At Channelside mayoral forum, Greco explains panty raid statement

02/09/11 Kate Bradshaw
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As the Tampa Mayor’s race hits the home stretch, the five candidates are each fighting to distinguish themselves as the one best prepared to lead the city out of the recession. The five met in the second of three debates slated for this week.

Anyone who’s run for office in the past year or two knows that a campaign message has to be mostly about jobs. At a mayoral debate at the St. Pete Times Forum, the five Tampa mayoral candidates hammered the jobs message home. But fielding questions from members of the Kiwanis Club and the League of Women Voters, they had to hit on more concrete issues. One was Cuba. Ed Turanchik said he’d proactively try to tackle jobs and trade with Cuba in one fell swoop.

Rose Ferlita said she’s all for free trade with Cuba if it’ll help Tampa’s economy, but she’d like to see what Washington DC does with respect to Cuba before she outlines her policy.

Bob Buckhorn said the Mayor of Tampa doesn’t really have that much political pull when it comes to foreign policy, but that as mayor he’d aim to boost trade with countries that have more developed economies.

Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco got some laughs when he said Fidel Castro spent more time with him than the Pope when Greco visited Cuba. He added he’d do anything he could to help the Cuban people realize democracy.

Tampa City Council chair Thomas Scott said states across the US already trade with Cuba by way of an exemption in the Trade Sanctions Reform Act that allows states to export food and agricultural products to Cuba. Scott said for Tampa it’s a matter of will.

The Tampa Mayor might not have direct say in US foreign policy, but they can appoint or dismiss individuals to certain city posts. This includes that of police chief. Asked whether they would retain Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, their responses were positive, though not all were a definite “yes.” Bob Buckhorn said Castor has done a bang-up job as chief, but he doesn’t want to get into politics.

Ferlita said if she were to answer that, she’d have to discuss everyone she’d hire or fire as mayor – but that aside, she thinks the chief is doing well.

Greco answered that question along similar lines.

Both Ed Turanchik and Thomas Scott answered that question with a simple “yes.” The format at the second forum was quite different from that of Tuesday night’s St. Pete Times/Bay News Nine. This time, only members audience asked questions – unlike Tuesday, when they got to directly question one another. There were also fewer shocking statements. On Tuesday, Dick Greco elicited gasps from the audience when he compared the Tampa race riots of the late 1960s to a panty raid.

Greco, who has served four terms as Tampa mayor, was elected to his first term in 1967, the year the riots broke out. After the second debate, WMNF asked Greco whether he regretted what he said Tuesday night.

The five candidates for Tampa mayor will meet again Thursday at Creative Loafing’s Ybor City headquarters. Former WMNF assistant news and public affairs director Mitch Perry, now that newsweekly’s political editor, will moderate. It will be broadcast on our HD3 channel and on our website.

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