Mass transit crucial to future, Iorio says
March 11, 2010
Mayor Pam Iorio, in her final state of the city address Wednesday, urged support for a mass transportation system she said will allow Tampa to retain a competitive edge in attracting companies and jobs.
"This is the big issue of our time. This is the big issue of our generation," she said of mass transit, including high-speed rail boosted by a $1.25 billion federal grant for a Tampa-Orlando line.
Iorio spoke before an overflow crowd of government officials and residents at the Tampa Convention Center,.
She began by acknowledging the distressed economy. She did not directly address past layoffs of city workers or additional cutbacks anticipated as Tampa faces a projected $27 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year.
"I know it's been a tough time economically; there's no doubt about that," Iorio said. "We've had to make some sacrifices here in the city and meet the challenges of reduced revenue." She thanked city council members for helping draft a budget that retains core services while recognizing revenue shortfalls.
Sacrifices the city is making are no greater than those of other governments and the public, the mayor said. "We'll get through this next year, too; we'll get through it just fine."
Then she spoke about mass transit, and why she thinks it is crucial to Tampa's future.
Efficient, economical mass transit "will define how we grow and prosper and bring jobs to this community in the future," she said.
Urban planning errors of the 20th century, if repeated, will continue to encourage sprawl and keep people dependent on cars, Iorio said. "I see a lot different view of how we can grow and prosper. We are not defined by our problems; we are defined by how we solve our problems."
Conceding the first rail line might not open until 2018, Iorio likened the long-range transportation project to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's push to create an interstate highway system in the 1950s and, in the 1800s, construction of the transcontinental railroad.
"We must continue to make those investments for us to be a first-class community," Iorio said. She said she wants residents and leaders in 2070 to be thankful for the rail line: "In the great tradition of the United States of America, thank you for thinking about the future instead of just thinking of the here and now."
A referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot will ask Hillsborough County voters to consider a 1-cent sales tax increase to help pay for light rail and other transportation improvements.
In her 15-minute speech, and in a video of equal length preceding it, the mayor cited companies that chose Tampa during the past year, including Ikea. The Swedish retailer in May opened a 335,000-square-foot store near Ybor City that employs 400 workers.
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