Buckhorn touts Tampa's success, laments Trump and state legislature in annual State of the City Address

click to enlarge Buckhorn touts Tampa's success, laments Trump and state legislature in annual State of the City Address
Terrence Smith

It was a clear Tuesday morning at downtown Tampa's Kiley Gardens as Mayor Bob Buckhorn cited of his administration's accomplishments over the past six years — since he took office — during his yearly State of the City Address. He also used the occasion to take swipes at his Republican foils in Tallahassee and Washington D.C., which are increasingly antagonistic to cities like Tampa, which seek to pass progressive policies that favor workers and the environment over wealthy donors.

He heralded the city's diversity as one of its greatest strengths.

We were joined by a belief that we were better together, stronger together, and we will prosper together,” said the mayor as he greeted those in attendance. “Together we are creating the jobs that people are flocking to, STEM jobs, tech jobs, cyber security jobs. Small businesses, large businesses, whether you're a craftsman or whether you make craft beer we have something here for everybody in Tampa.”

Buckhorn emphasized Tampa's turnaround with facts and figures that painted a picture of a city that has come into its own, even thrived, since the recession. By his account, the greatest milestones include:

  • $11 billion in construction projects since 2011.

  • Leading the state in jobs created in three of the past six years.

  • Ranking as one of Forbes' fastest growing cities.

  •   Successfully hosting a series of world-class events, the most recent of which being January's College Football Championship, which brought thousands of visitors and put a spotlight on the improvements made in making Tampa a destination during his tenure.

Tampa has become a beacon for major events because we do them better than anybody. Three months ago hundreds of thousands of people poured into Tampa, Florida," he said. "All eyes were on Tampa and we never looked better.”

Buckhorn was quick to emphasize that these events, along with new businesses and housing in the downtown core and surrounding areas of the city won't be isolated, and spoke of projects to develop Tampa's north and east sides, which each have their own sets of challenges.

While he didn't espouse many concrete plans for 2017, Buckhorn's most striking proposal was one that would make Tampa one of the premier autism-friendly cities. A second was being at the forefront of developing infrastructure for autonomous vehicles, a project that has been underway for a couple of years.

Despite the sunny outlook, Buckhorn didn't avoid some less pleasant topics. Among those, he lamented the lingering effects the recession still has on his administration, namely that city coffers grew only enough to allow him to add two city employees during his tenure.

The mayor also complained about current state-mandated restrictions on local property taxes, which has caused the city's budget to be well below 2007 levels despite a healthy recovery of property values since the recession ended.

Those receiving the most venom from political forces at the state and federal levels, where Buckhorn has laid blame for the choking of resources for cities like Tampa, which he said forced cities like Tampa to succeed in spite of it.

The decisions made in the Florida legislature and the United States Congress will have a direct and tangible impact on the services we provide and the resources we have available. Sources of revenue that are reduced or eliminated, partnerships eviscerated, and programs decimated are potentially looming," he said. "All of which can have an effect on our bottom line and our ability to provide services. That combined with an unprecedented attack on our nation's cities and the right of self-governance impedes our ability to do what you expect of us to do.”

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