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Kathy Betancourt


Material Information

Kathy Betancourt
Series Title:
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (63 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Betancourt, Kathy A
Kerstein, Robert J
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Community development -- Florida -- Tampa   ( lcsh )
Tampa (Fla.)   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )


During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Kathy Betancourt served as Director of Governmental Relations (through 1994). The interview begins with Ms. Betancourt discussing her background and growing up in Ybor City. She describes her position with the city and her work for the city in Tallahassee. She also discusses Florida's Urban Partnership (FUP) and Florida's Association of Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) and the role the city of Tampa played in these organizations. Ms. Betancourt talks about the city of Tampa's police department and its conflict with Mayor Freedman over the "take home cars" issue. She also discusses the issues of neighborhood development, leasehold taxes, and the waste-to-energy plants. The interview ends with Ms. Betancourt's impressions of Tampa and the changes in the city over the years.
Interview conducted on June 13, 2005.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System Details:
Streaming audio.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028545829
oclc - 180110989
usfldc doi - F50-00001
usfldc handle - f50.1
System ID:

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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0


1 Sandy Freedman Oral History Project University of South Florida Interview with: Kathy Betancourt Interviewed by: Robert Kerstein Location: Unknown (Tampa, FL) Date: June 13, 2005 Transcribed by: Rebecca Willman Edited by: Kathy Betancourt (August 1, 2006); Robert Kerstein (9/06) Rebecca Willman (9/07/06) Audit Edit by: Cyrana Wyker (08/25/07) Final Edit by: Nicole Cox (09/11/07) [Tape 1, Side A] RK: This is interview with Kathy Betancourt who was Director of Governmental Relations during the administration of Sandy Freedman. Thanks for speaking with me. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Were you born in Tampa? KB: I was born in Ybor City and I grew up in West Tampa. I went to USF and got two degrees at USF a bac Hillsborough County mostly sixth grade. I substitute taught, and then one year I taught a combination of fifth and sixth. I then went to work as a lobbyist for Hillsborough Classroom Teacher When Bob Martinez became mayor one of the things he had wanted to do was to set up an office of Government Relations so he hired me, and I set up their first office. Then when he left, and Mayor Freedman had been Chairman of Council, so s he stepped in to fill his unexpired term, and I stayed on with Mayor Freedman. RK: Now did you stay throughout the second administration also? left. RK: And what were your primary responsibilities? KB: State, local, federal, and regional government anybody who was an elected or appointed official governmental, not political as much as government, you know, that sort of stuff. Working issues, working the budget a li ttle bit, just whatever was something that a local or state or federal, elected or appointed official was going to do or regional for that matter. RK: Did you spend a lot of time in Tallahassee?


2 KB: Yes, we did a lot. It depended on the issue, what issu e was hot. So if we had an issue, like we worked we were doing our waste to energy plant we worked on some federal legislation that related to that. If the legislature was in session and we were torm water, whatever. Whatever the issue was. We spent a tremendous amount of time on growth management, predates Freedman, but it was a good experience. The City of Tampa has a very sophisticated, very professional staff, very respected You know, the people who run the sewer system love their sewers [laughs]. The people who run the water Tampa. The folks who do the bargaining or employee relations, they care about what they RK: Can you give some specific examples of what you had to do during the Freedman administration in Tallahassee, as far as lobbying, whether it be for money or for statutory authority? they kind of all blur, because the bad ideas that c e to search. RK: During the period that you worked for the Freedman administration, the first and second term, did the state legislature change at all as far as working with them? I was thinking perhaps it became more Republican and that might have made a difference one way or another. . people know what a mayor is, partisan. Only in recent years have people been tal king about whether a person is a Republican or a Democrat. And when Mayor Freedman what was, what she had to do, or the most important vote that had to happen was for her to become the Chairman of Council, and it was between h er and Haven Poe. But the issue of which one brought up a little bit, but only in recent years have people talked about whether someone who is on City Council is a Repub partisan city and school board elections in our area, and for people to bring up the partisan stuff to try and do it is counter to the [Florida] constitution and to the never was that big of an issue. Now, it became an issue, when she first when she was mayor, and Bob Martinez was governor, and she went down to a League of Cities meeting and made some comm ents on


