet with there next week. He vowed to get Tampa the support from Bloomberg's philanthropic foundation that was awarded to St. Petersburg last year.

Straz boasted of his connections. Most don't have access to powerful people like Bloomberg, Straz said, but added: "I do."

The two candidates likely won't faces each other again until April, when their televised debates are set to start.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. John Jonchuck returned to a Pinellas County courtroom last month to attend a hearing about whether he was entitled to a new trial. A judge on Tuesday ruled that he is not. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Jonchuck was convicted of first-degree murder in April. He dropped his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe Jonchuck, off a bridge in 2015.
  2. Watermans Crossing apartments at 4515 N. Rome Avenue in Tampa. Westside Capital Group
    Jakub Hejl discovered the Tampa Bay area while studying at IMG Academy.
  3. Eboni Wiley, left, testifies Monday in the murder trial of ex-boyfriend Granville Ritchie. Wiley was supposed to be caring for 9-year-old Felecia Williams the day the girl disappeared. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Eboni Wiley testifies that she’s telling the truth now about events surrounding the 2014 disappearance of Felecia Williams.
  4. Tampa police found Donta Allen, 33, in the area of E Palifox Street near N 44th Street at about 9 p.m. Sunday. He was suffering from upper body trauma and died later in a hospital. [TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Tampa Police Department
    Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen Donta Allen, 33, on Sunday night near the Tampa office center.
  5. Old Augusta bricks pave the road on West Bay Street in the Spanishtown Creek section of Hyde Park. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The neighborhood association wants the city to promise via an ordinance to not remove their community’s historic street bricks.
  6. A study found that two of the worst intersections in the country for running red lights are in the Tampa Bay area. Tampa Bay Times
    Two intersections are among the worst for running red lights
  7. Eboni Wiley, left, testifies at the trial of her ex-boyfriend Granville Ritchie who is accused of raping and killing 9-year-old Felecia Williams in 2014. Wiley led the girl to Ritchie, according to the state. Hillsborough Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Johnson, right, questions Wiley in a Hillsborough County Courtroom.Octavi OCTAVIO JONES  |  Octavio Jones
    Eboni Wiley was a friend of Felecia Williams’ family. She told jurors how she brought the girl to the man standing trial for raping and killing the 9-year-old.
  8. A homeless Vietnam War veteran in Clearwater answers questions for a Pinellas County homeless survey. A shortage of affordable housing is considered a major cause of homelessness among vets in the Tampa Bay area. [Times files]
    Local agency leaders called on members of Congress to increase national affordable housing options as a solution to veteran homelessness
  9. Holland America says the cruise ship Veendam, shown here at the dock in Tampa in 2005, will return to Port Tampa Bay from November 2020 through April 2021. (Times files) GOETHE, THOMAS M.  |  St. Petersburg Times
    The cruise line dropped Tampa in the spring, but said it might be back.
  10. Hillsborough Democratic Party Executive Director Mark Hanisee. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Party officials said they sold 750 tickets for $100 to $200 each for the Kennedy-King Dinner.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement