Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hillsborough County agencies fighting change

We have yet another Hillsborough County agency fighting against the tides of change and modernization.
TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s Civil Service Board will consider on Tuesday spending $75,000 to lobby state legislators against a proposal that would strip the board of some of its power over county employees.

The proposal pits the civil service board against 21 elected and appointed agencies, from the children’s board to the county commission.
Like the wasteful Public Transit Commission (see here, here, here and here), the Civil Service Board was created by the state legislature (in the 1950s!).  Like the PTC, Hillsborough County is unique in the state with such a board.

How did the other counties get by without these agencies?  Yet somehow they've survived.
Civil service board Director Dane Petersen said his agency saves taxpayers money by centralizing the kind of human resources activities that each of its 21 clients would have to do themselves.

“There’s a lot of economy of scale that comes with us,” Petersen said.
There is also a lot of bureaucracy and inefficiencies from centralization in any organization.  Delegation to those actually responsible for the outcomes leads to more timely and less costly decision making. Who knows better about the skills and resources needed at a particular agency than those who work at it every day?

Hillsborough County commissioners had good reason to vote unanimously to pursue legislation loosening civil service controls over government workers, and the Civil Service Board should not use county tax dollars to fight the plan.

Hillsborough is the only county in the state with such an elaborate civil service system, and the evidence is strong that a restructuring is in order.
Board members also should remember no one is talking about getting rid of civil service.

But its extensive reach is no longer necessary or appropriate.
Nothing like this would ever happen int he private sector.  It the mission changes, or new inefficiencies need to be introduced to be competitive, it happens.  If you fight the change, you're gone.  Be a team player.  Don't fight the boss.  But you can fight the boss in the public sector.

Like the PTC the Civil Service Board is considering hiring a lobbyist for the state legislature to help save its hide. Since both agencies were created by the state, they can set up their defenses in Tallahassee to protect themselves.

Unlike the PTC, the Civil Service Board is totally funded with your direct tax dollars. 

Your tax dollars at work, paying lobbyists, protecting civil servants from serving you more effectively. 

I should note the PTC does not get its money directly from taxpayers, but from the public transportation companies it regulates... taxis, limos, ambulances... which of course are paid by you... under the power of the law of the state.  A distinction without a difference.  

Your fee dollars at work, paying lobbyists, protecting civil servants from serving you more effectively. 

Here we are with 2 county agencies that no one else in the state needs are fighting us so they can continue to provide overpriced services we don't need.

This is yet another proof of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy 
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
The PTC and Civil Service Board are protecting their own turf at the expense of their mission and their customers.


Updated. Fixed a typo on the title.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Save your trees, not mine

Yesterday we took a tour of some Complete Streets, or nearly so, around Tampa.  One of the concerns we raised is the ongoing issue with the median maintenance on US-41 through Lutz.  The medians there are overgrown, poorly maintained, full of debris... and have been so for the better part of a year.

The question of the day is if we can't even maintain some existing medians in the county, what will happen with the complete streets being developed and planned for the community?

Unkempt median at the US-41 apex in Lutz
Well one answer appears to be ... Do it yourself!
LUTZ — Though a $5,000 donation by Wal-Mart has provided a reprieve for trees and shrubs once threatened with removal from a U.S. 41 median, Hillsborough County officials are looking for volunteers interested in helping to maintain the landscape.
A gathering for prospective volunteers is planned at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 29, at the Lutz Community Center, 98 First Ave. N.W.
Emphasis mine.  

Some private donations from Walmart, up the road on US-41, are welcome, to help clean up the mess.

But where is the county on this?  Did they not budget for median maintenance?  If they did, can those of us in the Lutz US-41 get some of our taxes back?  Apparently not...
The Florida Department of Transportation installed the landscaping years ago. After the state determined it could not afford upkeep, the county assumed maintenance. A commercial landscaper began providing free maintenance for the median about five years ago, but stopped in 2012, according to the county. Before the state would reassume responsibility of a median, the county was required to remove trees and shrubs and plant Bahia sod, which led to the county’s controversial plan.
Yet back in Tampa, in the ritzy Hyde Park neighborhood, the city of Tampa is helping the community replace aging and dying oak trees.
Laurel oaks, many of which were planted when the neighborhood first flourished in the early 20th century, have stood tall and provided shade for decades. The scenic neighborhood even is a popular location for commercial photographic and video shoots.
But with many of the trees reaching the end of their lifespans, Hyde Park Preservation Inc. is working with the city to remove and replace them.

Members of the neighborhood association this year have coordinated with officials in the city’s natural resources department to remove and replace about 100 dead or diseased trees lining neighborhood streets.
The city is providing the new trees through its Treemendous Tampa program, which provides free trees to residents and neighborhood associations. Mayor Bob Buckhorn has challenged the program to add 1,000 trees on city land each year.

