Iorio teaches class on transit system

It’s official. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio can add a new title in front of her name: instructor.

In an effort to shed more light on Tampa’s light rail’initiative and the proposed one-cent tax to fund it, Iorio, who is in her second four-year term as mayor, is’teaching a major works, major issues seminar class at USF for the spring semester that
focuses on mass-transit’systems.

The light rail project has deep ties to USF. Iorio said one of the first major lines of the proposed system would run from downtown Tampa to the USF Tampa campus. She said the University is a logical place for multiple stations because it’s a school with a nearby health’complex.

‘Really, light rail belongs to (students). It’s their generation that will live with it over the course of this century,’ said Iorio, 50, who at the age of 26 became the youngest person ever elected to the Hillsborough County Commission.

The rail project has struggled to acquire funding support for nearly a decade. Last year, Iorio met with the county commission, who voted to write a ballot to be voted on in November that would include a one-cent sales tax referendum to help fund the rail project.

The Federal Transit Administration will supply funds for the project, but the city must generate local’funding in order to receive’federal dollars. In 2002, the rail project failed to receive’federal funding because the city lacked a local funding source.

The first 13.3-mile stretch of the rail system, which would connect USF Tampa and downtown, is expected to cost up to $70 million per mile. The connection – expected to be complete by 2018 – will later include Tampa International Airport.

Iorio, who held her first lecture Monday, has strong ties to the University as well. Her father was a USF English professor from’1963 to 1991, and she earned a master’s degree from USF in 2001. The teaching position this semester came with a salary of $2,300, but she declined the money.

‘I just view this class as an extension of my role as a public servant,’ she said. ‘As mayor, I am very involved in this mass transit issue. This is part of my outreach efforts. I think that by working with these students, not only will they emerge very’knowledgeable about the issue, but also who knows what’ripple effect that will have. Also, I think I’ll learn from them, because they are a’different generation.’

The four-credit course fulfills the major works, major issues requirement for honors students, said Stuart Silverman, dean of the Honors College.’ Iorio’s class is capped at’15 students and meets every Monday morning.

Silverman said Iorio’s’advocacy in bringing a light rail system to Tampa and making regional mass transit a reality played a role in USF’ approaching
her about teaching. He said it’s a great opportunity for the University to have a major city mayor teach college students for a semester.

‘Her experience in tackling the issues of mass transit will give students insight on how government works, how the relationships between state, city and county work and how public policy is established,’ Silverman said.

Iorio said she enjoys’providing a public service to students, but she has no plans to continue teaching in the future.