TRUTH TEST HEADQUARTERS, Florida - With the Tampa mayoral run-off just a week away, candidates are getting more aggressive with their campaign claims. But that also means they're getting careless with their facts.
Fortunately, the 10 News Truth Test is here to fact-check some of the questionable calls the candidates have made in the last couple of weeks.
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ROSE FERLITA CLAIM (Television spot, March 2011): "Bob Buckhorn...supported forcing police officers to keep their guns locked in the trucks of their cruisers, putting officers' lives - and our neighborhoods - in danger."
Rose Ferlita's most recent ad ties her opponent to an old police department policy that required shotguns (not handguns) to be kept in the trunks of cruisers.
As the St. Petersburg Times recently posted, the policy was a Tampa Police Department (TPD) policy - recommended by a safety committee that included officers - to address the shotguns not fitting in the front of cruisers. Neither Mayor Sandy Friedman nor her aide, Buckhorn, seemed to have anything to do with the policy.
Ferlita told 10 News that she was sticking by her claim, but as Buckhorn refuted it, sitting Mayor Pam Iorio said she was so disappointed with Ferlita's negative ad, she was endorsing Buckhorn.
BOB BUCKHORN CLAIM (During debate, March 8, 2011): "(Tampa is) the only city other than Detroit that doesn't have mass transit. And I, as mayor, don't want to look at Detroit as a role model for Tampa, Florida."
Buckhorn's first mistake in a claim he's repeated along the campaign trail is saying Tampa doesn't have transit.
Buses qualify as "transit," with HART serving 50,000 passengers every weekday in Hillsborough County. Furthermore, the TECO Trolley technically qualifies as both "transit" and "light rail," as defined by the Federal Transit Administration.
But even if Buckhorn meant to say Detroit was the only city larger than Tampa without light rail, his claim is very wrong.
Here's a list of cities larger than Tampa (pop. 343,890) without significant light rail or commuter rail options:
According to Steven Polzin, Director of Mobility Policy with USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), Buckhorn discounted the trolley and ranked the entire Tampa Bay region against other "regions" across the country.
"Each time someone says we don't have mass transit it is confusing to the local public," Polzin said. "Comparing (Tampa Bay) to other (regions) for purposes of comparing transit market characteristics is, in my opinion, misleading as our area does not have a single core city or central business district, and more importantly, most local travel is contiguous within the respective counties with only modest interaction between the counties. Thus, our markets are less conducive to high capacity transit services."
The translation is Tampa may have traffic problems, but it's not nearly as bad as other cities that don't have rail.
BOB BUCKHORN CLAIM (During interview, March 11, 2011): "My mom used to tell me, when you start throwing mud, you start losing ground. So we're going to take the high road and just keep on going."
In response to Ferlita's negative television ad, Buckhorn implied he would avoid mudslinging. But this past weekend, he started running an ad that criticized Ferlita's campaigning and said (in a sinister tone), "It's too bad Ferlita's campaign doesn't smell like 'rose.' "
The verdict on this claim is simple - Buckhorn didn't take the high road.
BOB BUCKHORN CLAIM (During debate, March 14, 2011): "If you look at the way stadiums have been funded over the past five to six years...it seems to be owner money...private equity...(and) cities potentially doing infrastructure work around the stadium to assist there."
and "...the owners of the Rays have indicated they'll contribute between $50 (million) and $300 million dollars..."
First of all, the last offer the Rays made - way back in 2008 for the waterfront stadium in St. Petersburg - was for $150 million in contributions toward a new home. Never has the team indicated it would contribute $300 million.
Furthermore, there haven't been any baseball stadiums in the past decade that were built without public financing.
Newly-constructed baseball stadiums and how much public financing they received:
Target Field (2010, Minneapolis, Minn.) - $392 million financed through new sales tax
City Field (2009, New York) - $630 million financed through the city forgiving taxes to the team; $166 million from city and state coffers
Yankee Stadium (2009, New York) - $1.2 billion financed through the city forgiving taxes to the team
Nationals Park (2008, Washington D.C.) - $574 million financed by city, repaid with new taxes
Buckhorn provides one example of a creatively-funded stadium built without public dollars (Pac Bell Park in San Francisco), but it's an apples-to-oranges comparison since even the Giants admitted (during a good economy) that "a privately financed stadium is feasible only in cities with huge corporate bases" such as New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.
The run-off will be held Tuesday, March 22.
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