Earlier this month, the neighborhood association’s board of directors allocated $15,000 to buy oak trees more mature than the ones typically provided by the Treemendous Tampa program.
So Tampa is providing trees to Hyde Park.  They've put some of their own money to upgrade to more mature trees.  That's fine with us.  However, the article does not state the cost of the trees it is offering to the city of Tampa.
For Hyde Park residents, the trees help give the historic neighborhood the “southern charm” for which it is known, Walker said.

“I think anybody from Tampa knows that this is Tampa when they come to Hyde Park,” he said. “It’s kind of a unique neighborhood.”
Ramm agreed: “The trees are important because it’s the character of the neighborhood. It just gives a nice, quiet feeling in a very urban area.”
But in Lutz, trees and maintained medians are not important, and it's apparently not in the character of the suburbs to have trees.

Unless you want to do it yourself.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nearly Complete Streets tour

We've written in the past here and here about some of Tampa's plans and activities around Complete Streets.  As a refresher, a "complete street", according to  Smart Growth America, "are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities." There is no single design approved for complete streets, and they may vary by neighborhood or community.  Urban complete streets may be different than suburban or rural streets. Generally, it's about livability.  I'll leave the definition of livability as an exercise left for the reader.

We like riding our bikes.  We bike often on the bike trails -- Suncoast and Flatwoods -- but are not bold enough to ride on the roads in our neighborhood too often.  It is something we would like to be able to do -- run to Publix, the drug store, grab a meal, etc. just hop on the bike.  But do others think the same way?  What do people do who live in communities that are more bike friendly?  What are some complete, or nearly so, complete streets and neighborhoods around Tampa?  Where have we made the streets more inviting for pedestrians, bicyclists and not just cars?

So lets look around a bit.

Perhaps New Tampa.  New Tampa  has miles of bike lanes -- not just sidewalks, not just shared bike lanes on the roads, but separate, nicely paved and maintained bike lanes that run from about Skipper Road and Bruce B. Downs, north past Hunter's Green, and several miles of bike lanes in the neighborhoods.  Retail, groceries, dining are all easily accessible via the bike lanes, many within a 5 - 10 minute bike ride from nearby New Tampa communities such as Tampa Palms.

So let's see how many bicyclists were taking advantage of their nearly complete streets on a recent beautiful Fall early Saturday afternoon.

There were a few bikes at the New Tampa Y.

But there were quite a few more cars.  This is about 1/2 of the parking lot., which was pretty full.

Let's go grab a bite to eat at Panera.

These were the only bikes I spotted while at Panera.

Perhaps at the nearby bike store?

Hmm.... I did not see anyone on a bike at the bike store.  I did see someone walk a bike out shortly after this shot and rack it up on their car.

Not yet discouraged, I did find another bike at a nearby retailer.

Let's move on to Flatwoods, a nearby Hillsborough County park, with a 7 mile loop popular with bikers.

I did see a few bikers there, but it was a rather light crowd compared to other times when we've biked at Flatwoods.

Bike paths in the area a clearly marked.

No motor vehicles are allowed on the bike paths.  No too many bikers either.  But there where quite a few more cars on the roads.

How about Publix down the road?  It's right in the heart of Tampa Palms, at most 10 minutes by bike from Flatwoods.

I can't imagine where all the bicyclists are on such a beautiful day.

Tampa Palms is not the only community in the area to feature attributes of Complete Streets.  About 10 minutes away by bicycle, USF will be getting one soon as well.  Fletcher Avenue east from Bruce B. Downs to 50th Street has started work to become a complete street with a $5.4 million project.

Some of the features on Fletcher (PDF) will include:

  • New medians with "low maintenance" plants
  • Gateway obelisk
  • Improved sign and pavement marking
  • Proposed reduced speed limit by 5 mph in some zones
  • 6 mid-block crossings

Sure, they're making Fletcher more friendly for pedestrians and students, but it will impede traffic on that already busy corridor.

Tampa also made over North 22nd Street, including a new roundabout, for about $5.6 million as part of a Complete Streets effort.

The 22nd Street roundabout features an obelisk to "welcome" folks into the neighborhood.  I've visited at the obelisk, and it might be a touch too high to see around the traffic, in case you're worried about safety.  They've also marked 22nd street with bike lanes, but I did not see any bicyclists in the neighborhood.  However, there was a discarded diaper near the obelisk.

From there, we headed up to 56th Street, since it had added some shared bike lanes.  I was wondering if anyone was out for a ride. 

The road is well marked for the shared bike lane.  However, notice how the bike lane progressively narrows on the approach to the Hillsborough River bridge.  The bike lane from the bridge and further northbound, while still marked, is totally part of the traffic lane, with no extra room for the biker.  You can see how the pickup truck in front takes up the entire right lane!  I would not recommend riding your bike on this stretch of road.  It is unsafe by my standards.  Apparently by others as well, as I did not see any cyclists that day.

How are things back in Lutz?  Last year Hillsborough County was considering tearing down some trees in the medians along US-41 since they were having difficulty keeping up with the landscaping. While US-41 is no where near a complete street, the County has tried to improve "livability" with the inviting landscaping, which is one of the attributes  of Complete Streets. There was some public outrage, the county relented, and the trees are still are still there.

