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Tampa Mayor Candidates 2019: David Straz

Tampa mayoral candidate David Straz
Straz for Mayor
David Straz

WUSF Public Media  asked all seven candidates for Tampa Mayor to answer a questionnaire outlining their stands on some of the major issues facing the city.

The questions focused on critical issues including transportation, affordable housing, growth, the attraction of high-paying tech jobs. They also were asked about their visions.

Here's the response from Businessman David Straz:

1) Transportation:

What are your plans to ease transportation woes in Tampa?

The people have spoken. Since the transit referendum passed, we have a tremendous opportunity to finally address traffic and congestion problems throughout the city. With my business experience in managing large budgets and complex organizations, I have the experience to make sure the taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. Now Tampa and Hillsborough County are going to be in position to build a world class transit system. I voted for the referendum because improving traffic and congestion is critical for our economic future.

Do you support using transportation taxes for expanding the existing trolley line in Ybor City and downtown;

Tampa has been hurt by approximately 20% cuts to the existing transit system. As mayor, I’m going to work to restore cuts to the transit system so that we can provide service to the most vulnerable in our community. These cuts have been hurtful to seniors, the disabled and working people who need reliable transit to get to and from work. This will be one of the first things we do with the new transit funds.

Do you support starting up light rail; or bus rapid transit that brings commuters from Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties?

Using my diplomatic skills, I will work with all of our surrounding communities and various levels of governmental agencies to improve our daily commutes.  I support light rail if that’s what the people want.  I had the pleasure of going to Miami and riding the rail system.  I learned a lot about how effective it can work, but it has to be done right and not have a negative impact on people in their neighborhoods. 

What about the Tampa Bay Next plan to expand Interstate 275?

The congestion is frustrating for hundreds of thousands in our city daily. However, expanding I-275 will not solve any traffic congestion problems. Instead, it would cost millions of dollars, headaches with inevitable delays that happen with every large overhaul on infrastructure. The Florida Department of Transportation concluded that it would not be considering expansion and would instead focus on improving safety and general traffic operations. In that effort, the city would have to be involved with this process such as land use and allocation of funds to assist in the effort. As a businessman with a long career and expertise in budgeting and finances, I am the best person to oversee the city’s cooperation with Tampa Bay Next projects and the county.

2) Affordable housing:

What is your plan to ease the affordable housing crunch in the city of Tampa?

This is a complicated issue with a lot of moving parts. My approach as mayor is hands on to see what is happening on the ground, evaluate what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done. I toured the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc. (CDC) projects on affordable homes and saw what can be accomplished through private-public partnerships and community effort. They have done a tremendous job of addressing the issue, but it’s not nearly enough. More must be done.

I will work with all the relevant city departments and not for profit groups such as the CDC, use my network and knowledge of the banking industry, to tackle the issue. I also think the city would benefit from having a Working Group on Affordable Housing so that we get all the stakeholders at the table to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. They can bring their issues to my Quality of Life Cabinet.

My approach as mayor, as it has been in business, will be to be inclusive and to hear different points of view on issues before decisions are made. I think our efforts to create more affordable and attainable housing would benefit from this approach.

Do your plans include using city-owned land to lease to private developers?

The city can do more with its land use. However, the city cannot just hand out lots to anyone with a plan. The developers must come to us with approaches that will benefit the residents with strategic and carefully thought out use. My goal is to improve the quality of life for people and that takes priority.

Will you push to build more public housing?

The city needs to take a more hands-on approach to seeking funds from federal and state grants that can address this. As it stands, the city does not do enough to seek out these avenues for funding. We have one grant writer in the city, that’s not enough and will change when I’m mayor.

What about requiring a percentage of new privately-built apartments to be subsidized at below-market rates for those who qualify?

A forced government requirement would mean more red tape, more bureaucracy and that will not attract developers to build more homes. However, as I have done throughout my banking and diplomatic career, there are benefits to negotiating with developers on behalf of our city. I have brokered much harder deals in my career, and as mayor, I can advocate to developers on setting aside units in new housing units for low-income families.

 3) The innovation economy.

What can Tampa do to attract higher-paying jobs in the technology, start-up and other cutting-edge industries?

As mayor I will create the Quality of Life Cabinet. I will reorganize existing city government. Six key department heads will meet weekly to tackle problems and find solutions. One of the departments is the department of Economic Opportunity, and a key focus of it will be attracting 21st century enterprise.

Should Tampa use city dollars to attract outside businesses, like what the statewide economic development agency Enterprise Florida is doing?

The city has a tremendous amount of talent, skill, willing and able workforce and a beautiful, rich cultural history. These factors alone make Tampa an attractive option for outside businesses. We need an executive in the mayor’s office that can attract everything from small start-ups to Fortune 500 Companies to invest and grow their business here. I came here due to Tampa’s appeal and had a successful career.

4) Managing growth.

Do you support changes to zoning, allowing for higher density housing, or allowing taller buildings in established neighborhoods?

I will provide leadership to make sure the future of development in Tampa is proactive, not reactive. I’m going to put together a Working Group On Codes And Development that I’m going to personally oversee in my Quality of Life Cabinet. Over a 90-day period, I want to put together representatives from the business, development community and local neighborhood leaders. We’re going to dig into the issues and come up with solutions.

My goal will be to streamline the system, make it more efficient and make sure we can grow the right way while protecting our quality of life. Lets get all the stakeholders together in a room and open the lines of communication.

How do you balance the need to grow with the desires of existing residents?

The key to balancing the need to grow with what the people want is actively listening to the concerns of the people coupled with strategic, smart planning of areas of growth.

5) Big picture.

What is your grand vision for the future of Tampa, such as the recent developments along the Hillsborough River in downtown?

Protecting and improving our quality of life will be my signature issue as mayor. I’m going to reorganize city government and make sure we improve the quality of life in all of our neighborhoods. That includes sharing the prosperity with all parts of Tampa and not just downtown. East and West Tampa have been seriously neglected. As mayor, I would ensure that economic prosperity is allocated and developed fairly to all parts of Tampa. We need to re-engineer how our money is being spent.  I know how to do that successfully with honesty and integrity, it’s what I’ve done my whole life.

What would you like to see here, if you could make it happen?

I believe our city is capable and willing to do many great things. I see a bright future for Tampa if I’m elected mayor. Let me tell you my vision for our beautiful city.

Just Imagine… Tampa having a world-class transit system, linking our neighborhoods and downtown.  A system allowing people to get to work on time without sitting in traffic.

Just Imagine… Affordable housing springing up in our city because of public/private partnerships and the grants we get from the state and federal government.

Just imagine… A complete audit of city government with the results posted online for anyone to read.  A mayor determined to get the fluff out of the budget and redirect those funds to our priorities like improving traffic and public safety.

Why is everyone so afraid of a full audit of city government? Are they afraid of what we will find?

I started my career with a broom in my hands, now I’m going to take my broom into city hall and sweep out the waste and inefficiency because that’s what the taxpayers want and deserve.

I see a Tampa that uses its resources and funds wisely with efficiency to produce a greater, more inclusive prosperity for all neighborhoods.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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