“First Spouse” To Focus On Economy

* Pragmatic strategy by Hillary Clinton to co-opt all those queries about what the role of a “first spouse” would be. Speculation has been moving on many levels, most involving politically partisan taunts, when said spouse is Bill Clinton. “I’m going to put him in charge of revitalizing the economy,” announced Hillary Clinton.

While opponents will reference the “peace dividend” and the dot-com bubble as Clinton Administration context, the reality is the Clinton Administration represents–increasingly–a time of relative economic nostalgia. Bill Clinton can bring more than baggage to the White House–including a reminder of where the economy was before George W. Bush took office.

* It’s pretty much a given that a Republican candidate won’t win the presidency without Florida and its 29 electoral votes. And, as Barack Obama proved twice, Democratic turnout in a presidential-ballot year can be formidable. And Donald Trump will not exactly be a magnet for Florida’s minority voters, especially Hispanics. And women. And a fractured party, of course, hardly helps.

So how best to beat Hillary Clinton in a state he must win? And knowing that President Obama, Sen. Cory Booker, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others will be flying in to gin up the minority and female vote? How about doubling down on his veep choice?

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, as we recall, was the only Republican in statewide office to endorse Trump BEFORE he won the Sunshine State primary. She was front and center at his Tampa rally. It was pathetic then and will only get worse during the campaign–regardless of her official status. But a prominent Florida female surrogate with a lot of Fox media training is not exactly the longest of shots. Not when the nominee is a billionaire reality TV show host.

* For what it’s worth: Ronald Reagan’s favorite movie was “High Noon,” a tale of a common man who rises to greatness in response to the times. Donald Trump’s favorite movies are “Citizen Kane” and “The Godfather,” stories of huge ego beyond the grasp of ordinary observers.

* Enough of all the travail within Republican Party ranks over the unconscionable candidacy of Trump and enough of the family feud between Clinton and Sanders supporters on the Dems’ side. It’s (past) time for Bernie to do the right thing, and it’s time for the American electorate to take one for their country in November with a vote for the best, however imperfect, candidate running. This isn’t so much about making history; it’s about unmasking a performance artist and avoiding a disaster.

Media Matters

* We’ve all noticed the ongoing evolution of the Tampa Bay Times editorial page. It’s been trying to broaden its readership base for obvious reasons. We’ve seen the signs from letters-to-the-editor selection to cartoon choice to opinion pieces.

No, it’s not morphing its progressive take into a conservative rant, but it’s been outsourcing regular space to Washington Post editorials and columnists–and not just George Will and Charles Krauthammer–as well as reserving a regular spot for former Republican Florida Sen. George Lemieux. Paula Dockery, a feisty RINO, really doesn’t count.

But last Sunday’s “Why You Must Vote For Trump” op-ed piece by billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson–also via the Post–was an embarrassment. It was also Trumpesque: as simplistic as it was specious. Ideological diversity is one thing; dithering blather quite another. (“He is a CEO success story that exemplifies the American spirit of determination, commitment to cause and business stewardship.”)

Who’s up next? Sarah Palin? Hulk Hogan? Ted Nugent?

* It’s probably too late to meaningfully change now, but what enablers the non-Fox media have been with their continued knee-jerk references to “Obamacare.” Yes, the Affordable Care Act wasn’t a room-service headline meme, and the ACA sounds too much like a college athletic conference. But it wasn’t–and still isn’t–fair to convert a Republican congressional pejorative into standard journalistic shorthand.

* I love puns. And I’m always drawn to advertising that traffics in word play. I was reminded when I noted a recent newspaper ad for The Sod Father landscaping services. That prompted the recollection of some of my favorites: Plant Parenthood, Edifice Wrecks, Dew Drop Inn and Remains To Be Seen (antiques). Yes, there are a lot more, but, no, I’ll quit while I’m behind and give the last word to the late comedian Fred Allen. “Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns,” noted Allen. “He ought to be drawn and quoted.”

Foreign Fodder

Saudi Arabia attracted a lot of international attention recently by replacing a number of its top ministers and restructuring government bodies. The rationale: reduce heavy dependence on oil, diversify the economy and improve the quality of life of its citizens. Not officially noted: buying time for a American ally-monarchy that is reigning on borrowed time.

