'Career politician' takes on fresh face

Published February 16, 2007

WEST TAMPA - He's got a politician's handshake and a pocketful of Tampa tales.

Charlie Miranda grew up in the streets of Ybor and attended high school and college in Tampa. He knows how the city works and, for that matter, the City Council.

He was a council member in the 1970s and again from 1995 through 2003, when he lost a bid to become Tampa mayor.

"You can call me a career politician if you like," said Miranda, 66. "That doesn't bother me."

Hoping that voters in District 6 prefer a fresh face to represent them is Lisa Tamargo, making her first run for public office.

The 41-year-old travel consultant is the granddaughter of Lionel Diaz, a founding member of the West Tampa Lions Club.

And she has the endorsement of council member Mary Alvarez, who is giving up her District 6 seat because of term limits.

"She's got fresh ideas and she'll be a fresh face on the council," Alvarez said. "I think Lisa has a better insight and vision than Charlie."

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The district includes West Tampa, Drew Park, Beach Park and the Westshore Business District.

Miranda has lived there for 45 years. Tamargo grew up in the district, moving away while attending the University of South Florida, then returning to buy a home.

While serving on the City Council, Miranda opposed the half-cent Community Investment Tax in 1996 that was tied to a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He wore black in public to protest what he called the burial of the taxpayer.

"You're talking to the only one who read the contract from start to finish," Miranda said during a recent candidate forum. "I'm not against the Buccaneers. We taxpayers can't go over there and have a party."

Miranda viewed the increase as taxing the public to benefit private business. "Public money belongs to the public to have better roads and sewers," he said.

Tamargo said she disagreed with his stance then and his opinions on the tax today.

"It's produced a good revenue stream for the city," she said.

She described herself as "a much more positive" person than Miranda. "I think outside the box," she said. "I don't say 'no' right away. If you're negative, it's bad for morale."

What's right with Tampa is what prompted Tamargo to run for office, she said. She watches replays of Tampa City Council on television at night and has a sense of pride for her hometown.

"The mayor has done a good job with development and a lot of the re-energizing going on downtown," Tamargo said. "I like the potential that is in District 6, revitalization plans for Drew Park, the West Tampa corridor. I'm committed to keeping going these projects that (Alvarez) started."

Drew Park, an industrial area just east of Tampa International Airport and south of Hillsborough Avenue, has often been a point of discussion. The neighborhood contains a high concentration of adult oriented businesses. The council designated it as a blighted area in 2004, making it eligible for special redevelopment money.

Tamargo said she will attend meetings with Alvarez to find out more about plans for Drew Park.

Miranda said that as Hillsborough Community College expands there, it will make the area more attractive for others and stimulate improvement.

Elsewhere in the district, both candidates see the historic Centro Espanol de West Tampa as a neighborhood jewel, and support the building becoming a community center.

Tamargo wants to help the mayor's river walk project, which would end near Tampa Heights, on the border of District 6.

Miranda doesn't think it will be an easy task. "We've been working through five mayors and we haven't completed a river walk yet," he said.

In District 6, he sees a need for more attention to fundamentals, notably drainage. The city should more aggressively replace old water and sewer pipes, he said.

"Time doesn't stop the other pipes from aging," Miranda said. "The city must excel at delivering the basics first: public safety, water and infrastructure. After those needs are met, the city can address other areas."

On the positive side, Miranda praised the Westshore Business District, calling it "one of the most thriving business districts in Florida."

Tamargo, with nearly 20 years as a businesswoman, would like to see the city do more for small businesses, perhaps by sponsoring an expo in West Tampa.

She'd also like a hotel built near St. Joseph's Hospital for families of patients and visiting doctors.

And a family oriented sports bar in West Tampa would be nice, she said. She and neighbors frequent one in North Tampa, but one in District 6 would mesh well with all the Little League teams in the area, she said.

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County Commissioner Rose Ferlita, a former City Council member who served with Miranda, has endorsed him, and contributed $500 to his campaign.

She said he recruited her into politics. "My friendship with Charlie goes back more years than I can tell you," Ferlita said.

Meanwhile, Tamargo hopes the backing of Alvarez will boost her campaign.

"She had a lot of integrity and was very honest about her answers," Alvarez said.

"And that's what I want for my district. I want someone to continue what I have left undone ... and she said she'd definitely continue them."

Kevin Graham can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.



The candidates

Charlie Miranda

Born: Nov. 11, 1940

Political experience: Tampa City Council member in the 1970s and again from 1995 until 2003. Ran two unsuccessful campaigns for mayor, in 1979 and 2003

Education: Graduate of Jefferson High School; Bachelor of Science in criminology from the University of Tampa

Marital status: Married, three adult children, seven grandchildren

Source of income: pensions, rental property and judging horse races

Net worth: $472,796

Contact: None

Lisa Tamargo

Born: Oct. 9, 1965

Political experience: First time running for public office

Education: Graduate of Tampa Catholic, attended the University of South Florida

Marital status: Single, no children

Source of income: Self-employed as a travel consultant

Net worth: $10,000

Contact: www.LisaTamargo.com, (813) 829-7203