EPC: Mayor Vs Council

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Mayor Pam Iorio has taken an unprecedented step in trying to halt the Tampa City Council's push to change the composition of the county Environmental Protection Commission.

Iorio wrote directly to state legislators to let them know that the Council is off the reservation.

"I know you have many issues on your agenda right now with the special session, but I did want to write to make clear that the City of Tampa does not support changing the composition of the EPC," the mayor wrote, contradicting a July letter from Council Chairwoman Gwen Miller. "The City is comfortable with the historic make-up of the County Commission acting as the EPC Board. While some of the recent decisions of the Board may be controversial, the voters can decide at election time who will serve on the EPC Board."

Iorio had previously announced that she wouldn't support the Council's vote to ask the county to reconstitute the EPC to include seats for municipal appointees. But the letter took council members by surprise; Councilwoman Mary Mulhern said she had already spoken with state Rep. Rich Glorioso of Plant City, who was ready to introduce legislation changing the EPC.

In July, the council's chairwoman, Gwen Miller, sent a letter to legislators asking for the EPC law to be changed to better represent the cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace, none of which has a direct seat at the table. As the law now stands, the Hillsborough County Commission serves as the board of directors of the EPC. Miller's request cited the EPC attempt earlier this year to kill its local regulations that preserve wetlands. Only after hundreds of residents protested the cuts did county commissioners back down and agree instead to merely water down the wetlands laws. (That process is ongoing; a new set of wetlands rules was heard at an EPC workshop earlier this week, and a vote on them is set for a Nov. 15 County Commission meeting.)

Iorio opposes the EPC move because she doesn't want to open the can of worms that is city-county relations. In her letter to legislators, she said she has been meeting with County Commission Chairman Jim Norman and County Administrator Pat Bean to "iron out" longstanding differences about money and equal representation on other government boards, such as the city's Community Redevelopment Agencies.

"While we have not discussed the issue of board representation, we have opened up a healthy discussion on common issues," Iorio wrote. "I believe we should continue this dialogue and eventually try to come to a common understanding on issues of representation and financial obligations."

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