3 behalf of the Republican candidate for President of the United States. And Governor Martinez had made some comments about the Democratic comment [laughs], person. And it was a little strained because of that. Because she was involved, even though s he was non partisan, as other mayors have been, she did get involved in some partisan races. Not that many of them, but being mayor keeps you busy. RK: Did that at all impact what you were able to do in Tallahassee? KB: Oh yeah. I went to meet I remembe r I went to meet with it worked out very well because I went to meet on a transportation service area issue or something, with the then Secretary of Education, Kay Henderson. Kay was the secretary under Martinez, and he said something about you better tell your boss you better tell your mayor to stop saying things about these partisan things and I said to him, I said, boss to stop talking about politics, but you tell your boss to stop talking about politics. And he just laug hed and he said So he never brought it up again. But sometimes it was a little touchy, but we could work around it. He could work around it. RK: Did Hillsborough have a good delegation for you? KB: Yes, yes. Generally, i t almost always has. Reapportionment, single member districts and term limits later, but single member districts did make it more difficult for the city to represent the city because of the way the districts were cut up. And right now, if you look at the d the city of Tampa has city. And it used to be more of that, you know. You had your delegation lines, [they] w ere drawn by the counties, and by geographical boundaries like rivers or the bay or that it became those changes in the legislature did make it more difficult. And th at happened during that time, that transition occurred. It used to be very easy. You had nine members of the Hillsborough delegation. Four represented the unincorporated areas, five were in the city, then they changed it around, it went the other way. An d then suddenly people just had a piece of Hillsborough, or a piece of Tampa or a piece of whatever, and it was just carved up in such insane ways that or carry your water for you. So you had to work o n personal relationships or what their interests were. RK: So was it a major benefit to you that you worked in Tallahassee so long? KB: Yes. I had a lot of personal, and still have a lot of personal relationships with legislators and the staff that hav e been around for a long time. And also we worked very closely with the League of Cities. And we worked closely with our other (sister) municipalities. One of the things that Bob Martinez started and then it kind of atrophied because he got into different things and then Mayor Freedman really resurrected it; one of the things I think she [Mayor Freedman] really deserves a lot of credit for because the


4 and Bill Frederick, when they were mayors. RK: And he was mayor of Orlando? KB: Right, right. An d then it kind of atrophied, and when Mayor Freedman came in, she got with Mayor Frederick and some of the other mayors and talked about resurrecting doing, which i s an excellent one. And that is the five big city mayors would get together every so often, and in fact they put together a legislative agenda, but each one of them had a business partner that they took to the meetings with them. So you had ten men and women sitting around the table, discussing urban issues as they saw them. And the rule was that they had to unanimously agree or it was un ique to Miami, or unique to Hialeah, or unique to Jacksonville, or unique to Tampa special for trial lawyers, or special for developers or whatever. And they had different people t he mayor of St. Petersburg had one of the executives from Florida Progress. They had different people all the time that came in with them, like developers, or bankers or whomever. And it was the five mayors [who] were of course [from], Tampa, and then you had St. Pete, Orlando, Hialeah, Miami, and I guess Jacksonville, was six. And Lauderdale in for political reasons, right before I left, because the mayor of Ft. Lauderdale then was the president of the Florida League of Cities and he was crying to be in it RK: Do you remember any of the private partners with Mayor Freeman? KB: I think she had Jim Apthorp for a while. Jim Apthorp was the one I think who came to one of our first meetings will. But I had Florida Urban Partnership for a while, I know it still exists. RK: And does that mean that they would tell you as the representative, what their priorities were? KB: They, the first yeah. They would do a round table. They sat, the first meeting they had with Freedman, that they organized, they met over, early in the new Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. They had lunch there with a closed door meeting the press was and then at the end, we had a press conference, and they all talked about what they were going to do. And then of course, what was it, Mayor Suarez, Xavier Suarez, gets on, Oh I thought the press w ould be allowed in, I


