Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Corporate and Regional HQ's Not Transit-Oriented Development

The Tampa Tribune recently published an Op-Ed from Commissioner Mark Sharpe stating
Tampa Bay is poised to become one of the best performing metros in America, fueled by a re-energized effort to link high-wage, tech-driven, economic development to a vibrant and diverse transportation network.
Sharpe continues explaining that Hillsborough county established a Transportation Leadership Policy group attempting to specifically tie transportation to economic development.
The group’s mission has been to consider options for linking our economic development areas to better and smarter roads, premium bus service, toll lanes, and rail (my emphasis).
Today the Tribune published a shortened version of a Letter to the Editor from a Tampa Bay area resident responding to Sharpe's Op-Ed.

Below is the full text of the Letter to the Editor that was submitted.
Mark Sharpe's opinion piece entitled "This time we need to connect the dots" employs tiresome sleight of hand to push for expanded transit, specifically light rail. For example, he cites the "record transit ridership for 2013", while failing to mention that New York City subways alone were responsible for more than 92 percent of that increase. According to the New York Times, the growth in subway ridership resulted from “falling unemployment”, and not any transit enthusiasm among millenials.

US Department of Transportation statistics show that from 1980 to 2011, passenger miles traveled on highways grew by 59%, while transit passenger miles only grew 36%. So despite all the new heavily subsidized light rail lines built in the US over the last 35 years, people are increasingly choosing cars over transit. That may not seem smart or rational to Mr. Sharpe, but it is in fact what people are doing. History shows us that social engineering will not change that.

The real impetus for this never-ending push for rail is cronyism. There can never be a dialogue with Mr. Sharpe, the Tampa Bay Partnership or their real estate developer supporters unless and until they stop corrupting the political process. Construction companies and real estate developers have learned from big banks and bailed out auto companies that feeding at the government trough is very profitable, the costs to the average citizen be damned.

The average household in the Tampa Bay area has seen their median income drop over the last ten years, and that is true for the rest of the nation as well. People are tired of the cronyism, and certainly can't afford to pay for it anymore. Perhaps this is why polling shows that once Pinellas County voters understand what is in the Greenlight Pinellas Plan, and what is not in the plan, over two thirds say they plan to vote "NO" in November.

If Mr. Sharpe really wants to "connect the dots", then he should drop the happy talk of "a vibrant and diverse transportation network" in favor of a discussion of why real estate development corruptly drives all economic development and transit proposals in the Tampa Bay area. The other Bay Area, namely the San Francisco bay area, has shown that growth can come from intellectual achievements, not just from real estate developers.

Task number one is to get the corruption out of the political system in the Tampa Bay area. After all, it is government "for the people" not "for the real estate developers".

Tom Rask
Unincorporated Pinellas County
We agree with Commissioner Sharpe that Tampa Bay's future is bright.  Florida is leading the nation in job creation and the Tampa Bay area has led the state in creating jobs - no train needed.

We agree with Tom too.  In 2010 Hillsborough saw all the pro rail special interests colluding with the pro rail  taxpayer funded agencies and pro rail politicians to push a light rail system that cost too much and did too little.  

It looks like very same cronyism is now happening in Pinellas with the same rail cartel led by Tampa Bay Partnership pushing the Greenlight Pinellas boondoggle.  

Want economic development?  Fix the regulatory issues, reduce or eliminate some of the fees, streamline the processes and make it easier for EVERYONE to start, expand or relocate a business here.  Want economic growth and prosperity? The power brokers and politicians should spend more time recruiting Corporate and Regional headquarters to relocate and bring their C-suite jobs to the Tampa Bay area.

The Sun-Sentinel reported in January:
Eighteen corporate headquarters have expanded or moved to Broward and Palm Beach counties since the recession officially ended in 2011. 
Seven of those offices moved from other states or countries; 11 expanded here.The primary reasons headquarters come here are easy access to international airports, a multilingual and skilled workforce, options in leasing or building office space, lower energy and construction costs — and no state income tax, Swindell and Smallridge said. 
Broward County has promoted the area as one offering "Life. Less taxing (my emphasis)," in advertisements featuring entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga.
There is not one mention of rail for why these businesses relocated and expanded in South Florida.  Broward is promoting less taxes and what we do know is that LESS TAXES means MORE JOBS!  

Today's weather was picture perfect.  We'll never see a polar vortex in Tampa Bay! Time to focus on getting C-Suite jobs here.
Another perfect day in Tampa Bay 

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