Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Before GoHillsborough there was InVision Tampa

The Parsons Brinckerhoff GoHillsborough transportation public engagement campaign is copying what was done for Invision Tampa in 2012. This is expected because at the October 21, 2014 Transportation Policy Leadership Group meeting it was stated Parsons Brinckerhoff would be modeling this effort after Invision Tampa.

We decided to look at InVision Tampa.

What is InVision Tampa? It began with the City of Tampa applying for a $1.2 million HUD-DOT-EPA Challenge Grant back in 2011 - when the City of Tampa thought HSR was coming. Information about Challenge Grants can be found here. These grants are to foster "sustainable communities" to support projects based on six "Livability" principles defined by HUD-DOT-EPA. Your federal tax dollars at work.

The City of Tampa awarded the InVision Tampa contract to the AECom team. AECom was the prime consultant of a team that included Parsons Brinckerhoff, Beth Leytham and Chappell-Roberts. Sound familiar?

According to its website, Invision Tampa was for
creating a master plan for Tampa’s Center City, spanning from downtown to Ybor City on the east, Armenia Avenue on the west and north along historic Nebraska Avenue to Hillsborough Avenue.
What did they do?

In November 2012, an InVision Tampa Issues and Opportunities Report was prepared by AECom. Executive summaries with lots of renderings of potential redevelopment opportunities can be found by clicking on the projects here

We could not find in the report how much this "Vision" would cost to actually implement or how it would be paid for. 

The report states about 2000 people participated in this public engagement effort. They held charrettes, I-townhalls and even had walking tours. They used social media with an Invision Tampa Facebook page, Twitter account and a Youtube channel. 

InVision Tampa even had a blog where we found these:

and also:

So cars are killing us and we're fat because Americans drive too much and we don't bicycle enough like in Europe. Hmm did someone have an agenda wanting to force us out of our cars coercively? Good luck!

George Walton of Parsons Brinckerhoff discussed transit. Walton is leading the Parsons GoHillsborough effort. He also led HART's Alternatives Analysis that recommended the two rail routes in the 2010 rail referendum that was overwhelmingly defeated.

Regarding transit opportunities, we found the following in their report:
  • Very strong local belief that we need local transit to serve downtown core (business, cultural venues, tourism and residential)
  • Easy, reliable transit that connects key cultural and employment destinations with places of residential density
    • Reward non-auto trips, make it more attractive to take transit
    • Transit Oriented Development, mixed use, higher density in the core
  • With some specific ideas to:
    • Use Metro-Rapid to better brand and serve the local population
    •  Need easy, local circulator that serves the downtown core
    •  Need future regional transit that gets to USF, Airport, Westshore and regionally to St. Pete, Beaches, etc. 
    • Don't give up on High Speed Rail / Statewide Linkages
What is the "reward" for non-auto trips to make it more attractive to take transit? Free transit? More transit subsidies? Who's paying for the rewards? 

Transit-Oriented Development aka TOD is always a requirement for high cost transit corridors, especially light rail. TOD requires central planning regulations and often subsidies or incentives to coercively force densities to be built along the transit corridor. Charlotte is highlighted in the InVision Report and they created these regulated TOD Zoning Districts

Parsons Brinckerhoff has long been involved with, has led and been associated with the high cost rail and TOD efforts in Charlotte.

This team likes dot boards. InVision Tampa used them too. It must make folks think they are "doing" something.
InVision Tampa Dot Board
We did a DNS search to find out who registered the website. It was Chappell-Roberts, the same ad agency that currently owns
Ad Agency Chappell-Roberts registered the domain name
It appears that the domain name was transferred last year and now is owned by the City of Tampa. is now owned by the City of Tampa
There is a similarity to GoHillsborough. When was launched in February, we found that Hillsborough County did not own the website.  We also noticed there were none of the normal disclaimers that information submitted was subject to our Sunshine laws and public records access. It took about two weeks before we had confirmation from the county's new Communications Director and a new IT person that the county did own the data and the disclaimers should be on the website. The disclaimers were finally added to the GoHillsborough site.
Any and all information submitted by this form or via email becomes a public record to the extent provided by law; records are being reviewed by any person desiring to review such records. Additionally, under Florida law, email addresses are also public records. If you do not want your email address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this Instead, contact us through the comment line or in writing.
No such disclaimers are on the website. Even today when the City of Tampa now owns the website, there are still no disclaimers that information submitted is subject to public records access. There are also no disclaimers on the InVisionTampa blog either. Why not? Is the information submitted subject to public records access?

At an InVision Tampa event called a Knowledge Exchange, the attendees were told not to be afraid of being an "edgy" city, whatever that means. The participants broke into those infamous small break out groups to discuss what Tampa MUST DO and MUST NOT DO over the next 15 years. 

As a result, word clouds were created. What Tampa Must Do over the next 15 years:
Word Cloud for what Tampa Must Do (click to enlarge)
Biggest letters are for "Invest in mass transit while teeny tiny words are for "make it easier to do business here". 

What Tampa Must NOT do over the next 15 years:
Word Cloud for what Tampa Must NOT Do (click to enlarge)
The biggest letters for what Tampa should not do over the next 15 years is "keep widening roads" and much smaller letters to "make it harder to do business here". 

So over the next 15 years Tampa must have mass transit but Tampa doesn't need to make it easier to do business aka make it easier to create jobs. Is that logical? 

The second Knowledge Exchange session about public spaces created this word cloud of what are the important emerging public realm needs
Word Cloud for Emerging Public Realm Needs
The largest letters are the need for better bike and pedestrian facilities and better public transportation. In teeny tiny letters is grocery store. Guess these folks don't like to eat. Or they don't like to cook and don't buy much groceries but instead prefer to take public transportation to their favorite wine bar. However, haven't we heard one big missing element for people who want to live in the center city is a grocery store?

We've heard GoHillsborough will be providing word clouds. We can't wait.

GoHillsborough will be providing an Issues and Opportunities report too. Hope it doesn't look like the one for InVision Tampa. We need a county plan to fund our roads NOW not years or decades from now.

InVision Tampa cost $1.2 million and GoHIllsborough is costing county taxpayers a million dollars. Both of these costly taxpayer funded efforts that include expensive dot boards and creating word clouds are led by many of the same people. It's a clique of politically well connected people who keep conveniently getting fed at the trough of the taxpayer.

Best practices used for consensus building activity states the facilitator of such activities should be "neutral". That should be especially important when these facilitation activities are being paid for with taxpayer dollars.

However, as we previously reported here, rail crony Parsons Brinckerhoff, political consultant Beth Leytham, the campaign PR consultant for rail cheerleader Mayor Buckhorn who is also closely associated with other local elected officials, and Chappell-Roberts, a close associate of the leader of the Tampa Bay rail cartel Tampa Bay Partnership, are anything but "neutral".

And City of Tampa: put some disclaimers on your website...

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