5 let the press in, I had a couple cops with me. It was a hoot. what they thought the big problems were, and threw out what they thought bills ought to be filed, and t bills that we did that were good bills, and we passed almost all of them. And it was fun, because, like, I remember going to Lincoln Diaz Belart and asking him to do a bill for me in trafficking, because we had some issues with respect to the weight [of] what constituted personal use of marijuana, I think it was like ninety pounds it was ridicu lous, and we brought in this humongous thing and said, this classifies as personal use and this is outrageous and that was a lot of fun. That was a lot of fun doing it. But I could go to different delegations I went to Van Poole in Ft. Lauderdale, and h e we did a big bill on prostitution, it was a big problem for all bill, a really good bill. I remember one legislator, one woman, sai d, the women, I said, and most of the pimps are men I learned more about prostitution than I ever wanted to know, about Federal Highway and Dale Mabry and Nebraska and all the places in every big city where the hookers go, and the pimps, and how horrible those pimps are. RK: Did the mayor ever interact with county commissions, the administrators or commissioners with regard to their views on these urban issues? KB: These were unique. This part icular group was uniquely the big city mayors, and it Lauderdale in. St. Pete was not a strong mayor when we first started, but there was no way we could not include St. St. Pete had a city manager form of government. But all the others had real mayors. Now, we did have sev eral meetings that we had with the county and we did some one of the things that Mayor Freedman and Bob Martinez both did, was that they did encourage several meetings that we had of elected officials from the cities and the counties in the region. And so we did some work with that, we had meetings with them to talk about and mainly it was on a topic, and usually it was transportation. RK: Sometimes, did mutual planning councils get involved with those meetings? KB: Yeah, we always had I think all of the cities, and generally counties, generally held at that time because people were still feeling out what their responsibilities were a love hate relationship with the regional planning councils, who could come butt their noses in, and for no reason, in the stuff you were doing, and act like they were pure and you


6 in and they act like they care more about your neighborhood than you do nobody cares more about Tampa than those of us who live here and love it and work for it, and for some outside person to come and say you know, well, you have to do this or that and they act like a do annoying. RK: Can you tell me how it works in Tallahassee? You know as well as anybody who for this group of citizens? KB: One of the things that we started, and Tampa was in a leadersh ip role in it, both at the state and at the national level, is actually in Tampa, in Florida and Tallahassee, and how many years old), but we started a under the leadership, the person who was really our main leader, was Teresa Lintz may she rest in peace. She was a lobbyist from Pinel las County, and a wonderful lobbyist. And Teresa doing Pinellas County, and I was doing Tampa, and then Eugenie Suter from Broward and there were a whole bunch of us. We started a group, and during session, the lobbyists from the big cities or the cities and counties that had lobbyists would get together on a regular basis and walk through bills and divvy them up, because there are so many issues that affect cities and counties that there is no way that one person can do everything on behalf of their city So we would pay attention to different bills and spell one another on them so, and not make somebody have to do the ugly stuff. Like if we were fighting the firefighters on some stupid workers comp bill, I might take the lead on that bill one year, but n obody would make me have to do it twice you know. Because then somebody else could take it the that public on, we would let the League of Cities carry the water for us And the League of Cities always met with us or the state of Association of the Counties, Florida legislatu e did, is I generally focused on the big ticket items, spent a lot of time on water, sewer, solid waste not having to pay as much for water, sewer or garbage, you know. And fo r you and me and try and keep the price of those departments down, while at the same time having quality and protecting the environment. So you have water, sewer, solid waste are big ticket items, and of course land use. You know, letting the city letting people have say in what their neighborhoods are. And those are things I spent a lot of time on.


7 RK: Were the rural legislators less responsive to you? couple of legislators from Hernando who always had these from Hernando, Pasco, that are a that always filed these bills on water issues, water supply issues, that nobody of the come on, Mr. Smith Chuck Smith, oh Mr. Smith, you forgot your bill file d your annual reelection bill agai nst Tampa and Hillsborough County and St. Pete and everybody, they where you find allies on different issues. Sometimes law enforcement issue they might care about or and you can help them. One of the things I always felt was that as a big city, we could help the smaller cities with usiness practices. We could learn from our little brothers and sisters. So they were very helpful to us on issues. And because Tampa, fortunately Hillsborough County, were blessed, we only have three cities but it was easy for me, as a representative of Tampa to call the city manager, call Nettie Draughon over in Plant City or Tom Bo nfield then in Temple Terrace and tell them, and call can you call senator so and so, or will you do this, me RK: Did it help you then that a former of the city of Tampa was governor for a period? play a little bit, and he and May like for instance, when he appointed Dale Twachtmann to be head of Department Environmental Protection, which at that time was DER [Department of Environmental Regulation], that was great. Because D ale knew department heads, and he knew our talent, he knew our people, and he moved a number of people that we knew up there, so we had some good access to some very high place people and that was good. RK: And what position had he held in Tampa? KB: Da le had been the head of Water Sewer Public Works. He had been the Super Chair been the Super department head. He did all the water, sewer, solid waste, public works, I mean that was big stuff. So when he went up there, that was a great contact for us. So you know, that was fine.


