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Attorney says mayor speaks for the city
By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published October 27, 2007
Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern is in a tizzy because Mayor Pam Iorio sent a letter to Hillsborough County's legislative delegation saying "the city of Tampa does not support" changing the composition of the Environmental Protection Commission.
Mulhern asks: Does the mayor really speak for the city?
"She's lobbying against something that City Council voted to support," Mulhern said. "The mayor's contradicting an official action that we made. I don't see anywhere in the charter where she has the right to do that."
City Attorney David Smith said Iorio does indeed have that right.
"It is not inappropriate for the City Council to articulate a position. But the mayor is the one who under the charter speaks for the city," Smith said. "City Council speaks for City Council. They don't have much power. This is a strong-mayor form of government. If they want to be mayor, they should run for mayor."
Mulhern said she thinks the council should have some say in the city's legislative agenda, and she believes changing the composition of the Environmental Protection Commission should be a priority.
The board is currently composed solely of Hillsborough County commissioners.
Mulhern began efforts to change that composition after commissioners alarmed environmentalists with their effort to curb the authority of the EPC's wetlands division. She's hoping Hillsborough County's legislators will take the matter to Tallahassee this spring.
County commissioners say they support the idea, as long as it means they can have more seats on boards such as the Planning Commission and Tampa Sports Authority to reflect the county's larger population. That's something Iorio doesn't want.
In her letter to the legislative delegation, Iorio said she has been working well with the County Commission and wants to continue that "dialogue" and reach a "common understanding" on board representation.
Mulhern said she won't allow the County Commission's conditions to muddy up her bill. She also says she has a sponsor for it, though she won't reveal who it is.
"I've been on the phone doing my own lobbying, not realizing what was going on," Mulhern said. "I knew the mayor wasn't supporting it, but she did not tell me, and I did not know she was actively working against it."
Mulhern said she won't give up on what is clearly an uphill battle.
"There are many, many people in the community who are expecting this," she said.
Wanting to talk it out
Speaking of power struggles between the City Council and the mayor, there's one brewing now over the right of council members to meet with city staffers.
Iorio wants the council to go through chief of staff Darrell Smith, and staff members aren't allowed to go to public meetings at the invitation of the council unless there's a quorum.
Council members John Dingfelder and Tom Scott have openly complained about the policy in public meetings.
On Friday, council member Linda Saul-Sena put her beef in writing. In a letter to fellow council members, she said that in her five terms on the council this is the first time a mayor has put up a roadblock between the council and staffers.
"This rigid opposition to having staff work collegially with Council Members is counter-productive," Saul-Sena wrote, "and results in things moving at a snail's pace, if at all."
She wants the council to meet personally with Iorio and see if it can persuade her to reverse the policy.
Getting ready for 2010
When he was on Tampa City Council, Shawn Harrison made clear his intentions to one day run for mayor.
Now he's changed his mind.
Harrison, recently appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, says he'll instead run for Ed Homan's state House seat when Homan is term-limited out in 2010.
As a fairly conservative Republican, Harrison said there's no point in running for mayor of Tampa, where Dems dominate. Mulhern, a Democrat, beat Harrison in a run for a citywide council seat during the March elections.
Republican Curtis Stokes, president of the Hillsborough chapter of the NAACP, says he also may seek Homan's seat.
Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report.