As y’all may know, I have been contemplating my choice for Mayor of Tampa for some time now, and I’m prepared to make an official endorsement. Before I dive into that, I will share reasons why my “top 4” are worth consideration should any of them make it into the municipal runoff.
Activist Ed Turanchik has been a part of my political life longer than most others — he’s bold on transit issues, an advocate for ferries, and has solid endorsements from two of my favorite elected officials, Commissioners Pat Kemp and Mariella Smith. He did a great thing in supporting their respective bids for local office. While Ed did not endorse my 2014 campaign for School Board, I still have maintained a great deal of respect for him! A leader for Tampa, elected or not.
Businessman Topher Morrison made a positive impression on me from when I first met him (I was organizing a group at a Tampa Charter Review Meeting). He has always been attentive, genuine, and earnest. This is needed in politics. He has great platform positions including cannabis legalization and introducing gondolas as a means of transit. He has support from people like millennial rockstar and author Juhi Kore. I have a great deal of respect for Topher, and I hope to see him run for other offices should his current bid not proceed beyond the runoff. He’d likely have my support in a future election.
City Councilor Mike Suarez has always been kind to me. His sincerity and support for the Tampa community is strong; and I like that he has support from friends of mine such as DEC Membership Chair Alex Alaya and former Phil Hornback staffer Jason Marlow. I know Mike has Tampa’s best interests at heart.
City Councilor Harry Cohen has done so much for Tampa, having spearheaded ordinances to better maintain and fix our flood water systems. He has a strong, ambitious platform, with support for cannabis legalization, transit, innovation in housing, and opposition to “Stand Your Ground.” He is a genuine person, who listens and learns, despite already having a wealth of experience. Harry was the driving force behind the cannabis decriminalization ordinance that went into effect in 2016. Let’s take a look at that action.
I am an adult who uses cannabis responsibly, and primarily to treat my Tourette Syndrome. I have not previously “come out” as a cannabis user, and figure that doing so now is better late than never. It is an important thing to consider as I share this story.
I did applaud the cannabis ordinance when it passed, but admittedly scoffed as it seemed to be but a small step in reforming our government. That being said, I worked as a pet sitter in 2016, going from house to house in South Tampa to walk dogs, and look after beloved pets. One day, I was at a home (wearing my red “Unleashed” pet sitter shirt) where I had to check in on cats and clean out their litter box.
As I took the bag of cat excrement out to the garbage bin in the yard, I noticed a neighbor looking at me from their yard; as I often do, I waved and smiled as I put the bag into the bin. No response or noticeable emotion from the neighbor. Ok, that’s fine, I thought to myself. I went back into the house to finish up and make sure that the cats had their water, etc.
Upon exiting the home and walking to my car, a Tampa Police officer approached me and told me to spread my legs, and lean on the hood of my car. I immediately cooperated, and as a group of about five other officers encircled my vehicle, I explained that I was at the house to pet sit on behalf of the company I worked for.
Once they realized what I was doing at the home, one of the officers commented that he smelled something on my car and suggested a search; to which, another officer replied with something along the lines of “Oh, that’s a code blah blah blah, we don’t do those anymore” and no search was initiated. It seemed as if the officer was referring to a recent change in police code. Had the police searched my car and discovered the cannabis, I could have faced incarceration, and been put on a trajectory that would have landed me somewhere quite different than I am today.
A couple of weeks ago something clicked in my head as I recalled the experience. The reason I wasn’t persecuted was because of one practical progressive who’s action ensured that I would not be arrested and institutionalized for possessing marijuana.
When you make the connection that an action carried out by a candidate impacted YOU, well, that is a powerful sentiment. I am honored and ecstatic to endorse Harry Cohen for Mayor! Vote for Harry, as he is the best choice for moving Tampa into the future, and I hope that you will join me in supporting a genuine, practical progressive for Mayor!