Monday, April 15, 2013

Politics giveth... and may taketh away

We've discussed some concerns about Tampa's "MediFuture" here.  The net of it is despite our local political and thought leaders, there are some real hurdles and issues ahead if we are to depend on the medical arts for further growth in the Tampa Bay area.

H Lee Moffitt Cancer Center

Clearly, we have some key assets we can leverage, such as H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, USF Medical, and many others in the Tampa Bay area.  But so do other areas in Florida, not to mention nation wide.  Shands in Gainesville, Mayo Clinic satellites in Jacksonville, Cleveland Clinic in South Florida, and Orlando is investing heavily with the Lake Nona Medical City, and has a branch of the renown MD Anderson Cancer Center as well.

Now, for another blow.
TAMPA - Political efforts to promote Florida as a premiere destination for cancer care are raising concern at the state’s elite oncology hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center.

The state Senate last week unanimously passed the “Quality Cancer Care and Research” bill, which establishes a legislative seal of approval for cancer centers that meet certain standards. House members are expected to take up the issue this week.

Minimum criteria listed in the bill would make 71 of the state’s hospitals eligible for the designation, meant to help hospitals attract more patients through marketing and ads on TV, billboards and newspapers. They also would earn preference in bids for state biomedical grants.
These efforts at the Florida Senate level are potentially diluting H Lee Moffit's positioning in in Florida, and the country, as a premiere destination for cancer research and treatment.
Moffitt prides itself as being Florida’s only hospital with the prestigious National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, and it uses that elite title in its own advertising. The Tampa-based hospital is one of 41 such research-based programs nationwide.
"The governor wants Florida to be a destination site for people with cancer, much like MD Anderson (Cancer Center) is in the state of Texas,” List said. “That was his goal and priority to make that happen.”
The Florida Senate and Governor are trying to increase Florida's visibility as a medical destination.  That includes other municipalities in addition to Tampa.

It does appear to have caused a little consternation at H Lee Moffitt, as they may have more competition across the state for cancer treatment as additional clinics and hospitals become eligible for the new designation and can market their services.

Competition is usually a good thing, right?

But in this case, we have the State level politicians pushing an agenda that may cause some pain for the Tampa Bay area politicians and healthcare leaders, who are pushing a MediFuture for Tampa Bay.

We'll see where this all ends up.

But be aware of the political process.  What politicians giveth, they may taketh away.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hillsborough looking for Film Czar

Today, we're proposing to spend $500,000 for a film czar.
Those who have doubts about the wisdom of Hillsborough County devoting $500,000 over two years to help build the local film industry should consider this:
A high-budget feature film can spend as much as $260,000 a day on workers, hotels, restaurants and other local services.
According to the Association of Film Commissioners International, even a low-budget independent film can spend $30,000 a day. A music video can bring in between $30,000 and $110,000 a day in spending. A commercial, between $25,000 and $150,000.
Obviously, this is an industry that pumps money and jobs into the economy, and Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan is right to push the county to pursue it.
We have a few doubts. First, why would the Tribune solely cite Association for Film Commissioners International, a special interest group if there ever was one?

Spring Breakers -- Shot in Tampa Bay!
The film industry is notorious for chasing tax incentives to subsidize it productions. Not just nationally, but globally.  Politicians cannot resist being close to the "lights, camera, action", perhaps to get a cameo appearance, and rub elbows with the stars.

Is this why?
It wouldn’t take many successes to have a big fiscal impact. As we’ve pointed out, “Dolphin Tale,” which was filmed in Pinellas County, had an economic impact of $17 million and provided jobs for about 1,500 Floridians. It is still attracting tourists to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Actually, Commissioner Ken Hagan recently stated on 970 WFLA the impact was $580M(!). (around the 2:30 mark).

A Dolphin Tale - Shot in Clearwater
We just need a little creative Hollywood accounting to make up the difference.  According to the Trib:
But the focus would not be solely on attracting feature films. Digital media is creating many high-paying jobs, including animators, computer specialists and graphic designers.
Florida has already been down this road... and failed.  $20M down the drain.
TALLAHASSEE -- Call it another unfortunate plot twist in an already upsetting script.
State taxpayers, who handed out $20 million in incentives to a now bankrupt movie studio, are being asked to dig back into their pockets to pay lawyers to try to get the money back.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity has hired bankruptcy attorneys Sean Cork and Albert del Castillo at $540 per hour to try to reclaim money awarded in 2009 to Digital Domain Media Group — the animation company behind Titanic and founded by popular director James Cameron.

