Tampa Topics

* As we head toward the climax of another mayor’s race, we are again reminded that Tampa has yet to elect its first black mayor. But it’s not as if time has stood racially still when it comes to leadership diversity around here. While it’s easily overlooked, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that African-Americans currently chair Tampa City Council (Frank Reddick), the Hillsborough County Commission (Les Miller) and the Hillsborough County School Board (Tamara Shamburger). It’s well worth noting and not just because we recently celebrated Black History Month. Reddick, Miller, Shamberger: They are a reminder that progress, even if too often in societal increments, is being made.  

* No it wasn’t Amazon HQ2 or some stop-the-presses relo. But it made news, and it will make a difference beyond jobs. Stockholm, Sweden-based Vycellix, which creates cell- and gene-based cancer therapies, will begin operations this spring at the University Park Business Center–near the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. Tampa will be Vycellix’s primary headquarters. The synergy with Moffitt, which has been morphing into a life science and biotech hub, is expected to enhance many of the immuno-oncology therapies being developed there. And this just in: Vycellix isn’t getting state or local incentives. Moffitt was the incentive.

* By all accounts, WMNF is still roiling over the firing of Rob Lorei as news and public affairs director–and we haven’t heard the last of it. That’s guaranteed if Lorei files a grievance–and he’s indicated he will. Moreover, a number of contributors have indicated that they may withhold or request a return of contributions. This could be serious leverage for a non-profit community station that relies on community contributions for roughly 70 percent of its budget.

Internally, the station faces familiar challenges in a brave new radio world where audiences have a host of digital and satellite options for alternative news. Apparently Lorei’s general manager, Craig Kopp, didn’t think Lorei was the right 2019 fit for a radio station that wants to become a multi-platform source of news.

But the controversy and sense of outrage among many insiders and listeners is hardly unexpected given that Lorei, 64, helped co-found WMNF 40 years ago and is an integral part of its identity. Over four decades, he has become a valued journalistic staple with a reputation as a progressive who can reach across the political spectrum for community input. He has made it a priority to provide a forum to those with a cause–from environmentalists to feminists. He matters–and we can expect a number of journalists, community leaders, board members and contributors to be weighing in. Yes, we will stay tuned.

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