For Mayor Iorio, It’s All In The Timing

Pam Iorio’s run to City Hall was the perfect campaign storm — starting with her perfectly timed re-entry into the race. More than four months into her administration, timing — as in sooner really means sooner — remains an Iorio forte.

Out of the blocks, she brought in Fred Karl. He, in turn, brought a wealth of experience and instant credibility to the fledgling administration. Later she fired the city’s solid waste director, Tony McBride, signaling to all that business as usual — if it even hinted at impropriety — was no way to do business. And somebody in officialdom finally had to say it: “Poe (Garage) must go.”

*The most recent example of propitious timing: proposing higher fees for parking, sewer service and garbage collection plus a new stormwater tax. The case can be made for their need; it’s a matter of exactly how much and exactly when. The initiative adheres to a time-honored rule of thumb: if you need to do something with some political down side, do it as soon as possible in a new regime, when good will is at a peak. Over time, no one will remember what the rates were before the summer of ’03, but they will hold the mayor accountable for any erosion in public services or a dip in the city’s credit rating.

Over time, the overriding questions are more likely to be about the new police chief, “Operation Commitment,” downtown’s cultural arts’ catalyst and stuff not yet on anyone’s immediate radar.

*And speaking of the arts, the mayor’s stand on fund-raising and construction of the new Tampa Museum of Art is a function of timing as much as financial prudence. Iorio says ground will stay unbroken until the museum’s backers raise the rest of the money — $17 million. This does a couple of things.

Right off, it sends all the right stewardship signals to taxpayers. They won’t have to ante up in a worst-case scenario.

It also says to all those on Jerry Divers’ hit list that NOW is the time to come to the aid of their museum’s capital campaign chairman. Although not everyone is in love with the museum’s Rafael Vinoly design, most folks agree that it has to happen. Really soon. But nothing comes out of the ground until all the money is accounted for, the mayor maintains.

Iorio, of course, isn’t precluded from ultimately saying at a certain, strategic point: “The response to the museum’s campaign has been extremely positive. Overwhelming, in fact. People obviously understand how critically important this is to our efforts in making Tampa a more livable city. And from a personal standpoint, I’ve been extremely gratified at how the community has responded to what certain pundits have been dubbing the ‘Pam & Paul’ show. Well, I can assure you that, while it’s been fun, it hasn’t been some political song and dance. It’s also been work — but very satisfying work.

“As a result, I’m now confident that we can give the go-ahead on construction, secure in the confidence that the remaining dollars will be forthcoming when everyone gets even more energized at the sight of the museum coming out of the ground. It also means that we dodge the bullet of increased construction costs with any further delay.”

The mayor, of course, might not change her mind. But if she does, the timing won’t be happenstance.

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