8 RK: Did you also get involved at the Federal level? KB. Yeah. RK: What did you do there? KB: We had a number of issues, we had uh a cou ple of them were, well, when Freedman was mayor, well, it had to be Freedman, Bobby was already gone, we worked on a number of issues, one was the Federal Courthouse, because there was a thing that the courthouse was not going to be downtown, it was going to be over in St. Pete, and that was a big issue we worked on. Another one was deauthorizing the channel, so, but that was when Bob Martinez was mayor. We had to deauthorize the channel so we could develop Harbour Island KB: When you drive over to Harbour Island, that was designated as a channel, which meant you could not put a bridge there. So we had to deauthorize the channel with the federal government. Lawton Chiles was in the senate, and was very helpful to us in doing that, and deauthorizing that which enabled us to build a bridge. We had to work with the corps of engineers to put some stuff in place as well, in order to be able to do a sea wall where the convention center is now; and tear down the old customs house there we had to do that swap with the federal government. One of the things, the signature issue that we worked with the thing that I think Mayor but that is, what she did for affordable housing in the state of Florida. That, the Bill Sadowski Act was her bill. We that bill came out of the city of Tampa. It came out of the programs that Fernando Noriega and that when Bob Martinez was mayor, he let his folks do affor dable housing. When Freedman became mayor, she let them dream and let them make a lot of dreams come true. And the partnerships that were put together with the banks and the not for profits in order to make a lot of affordable housing possible, and the who le bill that was done in affordable housing, the Sadowski Act, was the Freedman bill. And we lost it the time that we lost that bill was a heartbreaker, and then it was so tragic that Sadowski was killed in a plane crash, and then we slapped his name on th told me was shameless, but a very good thing to do [laughs]. And Sadowski would have loved it, because he worked very hard on that bill. RK: What had been his position? K B: Sadowski was the head of Department of Community Affairs, Bill Sadowski. A much, a highly regarded member of the legislature years ago. In fact, he has a I have in my office I often show to people that they need to pay attention to. He was a lovely, lovely, intelligent man, a wonderful man. And when he was appointed Lawton made him Head


9 of Community Affairs, and he was really into affordable housing, and he worked very hard w ith us to pass a housing bill for the whole state of Florida. And it was named after him, but really the germ, the seed of that bill was planted in the city of Tampa. And it was done, Jimmy Hargrett, did it we had a meeting, a round table, we all went arou nd the table, and it was Freedman who said ere, work with the development communities so that we can put things in there, things that they need, to make it easier for them to build, but at the same time, keep n eighborhoods safe And I think she needs to get more credit for that, because she really is the one who that, but she really needs credit. I mean, there should be a lot of attention paid to that, because she really did that. And I hope she talked to you about affordable housing. Because you know what happened, too is that afterwards, when all those stupid ult. That was just some people who screwed up the system. That can happen in any system. But the City of Tampa, until we had the disgrace that happened, had the best affordable housing programs in the country. I mean, Fernando went all over the country tal king about the bill that we passed, and how we were getting money, it was very important. RK: Did you have to work with representative US Representative, Sam Gibbons on issues? him to get money he got us he was not really into earmarks, but he did get us an earma rk in HUD to tear down the old Curtis Hixon, which we did through a federal grant, I worked with him on that very closely. RK: His seniority [was] helpful? KB: That was helpful, yeah. RK: Many a concert in New York City always complained about federal mandates, and I know some mayors complained about state mandates, state or federal government, stepping up water quality standards and mayors saying adequate money and so on Did the issue of mandates come up? KB: Well yes, in fact Mayor Freedman was on a federal task force that I think Al Gore chaired, that yeah, she was on a federal task force that looked into paperwork and nuisance mandates and stuff like that. She was very involved in that. But see, its not that say that has more this this this and this Well, that may be true at this bay, but it m ight not be true at that bay, or the conditions over in this receiving water body So what was very


