The Tribune reports today that they finally found someone to publicly defend the crony debacle:
In the three weeks since the report aired, no group of supporters has emerged to defend the transportation effort. Business leaders, who supported a failed transportation referendum in 2010 and have been lobbying for another effort to alleviate traffic congestion, have been silent.
That changed Monday when Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has not backed off its support for a comprehensive transportation program.
Rohrlack was reacting to an article last week in the local weekly newspaper, La Gaceta, that said the chamber was backing away from Go Hillsborough in light of the controversy. Rohrlack said the report was incorrect.
“The chamber has not blinked. We continue to move forward on transportation,” he said.
The chamber has two committees working on transportation issues, Rohrlack said, and chamber leaders have been communicating with county staff throughout this year’s Go Hillsborough process and during many rounds of transportation meetings in preceding years.
“We’re going to work together and do something on transportation,” Rohrlack said. “We’ve been open and honest talking to the county. We’ve encouraged them to do this and we’ve been part of the discussion.”Reminder: the Chambers have been on the LOSING side of every transportation referendum in the Tampa Bay Area. Isn't insanity defined as continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?
Perhaps a different tactic is needed. The Chamber should get out of their downtown bubble and talk to those who actually vote.
County Administrator Mike Merrill, acting in his new role undertaken in January 2014 as an unelected County Mayor, other county and city staff and some county commissioners have spoken about Go Hillsborough at private Chamber meetings. Elected county commissioners can advocate for tax increases and policies all day long but staffers and unelected bureaucrats cannot. Things can get quite messy in those "private" meetings......between special interests and staffers.
The Merrill/Leytham/Clifford team used a poll conducted 6 months ago with a margin of error of 4% that deceptively (how the questions were asked) reflected 52% would support a 1/2% sales tax increase. With that margin of error, there may not have even been a majority then to support a tax increase at that time.
Based on a flimsy poll where they filtered the poll details from the PLG, a not very big participation rate from the public in the Go Hillsborough "public engagement" effort, no engineering done, no technical analysis done, no priorities provided, this team proposed a huge 30 year tax and NO transportation plan.
Only in the public sector can crony consultants being paid $1.35 MILLION of taxpayer monies offer only one solution, a 30 year tax hike with no plan, to their clients. Real consultants never do that. In the private sector, these consultants would be fired and a refund demanded.
This is how entrenched special interests, the Tribune, the Times and other cronies operate. They have become insiders with an entrenched bureaucracy down at County Center. And according to Noah's reporting, the "Queen of Influence" Leytham, who has gotten hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars directed her way from the county, the city of Tampa, other taxpayer funded agencies, is their Gatekeeper for access.
The crony team of Merrill/Leytham/Clifford team is so entrenched that they unilaterally decided to bring back the full 1% sales tax because that's what they wanted all along.
There wasn't even any repercussions from this outrageous behavior. A little drama at the county commission meeting but no action taken and no repercussions for violating the CCNA contract, violating the policy making powers held by the electeds and violating the trust of the people.
The Go Hillsborough August 17th public release under Leytham's name violated Parsons own CCNA contract. Their contract specifically states Parsons (or any of their subcontractors) cannot publish public statements without first getting prior written consent from the county.
I asked for a copy of the county's written consent via a public records request on September 9, 2015. To date, I have heard nothing. If it existed, they could have easily provided a copy.
Are these cronies also so entrenched with the electeds? Only an INDEPENDENT investigation going back years can find out. The investigation must include former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe.
The Tribune is desperate now because they know "they" have lost the narrative. Therefore they use one of their other often used strategies: collusion. They collude using their editorial page (perhaps written by the "Queen of Influence") Editorial: Raw politics intrude on Go Hillsborough transportation initiative with their front page reporting referenced above.
The Tribune has been an insider inserting their own "raw political agenda" in this mess all along with their "too cozy" relationship with the "Queen of Influence" Beth Leytham. We cannot forget Leytham's text message dated August 13, 2014 to County Administrator Mike Merrill, now public thanks to Noah Pransky's investigative reporting. Based on other text messages between Leytham and Merrill included in Pransky's reporting, we're left wondering when Leytham texts Merrill to jump, does Merrill ask how high?
Because they have invested so heavily in it....for how many years?
The Tribune continues to peddle another "Queen of Influence" Leytham PR strategy - point fingers elsewhere (remember when pointing, three fingers are pointing back).
The Tribune would like nothing better than to distract, distract, distract from the real issues at hand and continue bashing and pointing fingers at those who raise legitimate questions about this entirely flawed Go Hillsborough process. The Tribune strategy is nothing short of pure arrogance put on full display by the Tribune.
The Tribune is so invested in the Go Hillsborough debacle that they do not care "how" anything is done - they just want the huge tax. To them, the "ends" justifies the "means".
There was a time when print journalists were actually curious about "questionable" activities, possible misdeeds in government, unethical behavior in government, wasteful government spending or possible corruption and would investigate such activities.
Those days are dead in Hillsborough County.
The Tribune cannot circle their wagons fast enough to salvage Go Hillsborough.
The Tribune cannot help "fix" the Go Hillsborough mess.
The Tribune is part of the Go Hillsborough mess!