Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Bob Buckhorn’s foot-in-mouth problem

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Chicagoans don’t like Tampa very much right now. And that’s not just because their beloved Blackhawks got bested by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals.

It’s because they can’t buy tickets to playoff games at Amalie Arena. Owners have a controversial policy that includes not selling tickets to people with out-of-state addresses.

In an interview about the policy prior to Game 2, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn likely made it worse.

“We didn’t want to lower our standards,” Buckhorn said in an interview with CBS affiliate’s Rob Johnson. “We want them to spend a lot of money — and you notice at the bar — spend a lot of money here in Tampa, but you are not coming into my house.”

Lower our standards? Come on mayor, that’s a little harsh even for sports trash talk. Oh, and I’m fairly certain you just painted all Chicagoans as a bunch of blubbering drunks. Good job.

It didn’t even stop there. When Buckhorn was asked about the ticket policy being inhospitable, he just kept right on digging on the Windy City.

“Hospitable? We’re going to win. We don’t care about hospitable.”

Wow. Just, wow.

So, this would be shocking if, of course, it weren’t par for the course in the realm of rude things Buckhorn says.

Just last weekend after a 14-year-old boy was gunned down in a park for no apparent reason, Buckhorn actually blamed the kid – not the shooter.

“These young people, if they want to end up a statistic, either incarcerated or dead, the choice is theirs,” Buckhorn said to the Tampa Bay Times. “Either get out of the life and find good role models, or you end up in the street in a pool of blood at age 14. That’s the reality.”

Though police won’t make the correlation, young Edward Harris was the victim or witness in three separate criminal investigations. It kind of makes you wonder if Harris may have been shot in retaliation for, you know, actually cooperating with police.

That sort of conspiring with cops is a rare thing in the poor, minority communities of East Tampa as evidenced by the fact that Harris is now dead. But good job, mayor.

Then earlier this year when St. Pete was gearing up for the Grand Prix, Buckhorn did it again.

“The city of Tampa is the biggest city around here so, you know, I’m here with the junior partners in this operation. Some of the small boroughs and the little hideaways and little communities tucked away on the other side of the bridge. The 900-pound gorilla is here today and even though Rick has been practicing for the last week … I have no doubt, no doubt, that the city of Tampa is going to win this thing. Hands down,” Buckhorn said to St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and several other Tampa Bay area mayors.

To read it in text it just sounds like some pre-game trash talk. No biggie. The mayors were about to race some go-carts. It’s all in good fun, right?

Not really. Buckhorn’s words rolled off his tongue as he stood at a podium after having showed up way late in a manner that can only be described as bully-ish. It was mean-spirited and not in good fun.

The outcome of that race, you ask: Kriseman trounced Buckhorn who, at one point, even lost control of his go-cart and spun out onto the grass. Afterward in an interview, Buckhorn accused Kriseman of cheating.

Then there was that time at the end of last year when Buckhorn came to the defense of former Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia, who was about to be ousted from her both cushy and lucrative gig at the helm of one of the nation’s largest school districts by patronizing the School Board members who wanted her gone.

He referred to them as “mean girls.” It prompted a huge outcry from some members of the community who thought his words were sexist and demeaning. School Board members April Griffin, Susan Valdes and Cindy Stuart were repeatedly accused of things like being “catty” or “vindictive.”

The argument went something like, a man wouldn’t have been accused of those things for firing an employee.

The bottom line is Buckhorn probably needs a better handler to keep him from spewing sometimes hurtful, insulting and politically incorrect nonsense.

Whether he means well or not doesn’t matter much when he’s spending more time pulling his foot out of his mouth than he should. Elected officials are expected to act with at least some moderate sense of decorum.

Blaming young black boys for getting shot, belittling women and talking smack to your neighboring mayors is just not becoming of a city leader.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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