The $20 million in incentives helped lured Digital Domain to Port St. Lucie. But the company filed for bankruptcy in September, closed its offices and laid off 300 Florida workers.
Sounds like good work for bankruptcy attorneys.
A special deal ripe with cronyism as well.
Scott has ordered an investigation into how [Digital Domain] received state funding.
In September, the Herald/Times reported that state Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, tucked the funding into the 2009 state budget. Ambler later got a $20,000 position on Digital Domain’s board, and the company hired Ambler’s son.
Neither Ambler nor Digital Domain could be reached for comment.
There are still open questions on this deal.
Regardless, this digital production jobs are highly portable, and increasingly offshored (page 23).

Like most of these targeted subsidies, it has doubtful economic value to the local community.  From the heart of Hollywood, the LA Times:
SACRAMENTO — As Gov. Jerry Brown mulls whether to sign into law another round of subsidies for Hollywood production companies, the question that confronts him is how much each job on a movie set is worth to taxpayers.
In Massachusetts, lawmakers recently discovered a similar program was much more expensive than they thought. After years of subsidizing film productions without looking too closely at how that was helping the economy, state officials put it under a lens and found that taxpayers were spending as much as $300,000 to bankroll each position.
Other states that went in for a close-up after dispensing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks found that every public dollar put into the film industry was generating a few dimes, or less, in revenue. 
At least the Trib raises some caution:
There are plenty of challenges. The county will need to attract private funding to be able to provide the kind of incentives needed to close digital-film deals.
The report recommends half of the $500,000 be allocated for incentives in the program’s first full year. It also would tie any incentives to minimum economic impact, use of local workers and other requirements.
It is important any incentives come with such strings tightly attached. With many states competing for these projects, incentives can be a necessary — and appropriate — investment. But we also have seen how overly generous incentives can result in waste and abuse.
But is there any evidence we've seen lately that our local politicians can exercise this kind of judgement and discretion?

If we proceed with caution, perhaps we'll have a blockbuster.  If not, we won't be celebrating another Hollywood flop.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hillsborough BOCC stunned they spent all the money

This is not new news, if you've been following Hillsborough County Commission:
TAMPA - Big projects like roads, parks and storm-water drainage will be stalled for years in Hillsborough County unless the county finds new sources of money.
County commissioners learned Wednesday that $129 million worth of capital projects approved in past years are sitting on the table because no money is available. And the capital improvement tax – a half penny sales tax used for building parks, schools and roads – has been depleted by five years of recession so nothing is left for new projects.
This is old news.  Let's dial the wayback machine  to 2007.
Tucked along side the state's 7 percent piece of your purchase is another half-cent that Hillsborough County tacked on in 1996. At the time, the half-cent, known as the Community Investment Tax, was created largely to fund the construction of Raymond James Stadium.
Now, halfway through its 30-year lifespan, the tax has become a reliable pot of money the county and its four cities use to build the kind of quality-of-life amenities that shout "your tax dollars at work."
But those governments have also borrowed heavily against the tax revenue – a practice that, in recent years, has claimed large chunks of the CIT proceeds since the recession cut into local sales taxes in 2009.
By 2007, Hillsborough County had committed virtually all of the $2.4 billion it expected to get from the tax through 2026, largely by bonding the proceeds years before they were to be collected. At the time, commissioners defended their decision by noting they were saving money in the long run.
The City of Tampa also borrowed heavily against its community investment income, issuing bonds in 2001 and 2006 to finance several big-ticket projects. That debt paid for Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the Tampa Museum of Art, two of former mayor Pam Iorio's signature projects. It also helped expand Lowry Park Zoo and built baseball fields in New Tampa.
More recently, it paid for nearly $1 million in renovations to Ballast Point Park in South Tampa, renovations Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled earlier this month.
The county commissioners bonded out the 30 year tax revenue stream from the Community Investment Tax back in the good old days of 2007.  The recession hit, the revenues dipped, so county services get cut.
Traffic jam!
Back to the present.
The grim financial report seemed to stun commissioners, who mostly greeted it with silence. Commission Chairman Ken Hagan questioned why a recovering economy wouldn’t generate enough growth in the Community Investment Tax to add new projects.
“I was always told when revenues went up, our bonding capacity would increase, thus allowing us to bring in more projects,” Hagan said. “We’ve had a couple of years now where things are up. How is it that we’re at zero capacity?”
They bet. We lost.

