Former mayors Pam Iorio and Rick Baker discuss the history of Tampa and St. Pete’s development listen01/23/14 Ashley Whitney
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The cities on either side of Tampa Bay sometimes compete -- but more often their histories are complementary. At a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting yesterday in St. Petersburg former Mayors Pam Iorio and Rick Baker reflected on Tampa and St. Pete.
For more than a hundred years Pinellas and Hillsborough County have been rivals and shared in a rich history. With one of the largest ports in the United States, MacDill Air Force Base, an NFL franchise, and an abundance of lush, preserved park systems, Tampa’s Pam Iorio thinks the growth in Tampa Bay’s industrial and political infrastructure was destined.
“I think the decision to create the Tampa Port, really set Tampa on the course of an industrial city. And then so much came from that. And the decision to create Fort Brook, and make that the first military outpost have a lot to do with Tampa becoming a military outpost city and an industrial port city, and a real sea of commerce. Once you brought in the railroad, it really tied together to make Tampa this key business center.”
Rick Baker believes the richness of St. Pete culture lies in the arts.
“I think St. Pete has always focused, maybe not always focused, most of history on quality of life. How are we going to make this a great place for people to live here and to visit here? Oh, how do we do that? And that does not necessarily mean you want to become the biggest in everything. Maybe you want to be the best, maybe you want to be the greatest place to live, which is why you want to do arts and culture, really in the last twenty years has become a passion for our city.”
In the 1980s, a lot of Florida’s coastline were covered with condominiums, blocking much of the waterfront view. Since then an effort has been made to make the waterfront more accessible for the public. Iorio admires St. Pete.
“Now our waterfront is something you can actually access, but that’s relatively new, and so you know people say all the time, “gosh, look at St. Pete’s waterfront.” That’s because people really thought that through, years and years, decades ago, and preserve that green space. That’s why you have such a beautiful downtown. It’s walk able and it’s lovely. If I could have annexed it when I was mayor I would have.”
Moderator Gary Mormino, asked Iorio how her role as a former Supervisor of Elections of Hillsborough County affected her perspective on voter suppression.
“One of the things that’s clearly a success is early voting. Only in government would something that is so successful and that customers are lined up to use, would government say, this is such a success we are going to stop, and we are going to limit it. Okay, I mean is there a company in the whole world that would do that? No one would do that.”
In terms of voter reform for Florida, Iorio believes that preparation for large voter turn out as well as a user friendly ballot that is also limited in length is important for 21st century voting.
“I can tell you that the outcome of the election would have been different, whether you wanted the outcome to be different is beside the point. It would have been different. An election won by 537 votes and 131,000 votes were invalidated, because of errors made. Okay?”
Even though Suncoast Tiger Bay Club discussions usually focus on politics, this forum was set up to talk more about history and members were discouraged from asking overtly political questions.