By Sean Bowes
Just after sunrise at the Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club, a jet-black, limo-tinted GMC Yukon Denali pulled into the parking lot. It wouldn’t have looked terribly out of place at the upscale country club — with its spotless paint and chrome wheels — if it wasn’t for the loud grumbling that shakes the ground everywhere it goes.
“Did you get a good look at my pimp mobile?” asked Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn as he greeted the New Tampa Rotary Club on January 13.
Buckhorn loves to talk about his “pimp mobile,” a 2005 SUV he picked up at the police forfeit lot last year instead of having the city pay for his car payments. The previous owner of the vehicle was an actual pimp in South Tampa who transported prostitutes all over the county as the Denali rocked area roads with glass-packed mufflers, which Buckhorn kept — although he did remove the vehicle’s spinning rims.
Buckhorn was the featured speaker for New Tampa Rotary Club’s weekly Friday breakfast on Friday the 13th to talk about the future for not only New Tampa, but the entire Tampa Bay area.
Speaking Of Jobs
After some laughs about his taste in cars, Buckhorn spoke positively about Tampa’s future to the Rotary Club. The “agenda” he “pushing” at the meeting was for the University of South Florida (USF) to invest in robotics. He also spoke excitedly about the visit of the Republican National Convention (RNC) to downtown Tampa and also for the prospects of job growth in the Tampa Bay area.
“My children are not going to work in a call center,” Buckhorn said. “And, neither will yours.”
The mayor spoke about USF’s aggressive step toward increasing the school’s new science and research facilities to complement what Buckhorn said was the likelihood of growth in jobs in the field of robotics. The mayor said he is a huge supporter of USF’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation (CAMLS) project. In fact, Buckhorn noted that he took a week-long trip in November to Israel (a leader in robotics technology) to gain a strategy for the Tampa Bay area to educate students in such growth fields — and to have jobs for them as they graduate.
The USF CAMLS project could bring high-technology businesses and research partnerships that boost the economy and provide graduates with high-paying jobs, Buckhorn noted. He said he envisions the new robotics program having success similar to that of the burgeoning H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute at USF’s Tampa campus.
Economic Impact Of The Republican Nat’l Convention
The week of August 27 of this year — just under seven months from now — the Republican National Convention (RNC) will roll into town, bringing about 45,000 visitors with it.
“Tampa will be in the spotlight for the entire nation,” Buckhorn said. “This will be bigger than the Super Bowl, and we know how to do the Super Bowl.”
Buckhorn estimates that the RNC also will bring 15,000 journalists to the convention, plus housands of politicians, protestors, as well a heavy-duty police force to deal with any possible violent protestors. The increased police force is common at similar political rallies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference and previous RNCs.
“There will be anarchists and people who aim to bring mayhem (to downtown Tampa),” says Buckhorn. “A $50 million security fund will pay for extra cops, security and troopers from all over the state.”
Congress paid the bill for the $50 million security fund. Buckhorn has admitted that if it were not for the Congressional grant money, Tampa would not have been able to host the convention.
Possible anarchists aside, the first-term mayor said he is looking forward to the RNC. He says that the service industry, including those in New Tampa, should see a rise in business during the week-long convention.
Reclaimed Water Update
During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, one Tampa Palms resident asked Buckhorn what could be done about residential water bills, which he said are becoming “ridiculously expensive.” Tampa Palms residents still use the same potable water that comes out of their drinking faucets to water their lawns and wash their cars, instead of using the cheaper reclaimed water, that is available in South Tampa neighborhoods.
“I know,” Buckhorn said. “Something must be done. I’m aware of the problem. The City of Tampa dumps 60 million gallons of reclaimed water into Tampa Bay every day,” adding that the water which is being dumped into the Bay could benefit New Tampa.
“We need to find a way to get a pipe up here,” says Buckhorn. “I’m working on it.”
Buckhorn admitted that Tampa may have a deficit as high as $40 million this year, mostly due to the city’s investment in real estate and construction, he said.