Iorio praises city staff, chastises Gov. Scott in final State of the City Address listen03/09/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio delivered her final State of the City address at the Tampa Convention Center this morning to a room full of supporters. She had glowing things to say about Tampa’s progress over her tenure, but Iorio said there was one missing piece.
Iorio said she had some lofty goals in when she first took office in 2003. The mayor, who leaves office at the end of this month due to term limits, said she accomplished most of them.
"I talked about opening up the river to the people and a focus on East Tampa, that no neighborhood be left behind, that we were going to invest in infrastructure and invest in basics. We talked about all of those things that we wanted to accomplish 8 years ago and you know what? We accomplished them."
Iorio praised city staff and touted the reduction in the city’s crime rate by 61 percent as one of her administration’s key accomplishments.
"When I sat with Chief Hogue in September of 2003 and asked that he reduce the crime rate, he looked at me and he said, 'Mayor, I will. We will. It can be done. I don't need any new officers. We can do it with the resources we have. I promise you we will reduce the crime rate by the time your done with mayor by over 50 percent. I thought he was exaggerating. But you know what? With the leadership of Chief Hogue and Chief Castor and the wonderful men and women of the police department, 61 1/2 percent. This city is safe for every part of this city is safer."
The outgoing mayor said her focus on developing East Tampa transformed the economically-depressed area. East Tampa Community Advisory Committee Chair Evangeline Best said Iorio helped improve the area by listening to the community.
"More than anything, yes, there's been a lot of economic improvement, but the one thing because of her role and how she has really said whatever it is that takes for you all to get what you want. It has helped the community to come together. We believe in ourselves, we trust ourselves, and if anything we're going to be united."
Iorio said her administration’s investment in Downtown Tampa’s riverfront is also paying off.
"I would say that when I go to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park I feel like I'm in an artist's sketch. People are having so much fun. People throwing frisbees and kicking the soccer balls. People enjoying themselves. They don't have to pay for it, they just go to the park and have a great time."
There is one thing the mayor said she lament about her tenure – that is, the lack of a plan to improve the area’s transit. Iorio had been one of the most vocal backers of a penny-per-dollar sales tax increase that would have funded a new local rail line as well as road and bus system improvements. She said the next mayor must continue to fight for transit.
"And you know I could not have a speech unless I talked about transit. I don't regret for a minute the fact that we pushed for a transit plan. That we put it on the ballot for the voters to look at and to decide whether or not they wanted to make that investment. They did not want to make that investment but that's okay. It taught us a lot. We learned from that and now our job is to figure out what the voters are willing to accept and what we can afford to build."
Iorio spoke plainly about Governor Rick Scott’s rejection of a federally-funded high speed rail project that would have funded a high speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. In recent weeks Scott hasn’t budged in his spurning of the more than $2.4 billion. He claims that low ridership would place the project’s operating costs on state taxpayers. This, despite an updated study showing the line operating at a $10 million surplus in its first year. Citing several large investments that eventually became Tampa landmarks, she said to do nothing about the region’s economic and infrastructure needs is tantamount to moving backwards.
"The decision to take the defunct Tampa Bay Hotel and turn it into the University of Tampa, someone had to take a risk when they did that. Someone had to say that they saw a dream where this could become a great academic institution. How about the decision during the Depression to take the federal funds to build what is now the iconic Bayshore Boulevard? Built as stimulus money. Today, our signature."
Mayor Pam Iorio leaves office at the end of this month with an approval rating of near 90 percent in Tampa. Nearly three quarters of voters in Hillsborough County reportedly had a positive opinion of the outgoing mayor. Iorio has endorsed neither Rose Ferlita nor Bob Buckhorn in the race for Tampa’s next mayor.