This median is looking OK, if in need of a mowing.

This median is not looking so good.  Just up the road about 100 yards, even worse.

I know where you can get a mattress cheap!

It's not like this is a bad part of town.  This mattress is just outside the north entrance of Avila! Arguably the most exclusive neighborhood in Tampa Bay.

Looks like we'll have another meeting on Tuesday night.

If they can't mow the grass, how are they going to maintain Complete Streets?

If the bicyclists are not out riding, on a beautiful day, in a community with miles of good bike lanes and nearby establishments, exactly how are the Complete Streets going to work?

UPDATED:  Corrected references from Tampa Palms to New Tampa.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guest Post: Destructive path chosen by Obama, Democrats

Ken Roberts, an Eye reader from Apollo Beach, provides a guest post today.  His article was published on the Tampa Tribune's editorial page yesterday as the Letter of the Day and if you missed it, please read.

Destructive path chosen by Obama, Democrats

The thing about the shutdown that angers me the most is the truth. The truth is that this debt-ceiling method of negotiating a budget and spending limits is the process preferred by the president and his party. It was selected by the president and his party very early on in his first administration.
The time-tested and legal way to negotiate a budget is for the Senate and the House to each pass a budget, then negotiate to produce one budget from the two offered, and then send that to the president. The Senate, run by Harry Reid and dominated by Democrats, has refused to do this, and until this year refused to produce a budget for more than four years. This leaves the House only one remedy, and that is to use its constitutional power of the purse to withhold funds and try to force negotiation.
Each time the House tries this, the president and the Democrats, reinforced by the media, call them unreasonable and complain that threatening to shut down the government is irresponsible. But we must remember, the House is acting at the behest of constituents who see the danger in continuing to print money and spend more than we take in, with disastrous long-term consequences for our country and every American — indeed, for the world.
Many congressmen were specifically elected in 2012 to work as hard as they could to reduce spending and get our budget balanced. Each time, however, the press spouts the party line of the president and points fingers at the Republicans. They completely ignore the facts that Reid and the president have chosen this path by their refusal to follow the law and reach a budget agreement the way presidents and governments did for decades before them.
If the president and the Democratic leadership really wanted to negotiate — if they were really interested in working together and reaching compromise that involves all the people — they would use the legislative process designed to do that. But they force us all to live with their choice so they can have everything they want — without having to compromise.
Ken Roberts
Apollo Beach 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tribune short-circuits ObamaCare history

Here at the Eye we have previously written about the ObamaCare train wreck, including Where in the World is Senator Nelson on ObamaCare now and other Eye posts here and here.  We continue to wonder why our local media refuses to interview or question those who voted for the predicted ObamaCare mess, including Senator Nelson.  

Today's Tampa Tribune includes their own editorial Obama short-circuits his own health plan 
The continuing troubles with the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment website rest squarely on President Obama’s shoulders.
If the problems persist, Obama needs to extend the enrollment period beyond the March 31 deadline, or exempt people from the penalties associated with failing to have insurance. After all, big businesses were granted an extension when they complained about a lack of time to prepare for a reporting requirement in the new law.
Therefore, we must assume that the Tribune believes that Obama and the Executive branch can arbitrarily and unilaterally pick and choose what parts of a law the President signs to enforce and when. On what basis, do they believe the President has that power? What precedent does that set? Will the Tribune support that same position in the future if there is a Republican President with the Democrats having a majority of one or both houses of Congress?  

We agree there needs to be a delay of the individual mandate.  In fact, in July, as ABC news reported:  House Votes to Delay Employer and Individual Mandates by One Year
The House of Representatives voted this evening not only to delay the employer mandate by one year, but also to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by one year as well.
“This is about basic fairness,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference Wednesday. “If the president believes that the employer mandate is too much for the employer community, how about basic fairness for American families and individuals?”
These votes passed with Democrat support in the House. Nowhere in the Tribune Op-Ed states this fact that the House went thru the proper legislative process to pass two bills to delay both the employer and individual mandates. The House sent these bills over to the Senate.  Senate majority leader Harry Reid refused to address them or acknowledge them. Senator Reid did not want to force Senate Democrats, especially those vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2014, to have to vote on bills that would provide fairness to all Americans regarding ObamaCare.  

As far we know, the Tribune never even asked Senator Nelson for his opinion regarding these two bills passed by the House. 

Yet, the Tribune continues to report on Senator Nelson's request to delay raising federal flood insurance rates and refuses to report that it was Senator Nelson who voted FOR the Biggert-Waters bill last year raising the rates while Senator Rubio voted AGAINST the bill last year.  Senator Nelson's request for a do-over for his flub vote last year is almost comical as the Tribune regurgitates from an email Nelson sends to the Associated Press: 
"My legislation to fix this is being blocked right now by partisan politics and those who continue to oppose the existing health care law," Nelson wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
The truth and facts about ObamaCare is that a majority of Floridians always opposed ObamaCare. We knew back in 2009-2010 that the government trying to take over 1/6 of our economy would be a disaster. Yet Senator Nelson voted for it anyway, against the position of his constituents. Accountability for the ObamaCare train wreck starts with who rammed it thru a totally partisan corrupt process of back room deals, and special legislative maneuvering procedures that enabled a "tax" and spending bill that originated in the Senate to get passed when the House Constitutionally owns the purse strings. 