Hagan and Mark Sharpe where on the BOCC in 2007 when the CIT was bonded out. This should not be a surprise.

We did get some new parks and museums.  But road improvements, one of the core selling points of the CIT, are a now faint memory.

Did I mention Hillsborough County has a $3.2 billion backlog in road maintenance and safety improvements?

Did I mention we'll be paying for the CIT until 2026?

We are spending $500,000 for local film industry, another $28M for parks and soccer fields.  Are those our new priorities?

Neglect, incompetence, or politics?  What ever this is, it is not inspiring confidence in our BOCC.

Are you read to give these people more money?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wrong direction on Complete Streets

In Disney parlance, it might be called "Imagineering," where creativity and practicality intersect in new and innovative ways.
Here, at the University of South Florida's Marshall Student Center, metro planners captured the attention of the lunch crowd one day last week with an issue of compelling interest to all who navigate the most-traveled -- and least pedestrian-friendly -- corridor in the county.
The summit was a coming-out party of sorts for the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization's (MPO) Livable Roadways Committee -- the first time the group has taken its Complete Streets plan to the people who have the most at stake: the car-less masses that use them every day.
From Smart Growth America, what does a complete street look like?
There is no singular design prescription for Complete Streets; each one is unique and responds to its community context. A complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.
A "complete street"
Smart Growth America has a hard time defining Complete Streets. Let me help.  Take a look at the suburbs.

Many of these ideas are worthy of discussion, but they do not come without costs or other tradeoffs.  For example, we favor more and safer bike lanes.  However, we are against carving bike lanes out of existing roads, which is often a remedy -- it reduces road capacity and is less safe for the bikers.  Similarly, we are against carving out special bus lanes or beautification projects on our overloaded roads.

Meanwhile, back at the Complete Streets summit:

Streets are about moving people, not moving cars, and people move in many ways," says Lynn Merenda, a public engagement specialist for MPO.

On and around the USF campus, that might entail a bike, a skateboard, a bus, a wheelchair or a sturdy pair of feet -- all of which present unique challenges and opportunities for roadway design.

Don't forget the horses and buggies.  

Seriously, what about golf carts?  100,000 people in the The Villages get around the town entirely accessible by golf carts.

How does all this "imagineering" get paid for?  By automobile driver, with their gas taxes... that pay for this.
"This is about people who don't have cars," says Stephen Benson, a student, a citizen and a planner on the MPO roadways committee. Not everyone can afford a car or has the ability to drive one, he says, and finding ways to address their needs "is how we should be spending our transportation money."
Actually, cars have been a great equalizer over time, empowering the vast majority of people mobility and to live where they want.  Cars are not always cheap, of for everyone, of course, but those who drive cars are also the main source of  "our transportation money" via gas taxes.

MPO has embraced the Complete Streets concept and Lisa Montelione, chairwoman of the Livable Roadways Committee, was ecstatic with the amount of information collected and shared at the summit, the result of setting up shop in a high-traffic area frequented by a critical target population.

Livable roadways? What is that?  Can we have some driveable roadways?

A number of projects are in progress, among them a University Area Transit Circulator Study to improve bus service in an area that encompasses USF, Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida Hospital and other large employers in the area.

"We already have the ridership," says Montelione. "The issue at the end of the day is money."

University Area Transit Center
We like the idea of circulators. They don't require a livable roadway or complete street.  A driveable roadway or regular street will do.  Start now.  It will be less money than waiting for "livable roadways".

Now for some imagineering:

The budding Imagineers drew walkways in the middle of parking lots, wide bike lanes, raised crosswalks that served as speed humps and dedicated bus corridors that would allow mass transit to breeze past cars choked in traffic.

Multiple elevated walkways were envisioned to allow safe passage across Fletcher and Fowler avenues. Medians -- green with grass and lined with trees -- supplied aesthetic appeal with an underlying practical agenda.

"If you have a beautiful environment, people (driving cars) tend to slow down," Merenda says.

This does seem to be all about impeding traffic and slowing down on some of our most traveled, most highly utilized, and most congested roads.  I'm not exactly sure how these ideas improves mobility for the vast majority of people who use their cars as the primary mode of transportation.