Sports Shorts

* Maybe it won’t matter, but the Lightning, as we know, do not have home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference finals with Pittsburgh. The Penguins finished the regular season with 104 points and the Bolts had 97. Seems fair enough, although teams from different divisions don’t play identical schedules.

But then there’s head-to-head competition, a seeding tie-breaker in various sports. The Lightning won all three regular season games against the Pens. A series sweep, arguably, should count for something beyond confidence boost. But it could be a moot point–unless, of course, it comes down to a game seven in Pittsburgh. Go, Bolts.

* Baseball fights are often oxymoronic exercises, with much more yelling, pointing and restraining than actual fighting. Except last Sunday when the Texas Rangers Rougned Odor cold-cocked Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. That was a bat-flippin’ shock.

Because of the Odor haymaker, much less was made of another story line. Winning pitcher Matt Bush of Texas recorded his first big league “W.” Yes, the same Matt Bush, 30, who was once with the Rays organization. The same Matt Bush who recently finished serving 3 1/2 years for a DUI accident in Charlotte County in 2012 that caused serious injury and involved leaving the scene of the accident.

Bush is still in Alcoholics Anonymous, has a curfew, has to avoid alcohol and can’t drive. A Rangers official or his father are constant companions off the field.

No, Bush’s story didn’t warrant the media coverage accorded the Odor-Bautista punch-out, but stories of redemption–and possible inspiration to others needing to turn around their lives–are more important.


* “It’s urgent to pacify the nation and unify the country. It’s urgent for us to form a government of national salvation to pull this country out of the serious crisis in which we find ourselves.”–Acting Brazilian President Michel Temer, in the wake of the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

* “By insulting our partners throughout the hemisphere, by tarring all immigrants with a xenophobic brush, some leaders are actively undermining our security and our prosperity. Make no mistake: Our future right here is in this hemisphere.”–Vice President Joe Biden in his address to local business leaders at the University of Tampa.

* “There’s no doubt that Hillary Clinton’s more muscular brand of American foreign policy is better matched to 2016 than it was to 2008.”–Jake Sullivan, former top policy adviser to Secretary of State Clinton.

* “The president has made some tough decisions. But it’s been a mixed record, and the concern is, the president defining what America’s role in the world is in the 21st century hasn’t happened. Hopefully he’ll do it. Certainly (Hillary Clinton) would.”–Leon Panetta, former defense secretary and C.I.A. director in the Obama Administration.

* “Trump is actively campaigning as a Caesarist, making his contempt for constitutional norms and political niceties a selling point. And given his mix of proud ignorance and immense self-regard, there is no reason to believe that any of this is just an act.”–Ross Douthat, New York Times.

* “Trump leveraged a perfect storm. A combo of social media (big following), brand (celebrity figure), creativity (pithy tweets), speed/timeliness (dominating news cycles).”–Steve Case, the founder of AOL.

* “(Trump) has worried many economists, on the right and the left, who warn that breaking laws and commitments could undermine America’s credibility with trading partners, raise its borrowing costs and potentially spark global financial panic.”–Jim Tankersley, Washington Post.

* “You can get away with a lot in primaries by getting more attention than the next guy. He’s going to need infrastructure.”–Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Trump-campaign context.

* “Not since 1964–when Barry M. Goldwater lost the electoral vote 486-52–has a Republican nominee run without the support of the heart of his political party.”–John Kraushaar, political editor of the National Review.

* “Vichy Republicans.” Term applied to Republicans whose self-interest aligns with embracing Trump.

* “Everything is subject to negotiation, but I can’t and won’t be changing much, because the voters support me because of what I’m saying and how I’m saying it.”–Donald Trump.

* “Every word a president speaks matters. It has economic, social and diplomatic consequences. If any candidate is sloppy with facts or language, the voters need to weigh the consequences.”–Larry Sabato, University of Virginia political scientist.

* “The only candidates able to break through the donor-class stranglehold on the political system tend to be those who do not need to raise money that way because they are movement icons like Bernie Sanders, self-financed billionaires like Ross Perot or Michael Bloomberg or celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jesse Ventura. Donald Trump is two out of three.”–Michael Lind, author of “Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.”