One of the reasons for the website complexity is because this Administration insisted that those looking to enroll would NEVER see the actual cost and price tag of the policies offered - how transparent is that? Oh wait  - we keep being told Obama Claims Administration Most Transparent in History so it must be true.....

The website, which we now know was not thoroughly tested, requires personal financial information be input to determine the subsidy first and then provides the subsidized premium. The Democrats and Senator Nelson put their faith banking on enough Americans  becoming dependent on the unsustainable Obamacare subsidy entitlements and there will be no turning back. Remember the subsidy is NOT free, someone else is paying for it. Again, accountability begins with who starts and creates the mess. There's only one party that passed ObamaCare in 2010 who is responsible for the train wreck they created -  the Democrats and that includes Senator Nelson. 
Requires superhuman mastery to work 

The Tribune implies these technical "glitches" implementing ObamaCare is somehow "new" news.  Where have they been?  We'll help them out going back three years to 2010.
In practice, they will likely prove difficult to design and implement, and may ultimately undermine the country’s quality of care
Verifying eligibility for these subsidies means developing a rapid-response welfare apparatus that has the ability to instantly create detailed, accurate applicant profiles. Fast, accurate income verification presents a particularly serious difficulty.
technical concerns haven't garned the same level of attention as, say, they Supreme Court challenge to the law, but they've been around for a while, and they're fairly serious
The CEO of Aetna, meanwhile, told CNBC that testing of the system has been done on the fly, and that health insurers—who are connected directly to the exchange systems—didn’t get the code to connect their systems until a month before the exchanges opened.
The Tribune continues their ObamaCare lamenting today with an Op-Ed by Michael Gerson Obamacare is in bad need of a doctor.  While Gerson admits 
Obamacare is a multiyear, multifaceted fiasco.
Gerson also states, as if fearful:
And it could become an intellectual crisis for modern liberalism.
And ends his column
So maybe the problem is not Obama or Sebelius but rather a government program that requires superhuman technocratic mastery.
Taking over 1/6 of our economy does take superhuman mastery which proves the government  cannot successfully do it. The majority of Americans who have always opposed ObamaCare knew this.  A government that tries to control our entire healthcare system in the name of "helping" the 10-15% of Americans who were uninsured requires hurting the 85-90% of those who were already insured. Does Senator Nelson believe this is good? Is this what Senator Nelson wants?

We understand bills are to be initiated in the House (again) and the Senate to delay the individual mandate. It is now being reported that 300,000 Floridians are getting notified by Florida Blue they are losing their existing health policies. So much for Floridians getting to keep their existing healthcare coverage.

Will Senator Nelson support delaying the individual mandate now?  And will anyone in the local media bother to ask him?

What we have here is a teachable moment but the Tribune has a lot to learn.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How bad is Tampa's air?

As we at The Eye get around town, going to a bunch of meetings on the local transportation issues, we keep hearing from Sierra Club representatives how bad Tampa's air quality is.  Just how bad is it?

"The worst in the state."

"Tampa is an F."

We're not the only ones who have asked this question.  In 2012, local TV station WTSP looked into the issue.
TAMPA, Fla. - The American Lung Association recently gave Hillsborough County an “F” for ozone pollution. Some environmentalists claim Tampa's air is the worst in Florida, and could contribute to respiratory problems among children, the elderly, and those with heart and lung conditions. The I-Team looked into the air we breathe and the major contributors to pollution in Tampa.
"It's the worst. We have the worst air quality," said Phil Compton of the Sierra Club Florida.

In a review of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s 2011 Air Monitoring Report, the I-Team found Hillsborough County had 12 days in 2010 in which the air was deemed “unhealthy for sensitive groups”. That’s more than any other county in Florida. Pasco and Pinellas counties, by contrast, had 0 days of unhealthy air. Polk County had 1.
Well, in fact, the American Lung Association has cited Tampa as an F when it comes to Ozone pollution.

Tampa air quality assessed by American Lung Association
According the American Lung Association, we've had 13.5 fewer Ozone alert days since 1996.  The trend is clearly heading in the right direction, as we are borderline F.

Hillsborough Ozone trend
We've had 12 "Ozone Orange Days" in 2013, which may be troublesome for some sensitive populations.

Note, the American Lung Association gives a A for particle pollution, and again, the trend is downward, in the right direction.

So what about other pollutants and trends?  According to City-Data (scroll down a bit), not bad at all.

The overall Air Quality Index for Tampa is 26.3, better than the US average of 32.

Tampa Air Quality Index
Of the 8 common air pollution measures, Tampa, 5 are better or significantly better than average, 2 are about average, and 1 (lead) is significantly worse than average. 

