Tampa councilwoman wants more input on executive decisions

01/22/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Last month, a coalition of activist groups in Tampa struck out in forcing Mayor Pam Iorio to push Tampa Electric Co. to include more renewable energy programs force it to reduce its reliance on coal.

That was despite a long and emotional debate before the City Council. But ultimately, only Council members John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena voted with the activists and against the 25-year agreement.

As the Public Service Commission weighed a rate increase for TECO customers today in Tallahassee, Saul-Sena said the absence of a lobbyist representing the interests of the citizens of Tampa demonstrated the mayor’s tendencies to ignore the wishes of the Council.

But Darrell Smith, Mayor Iorio’s chief of staff, appeared unmoved by the suggestion.

Another bone of contention for Saul-Sena was Iorio’s economic stimulus package, released late in the afternoon last Friday. She complained that it would have been nice if the Council had been allowed to give input on it.

Yet, Saul-Sena acknowledged that it’s the mayor’s final decision.

At the time of the Council’s vote, Iorio said she would create a committee to address TECO’s accountability regarding tree trimming and underground wiring. That has yet to happen.

Saul-Sena suggested having staff come back before the Council within the next month to determine when that committee might be formed. But that led Councilman Joseph Catano to tell Saul-Sena to essentially cool her jets.

A vote to pass that motion deadlocked at 3-3.

That led Councilman John Dingfelder to suggest the mayor would include a member of City Council to be on the advisory panel.

But as is frequently the case, the progressive wing of the Council, considered to be Saul-Sena, Dingfelder and Mary Mulhern, has a difficult time gaining that fourth and decisive vote. That was the case again. Councilmen Catano and Thomas Scott said having one of those council members on the board would create a conflict of interest.

Council members then agreed it would be up to Iorio, and voted 5-1 on the matter, with Joseph Catano voting no.

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