Iorio talks transit and more in State of the City Address
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03/10/10 Concetta DeLuco
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In this morning’s State of the City Address, Mayor Pam Iorio reminded Tampa citizens of the city’s accomplishments and hardships over the past year and spoke of future goals.

At the front of the packed room, Mayor Pam Iorio proudly praised Tampa as a city that has endured serious challenges, yet continues to grow and flourish.

“In spite of the difficulties we face, I can not help but look back on 12 months of growth and progress and be proud of our many accomplishments. We are not sitting still. We are making important investments for our future. Our city is strong. And our constant progress will make us even stronger.”

One of the most trying issues the city has been facing is economic hardship. Tampa has dealt with decreased revenue and city employees have coped with pay cuts and job loss. Currently, Tampa is the 53rd largest city in the nation, with one of the highest rates of unemployment. Mayor Iorio thanked the many city employees in attendance for their dedicated service.

“I know it’s been a tough time economically, there’s no doubt about that. We all know that across the nation. And we’ve had to make some sacrifices here in the city and meet the challenges of reduced revenue. This was probably the first time in modern Tampa history that every single city employee had to go without the increase. And I appreciate the attitude of everyone in moving forward in that direction because it did save jobs. And whatever sacrifice we’re making is no greater than the sacrifice that the public that we serve is making. I hope that every single city employee feels really proud. I don’t care what department you work in, in what capacity. As a team, we all pulled together to achieve every single accomplishment. And I sure hope you’re proud to be a city employee because I’m sure proud to work alongside with you.”

The Mayor also recognized the many positive changes that have been made in Tampa. These include the coming of the Norwegian Cruise Line, IKEA, Crate and Barrel at the International Mall and Draper Lab at USF Tampa. Iorio said these achievements have created and have the potential for many new jobs. Other accomplishments include a 16% reduction in crime and the completion of Riverwalk, which helped Tampa to be named one of the top 25 art destinations. Mayor Iorio said she wants people who live in and come to Tampa to feel like “We have it all right here in Tampa Bay. You need not look anywhere else for a superior quality of life.”

One thing Iorio emphasized Tampa does not have is an adequate transportation system.

“We are the last of the major metropolitan areas of this country that has failed to invest in a modern transit system. We don’t want to be known for that.”

Iorio has been a strong advocate for a better transit system in Tampa Bay. Recently, the federal government funded $1.25 billion to begin work on a high speed rail that will connect Orlando to Tampa. Mobility is important, she said because it is one of the main things future business will look for when deciding to invest in Tampa

“We’ve learned from our mistakes. You see I see a totally different view of how we can grow and prosper. Because we will embark on building a modern and sophisticated transit system that includes a better bus system which includes local and express and flex service and circulators and bus systems you haven’t even heard of because we haven’t had the money to have them here. And yes it will include light rail which has proven it self to be a magnet for private sector development in every other city where they’ve built it. Can you imagine 20 years from now as companies look at where they want to invest or relocate? They’re going to look at mobility and they’re going to want to know that they’re community that they’re investing in has cared enough about its people to invest in mobility choices. And so this vision is one of smart growth, of putting densities in the right place, of having a segment of our population able to live and work without being car dependent, of giving the young and the old mobility choices.”

What Tampa does not want to do, Iorio said, is choose to maintain status quo.

“Look at the path of the status quo, of do nothing. Let’s just accept things for as they are and hope that for some reason people will decide to keep moving here, and we’ll just keep enlarging roads to accommodate them, and development will continue to go out into the suburbs into agricultural land, in areas where you are car-dependent and miles and miles away from your employment centers. What kind of future does that really hold for us as a community?”

Iorio said her main goal during her last year in office is to bring better transportation to Tampa Bay. This afternoon, a Hillsborough County Commissioners held a workshop to discuss ballot language for a one penny sales tax increase. If passed, it will fund light rail and a better bus system.

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