Buckhorn cheerleads for moving the USF med school downtown
As a candidate for mayor, Bob Buckhorn said he would support the University of South Florida's research mission any way he could.
If that meant helping with zoning, land development reviews or changes to regulations, so be it, candidate Buckhorn said -- anything to foster the creation and clustering of spin-off companies, especially downtown near USF's Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation (CAMLS).
"I think we've made progress, certainly rhetorically," Buckhorn said in an interview on Nov. 19, 2014. USF is a regular part of his stump speech. In November 2011, he traveled to Israel to meet with executives from Simbionix, a manufacturer of medical training simulators that are used at CAMLS. In 2012, he opposed proposed legislative budget cuts to USF's Tampa campus. But often, he said, his support has meant being a cheerleader for the university.
Then along came Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, and Mayor Buckhorn upped his ante.
Amid discussions during 2014 about the idea of USF building a new medical school building on a piece of Vinik's land near downtown Tampa, Buckhorn has:
• Made clear that he supports the move;
• Embraced the idea of using downtown redevelopment funds to pay for roads, utilities or other infrastructure that the development would need;
• Urged USF trustees to approve the move;
• Made lobbying the Legislature to appropriate money for the medical school a top city priority for the spring 2015 legislative session.
And, yes, Buckhorn said he thinks there would be a beneficial connection between having a downtown medical school and USF's research mission.
"It would be helpful in attracting talent," he said. "I would think it would help in attracting companies that would take advantage of that talent."
During his campaign, Buckhorn promised to cut through red tape at City Hall if that would make USF's research initiatives easier to do. By moving the medical school downtown, Buckhorn has said the university's research mission would benefit from its proximity to an area that's attractive to young professionals. And he is backing up his support for the move with vocal advocacy, the prospect of city cash and City Hall's lobbying presence in Tallahassee. These are real and tangible steps. Though a downtown medical school building isn't a done deal, Buckhorn's support is clear and unequivocal. We rate this Promise Kept.
Interview with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Nov. 19, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, USF considering new locations, including downtown Tampa, for new medical school, Aug. 15, 2014, accessed Nov. 11, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, With other ideas in the mix, Tampa money not guaranteed for Rays stadium, Sept. 12, 2014, accessed Nov. 11, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, Jeff Vinik hires Tallahassee lobbyists amid talk of USF med school move, Oct. 14, 2014, accessed Nov. 11, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, USF trustees endorse downtown Tampa medical school, Oct. 30, 2014, accessed Nov. 11, 2014
Buckhorn fought budget cuts, touted CAMLS
Bob Buckhorn's campaign promise to support research at the University of South Florida was fairly comprehensive, including assistance with zoning, land use and regulations for both the university and spin off private enterprise. For that reason, it's too early to give a definitive rating to this campaign promise.
However, the mayor has taken several steps in his first year to specifically support the university.
During the 2012 legislative session in Tallahassee, it looked like USF's Tampa campus was going to received outsized budget cuts as part of Sen. JD Alexander's push to split USF's Lakeland campus into an independent university, Florida Polytechnic.
The cuts angered many in Tampa, including Buckhorn. He penned an op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times condemning the move:
"Make no mistake about who is getting hurt here,” Buckhorn wrote. "Your children may have graduated from USF or hope to attend one day. A USF physician might have saved someone in your family's life or delivered your baby. You might have enrolled in a new degree program to upgrade your skills and knowledge after a layoff. You might own a business that depends on some of UFS's 47,000 students or looks to hire some of the 10,000 new graduates produced each year.
"But even if you have no obvious connection to the university, it is part of building the future of Florida as a vibrant and resilient place to live and work. That future is now under assault.”
(Read the op-ed here.)
We should note that Buckhorn is married to Dr. Catherine Lynch Buckhorn, an associate vice president for women's health and professor and director of general obstetrics and gynecology at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. But Buckhorn told the Times that his reaction to the proposal wasn't related to that. "My wife's going to be fine,” he said.
After many protests from the area, he budget cuts to USF's Tampa campus were subsequently softened.
Buckhorn has also promoted USF's major new facility in downtown Tampa, the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, or CAMLS. In February, Buckhorn toured the facility with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"CAMLS is probably the most important development in downtown Tampa in at least 20 years," Buckhorn told the Times. "It's a game-changer."
In November 2011, Buckhorn traveled to Israel to meet with executives from Simbionix, a manufacturer of medical training simulators that are used at CAMLS.
Given these actions, we rate this promise In the Works.
Tampa Bay Times, Op-ed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn: Cuts to USF would carry heavy toll for bay area, Feb. 19, 2012
Tampa Bay Times, The Buzz: Tampa mayor: Proposed USF cuts petty, short-sighted, Feb. 14, 2012
Tampa Bay Times, USF's new downtown Tampa medical simulation center is opening for business, Feb. 9, 2012
University of South Florida, Secretary Sebelius visits CAMLS to talk about healthcare reform, Feb. 2, 2012
Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn heading to Israel on trade mission, Nov. 16, 2011
Tampa Bay Times, Judy Genshaft declares success despite USF-Poly split moving forward, March 7, 2012