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Yolie Capin noncommittal about possible 2019 mayoral bid

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

With more than 21 months before Tampa voters will choose a successor to Mayor Bob Buckhorn, there’s no real reason for anyone seriously considering such a run to announce their intentions.

That’s why presumptive candidates 2019 mayoral Mike Suarez and Jane Castor said they don’t intend to launch their campaigns anytime soon. It’s also probably why Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin declined the opportunity to show her cards when asked about her plans during an appearance Friday morning at the Oxford Exchange.

“I was asked ‘tell me what you’re not running for,’ ” she told the crowd at the Cafe Con Tampa “I said I’m not running for governor.”

The longest-serving member of Council (she was selected by Councilmembers to replace John Dingfelder in July 2010 after 17 ballots), Capin will be term-limited in two years. Progressive Democrats are talking her up for a possible run in 2019, with enthusiasm that comes from her liberal stance on several issues, including advocating for stronger relations between Tampa and Cuba.

While that stance propelled some of that progressive enthusiasm, it put her at odds with Buckhorn.

During her speech, she spoke extensively about her five trips to the communist island.

One of the pet projects she’s most proud of is a cultural assets commission. A cultural assets advisory committee created by Capin has been working for the past six years on looking how to leverage the city’s assets, and now that idea is set to become a reality.

Capin met with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan on creating a Cultural Assets Commission, fashioned after the Tampa Sports Commission; the County has now allocated $2.1 million for a public-private partnership that should be up and running by late summer.

Among those private partners with the project is developer/hockey owner Jeff Vinik.

“If the art museum gets a blockbuster exhibit and they need a little help, we’re looking for grants,” she said in explaining how the commission would work. “So a corporation comes in and says, ‘I need $100,000 to do this, and this is the benefit, and we match it with $100,000. You have a matching partner and you have a program. That is going to benefit the community. That’s what we’re hoping to see with this.”

Capin decried the recently passed bill in the Florida Legislature that will put a ballot measure up in 2018 to increase the homestead tax exemption. If passed, the measure would take a chunk out of the ad valorem revenues of every local government in Florida. Tampa could take a $6-9 million hit, she said.

Capin championed Buckhorn’s op-ed just published in the Tampa Bay Times about the measure.

There are more than 600 jobs in the city that gone unfilled since the Great Recession hit in 2008. Audience member Jen McDonald asked if the council had plans in the future for more staffing moving forward. Capin said that the City Council had created an apprenticeship program to replace staffers with the Water Department who are aging out.

“I know we can do more with less, but I just wonder how long we can go on with that lower, leaner staff in the next three to four to five years,” McDonald said later.

Regarding the vexing issue of transit in Tampa, Capin said the issue would “take some leadership,” and said that part of the problem with the 2010 Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax was that the public was too confused about it, and “no one that was looked at a real, honest straightforward leader took the reigns. … Everybody passed the buck, they brought somebody in try to try to pass it.”

If Capin is to run for higher office, however, she’ll need to make sure she’s on top on of all the issues of the day.

When asked if there were any partnerships between USF’s CAMLS medical school and the Cuban government, Capin referred to a 2006 state law that made it impossible for colleges and universities to use public or private money to travel to Cuba (or to any other country on the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism). However, that hasn’t been the case for nearly two years, after the U.S. officially restored diplomatic ties with the Cuba, ending the last travel restrictions keeping Florida professors from visiting the island.

And while discussing local transit, she said that ridership on buses has risen “quite a bit, and that’s because of the recession.”

While ridership was up for several years, those ridership numbers have come down over the past year, both locally and nationally

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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