by Jim Bleyer
Greed, power, and retribution are propelling a behind-the-scenes struggle between two high-profile heavyweights that could prevent Tampa from fulfilling its potential as a top tier American city.
That goal has proven elusive considering the present business and political climate here. With mayoral and city council elections 14 months away, the forward thinking can replace the regressive, the civic minded can replace the self-indulgent.
If either Mayor Bob Buckhorn or public relations executive Bill Carlson is successful, the citizens of Tampa will lose. Since there’s no chance these sworn enemies will back off from their counter-productive political machinations, voters can only win by rejecting both of them and their surrogates.
There are three mayoral candidates who, unlike the Buckhorn and Carlson lackeys, are independent with an agenda of putting Tampa first: former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, and City Councilmen Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez.
The Buckhorn-Carlson feud dates back years when Buckhorn pulled public relations contracts from Tucker/Hall, Carlson’s public relations firm, in favor of his close friends Beth Leytham and Ana Cruz. Carlson didn’t take that financial hit lightly and has been burning ever since.
The 2019 mayoral election is make or break for Tampa. Under two-term chief executive Buckhorn, the city regressed in race relations, infrastructure, bolstering connections with Cuba, renewable energy, attracting Millennials, and becoming a high-tech incubator. His reign was notable for self-aggrandizement, the incessant targeting of political enemies, and the awarding of lucrative contracts to close friends and financial supporters.
Due to Buckhorn, Tampa’s image suffered badly. The mayor denied manmade climate change though he heads a city deemed one of the most vulnerable locales in the world to flooding. He supported the police targeting of people of color, then wouldn’t apologize when the U.S. Justice Department hammered the city and Police Chief Jane Castor for their discriminatory policy. He aired a long-suppressed desire to gun down journalists. His coziness with the national Republican party transformed downtown Tampa into an armed camp that was off limits to residents during the GOP convention here.
That’s how Tampa made national headlines. Some legacy.
Such regression would continue under Buckhorn’s stooge, Castor, who is gearing up for a mayoral run. Of the five names prominently discussed for mayor, Castor would rank a distant fourth as being an effective, progressive leader. In addition to being a divisive figure, Castor is a one-trick law enforcement pony with no hands-on experience with other governmental initiatives and programs.
Her election would assuredly cement public relations and lobbying contracts to her longtime partner, Cruz, and continue to shut out Tucker/Hall. Buckhorn is expected to join the firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick as a “lobbyist” and would benefit from Castor’s ascension to mayor.
Incredibly, if the second combatant Carlson prevails, Tampa’s fate would be far worse. Carlson’s stooge is billionaire David Straz, a Trump supporter who shows absolutely no understanding of the issues facing the city.
Straz abhors Millennials, and has no sensitivity or knowledge about critical environmental issues. His David A. Sraz Jr. Foundation is the second largest stockholder in an offshore bank that is a haven for tax evaders, drug traffickers, and terrorist sympathizers.
But word is that Straz is willing to spend $2 million for an image overhaul and the flooding of airwaves and mailboxes prosletyzing the fiction that he actually knows the issues. That amount of money is catnip to political operatives including Carlson and Tucker/Hall.
Tucker/Hall promotes itself as skiled in crisis counseling. It would be more accurate to say it’s expertise rests in creating crises. Incredibly, Carlson told Tampa Bay Beat he has nothing to do with the Straz campaign. His deceit is off the charts.
—-Tucker/Hall offices have hosted focus groups on behalf of the Straz campaign.
—-Tucker/Hall employees flooded Straz’ meet and greet at the Italian Club five weeks sgo. They didn’t attend as individuls or families; they introduced themseleves as so-and-so “Tucker/Hall.” I stood there.
—-It’s rumored that Straz contracted with Tucker/Hall for $100,000 with more to come if his “exploratory” committee makes his candidacy a go. Carlson told Tampa Bay Beat he “hasn’t received a penny.” The required financial report from Straz’ PAC should be enlightening as to whether Tucker/Hall’s services are fee based or in-kind.
—-Carlson made the clumsy move of placing a Tucker/Hall shill in his Café con Tampa audience when exploratory committee chairman Yolie Capin was on the program. Although the topic was St. Petersburg-Tampa cooperation, the plant asked Capin about David Straz. Dumb.
—-Carlson told Tampa Bay Beat that Albert A. Fox Jr., founder of the Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, instigated the Straz candidacy. Carlson gave us an email address for Fox, not a telephone number. That may be because Fox has an office at Tucker/Hall. We called Tucker/Hall’s main number and Fox was listed on the voicemail directory.
—-Carlson told us that Straz should not have admitted to supporting Trump. When does the deception stop? A proficient crisis counselor would end it immediately.
The irony about Buckhorn and Carlson is that when they see each other, they are looking in the mirror.