Punt, No Kickoff, for Buckhorn

By Jim Bleyer

Political winners of the week: Florida voters who will not be subjected to the campaign puffery, hyperbole, and mendacity emanating from the yap of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

The term-limited two-t̶i̶m̶e̶r̶ termer Thursday declared himself out of the gubernatorial race because t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶z̶e̶r̶o̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶ of family considerations and a desire to continue the “amazing transformation” of Tampa that he claims began with his administration.

“As the father of two daughters who are 15 and 11, the all-consuming task of running for governor would cause me to miss the milestones in their lives that I could never get back,” Buckhorn explained in his scrupulously crafted campaign k̶i̶c̶k̶o̶f̶f̶ punt.

He may want to get some advice on effective parenting from two gubernatorial hopefuls: Adam Putnam who has three daughters and a son ages 14, 13, 12, and 9, and Andrew Gillum who is the father of twin toddlers. Or he could dial up the hundred or so Congressmen and governors with teens and preteens who manage to perform their familial duties while holding office.

Let’s also examine the “amazing transformation” that seemed to have only pulled the switch with Buckhorn’s election, as outlined by his primary benefactor and defender, the Tampa Bay Times.

The mayor boasts about helping the half-billionaire and former hedge fund manager Jeffrey Vinik with $30 million–so far–in public funds in infrastructure improvements to only what can be described as a speculative land deal in downtown Tampa.  The vision by Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners has drastically shifted to a prosaic mixed use development because a promised Fortune 500 anchor and health-oriented grocery have failed to materialize.

Buckhorn has committed $35.5 million to redevelop Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park as part of a massive redevelopment.  Meanwhile, drainage needs in South Tampa, subject to severe flooding,  are ignored.  But parks are a more tangible monument to a narcisssist.

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg stands as another beneficiary of Buckhorn’s largesse as a third “priority.”  Hundreds of millions in public funds would be funnelled to a baseball stadium for a billionaire if Buckhorn has his way.

The fourth piece of unfinished business, according to the Times, is luring commercial development to city-owned property in East Tampa.  We don’t know yet the millions that will be siphoned from public coffers to motivate entrepreneurs to relocate.

But Buckhorn knows he cannot come within a whiff of winning a Democratic primary for any statewide office.  He has aligned himself theologically more often with Republicans, most recently campaigning for Governor Rick Scott’s losing effort to re-fund Enterprise Florida.  Unsurprisingly, it’s another political mechanism for sending tax dollars to corporations.

Charlie Crist, the 2014 gubernatorial Democratic nominee, ran a close race against a well-financed incumbent without an endorsement from Buckhorn who did, however, support Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi for re-election.  Then there’s Buckhorn’s sour relations with people of color and his personal attacks against those who oppose his corporate giveaways.

“Democrats would not be enthused by a Buckhorn statewide run,” said a notable political operative based in Tallahassee. “He just doesn’t represent the party.”

The cagey Buckhorn inserted a loophole in his statement to the press: He said he would finish out his term “absent extenuating circumstances.”

If those circumstances occur, he will be better suited registering as a Republican.





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