Tampa: America’s Hottest Mess
Poke around the White House website and you can still find the hopeful “fact sheet” for a 324-mile high-speed rail line linking Miami, Orlando and Tampa.
No such system exists, of course — it was killed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Today, there’s a 40-acre vacant lot where the Tampa terminal would have stood. And when Republicans arrive for their national convention in about a week and catch a glimpse of it, they’ll likely see a big win. In fact, the GOP will find a lot of things in Tampa that exemplify their commitment to not investing in the future.
“The trend [in Tampa] today is to say, ‘We don’t need it — no new taxes — we are not going to invest anymore,’” former Pinellas County Commissioner Ronnie Duncan recently told Tampa Bay Online. “And that message resonates from not only the constituents, but the leadership of the Republican Party.” You could fairly call the GOP vision for the country the Tampafication of America.
Tampa is a hot urban mess, equal parts Reagan ’80s and Paul Ryan 2010s. Urban renewal projects decimated the city in the ’60s, but its current persona was forged in earnest starting three decades ago, when finance and insurance companies started moving their back-office operations there, attracted by the sunshine and low-cost labor. The 1988 bestseller “Megatrends” declared Tampa “America’s next great city.” Real estate joined the service economy as a major economic pillar, and the city embarked on a building spree, sprouting large glass towers disconnected from the city itself, a development pattern that offered little incentive to invest in things like parks, transit or walkable spaces.
This left little of the quality urbanism people now pay a premium for. And while other cities made similar mistakes, Tampa has been slow to correct theirs, stymied by tight-fisted Tea Party politics.