Thursday, February 28, 2013

Local USF Professor's mythical sequestor

The Trib today published Myths at play in the shadow of sequester
from Michael T. Gibbons, an associate professor at the University of South Florida's Department of Government and International Affairs.  
Among the things that many tea partiers want to eliminate is the public school system (HUH???? We want more choice and get the feds out…)
Others see the economic crisis it would cause as a collective punishment of what it sees as the moral failings of the American people. One can think of many names for this, but the term "patriotism" does not come to my mind.
The administration has repeatedly compromised, much to the frustration of the progressive left, only to have the Republicans "pocket" the compromise and pretend no concessions have been made.
Really?  Really?  He's not much of a scholar, as he's not conversant on current affairs, and is totally incapable of acknowledging other points of view.  Professor Gibbons is the one living in the mythical world.

Here's some food for thought for the Professor from life in the real world:
  • The Senate has failed to pass a budget for 4 straight years which would give fiscal discipline to the process and eliminate the need for gimmicks such as this one.
  • It's not a real cut, just a reduction of the increase from last year.
  • Only 2.4% of the annual budget. Regular Americans have tightened their belts with the recent 2% Social Security tax increase, not to mention gasoline prices.  The federal government should too. 
  • We are obviously now too dependent on govt if this tiny decrease in the rate of increase will "cause Armageddon." 
  • This is more evidence we do to much done at federal level.  Let state/local keep more tax money & make local budget decisions, and more local control.
  • We cut the  waste throughout government, including Defense, much like private business and state and local governments have been doing.
  • The President can choose what to fund; choosing cuts that will cause pain so he can score political points. This is just fear mongering that the Professor is piling on.
  • It was president's idea.  If the Professor cared about the scholarly truth he'd mention its origin. Disgraceful the President is lying about it's origin, and its  shameful the Professor is protectin the Liar-in-Chief.
  • The House has passed at least two bills that would have avoided these indiscriminate cuts - Senate ignored them.
  • We should NOT do baseline budget, we should do zero-based - everything should be justified every year. Not that difficult. Just like us in the real world.
Professor Gibbons is the one living in the mythical world.

He's teaching the next generation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hillsborough revisting light rail

Here we go again.  Mark Sharpe is leading efforts to revive the ghost of rail past.
Sharpe is calling for a series of transportation "summits" between commissioners and representatives of the county's three cities, along with civic groups, to develop a 30-year priority list of road and transit work. He said his hope is to develop something by November that can be taken to voters a year later, paralleling the planned Pinellas vote.
We had that summit.   In 2010.  Sharpe is not listening.
Sharpe said his hope now is that the group will consider including a small, limited-use rail line, perhaps linking the airport to the West Shore business district. That would keep costs from swallowing a large chunk of any new tax dollars and allow rail to prove itself.
"This gets us moving forward," Sharpe said. "Then we can have another conversation in the future about where we go from there."
 We had that conversation.  In 2010.  Sharpe is not listening.

Once again, the media just regurgitates talking points from the advocates, those with something to win. To extract some taxes from us.
"I'm excited someone is putting it forward to make it a formal proposal," said Kevin Thurman, executive director of Connect Tampa Bay, a recently formed group pushing for a regional approach to transportation planning that does not rely solely on roads. 
Who is Kevin Thurman?  He's all over the place on these rail and transportation issues.  All of sudden like.  Where is he getting his money and time to do all this?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Fighting the same battle.

Here we go again... Pinellas Rail

Pinellas County is moving forward back to the 19th century with rail.
Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved putting a question on the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot that would ask residents whether they would pay a higher sales tax to support a major overhaul of the transportation system.
Five of the seven commissioners voted to approve putting the referendum on the ballot, marking the beginning of a nearly two-year countdown before the issue comes before voters. Commissioner Norm Roche was the only member of the board to vote against the measure.
The referendum would ask residents to vote on whether to raise the county's sales tax by up to 1 cent — potentially lifting it from 7 to 8 cents to pay for major changes to the public transportation system. The sales tax, which would bring in about $128 million, would replace the property tax that currently funds the county's transit agency, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
Over the next 20 months, transit officials intend to complete their study of the county's bus system, finish the proposed 24-mile light-rail route and try to win public support for a plan that many residents and business owners are only vaguely aware of.
 This is almost exactly what they tried to do what Hillsborough County rejected.  But that's not enough.  Hillsborough County Commissioner and #1 Rail Fan Mark Sharpe will be trying to resurrect the ghost of Hillsborough Rail past.
She [Pinellas Commissioner Karen Seel] said she also has reason to believe that Hillsborough County may catch up.
"I have heard that there may be some interest in Hillsborough County to put a referendum on the ballot in 2014," she said.
After the meeting, Seel said that Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe intends to revive debate over a sales tax referendum. A ballot question similar to the one Pinellas County plans to put before voters failed in Hillsborough in 2010, when 58 percent of voters rejected it.
Sharpe has scheduled a discussion at the next Hillsborough County Commission meeting March 20 on how his government is going to address growing transportation needs. He said his goal is to craft something that could also be put to voters in 2014, though he stopped short of saying it would include a proposal to pay for rail.
"We need to have an adult conversation about transportation in our region," Sharpe said. "But I think we need to be responsible and not talk about funding some grand rail system that is going to be 26 miles. To me, we need to be talking about what is tangible."
We already had that conversation. Sharpe did not listen.  Well, it's still not tangible for the people.  It's still financially viable.  These rail projects NEVER are under budget.  The $128M anticipated revenue for Pinellas will never pay for the massive construction, right of way, and changes in routes that will be needed in a densely populated county like Pinellas, which by the way, commute times average 23 minutes.  How much will commuting improve?  For how much?

