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Monday, May 28, 2018
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Ed Turanchik for mayor

Voters will choose the next Tampa mayor from five highly qualified candidates. We know and respect all of them. We have endorsed them all in the past and never had cause to regret our support. All possess the experience and smarts for the job. All support rail, want to help small businesses and value the sacrifice of public safety officials. All are committed to improving the city. So voters will face a tough task in choosing a replacement for Mayor Pam Iorio, who has done an outstanding job of managing the city during tough times.
Early voting will begin Saturday, Feb. 19, and runs through the following Saturday, Feb. 26, though the polls will be closed Sunday, Feb. 20. Election Day is March 1, and run-offs will be held March 22. Here is the rundown of the five candidates: Rose Ferlita, 65, has deep local roots and has served with distinction on the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commission. The pharmacist has been a success as a small-business owner. Ferlita proposes to cut red tape, form partnerships with other governments and the private sector and make the city more business friendly. She is not a polished speaker and can be quick tempered, a concern since the mayor frequently confronts tense situations, but there is no doubting her courage or integrity. Former City Councilman Bob Buckhorn, 52, has performed impressively in debates and forums, displaying a deep knowledge of city government and what other successful municipalities have done across the nation. He offers a detailed plan that includes creating a deputy mayor for economic opportunity and a deputy mayor for neighborhoods. He would implement a one-stop licensing program and would train landlords on code requirements to prevent violations. Buckhorn, a consultant, makes no apologies for supporting the police and fire unions. He wears wrist bands with the names of slain officers. But he also promises not to march to the unions' command. Tom Scott, 57, has served on the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa City Council. The pastor of a large congregation, he has worked to bring public resources and private investment to East Tampa. His mayoral campaign is focused on the entire city. He talks knowingly of capitalizing on the port, the airport and other existing assets. He would partner with Hillsborough Community College, University of South Florida and other education institutions to prepare the work force for new industries. He proposes the city undertake a "service level analysis" that would compute the costs of each of the services the city provides and then engage voters in deciding what should be funded during these austere times. Dick Greco already has been elected to four terms as mayor - from 1967 to 1974 and from 1995 to 2003 - and he merits the bronze statue of him in downtown. His list of accomplishments is long. A few: building the wastewater treatment plant to stop the pollution of Tampa Bay, revitalizing Ybor City and attracting the convention center hotel. His leadership helped transform small-town Tampa into a vibrant metropolis. He could be an inattentive administrator and too quick to make a deal. But Greco invariably found creative ways to keep the city on the move and always tried to bring people together, not heighten their differences. And no one has been a better salesman for the city than Greco, who at 77 has lost none of his charm or zest for promoting Tampa. He offers no specific plan for the future but stresses his record of bringing experts together to solve problems. He believes his consensus-building skills are sorely needed during these contentious times, and he may be right. We know he can do the job. He is the safe choice. But we believe the time is right for an entirely different approach at City Hall, and the candidate who offers a bold strategy to revolutionize government and revive the economy is Ed Turanchik. The former Hillsborough County commissioner, 55, is considered a long-shot. He is plagued by a reputation for being more visionary than practical. But as a county commissioner, he was a leader on a highly effective board that, among other accomplishments, helped bring the New York Yankees' spring training and Tampa Bay Lightning NHL hockey team to Tampa, developed the popular program that buys environmentally valuable land and established the indigent health care program that is considered a model for the nation. And he took the lead in forging a water-supply agreement among Tampa, Pinellas and Pasco, ending 50 years of water wars, a complicated feat many thought impossible. Most of the business community now sees mass transit, which Turanchik once was ridiculed for championing, as essential to making Tampa a competitive business center. He headed the city's ultimately futile campaign to win the 2012 Olympics, but the effort brought together Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando and highlighted the economic potential of regional cooperation. He is not afraid to take chances. The one-time Sierra Club activist became a developer, building $10 million worth of homes that transformed a blighted West Tampa neighborhood. The venture was stalled by the collapse of the housing market. The experience gave Turanchik insight into the need for regulatory reform. It also made him pragmatic and systematic about achieving his goals. The one-time labor lawyer now offers an ambitious but realistic plan for reviving the city's economy. He says the city cannot count on attracting a "Microsoft," so it should first concentrate on gaining jobs in existing businesses, particularly the building industry. He says it is difficult for small businesses to build in the city because requirements for parking, storm-water retention and green space make it too costly to assemble the necessary land. Turanchik suggests an alternative to simply gutting the regulations: The city should develop common areas between a commercial zone and neighborhoods that would meet the parking, green space and storm-water requirements. Businesses would lease the space. The areas would buffer neighborhoods and provide parks. The approach would make it far easier to launch urban businesses, and the new investment would offset public costs. He proposes a loan program that would help residents - not speculators - to buy and restore the abandoned homes that now ruin neighborhoods. The loans would target low-income families who can afford monthly payments but need help with a down payment. The goals are to improve neighborhoods, increase property values and generate jobs. He wants incentives for investments in energy efficiency that he predicts would create hundreds of building jobs, such as for plumbers who install solar water heaters. He remains a champion of light rail but says the cheapest and most effective way to link the proposed high-speed rail's downtown stop to the airport is with a synchronized, quality bus service, such as what is used at Walt Disney World. He envisions eventually developing a 5-mile transit corridor linking the airport, downtown and Ybor City that would be a magnet for attracting technology firms and young professionals, thereby sparking redevelopment of neighborhoods. He would use existing revenues and grants and private investment, not new taxes, to launch the transit project, which eventually would be funded by the incremental increases in property tax revenues in the area. Dreamy? Perhaps. But Turanchik's dreams have a way of proving prescient. Voters have five excellent candidates, including one who already has proved himself a superb mayor. But for us, Turanchik's innovative ideas to energize the economy give him the edge. In the race for mayor of Tampa, the Tribune endorses Ed Turanchik.

Candidates not endorsed by the Tribune are invited to write rebuttals. E-mail replies to [email protected]

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