Thursday, December 31, 2015

Schizophrenia and the Sales Tax Hike Feeding Frenzy

A roundup of recent media on the Go Hillsborough debacle and our transportation issue.

We'll start with the very latest. County Administrator Mike Merrill continues to orchestrate media reporting about the Go Hillsborough crony mess he helped create. We still find it odd that he asked for a Sheriff's investigation for events he caused and occurred on his watch.

Apparently Merrill's original talking points he handed the Tribune weren't clear or correct causing the Tribune to make a major update to their online version to their story Sheriff finishing Go Hillsborough probe, release set next month. The Tribune first reported that the investigation was complete as if all nicely tied up in a package ready to be released but then they had to make an update (emphasis mine).
County Administrator Mike Merrill, in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon, told county commissioners the investigation was complete. He later sent an e-mail to the Tribune clarifying that only “field work” is done, including interviews and document analysis.

“Technically, the investigation is ongoing until the sheriff issues the final report,” Merrill said
How did Merrill leave out that important information to begin with? Perhaps he's in over his head.

Did the Tribune finally contact a HCSO spokesman instead of relying on Merrill's talking points?
Sheriff’s spokesman Larry McKinnon said once all parts of the investigation are wrapped up, a copy of the final report will be sent to the State Attorney’s Office for final review. 
“We will notify the public and media via a press release when the investigation is completed and finalized by the SAO,” McKinnon said in an e-mail.
The Tribune reports what we have been saying from the start - the transportation initiative was always about pushing another huge sales tax hike:
The group [Policy Leadership Group] has been meeting for two years, trying to develop a comprehensive transportation plan that voters would support with a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase.
Moving on to other recent media attention of our transportation issue. On December 25 it was reported by the Tribune that Florida has 1000 people a day coming to Florida and most will be bringing their cars.
That influx is not expected to slow down anytime soon with the state’s population predicted to rise to 26 million by 2030, according to the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.
The Eye posted a response here.
The vast majority of the new arrivals will be arriving by car, will continue to use their car in their daily. This growth is the driving reason why we must fix our roads now! 
Many of the new arrivals will be baby boomers, seeking to retiree in the sunshine the rest of us have enjoyed for many years. But keep in mind where many are coming from, and why they are coming here. They are not coming here to replicate the experiences they had in the past. They want our lifestyle - sun, fun, affordable living and freedom and ease of getting around town and the state.
The estimated 600K new residents moving to Hillsborough County by 2040 will not be heading to downtown Tampa. The urban core of Tampa is only estimated to grow about 20K by 2040.

Tuesday the Tribune reported that 2 downtown groups sent letters (coincidentally on the very same day) to our county commissioners in support of the Go Hillsborough plan.
Without a better transportation system, tourism in the Tampa area is likely to shrink from its current record levels and the region will lose its capacity to draw businesses to the urban core, according to two groups that promote economic development.
Both Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Downtown Partnership sent letters Dec. 18 to the Hillsborough County commission supporting Go Hillsborough, an initiative designed to raise millions of dollars for an improved transportation system.
They could not even wait until the results of the law enforcement investigation was released. We assume they don't care or what do they know that we don't?

A copy of the letter from the Downtown Partnership to Commissioner Victor Crist was conveniently included in taxpayer funded TBARTA's recent newsletter. Coordination and collusion among taxpayer funded entities and special interests are standard operating tactics for pushing sales tax hike referendums. This letter was dated December 15 not December 18th. We don't know if the Downtown Partnership sent Crist a separate lobbying letter than what the Tribune reported was sent to the rest of the commissioners. The letter can be found here and this statement is interesting.
We have attempted to position the TECO Line Streetcar's potential to be the starter system of a more regional rail system.
Letter from Downtown Partnership to Commissioner Crist

Regional rail is the real goal.

Ever hear much from the taxpayer funded entities being champions for funding our local roads? That has too much common sense because 98% of us use our roads everyday. Roads aren't sexy or a high cost shiny new object.

The Tribune even asked the County Attorney to weigh in on the legality of these 2 entities endorsing Go Hillsborough since they receive public funds.
As long as there is no referendum on a ballot, neither agency is prohibited from advocating for a better transportation network, County Attorney Chip Fletcher said. But one Florida statute does prohibit groups receiving government funds from advocating for a specific referendum; Fletcher said he doesn’t know whether that law would apply once a local transportation referendum is placed on the ballot.
The Tribune called to ask if I had an issue with these taxpayer funded entities supporting Go Hillsborough. I had to chuckle and ask the reporter whether she was surprised as I certainly was not.