For sure, plenty of roads in Tampa Bay need drastic improvement.  There is at least $3.2B in unfunded road maintenance, traffic and safety improvements backlog in Hillsborough County alone.  So let's keep the eye on the target -- improving safety and mobility in a cost effective manner.
"We have got to take the 'duh' out of Florida," he says. "It's going to take time." 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is downtown Tampa the future?

TAMPA — The ultra-modern SouthGate Tower was to be the starting domino of downtown's workplace revival, the first new office tower since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew raged and Boyz II Men topped the charts.

The 20-story tower was trumpeted as "the beginning of the beginning," as Republican National Convention host committee president Ken Jones called it, of building up a fresher, busier downtown.

But the celebration may have to wait. With too few tenants on board, downtown's big new hope has yet to break ground. Developers now plan to open for business a year later than expected, in the middle of 2015.
It's been 20 years since the last office tower was built downtown, yet still nearly a million square feet of office space is vacant. 

Downtown Tampa

The downtown crowd was dominated by big law, finance, and government workers, all of which have been taking their hits in the employment these days.  Tampa is no longer a banking headquarters fro many mid-sized banks as it was 20 years ago or more.  All those banks have been bought up by the big players, and taking jobs with them.
Building back from a recession that emptied a fifth of downtown's office space, vacancies have improved to 15 percent and rental rates have climbed. About 200,000 square feet downtown were leased in new deals last year, on par with 2005, Jones Lang LaSalle data show, including big deals with a GE subsidiary, PNC Bank and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's hedge fund.
There is some progress, but not enough to move the needle quickly... or enough to build a new tower downtown.

Despite the other improvements downtown --which we enjoy --  the Riverwalk, museums,  and some new parks, and new apartments, we are not yet getting the business to return downtown at high enough level to make a difference.  Or at least risk the developers and investors money.
Abberger said last year that SouthGate will be built "where corporate America wants to be." That honor, though, may be better suited for West Shore, Florida's largest business district boasting twice as much office space as downtown.

Close to the Tampa International Airport, the interstate and routes to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, West Shore sits at the nexus of Tampa's office workforce. Even with pricier rents than downtown, it has lower vacancy, at 13 percent, and last year it newly leased three times as much space.

It's also the only Tampa market now fielding big office construction, including the new 10-story home of PricewaterhouseCoopers, MetWest Two.
More convenient located, more space.  It costs more.  Convenience matters.   But there are headwinds for any development these days.
Tampa MetWest at Westshore

But SouthGate could face broader challenges from a rapidly changing office model. Blue-chip firms, hyper-vigilant for efficiencies, are renting less room and crowding workers closer to cut costs and spark creativity. Smart phones, cloud computing and changing work styles are leading employees to log their hours at home or in the field. And with the job market sputtering shakily to life, some executives remain hesitant to commit to long leases or large spaces.
Telework is the big change, along with office "hoteling", shared (i.e., less) work spaces, more collaboration, less direct supervision, more results oriented management policies... and mobile computing.  Where ever you are, you are working... not just in the office.  Certainly for knowledge workers.

Perhaps that's the future.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

School board limiting choice

Progressives want choice on only one issue – and we know what that is. On other issues, well the Progressives want their choices or else. They want to tell us what we can eat, drink, drive and even smoke. They tell us (or must coerce us) where we can live, where we can develop and what we can do with our own property.  The Progressives tax code is a social engineering nightmare and their regulations strangle private sector innovation and entrepreneurship. So we are not surprised they want to continue dictating what is taught in our public education system -- what, where, and how we educate our children.  Now, however, the policies and curricula are coming more and more from the federal government. If the State of Florida enacts the disastrous federal “core curriculum” in conjunction with the Department of Education, the Feds will be in control of our state and local education since all the standard testing would be created to support this curriculum, affecting charter schools, private schools and home schooling as well.

