One year to go for Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio

A conversation with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio as she looks ahead to her final term in office.

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MP: You support the president. How do you think he's doing — it's been a bit rocky for him the past few months.

PI: Here's his problem. He's perhaps too thoughtful for the political process. The political process likes the sound bite, it eats up the negative, it likes the person who says "This is bad, that's bad, this is wrong, bad, bad." ...I get frustrated sometimes with the talking heads on the cable because I think they give the other folks a pass. They need to say to them, "What is your plan for creating jobs? I don't hear it." ...it's almost like this transit debate. It's easy to sit back in your office and never attend a single meeting, never do a single thing about it, and then when a proposal comes in front of you say, "I don't like this." And of course, who's going to get the press? The person who says "I don't like that." And meanwhile, all the people who have spent hours, days, years, months, whatever of their life working and toiling over the numbers in the spreadsheets and all of that are soon forgotten. It's the same thing on the national level. And I think right now the negative people are better at messaging. And it's harder to be thoughtful...This is what we say we want in politics, and yet when we get it, it's so easy to tear it down. It's why we end up with superficial politics. Because it is the superficial that tends to rise to the top in the media.

MP: The city has cut 10 percent of its workforce, or 527 positions, over the past few years. A recent report said that 13 fiscal and accounting managers were given 90 days' notice. Another 30 employees are expected to be laid off next week. Are we going to see more cuts?

PI: ...I have to make a bunch of cuts this year. When the next mayor comes in, he or she will have to make a lot of cuts... and the next year, and the next year, and the next year. And these cuts are permanent... It's because of a law that [the FL Legislature] passed in 2007 which said, "Local government, it doesn't matter if your tax base grows, you can only grow by the Florida personal per capita income rate." So, first of all, we're suffering because our tax base is declining, so that's easy to understand, but when the day comes when the tax base starts to grow again, government will not reap the benefit of that. Because we are stuck to this formula... So if every year your employees, which are about 80 percent of your budget, cost more than you're allowed to grow, then you have to keep on shrinking the number of employees. This is permanent. This is not just the city of Tampa — it's Hillsborough County, it's Pinellas.

MP: Should we repeal that law?

PI: You bet! It should have never gone into place to begin with. First of all, the legislators decided some years ago to be punitive toward local government. I said this at the time: What business does state government have telling local governments what we ought to be spending our money on? People elected me and the Council to do that, and if they don't like us, they can boot us out. But we're the closest to people. We're the ones who are in Publix talking to folks. I'm the one that's in Target on Saturday talking to people, I'm the one who's out there with my town hall meetings totally accessible. Try that with the state. Try that with the federal government. Good luck. So, it's absolutely wrong-headed for the legislature to say, "We know better and we're going to artificially restrict your revenues." And it's actually dangerous for us as a community, because for three years I've been able to protect police and fire, but it gets to the point where they're half your budget. You get to the point where you can't continually say, we can't do anything there because they're too much of your budget.

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