Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin said last month that she didn't intend to officially begin her re-election campaign for 2015 so early, but when Ulele restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart offered the extremely anticipated new eatery soon to open in Tampa Heights as the setting for a fundraiser, she couldn't say no.
Good decision. Capin says she'll be sending a financial report to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections on Wednesday from the occasion, which brought in $41,590.61, almost exclusively from those who attended the event (some people contributed who did not attend, she says).
"What happened at this event for a City Council election is a whole lot of money for one time," Capin said on Tuesday, acknowledging that the fact that so many people wanted to get a sneak preview of Ulele was undoubtedly an attraction that drew supporters to the event. But she says the level of support is humbling, and diverse.
"All the different kinds of people, different professions, statuses, income levels," she mused. "The support is really rounded and that makes me really pleased that I'm connecting to all these different levels of professionals and regular constituents. That's really what it's all about. They see what I'm all about."
Obviously not everybody sees it that way. Hampton Terrace businessman Paul Erni has filed to run against Capin in District 3, a citywide seat. As reported by the Times' Richard Danielson, Erni met with Bob Buckhorn before he announced his run, fueling speculation that the mayor was actively encouraging candidates to oppose Capin, though he denied that accusation.
The Council is currently on summer break and thus Capin says she hasn't spoken with Buckhorn since that story broke. She says "it doesn't seem that he's discouraging the rumor." The mayor also said in that story that he will be supporting candidates who are in line with his vision of thinking, prompting Capin to say "you can translate that in so many ways."
"We are a check to the administration, so yes, the vision can be there but we are a check," she says, speculating that "maybe the mayor is trying to manipulate the members of City Council."
One policy issue that Capin says she will continue to fight for the city is to begin implementing the EB-5 program to encourage foreign investment into city projects. Recently the city of Miami created an EB-Regional center, which can be either private or public agencies designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to sponsor EB-5 investment projects in defined geographic areas. EB-5 programs are considered a fast track to permanent residency for immigrants/investors, who receive (along with their immediate family) a green card allowing them to live in the U.S. if the commercial enterprise creates at least 10 jobs per investor and maintains those jobs for two years or more.
Capin says she provided information to the mayor espousing the program more than a year ago and hasn't heard back. She says that Bob McDonaugh, the city's director of economic opportunity, has expressed doubts about it. "I realized if your economic development person is saying no, no, no to the mayor, you have to have such overriding confidence to override that."
Meanwhile Capin is looking forward to going on her second trip to Cuba next week — the trip that organizers were hoping gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist was going to take, then didn't.