It's interesting that ozone level as measured (2010) was about average.  Compare that to the American Lung Association.

I'm left to wonder about the lead reading, which was 2008.  From the 2010 Hillsborough EPC Air Quality Technical Report:
In 2010, Pb [lead] monitors recorded seven exceedences of the standard, each at the CSX Rail Yard air monitoring site located on the southern boundary of a lead-acid batter recycling plant.  Fortunately, this facility is currently undergoing major reconstruction to full enclose the lead processing operations, upgrade emission controls that will reduce the emissions from lead in to the atmosphere.
I encourage you to go to City Data and review and play around with the data yourself.

WTSP attempted to understand some of the measurements:
Larry George of the Air Resource Division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says his agency’s own numbers from that report may be skewed. He believes Hillsborough County had fewer than 12 days of unhealthy air, but the number appears higher because one of the air quality monitors is in close proximity to a Mosaic fertilizer facility.
I guess they had trouble climbing up the smoke stack.

You can also check out the latest (2010) Hillsborough County Air Quality Technical Report.  It acknowledges improvements:
As the engine technology in automobiles and trucks improve, the peak levels of ambient concentrations of CO [carbon monoxide] have dropped. 
This also holds true for nitrous oxides and ozone, which are also pollutants emitted from internal combustion engines, although its interesting the decrease in measured ozone is stable compared to CO and NO2.
CO air quality trend (city-data.com)

Ozone air quality trend (city-data.com)
I would expect ozone to be on a similar trend as CO and NO2, but it is rather stable, yet the American Lung Association does show a downward trend.  Pinellas and Miami-Dade grade better than Hillsborough despite their higher population densities.  Perhaps there is a local climate explanation.

Some other statements from the 2010 Hillsborough EPC Air Quality Technical Report:
In 2010, Hillsborough County experienced seven days when the AQI reached the range for "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups".
There were two days when the maximum 8-hour concentration [of ozone] exceeded the NAAQS of 75 ppb.
Again, the data supports the trends are heading in the right direction, and will likely continue in in the right direction as even more fuel efficient vehicles hit the roads. Tampa/Hillsborough air pollution is not a crisis.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Guess post today from, Eric Greenbaum, a local citizen who is one our readers.  Eric has been participating in a number of our local transportation events and last Thursday attended the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Summit aka Tampa Bay's RA RA For Rail event (again).  Here's what he heard and observed.

Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Summit

As I walked around outside the meeting room I was struck that most of the people attending wore suits and were by their name tags from someplace; municipality or business, not too many ordinary citizens like me. Though I did manage to sit next to a young woman without any affiliations and there was also an elderly black gentleman. But you definitely got the impression most people there had a professional interest in what was going to be said.

The first speaker was Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa international Airport, who proudly proclaimed that Tampa was the number one airport in the country. He explained that there was a lot of innovation involved like the people mover between the main terminal and the air sides. He really gushed over them, actually, for reasons made clear later. Then County Commissioner, Mark Sharpe, gave a general rah-rah speech without really saying anything. This was followed by Stuart Rogel from Tampa Bay Partnership who stated transportation and education were what he considered the highest priorities.

Republican Representative John Mica-Fl then spoke by video and he is a big advocate of “fixed” transit as some like to call light rail. He bragged about federal funding he has obtained for Florida for the Sun Rail. He urged us to keep trying to get transit projects together so he could help get more federal funds for them. He even implored us to ignore the results of the referendum and to keep bringing it up and how it took other cities several attempts before passing some kind of local funding.

Next came a very interesting presentation from Rusty Roberts from All Aboard Florida, the privately funded venture to construct a passenger rail line from Miami to Orlando with stops in FT Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. He detailed how far along they were towards getting it running. I was impressed with all the level of competence their plans showed. I sincerely wish them success though I remain skeptical about if trains will make a profitable comeback as a mode of passenger transportation. There is a reason in the second half of the last century why passenger rail ridership decreased as highways and the travel hospitality industry made the car practical for long distance excursions along with the advancement of commercial airlines. Just one of the reasons why I was against the high-speed rail.

Mike Wacht discussed central Orlando’s Sun Rail, commuter line between area towns which is slated to have a total cost of 620 million dollars with 2/3 of that going to CSX for the tracks.(Which was way too much per mile I feel) I He gave a rousing story about the first phase and only time will tell how optimistic the predicted use will be. Also from Central Florida was Harry Barley with MetroPlan Orlando. He went over a plan to improve I-4 for 21 miles starting from the exit for Universal. According to him, two managed toll lanes in each direction will be added.

More user fees in the form of toll lanes was a recurring theme from this point and was emphasized by FDOT District 7 Secretary who warned that federal funds for transportation was unsustainable and that local municipalities would have to rely more on internal financing. This does seem to be in contrast to the attitude of the endless money spigot that Representative Mica displayed.