The bigger issue I told the Tribune reporter that was unfortunately totally ignored is our State  electioneering laws are so broad a MAC truck could drive through them with no stiff penalties or consequences if violated. Our electioneering laws must be strengthened to clearly and concisely prevent taxpayer funded entities from using taxpayer funded resources and influence against the taxpayer. Real consequences and hefty penalties must be included if violations occur.

Where was the Tribune in 2010 and 2014 asking these questions? Every taxpayer funded entity in the Tampa Bay area came out supporting the 2010 Hillsborough and 2014 Pinellas sales tax hikes. We witnessed some taxpayer funded entities in 2010 spend (and waste) lots of taxpayer money attempting to sell voters to support the tax hike.

These 2 Tribune articles seem a bit schizophrenic. We are first told our state and the Tampa Bay area is growing in leaps and bounds with no end in sight and our tourism is booming because people and businesses want to move here and visit here. Then we are told 2 downtown groups support Go Hillsborough because without it our tourism will fall and businesses won't come here. Which is it?

See the Eye's post here  regarding Tuesday's Tribune article. Visit Tampa Bay's own website has this December 9, 2015 article Tampa Bay tourism revenues soar nearly 20 percent in October.  We're leading our competitors, even Orlando, in hotel occupancy and profitability.

The letter also stated
“Every day Hillsborough County delays improvements to its transportation network, we fall farther behind our competitors,” the letter says.
Just last December Visit Tampa Bay's CEO changed hands. The Times wrote an article about the departing CEO and reported.
…the county set a new bed tax record as the industry rebounded from the recession;
Nowhere does Visit Tampa Bay state our competitors are NYC, DC, Boston and Europe. Comparing Hillsborough to NYC, DC, Boston and Europe is ridiculous. People are fleeing those areas to move here. Visit Tampa Bay needs a reality check.

The new CEO Santiago Corrado was chief of staff to Mayors Iorio and Buckhorn, both big rail cheerleaders, before taking the position with Visit Tampa Bay. Buckhorn has ridden the coattails of the $1.3 million county funded Go Hillsborough sales tax hike proposal to fund his rail projects without the city of Tampa paying a dime for the effort. Corrado is also on the Board of the Downtown Partnership so it's no surprise that Corrado and his agency support Go Hillsborough.

The Tribune reports this from special interests Tampa Downtown Partnership
Businesses considering a move to Tampa want to see a transportation system in place to get their employees to work on time and to and from the downtown district, said Christine Burdick, president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership. Without offering those options, the county is at a disadvantage in drawing new businesses, she said.
We have multiple dispersed work centers, USF, Brandon, Westshore, MacDill and a very small downtown business district, smaller than Charlotte's. Go Hillsborough's costly rail plans to expand and transform the (bankrupted) streetcar into light rail and build a rail from the airport to downtown does nothing to relieve congestion for commuters going to work.

Downtown Partnership's Burdick also says this
“We are acknowledging the amount of time and consideration and effort that went in to Go Hillsborough to date and the county commission needs to let the public have a say in this and take a step that will help,” Burdick said. “For corporate headquarters or other installations considering a move here, it is really important that we appear to be addressing our transportation issues.” (emphasis mine)
Do we want this county to "appear to be addressing our transportation issues" or actually doing something about it?

Yes - we all agree the status quo is unacceptable. The county commissioners have within their own powers the ability to start funding our roads and transportation needs now. It would be refreshing for once to hear the business community demand fiscal responsibility and due diligence from our county commissioners to appropriately fund our county's highest priorities that includes our roads and infrastructure first. Isn't that how they run their own businesses and personal lives?

As far as the old retread argument from 2010 to let the public have a say -  the voting public already did. They overwhelmingly voted NO in 2010 to another huge 30 year sales tax hike.

According to the Downtown Partnership website, before Burdick moved to Tampa to become President of the Downtown Partnership in 2002, she worked for Chicago's Mayor Daley. Google Mayor Daley….Daly loved spending taxpayer money as he went into office in 1989 with budget surpluses and left 22 years later leaving Chicago with massive structural deficits. The Chicago way is not a model to follow.

