By Chris Ingram
I am disappointed in my friend Hoe Brown, the Tampa Port Authority chairman who it was recently reported has some rental properties with questionable conditions and that lack necessary permits. If I know Hoe as well as I think I do, he is disappointed in himself as well.
I have known Hoe for seven years. In fact, I have been to his offices on Stanley Street countless times. I’ve seen and spoken with some of his tenants while there, and even witnessed some of them pay the rent.
Hoe’s office location always seemed to be a bit odd, but I attributed it to his thriftiness. While I’ve never seen his bank statement, I imagine it is sizeable; one could argue his wealth was achieved in part by being frugal. In addition to running his office in a “low rent” part of town, he drives a Jeep Cherokee that I would guess is close to ten years old. Flashy Hoe is not. And he’s not some Daddy Warbucks living and working in a mansion. He works in the same place with the same conditions of the “slums” he’s accused of renting out.
Since knowing Hoe, I have commented to others on many occasions that he is one of very few Republicans who bridge the divide between the two largest factions within the party: the country clubbers who write the checks, and the grassroots activists who do the grunt work. I say this from having seen Hoe “in action.” You’re just as likely to catch him at a black-tie donor affair, as you are to catch him out putting up yard signs into the wee hours of the night during campaign season – something I’ve never seen GOP heavyweights such as Al Austin or Don Phillips ever do.
The media’s accounts of Hoe’s properties in my estimation are probably accurate, but if one thinks they were the most “deplorable” they’ve ever seen, they need to see more. I’ve been to Africa many times and have visited real slums. To characterize Hoe’s property as a slum is hyperbole for sure. Still, that doesn’t excuse his actions for not having the necessary permits as appears to be the case. While Hoe should be embarrassed for not getting the required permits, the bigger picture here is not “what is Hoe Brown doing?” Rather, it’s, “how does one get so down and out that they have to resort to living in such a place?”
The media has reported the fact that people have died while occupying some of Hoe’s properties and that the police frequently respond to calls and complaints initiated by, or involving his tenants. But these facts have nothing to do with anything Hoe did wrong, and those elements of the story aren’t really part of the story. Rather, they are cheap and unwarranted asides by the media to vilify Mr. Brown and paint him as something he is not. Clearly he had nothing to do with the deaths (two for drug overdose, one stabbing), and he can’t control the fact that some people in his units (convicted felons and drug users among them) who are not exactly “exemplary pillars of society” are going to have frequent issues with the police.
But the bottom line is, these criminals, drug users, and those who are down on their luck, still need a place to live. Hoe merely found a way to provide a need – albeit a poor choice, and a potentially illegal one (for not having permits and being up to code) – he could provide to those with few options.
These people are out there in our society. They may not live in your neighborhood, but they need to live somewhere, and unless you’re willing to open up your home to them, they’re not going to find the Ritz, or the Motel 6 for that matter.
As for Hoe Brown, he is not the grim reaper, and his years of business and public service should not be overlooked because of poor judgment and one mistake that is unrelated to his public service. Ultimately his future on the Port Authority (where he serves as chairman), is a matter for him, his colleagues and the governor to decide.
Regardless of that outcome, from this experience, Hoe Brown will become a better man, and I will continue to call him my friend. And the public and the down-trodden will benefit from the discussion of their plight – which was not Hoe Brown’s making. Though it appears to be easier to suggest it is, rather than identify the root of the problem and find a way to fix it.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online. He is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
Please feel free to submit a comment on our blogs. By posting a comment you acknowledge reading and following the terms and conditions of posting found here. You may also submit a comment by e-mail. If you e-mail a comment you consent to your comment and name being posted on the Irreverent View website. If you wish to remain completely anonymous, please state so in your e-mail.