Iorio discusses challenges in annual address

03/12/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Contending with the biggest challenges since she was elected five years ago, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio acknowledged that "times are difficult" during her annual State of the City Address this morning.

As in previous addresses, Iorio began her presentation from the Tampa Convention Center by broadcasting a 10-minute upbeat video detailing virtually everything the city has been involved with over the past year. And the mayor had some positive things to crow about, including her satisfaction about then the city’s continuing decrease in crime. The crime rate has been cut 42 percent in the past five years, she said.

But these are tough times for all municipalities in Florida, due to mandated budget cuts. The city is staring at a $17-million budget shortfall. And the dramatically weak economy, with the attendant housing and credit problems, is not expected to improve anytime soon.

Iorio emphasized that one part of her budget that won’t be cut or compromised: public safety. She said she wanted the citizens of Tampa to know that she is fully aware that the economy is bad, but she absolutely will not cut certain positions in city government.

Last June, Mayor Iorio laid off 121 employees, though she said today that the city had found employment for 56 of those employees.

More controversial was her announcement last November that another 100 people would likely lose their jobs this year as the city would privatize security and janitorial positions. The mayor has said this is the new way to change the business of government.

Although Iorio has often discussed the Riverwalk project and the expansion of Curtis Hixon in downtown Tampa, she mentioned them only in passing today. Those projects, as well as the expansion of a new Tampa Museum of Art, have taken up lots of oxygen in Iorio’s first term, but questions remain about how much the citizenry actually support them.

But the mayor did carve out time in her speech to discuss what some political analysts say could be her true legacy - being the public official who was able to focus on creating mass transit for an area that has become plagued by traffic issues.

A significant development that could finally provide a master transit plan for the seven-county bay area region is the creation of TBARTA, the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority. Iorio said regional cooperation is the only way this mass transit plan will happen.

Iorio also discussed other initiatves taking place across Tampa such as the $400-million on capitol projects that will be spent this year – continued work on 40th Street, and looking ahead to the major sports championships coming to Tampa next year, none bigger than the Super Bowl next February.

Iorio was joined on stage by all the members of the Tampa City Council except John Dingfelder and Charlie Miranda.

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