Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is thrilled about the major developments in downtown Tampa that have finally reached fruition, and she just can't hide it. So one day last week, after a sit-down interview with CL (see p. 5), she took this reporter, CL Editor David Warner and former Dunedin Mayor Bob Hackworth on a tour she'd probably like to give all of the critics who never warmed to her grand ambitions for the Riverwalk. Beginning at the east end of the walkway at the foot of the Tampa Bay History Center, Iorio provided commentary as we followed the still unfinished path to the Convention Center. Captain Cliff Conatser's river taxi continued the journey up the Hillsborough, before docking at the centerpiece of the city's transformation, the new Tampa Museum of Art and the just-reopened Curtis Hixon Riverfront Park.
Hackworth attended as the winning bidder on a CL holiday auction item last year that promised lunch with yours truly and a local elected official. Having been in office himself (and perhaps again, as he contemplates a run for Pinellas County Commissioner), he had lots to talk about with Mayor Iorio over salad and Cuban bread at the History Center's Columbia Cafe.
Mayor Iorio brought up the issue of light rail, and asked Hackworth what the feeling was across the Howard Frankland. "Well, it's going to be real hard to find the political will to do it," he confessed. "I think it definitely needs to be part of the discussion about our transformation into a different form of transportation."
Iorio stressed that "you need champions" to get behind the idea, because the process will be long and at times, arduous. Hackworth asked Iorio if she had a backup plan if the one-cent sales tax referendum fails.
"We analyze, we regroup, we revamp the plan and we put it back before the voters again in 2012," Iorio said. Hackworth said he was glad to hear that, because he says he hears some politicos in Pinellas say they'll put a ballot measure up and accept the will of the voters, end of story. "No," Iorio said, shaking her head. "This must get done. It's an imperative that it get done."
Iorio then asked why Hackworth had spent money to meet another local official. Hackworth said that after losing a Congressional race to Bill Young in 2008, he had been trying to decide if that was the end of his career as a public servant. If that were the case, he said, he'd be Ok — because "I never wanted to be a politician. I wanted to be a citizen legislator. So I wanted to have a conversation and talk about politics and different ways of leading, and so [this] was a great opportunity."
Hackworth expressed admiration for Iorio and asked if she had any plans when she leaves office in March of 2011.
Iorio said no, but said, "I think it's a little bit hard after being mayor because I'm used to running a large organization and I like it. I like setting the goals and achieving them. I wouldn't just run for something, unless I felt that it matched what I was good at. I love public policy and I've been in public life almost my entire adult life."
The two then departed, one to City Hall, the other back to Dunedin — and perhaps another chapter in his own "public life."