Tampa Port Chief & GOP Fundraiser Has Fun 'Slumlord' Sideline

Tampa Port Authority chairman William A. "Hoe" Brown (we swear we are not making that nickname up) is a man who Gets Thing Done. In his unpaid position as chair, he oversees a board that runs the city's port, which generates billions of dollars of growth and thousands of jobs. He's a top fundraiser for Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack. And until Tuesday, he also ran a thriving slum behind his business office, a group of five filthy single-wide mobile homes that he'd illegally parked on a commercial property and divided into apartments that Tampa's code enforcer called "deplorable" and "not fit for human habitation." Jeeze, you try to help people by providing affordable housing -- if $550 a month for part of a single-wide is "affordable" -- and the liberal nanny state bitches about little things like "roach infestations" and "unlivable conditions." Rather than fix the problems, Brown evicted all the residents, gave them three months' rent in cash to make up for the short notice, and towed away the trailers. If any of the tenants end up homeless, it'll probably be the result of rich kids volunteering at homeless shelters.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the mobile homes had been in place since last year, and had been hawked with "signs advertising furnished apartments for $550 a month to people on public assistance." (Despite that mention of public assistance, the article doesn't say whether Brown actually took Section 8 federal housing assistance money; seems unlikely, since that would probably have been an even bigger mess of legal trouble.) The trailers were infested with roaches and filth, and Times reporter Will Hobson noted that

the stench in 67-year-old Victor Gonzalez's apartment -- a mix of human and insect waste -- was overpowering. Gonzalez had open wounds on his forehead -- a result, he said, of scratching at bugs -- and said he did not notice the smell.

"It's all right," he said of his roughly 200-square-foot apartment. "Where else could I go?"

After the city was alerted to the conditions by Times reporters, the complex was inspected by Jake Slater, Tampa's "director of neighborhood empowerment," who called the conditions "shocking. People shouldn't have to live like that." Slater's office declared the trailers unfit for habitation, and offered to connect tenants with social services, but they chose instead to accept eviction along with $1500 per family.

Brown's spokesperson, Beth Leytham, insisted that Brown had made everything better by refunding the tenants 3 months' rent:

"He is trying to make things right," Leytham said. "He has been up since 6 a.m. He is refunding their rent. We're not just throwing them out. We are driving them to motels. We are driving them to friends. We are doing everything we can to make it right, and to help those in transition."

He's been up since 6 a.m., people! Maybe he's not so much a "slumlord' as a "Gilded Age historical re-enactor," did you think of that? We kind of hope he doesn't run any meat-packing plants, thanks.

Displaying the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great, Brown also had not bothered to follow zoning or building codes when parking the mobile homes on his property. Leytham said that Brown had thought the complex was legal until a zoning change in April of this year, but Tampa director of planning and development Thom Snelling said that mobile home parks are the only places zoned for, you know, groups of parked mobile homes, and that the trailers may have been in violation of building codes from the start. "I don't know, because he never came in to get anything permitted," Snelling said.

And yet this triumph of success -- which just goes to show what a man can accomplish when he frees himself from the framework of burdensome government regulations -- has now come to an end, leaving the tenants scrambling to find new places to live, and Brown without a valuable source of income to supplement his 15 other south Florida commercial properties and his extensive civic connections, which include serving on tourism and sports commissions as well as being Hillsborough County's Republican Party state committeeman. (Be sure to check the photo slideshow at the Tampa Bay Times so you can compare and contrast the conditions in the apartments and Brown's own half-million dollar home.)

And yet, we have a feeling that William A. "Hoe" Brown will get by somehow.

[Tampa Bay Times]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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