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    A Times Editorial

    Pam Iorio's promise

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 26, 2003

    Pam Iorio's election as Tampa's mayor Tuesday marks a promising shift in the city's history. Her campaign was brief, inclusive and upbeat, free of the negativism that has creeped down to municipal campaigns. Her campaign was consistent with her performance in office, first as a county commissioner and then as Hillsborough's elections supervisor -- a doer who brings people together. Iorio enters office April 1 with great leverage, but also with high expectations to embark on a bold agenda, from breathing new life into Tampa's downtown, to investing in the neighborhoods, to raising ethics and professionalism at City Hall.

    Iorio's support cut across economic and racial lines, and though she was, to many, a fallback candidate with the fewest faults, she undeniably has the values and balance that Tampa wants from its next mayor. Challenger Frank Sanchez talked a lot about vision, but in the end what distinguished him from Iorio was having no record in Tampa politics.

    Iorio should seize this honeymoon period to set a tone for her administration. She should appoint a new development czar to lead redevelopment in east and west Tampa, bring in consultants to review the quality and management of city staff (including fire and police) and initiate a high-profile campaign to market Tampa to the outside world. One lesson from the unsuccessful Olympic and Republican convention efforts is that Tampa needs a more formal relationship between the public and private sectors if its civic initiatives are to succeed.

    The problem with winning by a landslide, as Iorio is about to see, is that it raises varied expectations about what one person can accomplish in office. Iorio could see her broad umbrella buckle quite soon, as the neighborhoods demand water and sewer improvements and more coverage by fire and police, as developers seek new incentives to bring residential towers downtown and as newer residents look for ways to raise Tampa's profile nationally. Iorio campaigned on the promise to make Tampa more "livable," which was code for improving services to those already here and to build the trappings of a world-class city. New parks, museums and housing will be difficult to afford if Iorio spends money investing in the basics. With her first budget around the corner, Iorio will show her true priorities by deciding what to say no to at the outset.

    Iorio should feel immense satisfaction but also a heavy sense of obligation from winning the most expensive and competitive mayor's race in Tampa's history.

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