Mama told me there'd be forums like this.
Tuesday night in the very politically aware Seminole Heights district of Tampa, over 100 people crammed into the Seminole Heights Garden Center, just as a driving rain storm was abating, to hear 21 different mayoral and city council candidates introduce themselves, five weeks before election day.
Although this reporter saw some candidates speak before a live audience for the first time, for those who are interested in learning more about the differences between the 5 major candidates running for mayor, well, this event wasn't really for you.
Each candidate was given five minutes to discuss their vision of what they'd like to achieve in office. Multiply that by 21, and well, it made for a somewhat exhausting night just to get through all of those assembled (Rick Barcena was the last man literally standing).
Where to begin? Let's start with the mayoral candidates. Being in Seminole Heights, Rose Ferlita may have had a hometown advantage, as there were several audience members wearing green Ferlita for Mayor t-shirts in the audience. No doubt reacting to a published report in Tuesday's St. Pete Times that had Mayor Pam Iorio up in arms about an alleged verbal slight by Ferlita regarding the mayor having to dip into reserves to balance her budget, Ferlita said, "And let me make this very, very, very clear. Mayor Pam Iorio did an incredible job streamlining government, addressing efficiencies, and being very sensitive when she had to use the reserves....as far as I'm concerned, she's leaving this city in a lot better shape in terms of budget, than when she came in."
Former Mayor Dick Greco had a fascinating five minutes, dropping jokes (suggesting to Bob Buckhorn, who discussed how he's gone grey in hair color compared to when he first worked for former Mayor Freedman in the late 80s, to use "Just For Men"). In defending the taxpayers' funds that were used to bail out his big Centro Ybor project, Greco grew indignant, claiming it was crucial to build up Ybor City for tourists for events like the 2012 GOP Convention, saying otherwise they'd simply be going to "Mons Venue and the Pancake House."
Then his mood turned."This is not an experiment! If at this time we don't hit the ground running we've got a problem, gang! It might be the most important vote you'll ever make!"