Again the Tribune admits the sales tax hike was baked into the Go Hillsborough campaign all along:
For nearly two years, the county staff has held meetings with the public to get input on the improvements people want to see in transportation. The initial concept was to fund improvements with a voter-approved increase of up to one cent on the dollar in the county sales tax.
The county wasted all this time and $1.3 million of taxpayer money enriching cronies to tell us the answer they had already decided.

Almost 2 years later and nothing has been done to fund our local roads that are literally crumbling and becoming safety hazards.

The taxpayers paid the hefty price and ended up with a law enforcement investigation.

But hold onto your wallets because the schizophrenic feeding frenzy for another huge 30 years sales tax hike has begun - again.

Happy New Year

May 2016 bring you good health, love, success,  great joy, and peace.

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time this past year reading my Blog Posts. If you have taken the time to comment on one of the sites or on Facebook an extra special thanks.

The new year looks to be a very exciting time in the Tampa Bay area so please keep checking back on bay area PATCH sites, Eye on Tampa Bay and my flagship Blog site Bay Post Internet.

Have a happy and safe new year.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tampa, Tourism, Transportation and Taxes

Surprise! A couple of taxpayer funded agencies have come out to support... a tax increase!
Without a better transportation system, tourism in the Tampa area is likely to shrink from its current record levels and the region will lose its capacity to draw businesses to the urban core, according to two groups that promote economic development.

Both Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Downtown Partnership sent letters Dec. 18 to the Hillsborough County commission supporting Go Hillsborough, an initiative designed to raise millions of dollars for an improved transportation system.

Both groups are urging the county commission to pursue all possible funding sources to create a modern transportation network, including a referendum for an increase in the county’s sales tax, higher gas taxes, and more contributions toward transportation from developers.
But we're told we have an awful transportation system as it is, yet we've done little at the county level to improve it over the last decade other than a failed attempt to jam light rail at us.

But the tourists are still arriving in Tampa at record levels despite our failures. Shhh... don't tell them they should not come here.

Did you notice they are for "referendum for an increase in the county’s sales tax, higher gas taxes, and more contributions toward transportation from developers"? How much money do they want? It is interesting that Visit Tampa Bay and Tampa Downtown Partnership are supporting two of three legs of the Plan B proposal made by Sandy Murman, I did not know they were evil anti-tax Tea Partiers. Of course, they apparently don't think transportation is important enough to re-prioritize the lack of investment in the current budget.

Then they compare us to several international cities.
When tourists visit Amsterdam, they get around the city by light rail, boat or bus sharing space with the local population. In London, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C., it’s typically by subway, bus or cab. Panama City, Panama, has a system with 1,200 buses to take tourists and residents almost anywhere in the city.

When tourists come to the Tampa area, they have two major options — rent a car or take a taxi, said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the county’s tourism agency.
I don't know for sure, but I don't think too many people are traveling to Amsterdam to ride their light rail, or Panama City to ride a bunch of buses. Tourists visit places because they have some unique attraction to offer, different than where they live.

Which begs the question. Why did they not compare us to some closer to home cities such as Orlando and Miami, both major tourist destinations?

Could it be that Orlando transit is certainly not any better than Tampa Bay area, and Sunrail has made no dent traffic relief or tourism? Could it be that Disney has chosen to transport thousands of guests around their resorts and attractions every single day by bus? Disney decided bust was the most flexible, efficient and cost effective way to move large numbers of people around their park. There is some reason they never expanded that monorail.

Could it be that Miami tourism continues to thrive, despite bad traffic and a rail system that does little for tourist destinations? Tri-Rail is practically non-existent as far as tourists are concerned.

Visit Tampa Bay recently reported some great news, as Tampa Bay tourism revenues soar nearly 20 percent in October.
Visit Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County generated nearly 20 percent more Tourist Development Taxes in October than the same month in 2014, according to the latest report from the county Tax Collector’s Office....
October’s bed taxes were the largest ever collected for that month....
Vacation travel to Tampa Bay was up 18 percent over the same month last year. The largest tour operator sending visitors to Tampa Bay say its business grow by 56 percent year-over-year in October. Vacation travelers make up more than three-quarters of Tampa Bay’s tourism business.
And this nugget.
As a result of such strong performance, Tampa Bay led its 10 national competitors in the rate of growth for hotel occupancy in October.
Hillsborough also continues to lead its competitors so far this year for growth in both occupancy and hotel profitability. Hillsborough’s competitive set includes: Orlando and Fort Lauderdale; Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Long Beach, Calif.; and Baltimore.
Someone should tell Visit Tampa Bay we have something those other places don't have that people are willing to spend their hard earned money for a visit to Tampa Bay.

