Much was made of the recent comment of HART Chairman Mike Suarez, whose day job is Tampa city councilman, about a Hillsborough transit referendum being better off held in 2018–instead of 2016. The latter date is the one that most local officials, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, advocate. Suarez didn’t think Hillsborough could pull off the kind of transit synergy that Greenlight Pinellas seemingly has.
First, this will be worked out. In fact, Suarez might have ironically helped the cause by highlighting how imperative it is to get community engagement and how critical it is to get project details to the public in timely fashion. The 2010 effort, even though it passed in the city, was still flawed in its details.
Second, this could also be a cautionary tale for those public officials meeting with editorial boards. In this case, Suarez met with the Tampa Bay Times.
I’ve been on the other side, where you outnumber the guest, whether public official or private-sector representative. The atmospherics are usually more congenial than contentious, the topics typically varied. But there is a journalistic dynamic and media agenda: Get answers, make news. That’s how a page-one headline, “HART Leader: Delay Vote,” happens.
Some guests are frustratingly glib and disingenuous and keep pivoting to their speaking points. Others are candid to a fault in an everything-is-on-the-record forum, even “off-the-cuff” remarks. Some EB members are more inquisitorial than others. But everybody’s taking notes. And there are no mulligans.