Today's Tribune highlights current bills in our state legislature that would empower parents to petition to have a charter school take over a failing school if more than 51% of the parents sign the petition aka parent trigger act.
Passed last week by the Florida House, the bill would allow the parents of a failing school, one graded F by the state Department of Education, to petition the school district to allow a charter school to take over.
Such a petition would have to be signed by 51 percent of the parents at any failing school. Backers of the bill say only about 25 schools statewide would be covered by the changes; none of those is in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough County school board member Candy Olson labels it a “solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist.”
Unfortunately, the Trib did not have a followup question for Olson asking what is her solution to fixing “failing” schools. Perhaps even a follow up question on her solution for fixing “D” graded schools like Robles Elementary. According to the article:
It's backed by groups such as the Foundation for Florida's Future, chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. It's opposed by groups including the PTA, the NAACP, the Florida School Boards Association and educators across the state.
It's a growing trend nationwide. California, Texas, Louisiana, Connecticut and Mississippi all have versions in place.
The only local parent interviewed was the President of the PTA at Robles, but the PTA is an organization that is publicly opposing these bills. The President of the Classroom Teachers Association opposes the bills. Surprised? Where are more parents on this issue? Shouldn't the Tribune have interviewed more parents, how about the parents of children in the failing schools? Is this issue about the children and their parents having education options or about teachers and bureaucrats maintaining their monopolistic status quo with our tax dollars?

Robles 2011 FCAT scores

Candy Olson who is Chair of our Hillsborough County School Board also stated in the article:
No matter the outcome in Florida, Olson and others invested in the public school system say they feel as if they are being attacked.

“Some people think it's popular to beat up on teachers and schools,” Olson said. “There isn't an interest in fixing, there is an interest only in blaming.”
Interesting comment since Olson used a recent school board meeting to publicly attack a teacher who is opposing her in 2014 with an anonymous accusation.

Perhaps our local educators are “fearful” of the future. The tide is turning - innovation in education is coming and the school's of tomorrow may not look anything like they do today!

Friday, April 5, 2013

UPDATE: Hillsborough late to weapons ban party

We wrote yesterday on the Hillsborough Count Commission move to study violence prevention and study banning assault weapons.

Here's a couple of updates the Commissioners might want to be aware of.

It is against the law for Hillsborough County to ban assault weapons by Florida Statute 790.33.

790.33 Field of regulation of firearms and ammunition preempted.—
(1) PREEMPTION.—Except as expressly provided by the State Constitution or general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition, including the purchase, sale, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, storage, and transportation thereof, to the exclusion of all existing and future county, city, town, or municipal ordinances or any administrative regulations or rules adopted by local or state government relating thereto. Any such existing ordinances, rules, or regulations are hereby declared null and void.
(a) It is the intent of this section to provide uniform firearms laws in the state; to declare all ordinances and regulations null and void which have been enacted by any jurisdictions other than state and federal, which regulate firearms, ammunition, or components thereof; to prohibit the enactment of any future ordinances or regulations relating to firearms, ammunition, or components thereof unless specifically authorized by this section or general law; and to require local jurisdictions to enforce state firearms laws.
(b) It is further the intent of this section to deter and prevent the violation of this section and the violation of rights protected under the constitution and laws of this state related to firearms, ammunition, or components thereof, by the abuse of official authority that occurs when enactments are passed in violation of state law or under color of local or state authority.
In other words, municipalities are forbidden from regulating firearms. That's up to the State of Florida.

So, the BOCC does not know the law.  They are wasting our time and money.

They should also be aware they do not need to be hiring the Prevention Institute for crime prevention.  We have a pretty good resource right here in Hillsborough County.  Let me introduce you to the Hillsborough County Sheriff, and Making Hillsborough Safer.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Crime Reduction Results
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is proud to let you know that our deputies are making a difference in the quality of life in our county. For the fourth straight year, crime is down in our county.
The hard work is paying off. In 2012, the total number of crimes, when compared to 2011, was reduced by 7.1 percent.

And consider this: there are 1.6 deputies per 1,000 residents in Hillsborough County. That is lower than the national average for law enforcement agencies of 2.5 officers per capita. While Hillsborough County’s population grows, the number of deputies on the street has not. That means the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office are working harder and working smarter to reduce crime.
Seems like a better spend of our money to use what we have, that works, rather than pay some consultants.

Stop wasting time and money.

New TIA plans including rail?