Up again was Joseph Lopano and he explained the new array of improvements for Tampa Airport. Specifically, they are going to move to an area south of the terminals all the rental car operations and connect it to there with a people mover. This will free up a lot of space in the long term parking garage for more cars to park which would then generate more revenue. With the new people mover at the new location it could also act as another drop-off and pick up point helping to decrease congestion at the main terminal. He went to say a hotel and office building could also be in the works for there, but I think he is overreaching. Just like his desire to extend the people mover to a “multi-modal” center in the Westshore area. This is why, I believe, was what was behind his earlier gushing over the airport shuttles. I don’t think he cares about light rail anywhere else. He did have a point about his complaint that there is no direct bus route between the airport and downtown.

The most fixed feelings I had occurred when Brad Miller, the CEO of Pinellas Suncoast Transit, spoke. In the first half he laid out a whole series of steps that would vastly improve the bus system including more routes that would run more hours. Then he had to claim that a light rail line was needed between St Pete and Clearwater to aid economic development. To pay for this on the 2014 ballot will a proposal to add a 1% sales tax for a decrease in property tax. He claims that this will only be $10 more per year on the average family because tourists will absorb a good portion of the increase.

Polk County weighed in with a brief look at a comprehensive plan resulting from a lot of customer input to connect his large county with many municipalities financed by a proposed 1 cent sales tax surcharge. 

There were other speakers, but none more pertinent then Ronnie Duncan head of TBARTA. He first began by telling a story about a trip to Home Depot to buy a toilet seat and how he found so many different varieties and he brought out one to illustrate his point which was that transportation needed many different solutions. Variety was also a recurring theme throughout the morning. And to be fair he did talk about numerous types of transportation like freight and shipping. But what revealed his true intention was a slide during his presentation listing challenges to their plans. On the bottom was listed “Not convinced of light rail.” In a real Freudian slip he read it as “Not yet convinced of light rail.” And in a nutshell that seemed to sum up a subtle underlying mindset of a majority of the people in that room. Light rail was a forgone conclusion even if everybody doesn’t realize it yet.

But at the end of the summit the floor opened up for questions and I thought I would confront a little of their base assumption. I asked, “Could someone please explain how light rail is better in creating economic development than a bus rapid transit would servicing the same route?” Ray Chiramonte from Hillsborough Planning Commission answered by professing that it was the permanent nature of light rail that made it better. That people would know it was always there. Then he made it personal by talking about how he would love to work and live next to a rail station. He finished it up by bringing up variety and Duncan’s toilet seat as an analogy. I countered with “But there wasn’t a huge difference in prices for those toilet seats like there is between light rail and a metro rapid transit.”

Of course, he had no real answer since light rail costs at least 50 times per mile than a metro rapid transit. Just like his original reply was a lame cover-up for the fact that they want light rail not for transportation and the economic growth they talk about is really the millions of taxpayer dollars to be channeled to politically connected cronies for business redevelopment around the stations. The result of their intentions is for a sliver of the county to have a super expensive public transit while a few profit immensely from effort to herd more people into that corridor to try to ensure its use.

Eric Greenbaum
Concerned Hillsborough resident

Thank you very much Eric for your insightful and truthful report of  what really occurred at last Thursday's Transportation summit. This confirms yet again the same crowd continues to talk to themselves.  We would like to know why HART wasn't there.  Why was Hillsborough's local transit agency left out of this summit?  Inquiring minds want to know.

But it's only in Tampa where our transportation leaders compare transportation to toilet seats.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

C L Bryant's "Content of Character" tour kicks off in Tampa

Last Thursday, Reverend C L Bryant kicked off his "Content of Character" tour right here in Tampa.  The Eye was there to video the event and to hear what Bryant and a panel of some  active in our local community had to say.  Reverend Bryant is a Baptist minister who was a former president of the NAACP's Garland, TX chapter. He created OneNationBacktoGod.com and is the creator of the highly acclaimed and successful independent documentary Runaway Slave which is about freeing the Black community from the slavery of tyranny and progressive policies.

Here's the entire video that you can watch to hear all that was said and hopefully share with others.

Bryant stated the Black community historically has had great strength in the face of horrific adversity.  But is the Black community really free at last?
It's been 50 years since Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963 and Bryant decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary by taking his Content of Character event on tour.

Martin Luther Kings's Birmingham jail letter was mentioned by EJ Otero who was on the panel.  I suggest everyone read it or read it again and think about what we are experiencing today.  

