Turanchik blasts Greco on mid-’90s purchase of downtown police station

The common sentiment among all the candidates was that each neighborhood was different, and they would make sure to listen to the representatives from certain neighborhoods.  Rose Ferlita accurately stated that she was sympathetic to the health concerns that some people have in the area, but acknowledged the brutal reality: that thanks to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, health concerns cannot be included in the criteria for local governments to use to approve or reject a request for a cell phone tower to be erected.

On the question of affordable housing, Dick Greco and Ferlita both mentioned getting grants from Washington and/or Tallahassee to help jump-start such a program, while Buckhorn used that question to attack Greco vis-a-vis the Steve LaBrake housing scandal, saying that under the Sandy Freedman administration, where he worked under in the late 1980s and early 1990s, "there was a time and place when we were the envy of the nation for housing programs, " specifically mentioning the city's Challenge Fund, saying it stabilized many neighborhoods and lives.  But he said, "We ended up in the wake of the LaBrake scandal being blacklisted by HUD (the Department of Housing Urban Development)."

Another interesting question that we haven't heard discussed too much in this campaign is how the candidates, if they were to become mayor, would deal with city council (particularly interesting in regard to the fact that we've heard many testimonials about how different the past two mayors — Greco and Pam Iorio — have been on this issue).

Turanchik said the council gets too bogged down on zoning issues, and says he'd sit down with each member to determine their particular "vision for the future."

Thomas Scott, who served on the Hillsborough County Commission prior to his election to the City Council four years ago, said that one thing he'd change is the timetable when the council gets to work on the budget, which in the city is only 45 days before it's due to be voted on.  He said that's a far cry from the BOCC, which begins looking at a budget in February for a document that won't ultimately be voted on until late September.

Scott and Ed Turanchik appeared to look puzzled when Rose Ferlita, when asked about doing trade with Cuba, defended the Port of Tampa's reluctance to lobby for more trade, saying that such a decision isn't made by the Port, "but by the shippers."

The campaign days just keep getting busier for the candidates.  On Wednesday their day starts with a two-hour forum with the Downtown Tampa Partnership, followed by two forums in the evening.

Ed Turanchik last night blasted former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco for leaving the city with a mountain of debt by the time he left office eight years ago. Specifically, he pointed to the purchase of the old Sun Trust Bank building in downtown Tampa to use as a new police headquarters in 1996, saying the city will ultimately pay $72 million to eliminate the debt from that purchase.

The original purchase price was $23 million, but Turanchik said interest has been accruing ever since. The city will begin spending $13 million a year beginning in 2016.

"I never did such a thing as a County Commissioner, " he said.

Turanchik said that three candidates on the panel last night were responsible for that, and former City Councilman Bob Buckhorn did vote for the transaction.  However Rose Ferlita was still years away from being on Council at the time — the man she succeeded, Scott Paine, voted against the proposal.

In previous forums Turanchik had been targeting Rose Ferlita, but he turned the tables on Greco at a forum held at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in South Tampa.

Turanchik's charges came during his closing statement, in which he also criticized Dick Grecos's last term in office by mentioning the $4 million in misused federal housing funds due to the Steve LaBrake housing scandal, the $7 million spent on a discarded Rafael Viñoly art museum design, and the $16 million default on Centro Ybor.

With two weeks left to go before the March 1 election, some of the candidates look like they could go awhile without doing any more such campaign forums, but that isn't an option at this point.  Recognizing how much of each other's talking points they've heard, however, prompted Thomas Scott to say during his closing statement that he believed any of the candidates could give any other candidate's final remarks.

Given the South Tampa setting, two of the most interesting questions were related to issues indigenous to that community: stormwater runoff problems and cell phone towers.

Of course, stormwater is a problem in many parts of Tampa, but there is no place in the city you'd less want to be in than South Dale Mabry Highway when a thunderstorm hits.  Saying the issue wasn't "sexy," Bob Buckhorn heaped praise on outgoing Mayor Pam Iorio for her work on this issue, saying she was smart about reinvesting money into basic infrastructure, adding, "This has to continue — we cannot ignore this."

Rose Ferlita followed up by saying much of the same thing, and added that she would look at obtaining grants from the federal government to continue such work.

But Turanchik, who never misses an opportunity to tweak Ferlita if he can make sense doing so, chided her, saying, "You keep hearing people say 'We're going to get grants.' Ladies and gentlemen, there's not any grants anymore."

The presence of cell phone towers is an issue not related exclusively to South Tampa, but it's one in which activist parents there have vigorously engaged,  as we've reported extensively in the past.

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