Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Marco Rubio looking for a landlord willing to take a chance

in 2017/Top Headlines by

In Tampa and Jacksonville, Sen. Marco Rubio or his staff does not hold office hours. Office hours require an office to do that.

Two months ago, Florida’s junior senator had seven locations around the state and one in Washington, D.C. designed to help constituents with issues involving their government. Only five exist now in Florida.

The reason?

Last month Rubio’s Tampa landlord decided not to renew his office lease due to the massive disruptions caused by “protestors.” A few weeks before, the leaseholder of the senator’s Jacksonville office also gave him the boot for the same reason.

“A professional office building is not the place for that,” said Jude Williams, President of America’s Capital Partners, the Tampa building landlord. “I understand their cause, but at the end of the day it was a security concern for us.”

This tired act of petulance forced Rubio’s staff to deal with constituents by telephone, mail or email. Until new offices are located, the public had better get used to impersonal service.

The First Amendment is sacred, but in this case someone exercising their rights trampled on the rights of other Floridians. To whom do they go for redress? Certainly not their senator.

So, who are the protestors and what are they protesting?

“A variety of progressive groups who oppose Donald Trump’s agenda” was the description assigned to them by the Tampa Bay Times. In an article about the situation, the Times reported the agitators (you’ve got to know who and what you’re protesting to be assigned the “protestor” moniker) and more from around the country are coached on how to protest with legislator’s offices being among the desired locations.

The irony here is some of those now without a place to go for direct help from their senator may actually agree with their political views regarding Trump. We have recently learned of alternative places to meet constituents.

How do office hours at Starbucks sound? Rubio’s two-person Tampa staff is meeting with some constituents in “coffee shops and libraries.”

That would be comical if it were not so ridiculous.

The Times told the story of a meeting between David Higgins of the progressive group Indivisible FL-13. Higgins wished to personally deliver a letter urging Rubio to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia, so a meeting was arranged in a St. Petersburg public library.

Hopefully Higgins was mollified by Rubio’s harsh statements on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Senator’s active participation in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bi-partisan investigation into the very issue discussed at the library.

Meanwhile, the office protestors have moved to the highly-visible intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, where they should have been all along. Just so traffic is not impeded, they have found the ideal spot to share their view of just what a bad guy Donald Trump is with thousands of people as they pass by.

Higgins asked Rubio staffer Shauna Johnson why they have not yet found another office. She responded that would-be landlords have a problem with why they were kicked out of their previous location. When Higgins asked for that reason, Johnson simply responded, “protests.”

A senator or congressman’s office is there for all constituents, not just for a select few malcontents. Other building tenants, who also pay taxes and provide livelihoods for employees, have the right to go to and from work without having to be part of a circus.

For Rubio’s constituents in the Tampa Bay area who merely want access to their government, here’s hoping a landlord will take a chance. For those who want to carry signs and chant, the corner of Dale Mabry and Kennedy is lovely this time of year.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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