* “We will have policy disputes. There is no two ways about that. The question is, can we unify on the common core principles that make our party? And I’m very encouraged that the answer to that question is yes.”–House Speaker Paul Ryan, after a personal meeting with Donald Trump.

* “No matter what happens in this election, Sanders’ idealism has sent a clear message to traditional economists on the left: They are taking too long to develop answers to the problems of inequality and the corrosive effects of concentrated wealth.”–Adam Davidson, New York Times.

* “I sent a letter to the governor of each state, asking them to allow citizens returning from federal prisons to exchange their federal Bureau of Prisons inmate ID card–and their authenticated release documentation–for a state-issued ID, because in order to truly rejoin society, every individual needs to be the one to tell society who they are.”–U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

* “If Congress does not act, then we will need a bailout. And it will be very expensive for U.S. taxpayers.”–Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

* “This is going to be a rough summer; there is no doubt about it.”–Gary Rasicot, TSA chief of operations, on anticipated longer airport security lines and waiting times this summer.

* “Budweiser announced that this summer they will rename their beer ‘America.’ So starting in June, you’re not an alcoholic–you’re a patriot.”–Conan O’Brien.

* “There’s a lot of excitement about the Florida market.”–Chris Walsh, editorial director of Marijuana Business Daily, on the possibilities that could open up as a result of medical cannabis.

* “As long as the County Commission has any say in this at all I am not optimistic. I’ve ceased to try to figure out what they’re thinking or why they’re thinking it.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on the commission’s role in addressing Hillsborough’s transportation needs.

* “Tampa is a city that I always liked because it has an economic sector that is diversified. It’s not a tourist city like Orlando, but it has a lot of tourism and a lot of industry.”–Developer Jorge Perez, CEO and chairman of the Miami-based Related Group that bought the Tampa Tribune’s riverfront headquarters last year.

* “My mission remains the same. The fight continues. And my voice will continue to be among those who speak out.”–Doretha Edgecomb, who will be leaving the Hillsborough County School Board when her third term ends in November.

* “Even as our popularity with visitors grows, our supply of hotel rooms remains largely static. … To put it bluntly, we need new hotels and we need them soon. Fortunately, we have several on the drawing board.”–Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay.

* “I wasn’t particularly happy with how we performed at RiverFest. … Moving forward, we have to do better.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on the recent Saturday night that resulted in downtown gridlock.

Tampa Irony: TIA Prototypes To Mess Transit

It’s beyond ironic.

Just last month Tampa International Airport was recognized as the top passenger-rated large airport in the country–edging out counterparts in Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Chicago (Midway) and Atlanta. Pretty heady company.

In fact, two years ago TIA placed third globally in passenger satisfaction. In short, since its grand opening in 1971, TIA has been regularly saluted for making passengers a priority–from Landside/Airside design to the pioneering people-mover system.

You know the reality and gut feeling–even during current construction–when you fly home from anywhere to TIA. However weary, you also feel proud. We did this.

The term “world class” is frequently abused, but not where TIA is concerned.

And lest we take it for granted, TIA wasn’t located on the exurb fringes of the metro hub, where most such land-devouring projects are relegated these days. It’s six miles west of downtown Tampa, where it abuts the Westshore business district. Beyond prescient and fortunate.

Now for the irony.

Imagine, an area that was so far ahead of the air travel curve–the go-to prototype for other airports such as Orlando–is also a region notorious for its inability to make mass transit happen. Apparently, we can’t do this.

Among major metro areas, the two infamous, mass-transit laggards are still Tampa Bay and Detroit. That’s not company we want to keep. Three years ago a national study by the Brookings Institution ranked Tampa Bay 77th out of 100 metro areas for accessible mass transit. Jackson, Miss., was 76th. Embarrassing. Or should have been.

Just ask Jeff Vinik what question he hears most frequently after an out-of-town, PowerPoint presentation to potential Amalie area relocatees. Variations on a modern transportation theme: As in, how the hell is it that road-building remains your definition of mass transit?

Mess transit is obviously an economic-growth governor, and it’s a quality-of-life suppressant.

And, as we also know, attempts to address our most glaring infrastructure need continue to fail in frustrating fashion.

The 2010 referendum, which deigned to highlight rail, failed in a countywide vote–although it passed in the city–and passed muster with the business community. Then there was the recent Go Hillsborough debacle, a modestly helpful, vision-challenged initiative, which won’t be making it to the fall ballot thanks to an “old-fashion intuition” swing vote.

