Mitch Perry Report 5.23.14: Al Austin's political legacy


Al Austin's death yesterday at the age of 85 brought out voices of respect and admiration from politicians in Tampa Bay and beyond, as the developer and GOP fundraiser was such a prominent leader of the Republican Party in Tampa. His legacy was cemented when, after two previous attempts in the aughts went astray, he led the team that brought the 2012 Republican National Convention to the Cigar City, and lived to see it happen.

Austin was a rock-solid Republican. I had one opportunity to sit down and interview him, about a month before Tampa hosted the RNC in late August two years ago. He was dead on in agreeing with my prediction that the city would in no way play host to the "15,000 protesters" that somehow became the going number in predictions before the convention came to Tampa (sort of like the presumption that 800 million people are somehow going to watch the IIFA Awards sometime later this year because, well, that's what "everybody says" is going to happen).

Suffice to say there is no Democratic equivalent of Austin in the Tampa Bay area. If there were, Mayor Bob Buckhorn might have not have immediately shot down the idea of Tampa submitting a bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Such an event costs lots of private money and organization, areas in which Democrats can't compare with Republicans — not in Tampa Bay, at least.

You can read the Tribune and Times for all the encomiums. I respected his love for Tampa and all that he did to make Westshore what it is today (or is it West Shore?).

Speaking about respected elders, did you check out Bill Nelson yesterday? In addition to calling for "heads to roll" in the growing VA scandal, he also sent out his own letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, telling him it was time to lay down the wood on the owner of the Washington NFL franchise, Daniel Snyder, and change the offensive name "Redskins" for once and for all.

Will it make any difference? Frankly, I consider Goodell to be a sellout for the owners, but maybe pressure from half the Senate will finally move him. Goodell has consistently sounded insensitive about this issue, and lots of folks have compared his response (unfavorably) to newbie NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's decisive handling of the Don Sterling situation.

In other news.... We were out at the joint Chris Christie/Rick Scott campaign appearance at the Port of Tampa yesterday afternoon, where the two GOP governors trashed the former Florida GOP governor. But unfortunately, Governor Scott did not really address CL's question regarding his thoughts about two groups who support him making trips to Cuba, while he had plenty to say when Charlie Crist announced he might be visiting the Communist island. 

We attended the 4th annual Tampa/Hillsborough County Ride of Silence on Wednesday night.

We like to alert you to two features we've published in this week's special Summer Guide issue. One is on the IMG Academy in Bradenton; the other on the very interesting ASPEC program done down at Eckerd College.

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