Next mayor should help downtown

Tampa’s mayoral race has brought a bevy of candidates to the fore. In the mix are a former Clinton aide, former supervisor of elections and a member of the Tampa City Council, just to name a few.

While the candidates have hit on a wide range of issues, and will undoubtedly step up campaigning as the March 4 vote nears, Monday’s forum at The Tampa Theatre to discuss the cultural arts district may have been a telling sign for what’s to come with a new face in City Hall.

Bob Buckhorn, a City Council member, was the only candidate to leave the forum, stating that the arts district would not be a priority for his administration. While an arts district may seem like a trivial issue to some, the ramifications it could have for downtown Tampa, USF and the surrounding areas will affect almost everyone.

Many of the mayoral candidates, including Pam Iorio, Charlie Miranda, and Frank Sanchez, asserted Monday that a revised and rejuvenated cultural district downtown would help attract business and residents to Tampa, making the area more profitable. Also, by beautifying the area with improvements such as wider sidewalks and flowers, as well as a new $27-million art museum, the area would essentially serve as a cornerstone of the arts district.

These plans were to be carried out by the Community Investment Tax, a half-cent sales tax that was passed in 1996. Buckhorn reiterated at the forum that he had thought the money raised by the tax would go for “basics.” And while Buckhorn stated that he wanted this campaign to be focused on neighborhoods, he seems to have forgotten that downtown Tampa could be the area’s biggest neighborhood, if given enough support and attention.

Buckhorn needs to remember that the arts in Tampa Bay have been given a boost in recent years with the expansion of the Performing Arts Center, recent renovations at The Tampa Theater and a renaissance blooming in St. Petersburg.

With such an influx of artistic support, it would not benefit Tampa residents to vote for a man who is against expanding downtown and creating an arts district that could not only attract more money but provide jobs for Fine Arts majors who graduate from USF every semester and could raise the cultural status of Tampa. Who knows what the final impact that kind of growth could hold.