10 of Tampa is surely different from you know, Live Oak or from, any c ity that I mean, it got a number of those, and we worked on eliminating some of those. That was a good initiative. RK: And was that primarily the state or the federal level? KB: At the federal level, we worked with Henry Cisneros. In fact, she [Freedman] had Secretary Cisneros come down to Tampa and spoke at Tampa Theatre one time when he was at HUD. And we went up and worked with him on a number of issues. But she [F reedman] was very involved, and very well regarded. RK: Did money become scarcer during the time that you were with the city? KB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. At that time you had the New Federalism you had the Reagan years coming into play, and you had what, I guess it was Tom McPherson, former state senator, called the New Federalism Because what they so monies, monies did become scarce. her, Because she did not increase taxes. And I told her, if you were to you might as well increase them! Because people are going to believe that you did And I bet, if you went out there and as ked people if she increased taxes, they would say yes. And she did not. If you look at her record, she was very prudent, very, very, conservative, did not increase taxes. She caught some publicity crap, for one of the things that she did that was a cour ageous that the cops had. I mean, why should the people of Tampa pay for you to drive a squad car and park it in Oldsmar? We were putting gas in that squad car, driving you to and from Oldsmar, or to and from New Port Ritchie, where you live, and you were parking a City of Tampa squad car in your driveway in New Port Ritchie? Or out in the boonies in Hillsborough County? Why should Tampa pay for that? Now, some of us felt t hat she done, was gone forward with the policy to just let them if you live in Tampa, you could City of Tampa taxpayers pay for the appearance of crime fighting out in the unincorporated areas that was a very courageous thing for her to do, when she did it. RK:


11 cops, I remember one of them said something like, oh, if you do that then some of them will lie about where they live. And I went, well, excuse me! You know? And she got criticized a lot for that. But that was not an unreasonable thing to do. Because for the Ci ty of Tampa to be paying for the maintenance repair and gas for people to drive a car outside of the city limits, and sometimes way outside I remember coming home from Tallahassee and seeing one way out near [Highway] 19 and [Highway] 98 parked in a house. And I thought, you know? RK: Did that hurt her politically? KB: Yes. Because the cops, they went crazy. Now, it was good for the auto industry, They sold cars [laughs]. But it no, I think it hurt her a litt not communicated as well as it could have been. RK: Did it hurt her when she ran for the US House of Representatives Democratic primary and ul timately lost in the run off to Jim Davis? Did the police work against her? Phyllis Busansky was [also] in that race. And so they had similar base supporters. That was a very crowded field. And bec more than just that. RK: So you would describe Mayor Freedman as fiscally conservative? KB: She was. If you look at her budgets look at her budgets, she did not, she was [End Tape 1, Side A] __ [Tape 1, Side B] RK: So Mayor Freedman was conservative, was she liberal in anyway? used to know liberals, there used to be liberals i them. The old definition of what liberals used to be like, there are not very many of them around. I think people would say one of the things that she did, that was perceived as liberal was, remember when she did the Martin Luther King street naming? And some of the politicians advised her not to do that until it was a quid pro quo for something that she needed [from] the black community? And she said no she just thought it was right, and so she was going to pursue th at, and she went forward with that despite some people


12 telling her and despite it was pretty controversial thing for her to do. Which I think was courageous, and she did it just because she thought it was right. That would be perceived as, be called, a lib eral issue. And now, years later, nobody cares about it. But back then, when we did that street naming, that was a big deal. That was a big deal and it was very controversial. And there were a lot of people who were pretty ugly. RK: Did issues of gay and lesbian rights come up? couple of employees I remember we had a transsexual firefighter, and that was kind of that I recall. RK: The Freedman administration focused a lot of attention on neighborhood KB: Right. She was very, very much for neighborhood supporting affordable housing number of KB: That was the drug squad meant to go in and to stop dealers. I mean she was really into neighborhoods. Basic good stuff in neighborhoods. RK: And in addition to housing progr ams, is there anything that you did at the state or federal level to try to move that along? KB: Trying to think we did some federal legislation on some grants for police officers. And then some of it happened after I left. We also went to war with the f eds on an issue that had to do with kids. The City of Tampa we had put we had applied for and gotten a grant and we put computers in Boys and Girls Clubs. And then the feds came in and audited, and they said that they wanted some of the money back because we had let children use the computers who were not designated as they had not filed the paperwork, and so they were not qualified under the program. And we just went to war with them. And we ultimately won, after a while. They finished that case after I l eft, but I remember going to Washington, and I remember our congressional delegation being very helpful, all of them, helping me meet with people and sit down with people and taking some of the private sector partners we had for the Boys and Girls Clubs wi th us. Because we were pretty much telling them, you know, we have these two kids, one of ime, but stupid kids. You know, because then, it will be stereotyped and then no body will use it. So we went to war but we won that one. That was a big, that was a big case too T hat was


