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Politics / Issues

Tampa Mayor Candidates 2019: Ed Turanchik

Ed_Turanchik.jpg
Ed Turanchik

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 are the replies from former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik:

1) Transportation

What are your plans to ease transportation woes in Tampa?    

I have a comprehensive plan for transit called the Tampa Go Plan that you can see at www.tampa2020.com.   It calls for 44 miles of congestion-proof, dedicated transit ways that also include bikeways as part of a connected system that I want to achieve within five years.  The goal is for most of Tampa to get from home to work, school, healthcare or play without needing a car.  It is married to 63 miles of congestion proof ferry service, that will connect Tampa to surrounding communities while also taking cars off the road, by diverting trips like South County to MAFB to ferry service.  The same would be true for St. Pete to Westshore trips.

This plan would be paid for by using AFT funds and, in some circumstances, matching state and/or federal funds.   

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

My Go Plan does call for modest expansion of the streetcar up to the Polk Transit way proposed in the Go Plan.  Beyond that, I think modern, autonomous trams are the better option as they cost far less, are far more flexible and can carry more than streetcars. 

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

The only workable transit approach is to actually locally, while thinking regionally.  That's because 90% of Hillsborough County trips start and end within the County.   So any regional system must follow the development of a strong local system.   I do think express bus, some limited bus rapid transit, and even commuter rail on the CSX lines are good prospects for regional service.  However, light rail --- at $100 million per mile --- is far too costly to use on a regional basis, plus the advances in transit technology, like autonomous trams, has likely made LRT financially obsolete. 

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

I'm never quite sure what people mean when they ask this question.  So, to be clear, I favor the construction of a new span on Howard-Franklin Bridge plus the reconstruction of the intersection of Veterans, S.R. 60 and I-275,   These two projects alone will take over 10 years to achieve.   In the meantime, I want to diligently prosecute the Go Plan, which includes building an express bus lane in the transit corridor in the I-275 median between downtown and Westshore.  I do not favor expanding the footprint of the downtown interschange. 

2) Affordable housing

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

1.  Requiring developers to construct affordable housing in connection with transit-oriented design along Go corridors.

2.  Ramping up a robust 203(k) mortgage program to help renters purchase and rehab existing rental properties, which would stabilize neighborhoods and create jobs.

3.  Retaining city owned lots in a land trust and procuring a range of builders to construct housing that is architecturally consistent with neighborhoods and selling to maintaining these homes as income restricted properties.

4.  Vigorously lobbying for full funding of the Sadowski Act by the Florida legislature.

5.  Developing a local affordable housing trust fund.

6.  Expanding grant and low-interest loan programs to help low income homes owners maintain and improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

7.  Revision the city rental code to require all rental properties meet higher energy standards to reduce the cost of utility bills to residents.

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

1.   Yes, we would look at using city lots on a land trust basis to be developed for affordable homes and rental units. 

Will you push to build more public housing?

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

3) The innovation economy

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

I believe the economic development paradigm is shifting.  Great places attract talent, which attract employers.  So place making is key, which is why aggressive implementation of the Go Zone goes hand-in-glove with economic development.  With the Go Plan, a majority of Tampa neighborhoods won't need a car to get around.  And we will leverage the construction of affordable homes around them.  These are some of the elements of place making that is critical to creating a 21st century economy.

I also believe in creating a robust "innovation ecosystem."    I think the Mayor plays a key role in doing this.  Too this end, we will create an Office of Innovative and Public Private Partnerships to advance both the roll of innovation in providing better government services as well as further the creation of such an ecosystem.

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

We already do this through the Qualified Target Industries program along with the County.  I believe we should continue with this approach, so long as we are appropriately selective of how and where we spend such dollars.

4) Managing growth

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

I support following our comprehensive land use plan which governs development.  In some cases, this plan contemplates and proposes redevelopment at higher densities.  Indeed, the transit element of the comprehensive plan contemplates higher densities along transit corridors.    

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

I am a long time environmentalist and Sierra Club member.  We have a saying --- think globally, act locally.  To this end, we need to create a future land use plan that allows for city building in the right places ---- such as along high frequency and capacity transit ways ---- which can conflict with existing land uses.  We have to do our best to reconcile such conflicts through a robust public engagement process.   At the end though, we are a City, and some areas of our city will naturally see --- and welcome higher density redevelopment projects ---- as part of the City building process.  

5) Big picture

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

My vision is detailed in my Go Plan --- it is of a City with a robust transit system that gives us choices from using a car, and freedom from congestion.   I envision building transit-oriented mix-use development around Go corridors --- in places that make sense and that work within the context of each neighborhood ---- so we have sustainable development.   I want Tampa to become known as a place where people with good ideas can succeed, and they don't have to leave here --- or they want to move here if they aren't a current resident.   I also want to improve the quality of our urban schools, and the educational opportunities of our urban youth. 

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

By 2024, I'd like high speed trains running from downtown Tampa to Orlando and I'd like Tampa Bay to have the kind of robust ferry service that New York, Sydney, and Seattle have.   I view these are both attainable, and would be transformative in their own right.