By Jim Bleyer
Beware of candidates for public office that launch a well-publicized “listening tour.” It signifies that they haven’t been paying attention to voters and are not likely to suddenly change and become interested in Joe and Jill Lunchpail’s concerns.
You can bet that 100 percent of the time such a tour is designed to alter public perceptions that a disengaged candidate really cares. An extra bonus: garnering publicity from naive mainstream media.
Such is the case with 75-year-old David Straz who presumbaly is still “exploring” a run for Tampa mayor. That election takes place in March, 2019.
Straz, who became a billionaire by buying and selling banks, owns six homes around the world and hobnobs locally with his caviar and champagne society pals. He cannot relate to other generations as reflected in the audio snippet contained here.
At one of the recent stops on the Straz listening tour, he was asked about his vision for transportation in the Tampa Bay Area. He replied that he would seek input from various groups. So apparently, if elected—a supreme longshot possibility—Straz would embark on another listening tour, a protracted four-year one. Not the qualities Tampans are looking for in a leader.
Strongly rumored as ready to toss $2 million into the mayoralty campaign, someone on his already-being-paid staff should remind him this will be an election, not a coronation. We’re not talking about the King of Gasparilla who tosses trinkets and coins to the admiring throngs.
Straz is an impossibly tough sell at $10 million for a city yearning to hit the big time by attracting high tech firms and the hordes of accompanying Millennials. That will take an intimate knowledge of local government, civic activism, and contemporary thinking.
Three strikes and you’re out–for most anyone so unqualified. But the entitled Straz has a propensity for cutting in front of the line holding a wad of cash.
Voters have seen the name David Straz saturating the society pages of local slick magazines, not in news reports about local government trying to solve a difficult issue.
A month ago we suggested Straz volunteer at a soup kitchen as a springboard to learning how the other 99.99 percent lives. But that would take effort and an open mind. We are not at all surprised that his only outreach has consisted of carefully choreographed meetings with small groups of what he deems as “leaders,” not people with real everyday problems.
Straz is an entity who worships at the altar of mammon, the tried-and-true problem solver. There’s no need to sully himself.
Touted as a “philanthropist,” Straz has donated gobs of cash to have his name plastered on buildings with the most notable being the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa. He owns an extensive collection of French Impressionist paintings, Dresden china, and European antiques—-something the average voter can always relate to, right?
Meanwhile, other candidates gearing up for Tampa’s top job are city council members Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, former County Commissioner and civic activist Ed Turanchik, and former Police Chief Jane Castor.
All have experience in local government and dealt with voters at every socio-econmic level. All have toiled in the trenches. Which of the four is best equipped to lead Tampa into the top tier of American cities will unfold in the coming months.