13 really good, that was a lot of fun. But Mayor Freedman would not back down on that one. That was good. lot of stuff going on. And you know, you just RK: The Sports Authority, the Port Authority, the Aviation Authority, did you have to interact with them? KB: Yes, we worked w ith the Port Authority on a number of issues. We worked with them on some submerged land issues here and there. Worked with the Aviation Authority one time it was kind of butting heads go to council on that issue. But then ultimately, we just kind of, it was good it KB: Leasehold taxes stuff. We worked with the Aviation Authority on that b ecause we felt things were not on the roster that needed to be on the roster. But yeah, you worked with everybody. Worked with Swift Mud, worked with the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority. RK: Was the Port Authority and the Aviation Authority we re they willing to work with to work with. Worked with the Sports Authority as well on a lot of issues. See, the Mayor of Tampa is such an important community. The Mayor of Tampa has a lot of influence, whoever the mayor is, with all of those entities. RK: During the time that you w orked with the Freedman administration, the county was growing pretty rapidly in terms of population. The City of Tampa grew because of Tampa annexation. KB: Yeah, annexation grew some. RK: But was there tension between the County Commission and the adm inistration on the issues? KB: Sure. On everything. There is, was and always will be. I mean you cannot put the the screeching and the screaming. Now they worked t ogether more often than not. I to have that because the issue that comes up often times is dual taxation. And you know


14 the city will say that somebody will go to the count y and say, oh, well do you support this ? And the county will say yeah, if the city chips in too And then they go to the city and the city says, wait a minute. City residents live in the county, so they get to pay twice. And a lot of times the city will do it just for peace. You do get the dual taxation issues [that] are pretty tough, and they come up in a time like now, of limited resources. And RK: What about the annexations, did they bring tension? KB: We had, we had annexations, and we, for instance, we had an annexation of University of South Florida into the city, which made it possible to go in to do all of New work Ta llahassee. They would not be as inept now as they were then. The guy that they did governor and cabinet ourselves and it worked out very nicely. But they did not really know the administration of the county at that time did not really know how to hand le RK: How did you you had to deal with so many different issues that often times were extremely complex, not just politically but technically and so on. How did you acquire an expertise? KB : Right, right. Well, you do [laughs]. But you have people that are really good that you take with you. And that you have, that you know, when I was talking earlier about the very sophisticated level of staff people that the city has when we were working on the Waste to Energy Plant, Rick without Rick there to answer questions for me. When we would do the affordable ho using issues that were so complicated, I had Bob Harrell, Fernando Noriega, the folks from Tampa United Methodist. I mean, I had people there who did this everyday and who knew what they were doing. And you know you learn from them, you hear them. And you know legislators ask the same questions after a while, you learn from them and then know and you just say, and then you know it too. But wh en you get into a big issue like affordable housing, or like, street lights that was a big issue, you know the building of the street lights all you think about all day long, you know. And you learn that stuff really quic k. But then RK: Did the National League of Cities provide expertise at all ?


15 KB: It depended on the issue. I worked with a guy at the National League of Cities who, we were working on cogeneration issues in Washington, and he was very good. KB: Waste to energy plants. And he, he was Dave, or D ave Gannon, something like that. who I worked with on that issue. The US Conference of Mayors was very helpful on those issues and the League of Cities on others. It depen ded on what we were working on. RK: Was the waste to KB: It started with Martinez, and then some of the the issues continued. Because then hat if it broke you the health of your plant, for your plant to remain healthy and to operate at maximum efficiency, there were certain things that you needed to have in place and people were RK: Many cities focus on economic development to some extent, and I know that the Mayor often took trips to try to speak about the benefits of moving to Tampa and Hillsborough County did you participate in that? KB: I did not go on any trips, but I did set one up. We had in fact, we had a wonderful came from Seattle. And they had [inaudible] for the l obbyists for the City of Seattle, Bill Stafford, who now he does international trade now. But Bill Stafford and I met, and we Executive Staff Institute, lobbyists for bi g city mayors, has been getting together now for about twenty years. And Bill was the really, Bill Tom McCliman and I were the three that helped get that cranked up. Mayor Royer, before he was Mayor of Seattle, he had been a newsman, and so a lot of [th e] business community looked at him very suspiciously. They thought he would not be sensitive to their issues. So Mayor Royer set up this thing where he would take he took a group of business leaders to visit some city and to look at three issues that they wanted to learn about. Two or three issues, or one issue, depending on where they were going. And I said, And later on, Bill called me, and said, do you think your Mayor will do it ? And I said, well, calls my mayor, maybe So Mayor Royer, Charlie Royer, called Mayor Freedman and asked if I would set up a field trip to Tampa, and we looked at health care they came to look at health care, the Port, and something else. There were three iss ues. And in fact, Pam Iorio was on the County Commission, and she came and talked to them.


