For too long, New Tampa has been characterized as an area that does not show up when it’s time to secure support from local government.
Over the last four years, however, we thankfully have begun to see this narrative change.
Just recently, a $7.5-million dollar New Tampa Performing Arts Center — long championed by former County Commissioner and New Tampa resident Victor Crist — looked like it was doomed in the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. Many New Tampa residents — myself included — were disturbed to hear this and showed up to County Commission meetings to let the commissioners know where New Tampa stands. Thanks to this, as well as a promise of likely maintenance support from the City of Tampa, this at-risk project passed by a 5-2 vote.
This Performing Arts Center is but one of numerous local government wins New Tampa has had over recent years:
• In 2017, we passed, after years of rejection in the City of Tampa budget, the New Tampa Recreation Center expansion. Year after year, New Tampa saw this expansion rejected in City of Tampa budgets that seemed to care little about zip code 33647. But, New Tampa residents showed up in red T-shirts to City Council to demand that this Rec Center expansion be included in the budget, and it finally passed.
• That same year, New Tampa successfully pushed to have Fire Station No. 23 — which serves expanding New Tampa communities — included in the City budget.
• Recently, New Tampa residents supported a compromise in the Kinnan-Mansfield stalemate. Thanks to insistence between the City of Tampa and budget support from Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and others, Kinnan-Mansfield is now open for first responders, pedestrians and bicyclists. Though this is only a single — and we wanted a home run — it is a pivotal single for public safety.
• And, just this past year, a top priority of mine — the New Tampa All Abilities Park for children with special needs — passed our City budget. Soon, New Tampa will be home to a park — a first for the City of Tampa’s budget — for children with intellectual disabilities or Autism.
And, New Tampa has been showing up. In town halls that I have organized, hosted or co-hosted (see page 6), New Tampa’s engaged citizens have been coming out to express their views.
When I ran for Tampa City Council in 2016, I did so because North and New Tampa had too often been ignored in the City budget. For New Tampa, our voice has been heard with results. My vision was and still is not for citizens to be adversarial protestors to the City. Rather, it is one of citizens being involved as stakeholders. This is the narrative that produces results. Residents — Republicans and Democrats — coming together to advocate for our neighborhoods.
And, to quote the Carpenters, “We’ve only just begun.” There is more ground to cover: Residents in K-Bar Ranch look to the County and City to work together on a K-Bar Ranch park; New Tampa lags behind in response times for Tampa Fire Rescue; New Tampa badly lacks robust mass transit investments; and roads like New Tampa Blvd. and Tampa Palms Blvd. also need help.
But, we should pause to see how becoming stakeholders in local government has been paying off for our community. New Tampa – Republicans and Democrats working together – is making its voice heard.