Interview with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor: Conference of Mayors, affordable housing and omicron response

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on ERA

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Here’s the transcript of a short interview WMNF did on January 19, 2022, with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor via Zoom while she was in Washington with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The interview happened before the announcement that MLB rejected the Rays’ idea to split seasons with Montreal. She touched on issues such as affordable housing in the Tampa Bay area, as well as the continuing efforts to combat the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

U.S. Conference of Mayors

Jane Castor: Well, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, this is the winter meeting, where we come up to D.C., in most instances to meet with our representatives, so that we can talk about the needs of our particular community.

Those meetings are somewhat limited. And so what we are provided with now is the ability not only to meet with other mayors, and to find out what the issues and the solutions are in their particular communities, but also have sessions on those issues that are incredibly important.

We had a presentation today from Janet Yellen, the President is going to speak every- basically, the head of all of the federal agencies are going to present in the next couple of days to the US Conference of Mayors.

Sean Kinane: So what do you hope that Tampa can get out of a meeting like this?

Jane Castor: Well, a lot, you know, one, making those connections with our department heads on the federal level, to be able to, to communicate in person, the needs that we have in our city, and then also to share a lot of the best practices, a lot of the successes that we have been able to realize in our community as well.

Affordable housing

Sean Kinane: One of the issues that’s really plaguing Tampa, and I imagine a lot of other cities around the country right now is affordable housing, the price of rents and the price of houses have just skyrocketed in the last year or so. What is Tampa doing? Or what do you hope to learn from other communities about how they’re handling that issue?

Jane Castor: Well, unfortunately, that issue is not singularly a Tampa Bay issue, every city around the nation is really struggling right now to provide affordable housing and or to provide housing period. And so my goal is 10,000 affordable units by 2027. We’ve already reached 6000 units.

But the problem is the demand continues to grow as we try to fulfill the needs that we have. There’s no easy fixes to it. But the strategy for us in the city of Tampa is to go at it from every possible angle, from renovation of homes so individuals can stay, tiny homes, you know, multifamily towers, you name it. 3D printed houses, everything that we can do to provide housing- not only affordable but housing that people want to live in the neighborhood that they want to be in.

Omicron variant of the coronavirus

Sean Kinane: Another issue right now, of course, is the omicron variant of the Coronavirus, which is just raging across the country and including in Florida and in Tampa Bay. What are other mayors around the country doing? Are you learning from them during this conference about how to handle the omicron surge?

Jane Castor: Well, I think that we did a good job. And when I say “we”, I mean the entire Tampa Bay area, everyone coming together, not just the political leaders but medical personnel, academics, everybody coming together to try to craft the best possible paths through this pandemic.

One of the issues that we have faced that, again, is not specific to our community, is the pushback on some of the vaccinations, the politicization of the vaccinations. And that’s a shame because the vaccines work and the boosters. So the more people that we can get vaccinated, the more quickly and safely we can get through this.

But we are on- I pay attention on a daily basis to our positivity rating- and we are plateauing and will soon be on the decline and the decline is anticipated to be as rapid as the incline with the Omicron. So we should be on the backside of this. And although we’ve seen a lot of infections, the outcomes, especially for those who have been vaccinated have been much less severe than with a Delta variant.

Sean Kinane: And before I let you go, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, I wanted to ask if there’s anything else that the people of Tampa Bay should know about the Council of Mayors about what’s happening in the country or in the city.

Jane Castor: Yep, well, the U.S. Conference of Mayors is really a great platform on which we can learn about those best practices and look at some of the mistakes and successes of other communities. And in turn, they can look at the things that we’ve done right in the Tampa Bay area, and some of the challenges that we have met as well. So it is incredibly beneficial for me to be able to spend just a few hours with other mayors from around the United States here.

Sean Kinane: Well, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, thanks so much for coming on WMNF today.

Jane Castor: Appreciate it. You have a great day.

Sean Kinane: Thank you. You too. Take care.

Jane Castor: All right. Stay warm.

Listen to the full show here:

Watch the interview:

Also on Tuesday Cafe, we spoke with Florida State Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) and a representative from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.