16 It always frosts my case that Phyllis Busansky gets all the credit for that health care tax. worked on it. She was a baby commissioner at the time. But she came and talked to them at Tampa General [Hospital], and about the health tax that we were looking into and some of the things we were going to do in this area. And then we took them, we threw them in a boat, and we took them around the Port, and they met with some Port people and it was a wonderful experience. And they came, and the people from Seattle came to look at Tampa to learn from Tampa. And it was a really good experience to do that. Mayor Freedman did cultivate some good relationships with other big city mayors. And so they were able to call each other up and spell one another and talk about things. RK: Did they ever compete with each other to try and to attract businesses? KB: Y way. RK: Did businesses ever ask the mayor for certain incentives that you then had to go to KB: We worked on something that involved enterprise zones as I recall, and we worked on some tax increment financing issues. We worked on, I guess it started with Martinez we started on that sales tax for Superbowl with Martinez. But that was that RK: How does that work? KB: The sales RK: Oh, I see. that can afford to buy a Superbowl ticket. But we worked on issues. I think that some big issues involved the Convention Center, what issue was going to continue with the Convention Center. Because remember when Bob Martinez was mayor, the Convention Cent er have this multi use thing, no public money, blah, blah, blah. And then, they got the land, [and] they moved it over there; Bob Martinez went forward with it and ac quired all of that property and its as as good or bad or whatever as you would have wanted it to be. And Mayor Freedman had to make a decision as to whether she was going to move forward with that Convention Center. And she did. But that was a hard decision to make. Because everybody said, a lot of people said, but the cost of it was going


17 up, and the question was, should the people of Tampa pay for a regional facilit y like that? Because it is a regional facility. And we ended up paying for it. And [are] still paying for it. RK: Was this state or federal money? KB: [pause] No. RK: Were there certain business people or professional people or others who were really KB: All the downtown boys. See I thought, of course, it would have been very irresponsible. I thought if she just said, oing to have a waterfront park, all that property is going to be a park that the county would have ponied up some [money] a bunch of people, the know, like on the MLK stuff, she was not going to wait for the blacks to come and ask going to use it as a quid pro quo or as anything like that. You know, and a lot of people into playing games. Ever. KB: V ere working for him to be ugly to her. And she was treated very unfairly I think. But again, play couple times where there were things that she could have done that she said, no, you go tha t nto playing games. RK: Do you think her gender did influence how the [Tampa] Tribune treated her? KB: Uh huh. Yeah. Because they liked, you know, editorial writers, they liked to be Mr. Roberts, I think he liked to be contacted and stroked, and others su rely did. But she RK: During the period of the Key Bank investigation, and the husband being in the news to some extent, did that make a difference? It must have been very difficult.


18 family, very devoted to her family, and she and Mike are very close. So it had to hurt a look at that and say, why am I doing t And were a number of people who were treated very poorly and who were investigated by grand juries here and grand jur ies there and all that stuff, you know that, you were here. And you wondered why, you wondered how political is this? But a lot of good people had their lives questioned, and their morality questioned, and nothing ever came of it. RK: How would you place the Freedman administration within the context of the Martinez administration, which you were very, very familiar with, and the Greco ayor has they have different personality and a has been blessed by having a series of very good mayors going back to my estimation, back to Nick Nuccio who had the foresight to buy that property on the river and to get that into public ownership and to, do some things that really positioned our community to grow and to prosper. From Mr. Nuccio to Dick Greco, to Poe, to Bob Martinez, I think I think Julian Lane ot as familiar with things that he did during his administration. The getting that waterfront property into public ownership, to me, was such an important any of them RK: Would you see the Freedman administration as [having] more continuity with KB: She picked up yeah. Because if you look at most of them, the same staff were there. So the bedrock of your top staff, and of people who rea lly were able to do, [or] run their departments, but satisfy the personality of the mayor who happened to be there. So tention to, that everybody talks about, is just a small portion of what goes on. I mean, the most important thing that goes on is, you important, you know. When I turn the fau but those are the things that the city does everyday that the mayor makes sure happens. gossip than it is like the real running of the city. RK: It does appear that at certain times, during the Freedman administration, there was some conflict between the administration and some of th e major business people. At least