Among the clearly disappointed, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who would have been placated with rail connecting downtown to TIA–but wanted a dedicated, 30-year revenue stream to accommodate debt-service, bonding and federal grant scenarios.

“To know now that the county commission is unwilling to even let the citizens have a say is discouraging at best,” said Buckhorn. “…For those who choose not to give voters the ability to choose their own future, the burden is on them to come up with a solution.”

Odds are the half-cent sales tax would not have passed in November anyhow. But that should be the prerogative of the people–not ideological commissioners who have been known to prioritize the loudest constituents over the most pressing needs.

That stark reality underscores another scenario, one that may have to play out if we are to reach even modest mass transit goals during our lifetime. It’s past time that cities of a certain size–not just counties–were given the legal right to put a referendum issue on the ballot. So far, the Florida Legislature has ignored entreaties from Buckhorn and other major-city mayors to make that change.

But why? Surely, it’s not ideological. What’s wrong with a democratic, pragmatic solution to address a sic(k) transit syndrome that keeps us out of step with major metro economic development in the 21st century?

Or if you want to wax idealistic: What’s wrong with self determination? Why not allow Tampa, absent the usual unincorporated albatrosses, to determine its own transit fate?  Electrical shuttles around downtown won’t be enough.

And as for TIA, that billion-dollar expansion and renovation project–the one that Gov. Rick Scott and the FDOT approve of–is going swimmingly.

The Ultimate 30

This day was coming. For about three decades.

Officially it was last week when the Tampa Bay Times announced that it had bought its erstwhile rival, the Tampa Tribune. Unofficially, irreconcilable media clouds had been gathering over this asymmetrical market with limited crossover readership since the late 1980s. That’s when the Times, which fancied itself more of a national player and even had its own globe-trotting columnist (Wilbur Landrey), literally planted its flag in Tampa. End-game on.

The Times started a Tampa edition and opened a prominent downtown office. They also hired strategically from the Tribune–recruiting well-regarded, high-profile community insiders such as Howard Troxler, Paul Wilborn and Denise Stengle, among others. It was like Cold War Berlin; nobody was heading east. The media die was cast, even though the Tribune made some Pinellas inroads.

Over time, the Times landed naming rights and sponsorships around town, brought in Dan Ruth who had been cut loose by the down-sizing Tribune, and eventually changed its name from the more parochial St. Petersburg Times to the region-underscoring Tampa Bay Times. It also won some more Pulitzer Prizes.

But the perfect storm of technology, culture and generation only accelerated. Advertising  roulette and personnel layoffs across the board. Newspapers, blindsided by shattered business models, became an endangered species in many markets. The Great Recession was awful timing. Markets such as Tampa Bay, as noted by Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash, couldn’t accommodate more than one daily.

It was no surprise which one would go. The 2012 sale of the Tribune to California-based Revolution Capital was telling. As was last year’s sale of the Parker Street headquarters building to South Florida developers. As was this February’s announcement that the Times would now be printing the Tribune.

Yes, the Times is now among the 10 largest daily newspapers in the country. And, yes, the struggling Tribune is no more. But, no, we’re not better off with a bigger, better resourced Times at the expense of the Tribune’s demise. Less competition is never a net marketplace plus.

Sure, it was editorially conservative, sometimes annoyingly so, but the Trib was part of this city’s fabric for more than 120 years. It didn’t just have employees, it had community emissaries. A lot more than Tom McEwen, Harry Costello, Steve Otto, Joe Brown and Martin Fennelly.

Before there was upstart Tampa Bay and 21st century media models, there was Tampa and its hometown newspaper. The Trib mattered and it will be missed.

Poachmaster General

Gov. Rick Scott’s recent recruiting sortie to Democratic California may ultimately result in a relocation or two but for now, it’s mainly producing bad poaching publicity. Gov. Jerry Brown labeled it–and the accompanying Enterprise Florida radio ads criticizing higher minimum wages–a “silly political stunt.” Other criticism, such as “full-blown stalker,” was much more biting. And, yes, unconscionable climate-change ignorance and “health care fraud” were referenced. Scotts owns it.

