Score One for #Tampadeservesbetter

Posted: September 11, 2015 in Corporate Events and Conventions, Personal Ramblings, Soapbox, Studio Happenings
Tags: ,

It was a civics lesson like no other.

For the first time in my life, I attended a City Council hearing in downtown Tampa. I had no idea what I was in for. I went to show my support for a pair of friends and long time clients, Blake and Allison Casper (brother and sister) who own the Oxford Exchange (formerly, the Bryn Alan Photography headquarters building) on Kennedy Blvd. They, along with a considerable number of South Tampa residents and business owners were there to object to a proposed zoning change on property adjacent to the Oxford Exchange, that would ultimately result in the demolition of buildings that, oddly, up until this week, had been designated as historically significant to South Tampa.

I arrived for the 6:00pm hearing at 5:30. I was unaware that they there were seven zoning changes being considered, and ours was number seven. They didn’t get to us until sometime around 8:30, and lemme tell ya… if ya suffer from insomnia folks, a hearing on planned development has GOT to be an AWESOME cure… unless, of course, the Oxford Exchange is involved!

Between 8:30 and MIDNIGHT, lawyers, citizens, business owners, investors, planning commission folks, arborists, historical preservation society presidents, and City Council Members, duked it out in what one City Councilman described as “not a hearing, this was a trial!”

A vote was finally called for and at the stroke of midnight, the proposed development plan was defeated in a 5-1 vote. The room was still packed – at MIDNIGHT – to standing room only status, and the great majority of those in attendance (wearing #tampadeservesbetter tee shirts in support of the Oxford Exchange), quietly celebrated as they filed out of the room.

Things I learned…

  • never leave your seat – you may not get it back
  • eat before you arrive – you never know how long this is going to take
  • if you bring water, don’t drink it – you’ll have to use the bathroom and you’ll be standing the rest of the meeting
  • City Council Members don’t ask questions – they give speeches that end with a question mark
  • City planners need to hire a professional photographer to create the images they plan on using on that opaque projector – those things were HORRIBLE!

It was interesting to witness, I’m glad I went, and I was pleased with the outcome. For a tad bit more info on this, see the Tampa Bay Times article online.

As a side note, when I arrived, I was personally greeted by Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco. He recognized me immediately, and turned to the woman next to him and said “This gentleman photographed my First Communion Portraits!” Yes. Yes, I’m that old. In fact, I’ve photographed many of his family members throughout the years, including a few weddings. Guido and my son, Logan, attended grade school together. Great to see the next generation taking responsibility for the future of our city, and doing it quite well, I might add.



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