Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We Need More than a Timeline

Today's Tribune Op-Ed Transportation group needs time line adds to the confusion about the purpose and what problem the Economic Development and Transportation committee was created to resolve. This committee was supposedly formed to tie economic development and transportation together.  Wasn't it also to tie back to recommendations that came out of Commissioner Murman's Economic Prosperity Stakeholder committee last year, especially regarding what they identified as economic development areas aka EDA's?

Here's what we reported on the meeting held last Tuesday, the first public forum, of this committee.  No wonder there is confusion as some who attended thought it was a transit meeting.

The Tribune's opinion is this committee is only about Transportation.  Did something change regarding the purpose of this committee since it was created earlier this year? When did that happen and who made that decision, the county administrator and staff, the facilitator, the EDC, special interests or one of the commissioners?

The problem with this committee is the "problem" it was created to solve has not been clearly stated. This committee has been flawed from the beginning because there was never a public and transparent plan put forward specifically stating what it was doing or what goal it was trying to meet.  The commissioners hired a facilitator but apparently then delegated to the county administrator and his staff,  the EDC and perhaps others what and how the facilitator proceeded. The commissioners seem to be sitting on the sidelines not knowing or understanding what the facilitator is doing.  In other words, confusion reigns. And today's Tribune simply contributed more to that confusion.

This committee has steered off course. Holding pep rallies across the county so organizations can rally their members to attend and sing the same tune is not the answer to this committee's problems. We suggest the following:
  1. Clearly state the problem this committee was set up to resolve and it's expected results or goals.
  2. Start with some data. Let's see the data behind what the problem is, surely there is some. 
  3. Identify outside stakeholders that represent various groups of people to participate in this process just like the pro rail business leaders did at the committee leadership meeting on July 23rd. Allow the stakeholders to participate on a panel (like the business leaders did) or hold one on ones so the stakeholders can provide their ideas and information. Outside stakeholders should have equal time to express their views, same as those pro rail business leaders did on July 23rd.
  4. Bring in experts to address the problem this committee is trying to solve, experts on job creation, economic growth, transportation. Ensure there is a balance of views and that not just one side is presented from them. 
  5. Develop a well defined and transparent business case to justify the cost, revenue sources and benefits to the community for any proposed investment.
  6. Provide assurances that the county commissioners receive all of the information provided by the stakeholders and experts or they directly participate in this process. If they do not directly participate, the commissioners should sign off stating they received (and we will assume have read or viewed) all the information provided throughout this process.
We expect our commissioners to constructively and logically gather information and hear a variety of opinions, views and information so they can make informed decisions.  They are who should be held accountable for this process.  And we respect the variety of opinions, including Connect Tampa Bay's, which has an extensive relationship with the local Sierra Club.  However, they are not the single entity in this county that has an opinion, has a view or would like to share information.

The MPO survey of registered voters in the county, post 2010 referendum, indicated their highest priority (96%) was roads and bridges.  Our roads are the most or one of the most utilized assets in the county and they must be maintained and improved.  We have a huge budget gap to do that because we no longer have any CIT money available for anything, though we are paying that tax thru 2026.  We see the success of the recently launched MetroRapid Bus Rapid Transit.  MetroRapid was built in less than a year at 1/60th the cost of the proposed 2010 rail line along the same route.  Building on that could be promising, flexible and effective at a fraction of the cost of fixed rail lines and in a timeframe that is realistic.  Of course the private sector is innovating with technology and other business opportunities to bring new transportation solutions to our county.  And this is about creating private sector jobs right!

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