8 INVESTIGATES: Millions spent on Tampa’s touchy feely projects won’t solve stormwater problems

Flooding at Swann and Bayshore in Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Afternoon thunderstorms generally wreak havoc on Tampa’s streets.  The worst of it happens in city councilman Harry Cohen’s district. “More and more streets are flooding, the flooding is deeper, it takes longer to recede,” he said.

So the mayor is proposing a new tax to raise $250 million for five major and 150 smaller stormwater projects.

“I’ve had enough of that,” said Tampa business owner and resident Randy Portillo. Randy Portillo says he is taxed enough.  He points out that the touchy-feely projects the city has spent tens of millions on are doing nothing for stormwater drainage.

“He’s got money, but he won’t spend it on the stormwater, he’s spending it on these parks and special projects,” Randy said.

Randy is particularly irked with the $35 million in the city is spending on a riverfront park. “Park’s no good, if you can’t get to it,” he said.

8 On Your Side asked council member Cohen why the city spent $35 million on a park when it has severe stormwater issues.

“Well let me say this, first of all they really are two separate issues.  We are making a lot of investments into the downtown area,” Cohen added.  “I will tell you flat out that if I thought that there were the votes on city council to use the BP money for stormwater, I would have absolutely done it.”

In Tampa, taxpayers shelled out $33 million on the Riverwalk, $3.2 million to restore the Cuscaden Pool and $68 million on a streetcar that runs in the red.

Randy’s business is near Ybor City, so he still has to pay a tax for the streetcar.

Still Harry Cohen insists there is no fat in the budget, even though the city is paying $11 million to renovate city hall. “But you know what this building is a hundred years old. It needs a tremendous amount of work,” councilman Cohen explained.

Three-quarters of Tampa’s infrastructure south of U.S.F. falls into that same category.

City council will decide Thursday night whether to impose a new stormwater fee.

Get the latest information about Tropical Depression 9, school cancellations, road closures and more. 

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