Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mark Sharpe goes after HART CEO

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe says it's time for HART CEO Philip Hale to go.
 Sharpe accuses Hale of "uninspired, unimaginative leadership," and says that the board needs someone new at the helm in order for it to pursue a more ambitious direction.
When asked for reaction, Hale responded that the board just extended his contract last month for two more years, and that there was no opposition. (Sharpe was absent from the meeting.) "The direction I received from most of the other board members is that they are supportive of me," Hale says. He added that if the board did want him to step down, he'd do so.
So let's get this straight.  A powerful, sitting Hillsborough County Commissioner is publicly calling for the resignation of the HART CEO, two months after his contract was renewed, a meeting which Commissioner Sharpe was too busy to be concerned with, while not indicating any malfeasance or concrete non-performance issues, other than "uninspired, unimaginative leadership"?

Talk about some chutzpah.  Why does he not come out and say it, that he wants Philip Hale gone since Hale has not come out as pro light rail?  That's Sharpe's definition of "imaginative leadership"... spending someone else's money down a rat hole of light rail.

Sharpe's "imaginative leadership" imagines all sorts of economic magical thinking around the miracle of light rail, while ignoring the costs and the time it will take to deliver any rail oriented transit solution to our immediate transportation relief needs. Keep on dreaming... but it's not reality.

Sharpe is abusing his leadership position to publicly undermine the tough job that Hale has undertaken.  Hale had to rebuild HART after the 2010 transportation referendum disaster,  reinvigorate the staff, remediate HART finances, and improve services.  HART ridership is up, at record levels.  The new MetroRapid is off to a great start.   If it continues its success and is expanded further in Hillsborough County, MetroRapid will put a big dent in the hopes of the rail fanatics.  Is that another reason Sharpe has come of for Hale's head? 
There are sometimes discussion at HART meetings about adding a feature or a new service, but the conversation often gets stifled because of the lack of available funding. Sharpe says he's tired of hearing that line used all the time.
"That’s always the excuse," he says, agreeing that the agency has limited resources, but also saying that he believes there are "tremendous opportunities if we look at citizens as partners, and the businesses here as partners, and we are not afraid to fail or make a mistake." Sharpe says that he's particularly frustrated that attempts to get Wi-Fi on buses hasn't taken hold.
I thought Sharpe was an idea guy, not a complainer.  Here he is making excuses since he can't come with an idea to get wi-fi on busses.

Here's one from the Eye:  Get local businesses, such as those on HART routes, to underwrite the cost of wi-fi on the buses.  They can advertise on the "I accept" page and offer deals and electronic coupons. For extra credit, they can use GPS and location based services to drive the ad directly for business near the upcoming stop. [Credit EyeOnTampaBay].
The County Commissioner, who was one of the leading advocates for the transit tax for light rail three years ago, added that it's time to "throw out the playbook that has gotten us to where we are now and reconsider it all." Sharpe also said, "We need to do everything we’re doing, and reconsider it all, every stop, every bus, where it’s going, how it’s serving the citizens, are we committed 100 percent with all the passion we’ve got to get you where you want to go quickly? Are we going to provide you with the conveniences that you need, in order to make you really want to ride that bus again? Are we looking at you as a customer, not as a number, or a person who just rides the bus? I think that’s going to require inspirational leadership."
Ideas please.
Hale told CL that the board decided on its own to extend his original contract (it was due to expire in November). "I didn't ask for the extension," he says.
Good thing Hale got that extension.  He may have some political waters to navigate soon.


  1. Commissioner Sharpe has taken the low road with his emotional outburst for the current HART CEO Phil Hale to go.
    Let's connect the dots.
    TBARTA does not have the heavy influence they want with HART like they do with PSTA in Pinellas - Thank goodness! Tampa Bay Partnership DOES have heavy influence with TBARTA as they pushed our state legislature to create TBARTA (which is unnecessary and wasteful).

    This is from Sharpe's bio from the BOCC website:
    Sharpe is an active member of HART, chairs the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and served three years on Hillsborough County’s Transportation Task Force.
    Mark serves on the board of TBARTA.
    He is on the board of directors for Tampa Bay Partnership for Regional Economic Development.

    Since the 2010 referendum defeat, HART has done the due diligence to balance it's budget, launch the new Metro Rapids BRT under budget and expand services where it makes sense and eliminate those that don't. The "ambitious direction" that Sharpe wants to force on the taxpayers of Hillsborough County is a light rail boondoggle at any cost. The "inspirational" leadership he wants is a CEO who will be an advocate for light rail (worked out well in 2010?) Did Commissioner Sharpe make this kind of outburst alone or is it orchestrated?
    Let's watch closely how the other 2 County Commissioners on HART, Murman and Beckner, react to Sharpe's request.

    We're left wondering if Mark Sharpe's going to go work for Tampa Bay Partnership, MPO, TBARTA or some other wishful central planning agency when he's term limited next year...

  2. Sharpe was ridiculous here. But Hale said himself last week that MetroRapid will lay the groundwork for light rail so it's clearly not a conflict about that.