The Times of course is pro rail in their editorial today, highlighting aspects of TIA's updated plans which includes an inter-modal transit center, somewhere... yet to be determined, sometime... yet to be determined.
The most promising aspect of the plan is its potential as a catalyst for regional rail. The document envisions linking the airport with whatever mass transit system local governments in the region eventually develop. TIA would connect its people mover to a future mass transit hub in the nearby West Shore business district. That opens the door for passengers to travel between the airport, downtown Tampa and Pinellas County without getting into a car. And it would inspire the region to look beyond bus service and toward a rail network that connects the major destinations on both sides of the bay.
Emphasis mine.   Just how close will this transit hub in the "nearby Westshore business district"?

Airplanes at TIA

According to the Times, there are several candidate locations, somewhere... yet to be determined.
FDOT has chosen four sites near I-275 for the Westshore center. The next step, in the coming years, is to fund a study to pare them down to one. The sites are: the north parking garage of Westshore Plaza; the Charley's Steakhouse property at 4444 W Cypress St.; a Jefferson High School parking lot; and parking garages along Trask and Cypress streets.
They are at least 3 miles away from TIA.  Also did you catch  " The next step, in the coming years, is to fund a study to pare them down to one."?

Sometime... yet to be determined.

So, it will be 3 miles away, requiring further studies, then massive infrastructure build out and then maybe we can get around better?  Is this the best we can do?
Candidate site for Westshore Multimodal Center
Air travelers can add up to 30 minutes to their overall travel time to get to the Westshore Multimodal Center since it will be off property compared to how TIA is set up today.  I know, since this is a similar set up to Miami International Airport, and it takes a while to get off the plane, hike to the MIA Mover, and take it to the MIA Multimodal Center.

The Times editorial leaves a clue to a better idea.
The airport's plan could also transform West Shore, which has the largest concentration of commercial office space in Florida. A transit hub serving the airport would make it cheaper and easier for business travelers to get to the West Shore business district. And it would attract bus circulator and other mass transit to serve the area's two malls, dozens of hotels and thousands of businesses. West Shore could be more pedestrian-friendly and reintroduce itself as a place to work, live and play.
Emphasis mine.  Uh, what are we waiting for?  This concept of buses, shuttles, circulators can happen NOW, without studies or massive infrastructure build out.  They can operate on the airport, mall, and office properties in the area NOW without creating a huge multimodal center. Perhaps a transfer station, but that's a lot cheaper, quicker and fit for purpose for transit needs.

Don't have the money?  It won't be as much as these plans.  Get started now.  Set up a private bus service if you can't get the politicians, planners, media, transit, real estate, construction firms all lined up.

What are we waiting for?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Is Pinellas spending tax dollars to increase taxes?

Tucker Hall, the PR firm behind much of the marketing in Pinellas, has received another $300,000 from PSTA for the "Greenlight Pinellas" campaign, the next step in informing the voter.
Introduced as "Greenlight Pinellas," the campaign is being run by Tucker Hall, a Tampa-based public relations firm. The group has a $300,000 contract with the county's transit agency to ensure that when people go to the polls in November 2014 to vote on a proposed sales tax for transit, they have some idea what is before them.

The group is also being paid to walk a fine line. It can inform voters about the referendum that would pay for expanded bus service and light rail. But because it is receiving public money, it legally cannot tell them how to vote.
Yet Tucker Hall is not taking a completely dry approach.
Yard signs, t-shirts, tote bags, beer coozies....

I'm sure Tucker Hall and PSTA will maintain complete impartiality at all times.

Perhaps they will host something like this on their informative, new web site.

Randal O'Toole of Cato Institute discussing privatizing transit.

How much do you want to bet on that?

Taxpayers money is being spent on advertising. Look how far we've come.

Can the skeptics get $300,000 to get their side of the story out?

TIA, Lopano, and more cash

As a frequent traveler, I appreciate TIA.  It is truly a joy, a great home airport.  But I just don't get this affection for Joe Lapano, the TIA Chief Executive.  Neither does  Joe Henderson:
He got a $50,000 raise in January 2012 after one year on the job, but by the fall his pay increased by another $15,000. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s an annual take-home of $315,000, way more than his equivalent makes for running the much-busier Orlando International Airport. 
Apparently, that’s not enough.
Last month, the airport’s governing board studied how to give Lopano — yep — more. Late Tuesday, we learned there is a proposal to sock another $500,000 into his retirement account if he will just please STAY HERE for at least five years. The board will take this up today.

Nice!  At least Mayor Bob Buckhorn does not want to give away more money.
“I’m getting really tired of this, candidly,” he said. “If Joe spent more time doing his job and less time worrying about his salary, we might have more flights. For a minimum, we ought to take a month and study this so we don’t ramrod this through.

