TAMPA, Fla. — After two years, Tampa's State of the City address was held in person once again. It was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Jane Castor took the stage Wednesday morning to highlight the progress Tampa has made since last year and explain strategic goals to transform the city going forward.
"Today is about us. It's about the current state of our city and our city government and it's about our collective vision for the future," she said. "I can unequivocally say that the state of the city of Tampa is extraordinarily strong because the soul of our city is our people."
Castor began by speaking about the city's resilience and ability to come together in the midst of a pandemic.
"At a moment when national and state politics seemed as divisive and divided as ever, the people of Tampa never forgot that we are more than our political parties or ideologies, that we are more than our differences. We are one Tampa and we stood together," the mayor said.
While mapping out the plan to move Tampa forward, the mayor included remarks on how to keep up with the city's rapid growth in a "very thoughtful and very inclusive way." She spoke about several different topics.
Tampa's housing crisis:
Perhaps the biggest issue facing the city right now is affordable housing. Not only are the prices to get a house in the city not affordable, but rent prices continue to skyrocket, pushing many working families out of their homes.
Throughout this time the city has put forward two different initiatives to try and help.
The first was the Owner-Occupied Rehab Program to help homeowners, who are financially unable to make any necessary repairs to bring their homes up to compliance. The program's goal was to stabilize neighborhoods and keep people in their homes despite rising costs.
The second is Tampa's Rental and Move-in Assistance Program which was just launched in February. $5 million was made available to help eligible renters with security deposits, first and last month's rent or rental subsidies.
Castor highlighted those two programs and spoke about solutions in the works to build more affordable housing around the city.
"We cannot let those who have called Tampa home for generations be priced out," the mayor said.
Tampa's roads and infrastructure:
From potholes to crumbling asphalt and flooding, the city's streets continue to get worse.
Tampa has nearly 3,000 miles of streets. The city spends more than $5 million a year when repaving, but the mayor says it isn't enough — they can only pave about 30 miles with that funding.
That's why she stressed the importance of passing a one-cent sales tax referendum in November that should help them increase funding.
Castor also announced that the city is working on a water conservation project called "Pure" that will "help us withstand droughts, improve the health of our Hillsborough River and comply with the new state law." Several flood mitigation projects are also in the works throughout the city, the mayor said.
Tampa's pandemic progress:
The address last year was virtual — a unique eight-minute video to give the community a tour of the city. COVID-19 was a major talking point today.
Mitigating the spread of the virus in the city was one of the Mayor's main focuses over the last year.
"I am ready to share all of the progress that we've been making and transforming Tampa tomorrow and then also talk a little bit about the struggle through COVID. We ensured that our businesses are able to not only remain open but to thrive during that period, so we've been very fortunate here in Tampa," Castor told 10 Tampa Bay's Angelina Salcedo on Tuesday.
The city set up testing and vaccination sites, made sure everyone had equal access to health care resources and provided funding to renters that needed relief and small businesses that struggled during the pandemic, all to help keep the city afloat.
You can watch Mayor Castor's full State of the City address below.