City of Tampa Candidate Forum at USF -- by Seán Kinane

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 Last night at the University of South Florida in Tampa, the Green Party of Hillsborough and La Lucha sponsored a forum for candidates running in the Tampa city elections that will be held on March 6th.  All candidates for Mayor or City Council were invited and as WMNF’s Seán Kinane reports, six candidates attended the forum to speak about their platforms. 


“The mayor’s administration just voted in her $15 thousand raise. Her salary is going from 135 K to 150K. If I am elected mayor, I will reappropriate that $15K back into the budget so it can be spent where it needs to be spent.”


That was mayoral candidate and former Tampa Police Department Captain Marion Lewis. He told about twenty students, Green Party members, and others why he felt he deserved their vote more than his two opponents for mayor, Aria Ray Green and incumbent Pam Iorio. Lewis was critical of how Iorio has run the city the last four years, including the city’s lack of progress on mass transit.



“Mass transit … we need an alternate means of transportation. Simply because the past and the current administrations did not plan properly for growth. So we need an alternate mode of transportation and light rail is what everybody’s talking about and I think that’s very doable for this city.”


Tampa City Council District 1 spans the entire city. District 1 candidate Julie Jenkins agreed that Tampa needs a mass transit solution.



“We are one of two large cities that don’t have mass transit, us and Detroit. Mass transit is the way of the future. We need to look at that as a major city and hopefully we will. Whoever sits on city council will go forward with that.”


One of Jenkins’ five opponents for District 1 is Joe Redner. Like several other candidates, Redner mentioned his frustration with the role that money plays in undermining the democratic process.



“The reason I ran is because of all the money that’s going into these coffers. And people like Mary [Mulhern] and other people, they can’t run. They can’t get the money. I went to a meeting today with developers and people like that. And they want something from you to give you their money. They want promises of where they can develop. The system is really messed up. So I figured I‘m going to get in there and I’m going to disrupt the system a little bit.”


The candidates’ solution for the money problem was a cap on election spending rather than public financing of elections.


Mary Mulhern, who is running for the city-wide District 2 seat against Shawn Harrison, said she would emphasize the environment and sustainability in her City Council decisions.



“I’m thrilled to be here for the Green Party, I figure I’m preaching to the choir. I want to represent voters, citizens, and neighborhoods on the City Council and treat them with fairness. My goals are to have a sustainable, livable, affordable city.  … I want to push for more sustainable smart growth and everything that means, as far as green building, as far as energy efficiency, as far as taking care of our environment. Treating the river, and the bay, and the air as the great assets that we have and that we all share.


WMNF asked Mulhern if all new city construction should be LEED-certified sustainable, or green, buildings.



It’s good for everybody if we do that. We save money, we save our environment; we make it a more livable city. So it’s a win-win situation to have that LEED-certified building. As we’re building new city buildings we certainly should do that.”


Joeseph Citro is a candidate running against Julie Brown and John Dingfelder for the South Tampa District 4 seat. He wants more recreation area near the river in downtown.



“I think we have a perfectly great and historic building in the old courthouse downtown. But the land that the museum is on now needs to go for green space. That is perfectly suited for the residents that will be moving downtown for a park for the children to go to, a bandshell for concerts, a place for vendors to come out and sell their wares on the weekends, farmers markets. If we let another building be built on that land, we’ll be doing Tampa a disservice.”


East Tampa is part of City Council District 5. Lynette “Tracee” Judge is running for that seat against Frank Reddick and Thomas Scott. She pointed out how she would help the residents of her district if elected.



“I have a five-point plan that I feel will help District 5 become greater, one neighborhood at a time. That plan is safe neighborhoods, safe and affordable housing, neighborhood beautification, economic development, and infrastructure improvement. I’m here to make certain that District 5 has a voice.”


All the candidates felt that affordable housing is a problem that the city needs to tackle more aggressively, but they differed on how to go about it. District 1 candidate Redner opposes giving developers incentives.



“A lot of people are saying give incentives. I don’t believe we should give them incentives. I believe we should mandate that all sell a certain percentage of houses that developers build be affordable housing. Not only that, it should be inclusive zoning; it should be intermixed in the housing that they’re doing now. I don’t mean a separate place for it, I mean it should be right there in the middle.”


Mayoral candidate Lewis was asked about community policing. He feels that it has changed for the worse during the Iorio administration.



“Neighborhood policing the way that I knew it has completely gone out the window. We used to have it where as a resident, you had the phone number of your neighborhood cop and you could call him and we would work on your problems and get it settled. But under the current administration they have totally eliminated community-oriented policing.”


The mayors of over three hundred cities have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their cities. Tampa is not one of them. WMNF asked Lewis if he would make it a priority to sign that agreement if he were elected.



“Yes, for the life of me I don’t know why she hasn’t signed up.”


If you are not yet registered to vote, you must register by this Monday, February 5th in order to vote in the March 6th election. The website has information on how to register, where to vote, and contact information for all candidates.


As a form of disclosure: this reporter is a former member of the Green Party of Hillsborough Executive Committee, a member of La Lucha, and helped reserve the venue for this forum.


For WMNF News, I’m Seán Kinane




Green Party of Hillsborough


All candidates running on March 6th


Marion Serious Lewis – Mayor [opponents Aria Ray Green and incumbent Pam Iorio]


Joe Redner – City Council District 1 (citywide) [5 opponents including Gwen Miller]


Julie Jenkins - City Council District 1 (citywide) [5 opponents including Gwen Miller]


Mary Mulhern – City Council District 2 (citywide) [opponent Shawn Harrison]


Joseph Citro – City Council District 4 (South Tampa) [opponents Julie Brown and John Dingfelder]


Lynette “Tracee” Judge – City Council District 5 (East Tampa) [opponents Frank Reddick and Thomas Scott]



LEED certification of green, sustainable buildings


Iorio has not signed U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement


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