And, if you pay attention to what they are saying, it is not about improved mobility or transportation.

Be aware.  Be prepared.  Here's a start.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Trib Editorial: Is Empowering Cities More Taxation?

The Trib editorial board is still on its high horse pursuing rail, this time in Tampa, since the media and the rail proponents have given up on Hillsborough County as their rail handmaiden for now, and seeking more forgiving (taxable?) targets.  Hillsborough defeated the ballot initiative for light rail, but the voters in Tampa were much more favorable.  Hence, the Trib's support of proposals to have the Florida legislation pass a law that will allow cities to raise taxes independent of the county.
The Legislature should let residents of major Florida cities vote to increase the local sales tax to improve roads and transit.
This doesn't mean taxes automatically would be increased in Tampa, which now lacks the revenue for the bus and rail service it needs.
Emphasis mine. Sure. That's exactly what they want.  Otherwise, why propose it?

Trib: Transit budget tax,... who are the experts?

The intrepid Ted Jackovics at the Tampa Tribune is at it again, taking the powers and beneficiaries of massive transportation related spending point of view and ignoring any alternative perspectives... say, those of us who have to pay for the MPOs.  The money quote:
In April, the MPO's advisory council proposed six revenue sources: index all fuel taxes not currently indexed to the Consumer Price Index; approve a one-cent sales tax option that municipalities could impose with a referendum rather than depending on county-wide referendums; increase fuel taxes by two cents a year for five years; study a user fee based on how many miles a vehicle travels,; impose a five-cent local diesel tax; and return motor vehicle license, registration and title fee increases to the state transportation funds.
"It's up to the Legislature," Howe [Michael P. Howe, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee MPO, one of 26 such agencies statewide] said. "No one wants more taxes. I understand the legislature's trepidation."
 Got that?  No one wants more taxes, yet the MPO's proposed 6 new taxes.

This is a classic example of the media buddying up to the powers and crony organizations and ignoring you.

Updated - fixed title.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Joe Henderson, mixing it up with Bass Pro

We don't always agree with Joe Henderson and his columns in Trib.  He's not an obvious partisan, calls them as he sees it, and adds to the conversation... key parts that are missing, and those questions that don't get asked.  We at Eye on Tampa Bay liked his take on the Bass Pro deal, calling out the contradictions and impacts to the local small business here and here

Got to wonder why my local barber shop doesn't get some consideration at the next Hillsborough County Commission meeting.

TBARTA Still has a plan for you!

TBARTA, despite being defeated on the Hillsborough County light rail ballot initiative, is still not giving up.  Now they have a transportation plan for 2020, 2030,... and if that's enough, they've got 2040 planned out for you!  With the changes in the workplace, telecommuting, technologies before now and then, they are still talking 19th century technologies... rail!

Looks like someone needs to polish up their crystal ball.

Who's smearing who?

The Trib today published an op-ed BigOil's Smear, touting the benefits of Ethanol and how great it's been for Brazil.

Well, he should have checked out what's not so good about Brazil these days, in the Economist, Brazil's Economy, Wrong Numbers.