19 do the that was. But if you look at any real conflicts with the business community on a major i ssue, that. And actually, that kind of as strange as the Bamboleo thing was, it kind of lanced the wound, and then when they came back and did Gasparilla, the Gasparilla now is totally different than what it used to be. Everybody, every crew, any crew, that wants to pay the ow, you want to run up and down and dance and have your crew, do your thing you can be black or white or gay or RK: Was there any different tone with the Freedman administration maybe after the Superbowl controversy, the Whydah controversy regarding race that hurt earlier administrations as far as focusing on racial inequality? KB: I think the public view was that she was more tolerant. That she almost [inaudible] you know, when we had they called them riots, but you know burning a dumpster But she was seen as, I think by people ghs]. But I think her relationship with the black community for the most part was very good and stayed good. She always worked it. And not in a phony way. I mean, she would see people and go to their churches and visit and do stuff, and she was sincere. RK: When you were in Tallahassee, how did you perceive the lawmakers on Sandy Freedman? like you. Because you have a lot of power. And people like power. And they want to be seen with power and they want to meet power. And so it went very well. And some of it was relationships that I had, that I could open doors, but most of it was because she was for the That is a very important position. Everybody knows who the mayor is. but did they have someone in that position?


20 KB: Yeah, yeah. See, when I left the city, Mayor Freedman was very kind and let me were going to shape it, the mayor contracted w ith George Sheldon to do certain issues for us, and then worked with the League of Cities. And my Assistant Director, Debbie Stevenson helped track a lot of that stuff from here. She probably could have had my job, young, and she just did not want to have to travel and do all that stuff. As it was, she was putting in fifty sixty hour work weeks here, you know. And the idea of doing that ller, who was [doing] the internal audit, she was doing it. Because she had a lot of experience at the federal level and was very good. But the Tallahassee level and the federal level are two different things, and although Cindy did a very good job, she wa RK: This I should have asked you before, I apologize. Some people have suggested that by t in the legislature Terrell Sessums and so on. Is that your perception at all? ot true. We had well, it comes and goes. We had Terrell, and then Terrell left, and then later on we had Lee. You know, you had Lee years later and Lee was, was pretty good. So it depended on who you had and where they were, I mean it moved around. I mean, Malcolm Beard, Senator Beard was very, very helpful. On a lot of issues. And no, I mean, I went to Senator Beard on all my transportation stuff. And he had a good relationship relationship that wa s that great mean, he was okay. But he, he told me he thought it was very courageous of her to take the cop cars away, he thought that was a smart thing a tough thing to do. You know in and out, dependent on who they were, you know. Some were she was doing land use, she did community affairs, she chaired that, so that was good for us. Jimmy Hargrett was v ery helpful on affordable housing, incredibly helpful on affordable housing. Les Miller was very helpful on the House side. Jim Davis, when he first got have a cohesive delegation. So whereas you have a delegation, the people are more free to have. People see themselves as Hillsborough County legislators, but they really a In some cases, they have a piece of three or four counties. You know, look at little


21 llow up on your career after leaving the city, what did you do after leaving the administration? KB: USF. RK: Same position? city, I was very happy there. I was very pleased the een years is a long time. RK: You grew up in Tampa... KB: Uh huh, Ybor City. be the better suggest ion. RK: So Tampa has changed in different ways, for the good and for the bad? Since most people are from other places, they think that where they came from is better here. You I mean even some simple things like a lot of the high rises that are going up here on Bayshore, the integrity the spirit of Bayshore is threatened by so many of them. And some of these nice little neighborhoods you know, putting, getting these stupid mansions on these ninety foot lots, and then wondering why they have storm wate r problems when they moved all this permeable surface you know, off the inventory. But e back where they came from. I wish they would. RK: Thank you very much for speaking with me.

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Betancourt, Kathy A.
Kathy Betancourt
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Robert Kerstein.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (63 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman administration oral history project
Interview conducted on June 13, 2005.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Streaming audio.
During the tenure of Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman (1986-1995), Kathy Betancourt served as Director of Governmental Relations (through 1994). The interview begins with Ms. Betancourt discussing her background and growing up in Ybor City. She describes her position with the city and her work for the city in Tallahassee. She also discusses Florida's Urban Partnership (FUP) and Florida's Association of Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) and the role the city of Tampa played in these organizations. Ms. Betancourt talks about the city of Tampa's police department and its conflict with Mayor Freedman over the "take home cars" issue. She also discusses the issues of neighborhood development, leasehold taxes, and the waste-to-energy plants. The interview ends with Ms. Betancourt's impressions of Tampa and the changes in the city over the years.
Community development
z Florida
Betancourt, Kathy A.
Freedman, Sandy.
2 610
Tampa (Fla.)
Office of the Mayor.
Tampa (Fla.)
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Oral history.
Online audio.
Kerstein, Robert J.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
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