Tuesday, October 21, 2014

No Boondoggle Plan - Fix our Roads First

Today the Hillsborough County Transportation Policy Leadership Group is meeting for the first time since their August 12th meeting where they voted to hire a transportation consultant to do "public outreach/engagement". At that meeting they voted without ever discussing what specifically they wanted or expected, how much was public outreach going to cost, how long would the effort be or who was going to pay for it.  They delegated those "minor" details to "staff".

The Eye will be at today's meeting to report afterwards.  Here is the agenda.  

As we previously posted, our county commissioners are handing Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) a no-bid contract. We reported that PB has given $50K to Greenlight Pinellas, they hosted an event in Tampa for the pro rail PAC, Yes for Greenlight last month, gave $25K in 2010 to the pro rail PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward and the former Executive Director for TBARTA, Bob Clifford, went to work for them in June.

From the agenda, the contract to PB is bigger than just validating cost estimates for the $15 Billion wish list of projects on the County Commission Transportation and Economic Development website and doing public outreach.  PB is going to write our county's transportation plan and then sell it to the public. 
Timeline for Transportation Plan (click to enlarge)
We noticed that Charlotte was conveniently left off this chart touting cities PB has apparently worked with to develop their transportation plans. PB wrote Charlotte's transportation plan that led to their light rail sales tax referendum passing and PB benefitting from the project with huge cost overruns to the taxpayers of Charlotte's Mecklinburg County.  
PB touts cities  - where's Charlotte?
Parsons Brinckerhoff is apparently going to mirror their public engagement to what was done by the city of Tampa for their strategic master plan for the urban core called InVisionTampa. George Walton from PB participated in that effort and it appears he will be leading the transportation public outreach effort for the County. Find all who participated in the InVisionTampa process starting on page 4 of their report and lo and behold Mickey Jacob, the recent HART board appointee, was a participant....Surprised?

The technique used by the MPO and the Planning Commission for gaining consensus within various groups and organizations appears was also used in the InVisionTampa process - the Delphi Technique.
To begin the workshop, the Project Team gave a presentation about the study covering the goals, schedule, and methods for public interaction. Following the presentation, a series of exercises were held. The attendees were divided into smaller, equally-sized groups.
We expect PB will use this same consensus building technique on targeted groups.  

The Communications Framework on the BOCC website lists all the "tools" they want to use for public engagement. It also states what must be the "real" agenda of the PLG - to "create a more balanced transportation system". 
PLG wants to "create" more balanced transportation system (click to enlarge)
Now look at the cost to taxpayers,  Hillsborough County taxpayers are going to pay PB via a no-bid contract almost $900K to write our transportation plan and engage the public, using the Delphi technique to build consensus within various groups and organizations.  
Cost to taxpayer for PB work via a no-bid contract
Is this the "Greenlight Pinellas" like plan for Hillsborough? 

Instead of using a PR firm, Hillsborough County will hand Parsons Brinckerhoff, who has a history of huge cost overruns, a no bid contract to do this work.

Of course this use of $900K of taxpayer dollars does NOT include the taxpayer funded marketing campaign (noted as "public education") that will ensue from taxpayer funded entities, unelected bureaucrats and elected officials. It also does not include the private sector PAC (noted as private sector advocacy) that will also ensue (like the current pro rail Yes for Greenlight PAC and Moving Hillsborough Forward PAC in 2010) filled with deep pocketed special interests who will benefit.

Every survey taken since 2010 referendum was defeated confirms the highest transportation priority in Hillsborough County is roads.  For a county of 1.3 million residents, Hillsborough County has a measly $6.5 Million for county roads in our FY 2015 budget. We can't fill our potholes or maintain our existing infrastructure. Where is this $900K of county taxpayer money being paid to PB magically coming from? $900K is almost 14% of our entire county road budget for 2015.

It doesn't take a million taxpayer dollars paid to special interest PB to figure out we need to fix and fund our roads first. We do not want to pay for another PB boondoggle plan.

Why are our roads being willfully neglected while the "powers to be" keep pushing costly transit solutions that require coercively redesigning our county at taxpayer expense?

We have plenty of champions for transit and costly rail solutions on the Policy Leadership Group. They cannot ignore the AECOM transit study done in May the Tribune conveniently failed to report about, that Hillsborough County should invest in transit solutions cautiously and prudently. 

98% of us use our roads everyday in Hillsborough County, including our buses. 

We should not have to wait years to fix our roads.  

We need a champion for our roads NOW!

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