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Term limits to remain

With the measure soundly defeated, Mayor Dick Greco is denied a chance at another term.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000

TAMPA - Voters on Tuesday ushered in the final act of Dick Greco's long, storied reign as mayor of Tampa by firmly rejecting a controversial measure to repeal term limits.

With two-thirds of the ballots counted, city voters resoundingly struck down the measure, despite a publicity blitz in recent weeks by Greco supporters. Some of the most vocal support came from the Tampa firefighters union, which posted placard-waving volunteers at voting precincts.

Supporters pitched the proposal as a way to keep Greco in office for another term but were hobbled by his refusal to lead the campaign.

"It's unfortunate,'' said Joe Voskerchian, an old friend of Greco's who headed the group pushing for repeal. He was at home late Tuesday as results trickled in. "Maybe we started late. I'm not going to cry in my beer.''

Voters also firmly rejected the repeal of term limits for City Council members by an even wider margin. Like the mayor, council members are limited to two consecutive four-year terms. Voters imposed term limits on city officeholders in 1983 and on state and federal officeholders in 1992.

"People feel you have a right to serve, and then you have to move over and let the younger folks take over,'' said Mike Scionti, chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, who supports term limits.

Considering the results, Scionti said, "I figured it would be that way. The public had spoken before on the issue. I think it will be the end of that question coming back.''

Greco, who will be 69 years old during the next mayoral election in 2003, refused to say whether he would run again even if he could. While he opposes term limits, he said he didn't want Tuesday's vote to be about him.

Eliminating term limits also would have eliminated Greco's status as a lame duck and increased his political clout in the last years of his four-year term. Now that it is clear he cannot run for another term, political speculation shifts to a possible successor. Among those mentioned most often: City Council members Bob Buckhorn, Charlie Miranda and Rose Ferlita, Elections Supervisor Pam Iorio and Chief Judge Dennis Alvarez.

Greco was first elected in 1967, stepped down five years later, and won election again in 1995. He ran unopposed last year. During his reign, he has presided over a period of massive growth and development in Tampa, most recently in Centro Ybor.

"Really and truly, we weren't that encouraged that it would pass,'' said Fernando Noriega, the city's administrator of development and one of Greco's right-hand men, but "I thought it was going to be closer than that.''

On the question of whether Tuesday's vote marked the official beginning of the end of the Greco era, Noriega added that the mayor never said he would definitely run. Still, he added, "Most probably he would have.''

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