Some general themes and take aways from the Eye:  
  • The Black pastor on the panel believes in leadership from the pulpit - he said "if one is ignorant about God, one is ignorant about a lot of things"
  • General concern with young people (the millennials)  who seem to be taking our freedoms for granted, yet are disillusioned with their future, thus the YOLO (you only live once) theme of having fun and "me-ism".
  • Our kids are a mess because parents are a mess - caused largely by the breakdown of the family
  • Fair but no favors - Frederick Douglass
  • Inverse relationship between power-rights
  • Those who care enough to vote but not care enough about how to vote
  • Bryant asked why are Blacks still angry?
    • Black professor - we got educated but still feel forgotten and still  do not get opportunities
    • Anger is glamorized by pop culture - anger from missing family, faith, fathers
    • Bryant mentioned that the black community is familiar with abuse but afraid of the unknown
  • Panelist Willie Lawson defined character as doing the right thing when no one is looking
  • Black pastor stated we "Cannot teach character without teaching God"
  • Hispanic EJ Otero: Don't let "victimization" define us- look where we have come from.
  • Question asked:  Is there anything - color of skin, sex, economic, etc. that keeps you back?
  • We have a need to rebuid the family - rebuild the male "man"
  • Teach responsibility, good moral values and standards because today there is 72% illegitimacy in black community
  • Tribalism encourages those to give back to the community not back to the family
  • Slaves seek comfort while tribal chiefs serve a master
  • We need to start judging by what we bring to the table - not judge by what one takes from the table
  • Judged not by dependency but by contribution
  • Young have lost self-sufficiency but there is still a place today for self-sufficiency and content of character

Reverend Bryant is taking his Content of Character on the road across the country. There will be a panel discussion in every city. We applaud Bryant for driving the conversation and for an open and honest discussion that all Americans need to discuss. You can get Runaway Slave on Amazon. His new movie will be coming out at the end of the year - Red, White and Black.   We'll let you know when it's available.

The Eye also attended the Black on Black Crime Townhall that Tampa city councilman Frank Reddick organized last  month.  We were glad that Reddick took this issue on. Here is the video of that event.

One of the main issues questioned was how to reach the black male youth population. This event was the first of more to come.  We are encouraged that our local black community is engaging in an open dialogue for how to address this and the black on black crime issue.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Don't block my view!

We wrote about the Residences at the Riverfront, aka the Straz tower, and video blogged about it, when the Tampa City Council voted to proceed with its development.

Now, in addition to the questionable location smack in the middle of the Straz, it's blocking someone's view!
TAMPA — A resident of downtown’s Skypoint condo tower has filed a lawsuit seeking a halt to plans for the Residence at the Riverwalk tower, saying it will spoil his view.
Attorney John P. Baker filed suit against the city on Sept. 20, less than a month after Tampa City Council rezoned an acre of city-owned land straddling the junction of Tyler and Cass streets to allow for the 400-foot high-rise. At that same meeting, council members voted 5-1 to vacate part of Tyler to allow the west end of the street to be relocated as part of the tower project.
Residence at the Riverwalk will block someone's view
Baker raises concerns around the "rushed and haphazard process" to approve the Residence at the Riverfront, something we agree with.
In his lawsuit, Baker says he bought his 15th-floor condo partly for the sweeping views of the Hillsborough River and Cultural Arts District.

“These views were very important to Mr. Baker when he selected his unit,” the suit notes, adding that Baker relied on the promise of the long-range plan when he decided to buy his condo unit.
But such is the price of the progress, whether its downtown, blocking sweeping views, or elsewhere, such as rural Lithia.
[A] developer is asking the county to amend its Comprehensive Plan to allow construction of 77 homes on what is currently a cow pasture east of one of those subdivisions — FishHawk Trails. But residents already living out that way are pushing back.
A group calling itself “Save Rural Lithia” sent a rash of emails to The Planning Commission opposing a change in the land-use designation on the 194-acre tract. Initially, the developer asked for a designation that would allow one house per acre, up from one house per five acres.
So it seems no matter where Hillsborough expands, someone will sue.  Downtown or in the rural part of the county, we have to save ourselves from ourselves.

Yet Hillsborough County is projecting continued growth.
Hillsborough County alone could gain 600,000 people to reach a population of about 1.8 million — and add 400,000 jobs to reach 1 million by 2040, mid-level projections in a University of Florida study indicate.
That does sound like a lot, but it is in line with the growth in Hillsborough County over the last 30 years or so, using census data and the UF projections for 2040.

Hillsborough and Tampa Growth 1980 - 2040
If Hillsborough does indeed gain 600,000 new residents in the next 25 years or so, something will have to give, including sweeping views of downtown and some peaceful scenery in Lithia.  These people will have to go somewhere.  Where will they go?

Will they all want to move downtown, stacked and packed in more Residences at the Riverwalk canyon of towers style?  How many 36 stories, 500 residence towers will we need?

I'll use some daunting 4th grade math...

600,000 people moving in at 500 people per tower,

How many towers will we need?
600,000 / 500 = 1200 towers
How many towers per year?
1200 / 24 = 50 towers per year

How much space?
The Residences at the Riverwalk tower is on 1 acre, so we'll need 1200 acres for this utopia... which of course, is not available downtown.

Is this a ludicrous example? I guess it depends who's planning.

But those new residents will live somewhere.  If current trends continue, most will chose to live in Hillsborough County rather than in Tampa proper.

At least there is some space in Hillsborough County, as it is a rather large county, still with significant rural areas that could be developed, along with the necessary new roads and infrastructure to accommodate the new growth.  

