Friday, December 5, 2014

Stuart Rogel Resigns but TBP Charts the Same Course

We have written previously about the Tampa Bay Partnership (TBP). TBP is an eight county organization in the Tampa Bay area that advocates for regionalism. They pushed the state legislature in 2007 to create Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA).  TBARTA has been totally ineffective since they were created and they are redundant and unnecessary.

TBP led the Hillsborough pro-rail effort in 2010.  They were the symbiotic twin of the pro rail PAC, Moving Hillsborough Forward, that raised $1.6 million for the rail initiative. It was defeated soundly 58-42%.

TBP helped created this regional One-Bay vision in 2010 "to create a shared regional vision to plan where future population and employment growth should occur based upon responsible land use, mobility, economic, and environmental sustainability". Some of their recommendations:
One Bay Vision Recommendations
Therefore, it's no wonder that TBP continued to push their rail agenda after the 2010 defeat in Hillsborough. TBP said they learned from their mistakes in 2010 and took the rail issue across the bridge to Pinellas to heavily support Greenlight Pinellas. 

Stuart Rogel, the CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership became the Treasurer for the pro rail PAC, Yes for Greenlight. Like 2010, TBP provided Administrative support for the pro rail PAC and helped Yes for Greenlight raise over a million dollars in support of the Greenlight rail boondoggle.

TBP also supported Polk County's sales tax transit referendum, My Ride/My Road, but did not seem to play as prominent a role in that referendum. Polk County soundly defeated a half-cent transit sales tax referendum in 2010. This time Polk County's referendum appeared to be a solution looking for a problem. The tactic seemed to be throw in some road money and keep things somewhat under the radar in the hopes the referendum gets passed. We certainly did not see the media attention to Polk's referendum as we did the constant media drumbeat for Greenlight. Polk's referendum also went down in flames 72-28%.

Four transit sales tax referendums (two in Polk and one each in Hillsborough and Pinellas) over the last four years were all overwhelmingly defeated under Stuart Rogel's leadership at TBP. TBP spent much time, resource, money and energy pursuing these sales tax referendums and supporting them. Would that time and energy have been better used on something else, something successful?

What is striking is the very day after the huge Greenlight defeat (62-38%), Stuart Rogel published this commentary, almost defiantly, in the Tampa Bay Times:
At the Tampa Bay Partnership, we support the development of a regional transportation system that will move people and goods throughout the area while connecting with our ports, airports and the rest of the state. And we are committed to this objective now, more than ever. 
The defeats of Greenlight Pinellas in Pinellas County and MyRide/My Roads in Polk County were disappointing for those of us who have worked for years to improve transportation in the Tampa Bay area. The voters have spoken, and we need to learn from and understand their choice.
Never before has such a broad-based regional coalition come together for an endeavor like this. And nothing could be more representative of what the Tampa Bay Partnership strives for every day — uniting Tampa Bay and advocating for our interests as a region.
The voters have spoken numerous times now and they have said NO to the TBP rail/transit agenda.

Every transportation survey in Hillsborough County, including the one below done by the MPO right after the 2010 defeat, confirms roads are the highest transportation priority in Hillsborough. The only roads Rogel mentions is our interstate highways. What about the rest of our roads? Hillsborough County has thousands of lane miles of roads and we can't fill our potholes.  

MPO Survey after 2010 rail defeat
The broad-based coalition Rogel references included elected officials, taxpayer funded agencies and special interests that would benefit from the tax increase. But the TBP coalition obviously didn't include the voters and the taxpayers.

Then last Wednesday it was reported that Stuart Rogel was resigning. The Tampa Bay Times reported
Rogel, 60, made $458,965 (emphasis mine) in 2012 even as the group's revenues decreased to just over $2 million. In the latest fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the group's revenues had risen to $3.8 million. The partnership, which was created by local business leaders in 1994 to market Tampa Bay as a single metro region, had been on the losing end of a number of recent campaigns, including mass transit initiatives in Pinellas and Polk counties.
The Tribune reported
Rogel said Friday the decision to resign was his own, based on the best interests of his family and the partnership and not on the Greenlight Pinellas failure or on anyone else’s assessment of his performance. 
On the transportation initiative, he said, “We did everything we set out to do. We raised almost $1.2 million in a very difficult market with all the other races.”
Is raising money for bad transportation initiatives what they do? Do TBP's investors think there are better uses of TBP's resources?  

TBP's investors can be found here.  Ten of the twenty-seven $50K donors are taxpayer funded entities, including Hillsborough County and City of Tampa. Nine of the thirty-four $25K donors are taxpayer funded entities, including Hillsborough County Schools and Tampa Hillsborough EDC.  More taxpayer entities contribute at the $10K or $5K levels.

How are those tax dollars spent? What is the return on investment to the taxpayer? Are any of those tax dollars used by TBP to push these referendums to raise our sales tax for projects we don't want or need?

According to this article, concerns citing disappointment with Rogel were made in 2012
Local public relations firm president Bill Carlson told the Tampa Tribune he wonders if the Tampa Bay Partnership has accomplished its goal of creating a brand for the region and building political clout.
After Rogel's recent resignation, he and TBP's Chairman Brian Lamb sat down with the Tampa Bay Times to talk about the transition and TBP's future. The interview was published in the TBT last Friday with a title "Tampa Bay Partnership leaders chart a new course". 

When asked if there's a surplus of economic development organizations with all the Chambers and the EDC, Rogel answered that those organizations play different roles and then stated,
We are the only voice for this region.
That is not true.  We have TBARTA, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the MPO Coordinating Chairs, the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area Leadership Group (TMA), the International Council of the Tampa Bay Region, our Tampa Bay local state legislative delegation and all the Chambers and EDC's. We bet there are more organizations who also provide a voice for the region but certainly TBP is not the only voice for the Tampa Bay region.

The irony, however, is when questioned about any changes to TBP's priorities, Lamb responded
I'll point you to the comments made in our annual meeting. We made it very, very clear we are not changing direction.
We are staying the course in our priorities and there won't be any material deviation.
Tampa Bay Business Journal recently did an online survey asking what TBP should focus on. Only 33% think TBP should continue to focus on issues such as transportation and baseball. Most of the rest who responded think TBP should stick to marketing the region or they think TBP is now irrelevant.

TBBJ survey on what TBT should focus on
Four soundly defeated transit referendums in four years. Instead of charting a new course, it appears TBP leaders are charting the SAME (failed) course. That will only cause their irrelevance to grow.

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