Hard not to see guilt playing a factor in Hillsborough County Commisioners vote on supporting historic buildings

For Manteiga, who also works as a political consultant (and at times doesn't make that clear in his column when writing about political candidates), the turnaround on the historic buildings is a success, and perhaps makes up for some of the anger that he and others in the Hispanic community are still feeling towards the BOCC when it comes to the recent redistricting of the four county commission single member districts (an effort to create a district with a strong Hispanic presence was rejected by commissioners).

But back to the Regent for a moment. This is a section of a satiric message Manteiga wrote to commissioners in May (which was posted by CL at the time):

It dawned on me that the club boards, like the clubs themselves, are old fashioned. Our attempts to obtain public dollars have been guided by old fashioned values, but I am willing to learn the new way of doing business. I will also try to teach those in control of our clubs the new ways.

In the past, the clubs used Dr. Angelo Perez to write grants seeking state money, and he did it for free out of his love for his community. I now realize that it is old fashioned to do so. The new way is to pay $99,000 to a well-connected former legislative insider and to use taxpayer money to cover the bill. If it helps the Cuban Club, the Centro Asturiano and the Italian Club, we will adopt the modern methods.

No longer will we seek the lowest and best bids for restoration projects at the clubs. Instead, you politicians tell us which one of your builder friends you'd like us to contract with. We will do it, just as the Regent did, if it will help the clubs receive funding.

The historic clubs' executive directors are paid very conservatively because we watch every penny. We read that The Regent pays its executive director $60,000. The clubs will hire one of your friends and pay them a lot, if it will help.

The unanimous (and magnanimous) vote by the BOCC also comes on the heels of anger expressed by some Ybor City merchants, after five of the seven commissioners opted not to sign a proclamation giving tribute to the GaYbor Business District. As was mentioned often in that controversy, the majority of businesses that are in the coalition actually aren't gay - yet commissioners (with the exception of Mark Sharpe) refused to articulate why they didn't support it (you can hear one such merchant express his feelings about that - King Carona Cigars' Don Barco - in an interview on my WMNF radio show here).

But a reader might inquire, where did the money come from? Well, from another unpopular idea - that would be the $37 million dollar new emergency operations center that County Administrator (and county staff members) have said in public is needed. The biggest critic of that plan has been commissioner Victor Crist, but other commissioners followed suit in showing little trouble going to that well to access the funds for Ybor historic preservation.

For the last word, let's go back to Patrick Manteiga's column where he ripped into the commissioners:

Please take this letter as a commitment to change our ways from the values of the Greatest Generation to those of the Me Generation. We need the money to save Tampa's proud Latin heritage and tradition. Please don’t send excuses this time; just send the money.

He just got his wish.

  • Cuban Club

Ybor City advocates are citing the furor regarding The Regent, the $7 million community center that opened near Brandon earlier this year, as a key factor in the Hillsborough County Commission suddenly seeing the light and voting on Wednesday to allocate $2 million for repairs and upkeep of three historic buildings in Ybor City (You can read CL's Monica Torres story on the vote here).

But the County Commissioners 6-0 unanimous vote (Les Miller was absent) to support those cultural buildings cannot be attributed solely to the negative fallout from the public's distaste for The Regent, the opulent building that was supposedly to be used as a hurricane shelter/community center, but until News Channel shined the light on their activities, was being utilized more for weddings, sweet 16 parties and other swank events.

But it played a big part in the BOCC's change of course - that, and the relentless actions of Ybor activist and newspaper columnist Patrick Mantegia, who used his weekly column in La Gaceta to embarrass the commissioners, juxtaposing their support for the Regent, while ignoring the concerns of Ybor preservationists.

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