Inaugural Dynamics

An inaugural is a unique event. Take this city’s most recent one.

It’s part civic pep rally: celebrating the avatar of the democratic process – even if many voters elected to stay home.

It’s also a most welcome respite, however brief, from the purely political. A time reserved for swearing in, not swearing at. For this freeze-frame moment, public service is not a glib euphemism for politics. And all things are possible again.

And who doesn’t love some gratuitous pomp? A poet laureate, judges, the presentation of the colors, oaths, an invocation, a benediction, the Pledge, the National Anthem, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

We’re also reminded, often movingly, that among Tampa’s natural resources are poet laureate James Tokley, historian Gary Mormino and the First Baptist Church of College Hill Choir.

In her inaugural address, Mayor Pam Iorio picked up where her state of the city speech left off. She outlined her priorities — and notably underscored the need to develop a mass transit system. It’ll be a political hot potato, to be sure, but bully pulpits are overkill on inauguration day. That’s why this one wasn’t prosaically presented. Inaugural presentations always deserve better, and Iorio’s was rhetorically framed by Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”

Afterward, the new city council convened to pick a new leader and put an abrupt end to the kumbayah interlude. Four rounds of votes later, the new chair was the same as the old chair: that consummate compromise candidate, Gwen Miller.

The political respite was history. Indeed, so much for another opportunity for the city council chair to project a substantial, professional image. A city of Tampa’s stature deserves no less.

And then there was the fiasco about who Miller would appoint to the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, a key transportation policy group.

Notably included: New Tampa’s Joseph Caetano, who’s no fan of rail, and had to have been surprised by his assignment. Notably excluded: Linda Saul-Sena, who has served on the MPO for two decades, and had to have felt blind-sided by her exclusion.

The “road not taken” moves on a lot of levels. And that makes all the difference.

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