All the planners are collaborating on the new plans for 2040.  You can checkout the Hillsborough MPO's site at imagine2040.com and provide your input.  They only provide 3 main scenarios on how they want to direct growth for us, but there is plenty of room for creative and constructive comments.

But something tells me they'll be blocking some views. 

Media Sycophants for the Dems

As issues swirl around ObamaCare, the Eye has wondered where in the world Senator Nelson is on Obamacare now and whether Nelson can handle the truth about the train wreck.  Why?  Because Nelson has been silent and MIA on Obamacare.

But why have we only heard "crickets" from our sitting Senator who voted for Obamacare and helped create the mess? Because our local media has given him a free pass on Obamacare by refusing to ask Nelson ANYTHING aka NOTHING about any ObamaCare issue, including asking about Nelson's own special exemption Obama created. 

Now the media stenographers for the Democrat party did report that Nelson requested a delay in raising the federal flood insurance rates. But wait. According to this Tampa Bay Times article, Nelson voted FOR the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 last year to raise the rates.

But today's Tampa Bay Time's Op-Ed is a poster child example of our local media's hypocrisy.   
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had plenty of time this weekend to rail against the Affordable Care Act. But when it came to safeguarding hundreds of thousands of Floridians facing dramatically higher flood insurance rates starting today, he has been largely silent.  
Yet Rubio can't seem to find time to care.
So let's set this stage. Senator Nelson votes to raise federal flood insurance rates last year while the same Tampa Bay Times reported Senator Rubio voted against it and yet the Times attacks Rubio. Make sense to you?

Now Senator Nelson fears raising the flood insurance rates will cause havoc in Florida to 2% of Floridians affected and Nelson wants a do-over on Biggert-Waters law.  But Nelson refuses to publicly acknowledge ANY issues with ObamaCare.  He says nothing about giving the majority of Floridians and Americans a do-over on the job destroying ObamaCare train wreck that will affect ALL Floridians. In fact, the only public thing we've heard from Nelson on ObamaCare is he's now whining that the "dispute" over ObamaCare is keeping him from his do-over on raising federal flood insurance rates.

Maybe the TBT editorial board doesn't read their own paper. Maybe someone forgot to tell them that Rubio voted against Biggert-Waters Act last year while Nelson voted for it.  Or maybe they're faking they don't know how our Senators voted last year so they write a hit piece editorial on Rubio - on the very day the Democrats shutdown the government over what Nelson calls a  "dispute" on ObamaCare. But the lack of our media to question, ask, report, engage, anything Senator Nelson on the ObamaCare issue is appalling, reeks of bias and lacks any sense of balanced journalistic reporting. 

The media disingenuously has focused daily news reports on the GOP, as if the Democrats were spectators to the spectacle they created, allowing the Democrats to sit on the sidelines.  The Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune and all the rest of our local media have given Senator Nelson a free pass on ObamaCare. But the Eye refuses to and we want Senator Nelson to answer the following questions regarding ObamaCare:
  1. Where is Nelson on the special exemption below that Obama created out of thin air for him, Congress and their staff? 
    Obama created special exemption for Congress and their staff
  2. Is it fair that he and other special groups get waivers and exemptions that the rest of Americans do not have access to?
  3. Does Nelson believe the President can unilaterally and constitutionally delay portions of a bill he signed such as Obama delaying the employer mandate?
  4. If the employer mandate is being delayed, why not delay the individual mandate, especially in light of so many implementation issues identified?
  5. What does Nelson now say to those who are losing their current health insurance because they are being dropped or have had their current policies cancelled? Obama promised that under Obamacare all Americans would be able to keep their current health insurance. Does Nelson believe that is true now?
  6. What does Nelson now say to those who recently received a notice that their premiums are going up, some more than doubling like this premium notice below? Obama promised that Obamacare would REDUCE our healthcare premiums and costs. 
    Click to enlarge - ACA compliant Policy doubles monthly Premium
  7. What does Nelson say to those employees that have had their hours cut to below 30 hours a week due to ObamaCare?
  8. Why did ObamaCare change what we have known for decades as the traditional full time work week from 40 hours to 30 hours?
  9. Does he agree with re-defining the full time work week?
  10. What does Nelson say to businesses who are not hiring or laying off employees because of ObamaCare?  Cleveland Clinic, the model Obama touted in 2009, is laying off thousands.
  11. What Does Nelson say to the analysis below from Forbes magazine that ObamaCare will raise family healthcare spending $7450 between 2014 and 2022? Again, Obama told Americans their healthcare costs would be reduced by $2500 a year.  Do you believe that is true now?
    ObamaCare adds to Family healthcare costs
The local media refuses to hold Senator Nelson accountable for Nelson's own hypocrisy - he wants to delay raising federal flood insurance rates while appearing to fully support the ObamaCare train wreck. Until our local media demands some answers from Nelson on ObamaCare, we will assume Nelson can't seem to find the time to care.

And why should we ever believe or care about anything else that our local media writes or reports about?  Maybe that's why the Tampa Bay Times recently added a firewall you have to pay for to get to their content.  Who wants to pay for this?