Theater Of The Absurd A Big Challenge to Iorio

Mayor Pam Iorio’s well-honed communications skills have served her handsomely on the County Commission, in her Supervisor of Elections capacity and on the mayoral hustings. But that was then — and this was Tallahassee.

She was in the capital last week to lobby for Tampa.

By virtue of her two decades in public service, she was hardly a stranger. And by being a big city mayor, she is a big time, state player. But just for good measure, she came accompanied by former Governor Bob Martinez who is also familiar with the perspective from Tampa’s City Hall.

By all accounts, the right doors were opened and the right people seen — from Gov. Jeb Bush to Senate President Jim King and House Speaker Johnnie Byrd. If nothing else, it said Iorio wasn’t wasting any time getting right to the agenda she campaigned on. Iorio, who inherited a city that is largely bonded up, was in Tallahassee to make the case for ongoing help in urban revitalization, affordable housing and the arts. That’s the hat trick for Iorio’s mantra-goal of a more “livable” city. Tampa also can use state leverage for federal help on water issues.

Opened doors, however, can still lead to closed minds. The Governor and the Speaker arguably own two of them.

The economy is dicey and the budgetary process seems scripted by Eugene Ionesco channeling Byrd. Cuts ranging from universities to the medically needy are not just fiscally irresponsible, they’re flat-out harmful to a state that was already behind in such support. Amid a very real crisis that cries out for long-term, revenue-raising solutions, Bush and Byrd soldier on — fighting the partisan cliché canard of liberal spending in state government. Thanks for nothing.

But that’s what you get when you mix a post-Sept. 11 Florida; a couple of ill-informed, costly referenda votes; and a Legislature that has turned “living within our means” into an obscenity. It’s what you get when tapping trust funds and cutting critical services are preferred to revising the state’s outmoded sales tax system and repealing some of the more outlandish, special-interest exemptions.

As to what Iorio gets for her efforts, this much, at least, was encouraging. It was the response of King, the Senate President, to her heads-up that she expected to be working the capitol corridors “a great deal next year.”

“There’s a finite amount of money, and in the end you want to help who you know,” acknowledged King. “It behooves a mayor to make oneself known here to get things done.”

Iorio is quickly finding out how many roles the mayor of Tampa must play. Right now none may be more important than “squeaky wheel.”

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