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.