He's also conveniently missing several other facts about Ethanol production and consumption in the US:
  • US production is from corn. Our feedstock, our food, contributing to higher food prices.  40% of the US corn crop is burned as fuel.
  • Ethanol production from corn is much less efficient than from sugar cane as produced in Brazil, and consumes excessive amounts of water and land.
  •  US Ethanol production from sugar cane is infeasible, as we don't have enough land suitable for sugar cane.  South Florida and parts of Louisiana are about it, and most environmentalists are upset at the prospect of expanded sugar cane production around the Everglades.
  • The fact of the amount of subsidies the domestic Ethanol industry has received from the US government.  These have thankfully expired, so we'll see how viable Ethanol is without our subsidies.
  • Stalling production of Ethanol in Brazil.
  • Declining Ethanol production in the US in 2012 due to high corn prices.
  • Ethanol production in Brazil is an environmental disaster, driving indigenous peoples off their lands.
  • Ethanol is a corrosive and absorbs water, and cannot be added to gasoline at the refineries and transported in most current US pipelines. It must be trucked (fossil fueled) and added to the local distribution fuel supplies.
  • Many older cars, especially pre-2001, small engines, and boat engines are known to be incompatible with Ethanol. US Auto makers are murky on their engine warranties on E15 fuels from pre-2010 models. Last I checked there are still lots of older cars on the roads.
  • The dream of celluosic Ethanol remains just that. A dream. There is no meaningful production in the US.
  • Ethanol has about 2/3s the energy of gasoline, so it reduces actual fuel efficiency.
The author is Bradley Krohn, Ph.D, of Riverview is president of United States EnviroFuels, LLC, principal and manager of Highlands EnviroFuels, LLC, and Ethanol company.  His op-ed was also published in other papers state wide. Do you think he has something to win or lose? Why are the papers printing this? Why did they not offer a more balanced perspective? Are they representing your interests?

Ethanol is an environmental and fuel efficiency disaster. Even Al Gore has come out against Ethanol.

Eye On Tampa Bay is pro-choice on fuels, flex-fuel vehicles, hybrids, electrics....  Let's try them all. Subsidize nothing.  Let the market, not politicians or special interests of dictate the choices.  May the best survive.

Gasparilla and Bayshore!

We're wrapping the Gasparilla season today, with the final runs.  The Trib published a nice article about Jessica Crate, a 2 time defending champion, and her give back to the event, and her other give back activities in the Tampa Bay community.  Kudos to Jessica.

While thousands were running along the world's longest sidewalk, here's a view from the other side.

Tampa Bay evening.


Can you name a major industry that rarely if ever works with its paying customers?

Think about it.

Big box stores seek to attract customers by offering compelling deals, drive them to the store, greet them, listen to their needs, identify the products they may be looking for, then seek to maintain and improve that relationship over time. They send out surveys, send you offers, call you on the phone, trying to support an overall exceptional experience to win more of your business.

If they want your business, they realize they have to work for you. They want to make it easy for you to do business with them.

Internet retails do the same in cyberspace, where they use complex (and sometimes disturbing) data collection and analytics to understand who you are, your buying habits, your interests, all to better sell what you want. They may ask you for product reviews, email you offers based on your interests, offer an incredibly wide selection of products, and ship the product to your doorstep in a day or two, then ask you what you thought about it.

If they want your business, they realize they have to work for you. They want to make it easy for you to do business with them.

Car dealers deal with the customer. Small mom and pops deal with the customer. Restaurants need to please the customer if they want repeat business.

Doctors and the medical profession deal with the customer, although there are problems that the customer … the patient, rarely pays the doctor directly. Will save that for another time...

Similarly, educators deal with the customer... their students, but similar to medical professions, the public educators are not paid directly by the customer, so there are negative side effects.

Which major industry in rarely if ever works with its paying customers?

The media.

You pay for the media with your newspaper subscriptions, cable TV bills, and advertising.

When was the last time the media reached out you and asked if you were satisfied with their service?

Think about it.

If the media is not working for you, who does the media work for?

Where do they spend their time?

They spend their time with the “news makers”. These are the power brokers, politicians, big business, PR masquerading as news. Those with something to win... or lose... by channeling their message through the media.

The media needs the news makers to produce their new product, which must be produced on a tight schedule, every day, all day, all year long. They need access to news makers to be able to produce their product. Easy access. Supportive, easy access. Non-confrontational access. No challenging questions. No investigation.

They want to make it easy for news makers to do business with them, and repeat business.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

We can layer upon that the vast range of topics the media covers... government policies and politics alone – budget priorities, welfare, housing policy, transportation policy, land use ordinances, energy policies, local and regional development, health care, retirement, public safety. Then add on the national and international dimensions, science, the arts, entertainment, religion, …. etc. etc. How does the intrepid reporter keep up? Are they smart enough and well versed enough to understand, analyze and criticize these topics? Probably not... most of them went to Journalism school.

Yet, they have to get the news out every day, all day, all year long. They don't necessarily understand what they are reporting on, especially the consequences or side effects, who it affects, and even if they wanted to they don't have the time. So the media takes the news makers words and ends up reporting on the news makers words... word for word. Then the media go back for more.

They're not talking to you.

Remember, keep your customers happy.

Who are the media's real customers?

Its not you.

We'll try to take a different perspective.