By Jim Bleyer
East Tampa residents feel shortchanged by the City of Tampa on transit, housing opportunities, infrastructure, and fair treatment by law enforcement.
After yesterday, they have more than sufficient reason to feel abandoned by City Hall.
Though invited to a “Tea and Conservation” event in Temple Terrace, four of the six candidates for mayor were no-shows. Only City Councilman Harry Cohen and branding strategist/political newcomer Topher Morrison attended and spoke to the crowd of 150.
Those who aspire to lead a diverse city into the 21st century over the next four years and played hooky: City Councilman Mike Suarez and former county commissioner Ed Turanchik, both seasoned politicians who should know better, and former police chief Jane Castor and billionaire socialite David Straz.
Castor, whose regime was known for its blatant endemic racism, made no attempt to smooth over her history by speaking with the predominantly African-American audience. Neither she nor Straz have shown the least bit of comfort on the campaign trail conversing with voters and explaining what they believe to be the predominant issues facing Tampa.
Four candidates for city council spoke to the crowd: civic activist Joe Citro, citywide District 1; technological innovation consultant John Godwin, citywide District 2; Orlando Gudes, District 5 which includes East Tampa, and Quinton Robinson who is challenging incumbent Luis Viera in District 7.
Candidates for the Hillsborough County Commission, Hillsborough County School Board, the Florida Legislature, and judgeships also outlined their qualifications, their vision, and what they perceived to be the priority issues.
There were 36 candidates in all.
Candy Lowe, a community leader and organizer of the event, was clearly vexed by the four missing mayoral candidates. She emphatically referenced the key absences asserting that all the mayoral candidates were invited but only Morrison and Cohen took the time to speak to the black community.
Morrison said job creation and a minimum wage should be priorities to assist the economically disadvantaged. He advocated the expunging of criminal records for those that have served their time in order to ease their transition back into society.
Cohen noted that he spearheaded the city’s effort to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana. Arrests for these violations disproportionately affect people of color and Hispanics, he said.
Cohen and Morrison agreed all city-owned property should be examined for affordable housing use.
One can only imagine the excuses from the AWOL quartet. A sudden health issue is usually the go-to pretext.
The event occurred from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It did not conflict with the Belmont Stakes, a PGA event, or the UFC championship. There were no concerts or raves held during that time frame. We doubt Straz, Turanchik, Castor, or Suarez have mowed a yard in years.