And then there’s always this: What does it say about your business acumen when you defend your opposition to lifting the trade embargo with Cuba? Imagine, trumpeting a Cold War era stance that self-limits a nearby, viable market–one that would benefit Florida more than any other state. Impressive.

Sports Shorts

* Whatever happens next for the Lightning, it has already gone beyond its fellow conference finalists from last year. The Chicago Black Hawks, the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers were eliminated early on. Go, Bolts.

* Maybe Steven Stamkos has played his last game in a Bolts’ uniform–but Nikita Kucherov, 22, hasn’t. He’s a goal-scoring, franchise player in the making who will only get better.

* Not that USF has to be reminded, but nothing would help its case for inclusion in Big 12 expansion scenarios more than a consistently winning, big-crowd drawing football program. Softball, tennis, and women’s basketball are points of Bulls’ pride and achievement, but it’s football success and TV market size that matter most.


* “Hillary Clinton’s optimal running mate might be Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a pro-labor populist whose selection would be balm for the bruised feeling of Bernie Sanders’ legions.”–George Will, Washington Post.

* “It’s going to be nasty, isn’t it? Put the small children away until November.”–David Axelrod, former Obama Administration spokesman, on the tenor of a Clinton-Trump match-up.

* “The extreme left now mirrors the extreme right, each reflecting the anger and unbending rigidity of the other. And the idea that politics is the art of compromise, where everybody gets something but nobody gets everything, seems a lost artifact from a distant age.”–Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald.

* “In November, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but I will support principled conservatives at the state and federal levels.”–Jeb Bush.

* “The politician’s prior conduct is irrelevant if his present vows are in line with his target audience’s demands, and Trump dutifully obliged Republican primary voters with a socially conservative makeover. He was negative on abortion, grudging on gay marriage, gaga for Antonin Scalia. That was reassurance enough for them to focus on the America-first, anti-immigration, anti-establishment crux of his pitch and core of his appeal.”–Frank Bruni, New York Times.

* “If Trump is a great big middle finger aimed at a Republican establishment that has abandoned its principles, isn’t it curious that the party has chosen a man without any? Trump doesn’t even pretend to have any, conservative or otherwise. He lauds his own ‘flexibility.’ … He elevates unpredictability to a foreign policy doctrine.”–Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post.

* “Donald Trump won by being an outsider, so he should run an outsider candidacy. But can he run as an outsider without antagonizing or alienating all the insiders? If you alienate potential supporters, you make it almost impossible to get a majority.”–Ari Fleischer, former press secretary in the George W. Bush administration.

* “Hispanic voters represent such a big bloc of independent voters today, as well as swing voters and disaffected Republicans, that if we do our politics and messaging right and we get our voters out, we’ve got an opportunity to run up really historic numbers in South Florida because of the nature of Trump’s candidacy.”–Scott Arceneaux, Florida Democratic Party executive director.

* “Military intervention for reasons of ideology or nation building is not an Eisenhower or Nixon or Reagan tradition. It is not a Republican tradition. It is a Bush II-neocon deformity, an aberration that proved disastrous for the United States and the Middle East.”–Pat Buchanan, Creators Syndicate.

* “If Scott wants to be Trump’s VP or a U.S. senator, a more national mind-set might serve him better. Wouldn’t an international trade mission partnering with other governors be more productive–and patriotic–than the zero-sum game of poaching jobs from one state to another?”–Former Florida Republican legislator Paula Dockery.

* “The solution to transportation in this area is a regional approach. A regional plan that could be brought forward to the voters on both sides of the bay at the same time that shows that partnership, that shows that regional approach to this regional problem, and has common branding and … (a) marketing campaign paid for by the private sector, I think that’s the solution.”–Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard.

* “Anyone who is looking to do business in Cuba is effectively paralyzed unless you find the right folks in the Cuban government to push your proposal through. … They want U.S. companies to come to Cuba, rebuild their country and, for the most part, leave.”–Attorney Tim Hunt, in an Urban Land Institute-sponsored presentation to local business leaders.

* “The continued competition between the newspapers was threatening to both. There are very few cities that are able to sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them.”–Tampa Bay Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash.

* “Research proves the most critical school-based factor is the quality of the classroom teacher.”–James Cole, U.S. Department of Education deputy secretary