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: Other cities are cutting police and fire right now.

PI: For three years I have not. Now this year, we'll have to take a fresh look at it. It is going to be an ongoing struggle and I think it's wrong policy because people I think derive their best quality of life from the services that come from local government. And those are the very services that are in peril.

MP: There have been a few issues in the press in the last month about Tampa International Airport Executive Director Louis Miller, whom I know you've always said you have the highest regard for... Do you think Louis Miller has been doing too much on his own without consulting enough with the rest of the Aviation Authority?

PI: No, I think what's happening is that a new board member [Steve Burton] has come on who I think has been very disruptive. And well, I have to be diplomatic.

MP: No, you don't have to be —

PI: No, I do have to be diplomatic. However, I suspect that the overall agenda here is to ultimately drive a good solid honest independent person like Louis Miller out of the job — you know, someone who doesn't waste money, who doesn't go out and hire a lot of consultants, someone who doesn't cut deals with people... he's an independent agent. And my guess and prediction is that, once I leave the board, they'll probably make life miserable enough for our outstanding airport director and then, with a different board makeup, someone weaker and perhaps more malleable will be selected...

MP: What's the motivation to get him out?

PI: Well. Again, in my role as mayor it's not my place to ascribe publicly motivations to people, that's not a useful exercise, so I will not do that.

DW: I was at a meeting last night in Ybor organized by Urban Charrette and Artists and Writers Group. They're trying to apply urban planning methodology to the arts community — calling it a "geographically liberated neighborhood." One of the questions was for you, essentially: We see this great progress with the big guys. Are there any plans to help starving artists, artists who just need help to have a living wage? Are there any live/work spaces planned? What can be done to keep that kind of life blood of the arts community on some sort of support system?

PI: Well, here I've come to a conclusion, David, that one of the problems that we have in our society is too much government reliance for answers to all of those things. These types of communities have to grow up organically... Government doesn't create a neighborhood that's avant garde, people do that. I think this is going to change because government won't have any money anymore for decades to come... You look at all of our nonprofits. They are far too dependent on government — almost everyone except for the Straz Performing Arts Center, because they've actually built up an endowment. Even these nonprofits that have been around 20-30 years don't have endowments. The Tampa Bay History Center is an exception. They opened up with a $15 million endowment. Florida Aquarium, we paid the mortgage, we subsidize them. Tampa Museum of Art, we helped build the building, we subsidize them. You name them, we spend $17 million a year subsidizing arts organizations, more than any other city in the state of Florida. But it's still never enough... And I think that just like with anything, if you create a dependency, it is ultimately unhealthy in relationships and in anything else, and that's what I see has occurred. You know the only thing that keeps the Florida Orchestra from going under? The city of Tampa. We are the only government that supports it. The only one.

DW: Clearwater, St. Pete, nothing?

PI: Those were the first things to go in the first three years of their budget cuts. I'm the only government that hasn't. So we still give them $380,000 a year. They're not even in Tampa! Ok! So what's keeping the Florida Orchestra alive? Is that healthy? It's not healthy.

DW: When I came to town what struck me as a newcomer was that some people would refer to "the big vision" of [former Mayor] Dick Greco. You know, "There was a time when there was someone who had big ideas and knew how to make them happen," and there was some degree of disappointment that that era had passed. Now that some of [your] visions have come to realization, what do you say to that attitude? Do you still think that there's some truth in the distinctions between you and your predecessor?

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