“All we are doing is paying for potential. If I were Joe, I’d let my performance speak for itself and then bring it up when his contract is due. Derek Jeter doesn’t run to the Steinbrenners to ask for an extra million dollars every time he hits a home run.”
The Trib editorial board is also weighing in:
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority has good reason to want Tampa International Airport Chief Executive Joe Lopano to stay on the job.
He’s brought energy, innovation and vision to the operation. He’s diversified revenues and cut costs. His strong marketing skills have proved valuable as the airport pursues new routes and he is strongly engaged in the region’s economic development efforts.
But Lopano’s impressive record does not justify the board abandoning its fiscal responsibility in its quest to keep him from exploring other job possibilities.
A proposal to add more than $500,000 to Lopano’s retirement if he stays five years is excessive.
There is plenty of work to be done at TIA.  Were's the nearby gas station?  How about more direct flights to the west coast?  Forget about the time wasting international flight chase.  Orlando and Miami have that market locked up, like it or not.  We can only participate when we subsidize international flights.  Not a good idea.

If the grass is greener on the other side for Lopano, great, he should have that option.  In the mean time, I'm sure there are other up and comers in the industry worthy and able to handle TIA.  It's not as if Lopano is the only person who can do this job... is it?

Perhaps that Orlando guy.  He'd get a raise, has the experience, and the moving and living expenses would be pretty cheap.

Hillsborough late to weapons ban party

As usual, Hillsborough County Commission is late to the party.  This time, on "assault rifle" bans.
Hillsborough County commissioners had barely recovered from an hour-long debate late Wednesday afternoon over how to prevent violence when Commissioner Les Miller dropped a bombshell.
Love the "bombshell" imagery.   We have to stop this violence!
Miller, who nearly lost a son to gun violence in the late 1990s, rejected requests by other commissioners that he schedule a discussion on the issue for the next board meeting. His motion to have the county attorney research the county’s gun control powers was not on the agenda.
We are sympathetic to Miller and his son.  But we are a tad curious of the circumstances.  Was an "assault weapon" involved in the shooting in the 1990s in Tallahassee?

The arguments pro and con on the assault weapons are all over, and we're not going to take that on here.
Ban something!

We also question judgement of politicians who may be reacting emotionally to a personal event, rather than striving for policy that is good on its merits.  But we can't have it all.

Turns out, it appears that it was fellow Democrat Kevin Beckner who got a bit blindsided my Miller's maneuver.
It was Democratic Commissioner Kevin Beckner who was most resistant to voting for Miller’s motion. Minutes earlier, Beckner had weathered tough questions about his proposal to create a violence-prevention task force made up of professionals from various disciplines.
Beckner, like the other commissioners, was caught off-guard by Miller’s gun control motion. Such a proposal threatened to embroil his newly minted task force in a gun control debate.
Commissioner Sharpe was the lone skeptic.
Despite the hot-button nature of the issue and the potential backlash from some constituents, the Republican-dominated commission voted 6-1 to support Miller’s request. Commissioner Mark Sharpe, one of five Republicans on the board, voted no.
Sharpe said the proposal worried him because media attention would focus on a potential assault weapon ban when statistics show those types of rifles are used in only a small portion of overall gun crimes. Sharpe suggested some preliminary research be done on what type of gun violence is most prevalent in Hillsborough County and what kinds of constitutional issues would be raised by a ban.
“We’ll be fighting that battle when really that may not be where we should be focusing our energy,” Sharpe said.
That is actually true.

But here's another problem.
Several commissioners objected to the $150,000 Beckner wanted to fund the project, most of which would go to Prevention Institute, a California-based non-profit. The institute has helped other cities and counties develop successful violence prevention strategies, Beckner said. The rest of the money would go to a facilitator to guide the group’s deliberations.

Beckner was helped, however, by supportive testimony from law enforcement officials and a school board member. After 70 minutes of debate, the commission voted 7-0 to support funding the violence prevention group.
Let's spend another $150,000 on violence prevention.  And let's give it an out of state firm that does not pay taxes.  Couldn't have we engaged with a local organization on violence prevention   Say... the Hillsborough County Sheriff?

Who is the Prevention Institute?  Is this a sole source bid?  Are there not any other providers of violence prevention or gun safety education?