There’s more smack talk than sentiment as Tampa council members bid farewell

The final meeting of this seven-member group started and ended with playful barbs.
Plaques from the police and fire unions marked the final council meeting for the current Tampa City Council. From left are council members Harry Cohen, Yvonne Yolie Capin, Frank Reddick and Mike Suarez. [CHARLIE FRAGO   |   Times]
Plaques from the police and fire unions marked the final council meeting for the current Tampa City Council. From left are council members Harry Cohen, Yvonne Yolie Capin, Frank Reddick and Mike Suarez. [CHARLIE FRAGO | Times]
Published April 25
Updated April 25

TAMPA — Tough banter and quick wit, the better to cover up those pesky emotions. Call it the Tampa goodbye.

Four members of the City Council who are leaving office because of term limits said their farewells from the dais Thursday and went out like they served — feisty and unapologetic.

Harry Cohen was first in the barrel, targeted by council wag Charlie Miranda over Cohen’s unsuccessful run for mayor.

"Harry said, 'Thank you God for not letting me finish second," Miranda quipped as he presented Cohen with a commemorative street sign.

"You're very funny," Cohen deadpanned.

"Just imagine!" yelled someone in the audience, repeating the campaign tagline of David Straz — the second-place finisher who was steamrolled by Jane Castor in the mayoral election Tuesday.

Those leaving also had their own fun with the three members who will serve another four years —Miranda, Luis Viera and Guido Maniscalco.

Suarez compared Miranda's head to a cue ball then gigged Viera, a staunch political ally.

"You're the little brother I never wanted," Suarez told Viera.

The departing Yvonne Yolie Capin joked that she’d attach her street sign to her car with magnets, then turned to Maniscalco.

"Hug me, dammit!" Capin ordered. Maniscalco complied.

When police union chief Abe Carmack said he had plaques for Reddick, Capin, Suarez and Cohen, Reddick — who once accused another police union official of making a throat-slashing gesture at him during a 2016 meeting — threatened to come off the dais and get it.

"You earned it," Carmack replied.

Gene Haines, another union official, gleefully told the departing council members they could now feel free to block Carmack's number.

"I'm doing it now," Capin said, staring at Carmack, who has been known to text council members during meetings.

When Capin leaves office May 1, the new City Council will be all male. The new members to be sworn in Wednesday at Armature Works are Bill Carlson, Joe Citro, John Dingfelder and Orlando Gudes.

Capin didn't mention that Thursday, but said her nearly nine years on the council has been an education.

"It was a window to our city like none other," she said, grasping for the opening lines of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best time. And the worst time. How does that go?"

Cohen said council members squabbled, but they tackled tough issues.

"The times we have come together for the common good — that has made a tremendous difference," he said.

Suarez ticked off some of the tough times. The threat of protests around the 2012 Republican National Convention, a city still in the grip of a recession when this council took office eight years ago, a divisive panhandling problem.

But it was Reddick, as chairman, who got the final word. He said he felt compelled to bring up his greatest disappointment with the council. He paused and fixed a baleful glare.

"We couldn't do a damn thing about those chickens," he said, speaking of the fowl population that’s spilling from Ybor City.

Still, Reddick couldn't resist one more Tampa goodbye.

"You always like to Bogart your way into our conference,” Reddick told Steve Michelini as the consultant waited his term at the podium. “What do you want to say today?"

Replied Michelini, "I want to say thank you.”

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

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