Everyone likes our beaches
Meanwhile, the combination of recent spring like weather has resulted in traffic jams around Pinellas beaches.
Traffic jams and near non-existent parking spaces came with the crowds in many places.
Falkenstein said he saw two open spaces along the Pass-a-Grille beach just before noon, and traffic to Clearwater Beach was at a crawl for more than five miles.

Standard said it took about 30 minutes to drive from Plant City to Clearwater, “but it took 40 minutes to go the last six miles or so.” Sand Key, a county beach park, was one of the few places with open parking spaces.
We can be sure to add a train from Plant City to Clearwater into our transit plans. Let's check in on the progress in a couple of decades. But in the mean time, the tourists will keep on coming for the attraction of some of the best beaches in the world and the rest of the best Tampa Bay has to offer.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Big Squeeze in the Big Guava?

The Tribune reported Squeezing them in: Florida's growing population will come at a price.
Twenty million and counting.

Florida leaped over another population milestone this year, according to U.S. census figures, and is now the nation’s second-fastest growing state behind Texas.

Most of those new Floridians — some 1,000 per day — are arriving not in the delivery room but by one-way trips in ports and airports and along interstates 75 and 95 with trailers in tow.

That influx is not expected to slow down anytime soon with the state’s population predicted to rise to 26 million by 2030, according to the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.
They're coming from somewhere. Hopefully not Syria.

Actually, they are coming to the sun belt, including Florida from the midwest and northeast according to census populations trends. Chicago, Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, etc. are not growing, and are losing residents. Where are they going? Dallas - Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, Nashville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Phoenix, to name a few growing sunbelt cities. And of course, just about anywhere in Florida.

Why are they moving here to Florida?

Because it's better here, whether they're from Chicago or Syria.

No matter what you're looking for, we are tending upwards. Quality of life, growing jobs opportunity, affordability, weather, business climate, lower taxes, less onerous government intrusions. All these sunbelt cities are turning for the better and are growing compared to most any northern or midwest counterpart, and we're riding that wave.

It's also interesting to note that the sunbelt destination cities all are relatively younger cities, sprawling metro areas, post transit, small central business districts, multiple employment centers, with predominant suburban lifestyles. All brought to you by the modern marvel the automobile.

Where are they going in Florida? A lot will end up right here in the Tampa Bay area. According to UF's BEBR June 2015 Population Projections report, by 2040, local growth forecasts

2040 Projection Growth Projection
Hillsborough 1,301,887 1,883,123 581236
Pasco 479,340 733,885 254,545
Pinellas 933,258 978,541 45,283
Polk 623,174 901,077 277,903


As a comparison, Central Florida (Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia Counties) is forecasted similarly to add another 1,116,590 residents combined. The stories about the I-4 corridor being the growth belt of Florida still hold true as over 2 million are expected here by 2040. The only place close is South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties) where another 1.4 million are expected by 2040.

Will Tampa be like Hong Kong in 2040?
Keep in mind much of this growth is a continuation of Florida, and the Tampa Bay areas, growth over the last 25 years. Florida's population in 1990 was 13.03 million. It is now over 20 million. As scary as some people are making all this growth sound, the next 25 years are forecasted to be much in line with what we've been through. We don't need a wall or keep out signs at the border, or tell Zephyrhills water to stop bottling, or stop lawn watering to list a few of the doom and gloomers commenting in the Trib.

Of course, growth presents a continuing challenge on our infrastructure, governance, culture, environment -- many of the things that attracts people to Florida in the first place.

The Tribune highlights water and transportation as challenge areas to be addressed.
“Florida’s increasing population will continue to stress our critical water resources,” [Agriculture Commissioner Adam] Putnam spokesman Aaron Keller said in an email. “We must invest more in water supply planning and alternative supply development to meet the needs of this growing population and continue to support a thriving economy while balancing the needs of our natural environment.”

The situation is less acute in Tampa Bay, where existing sources, mainly reservoirs, lakes and other surface water, will provide enough potable water until about 2040,..
The most critical water shortage may be in the Orlando area.
Under the urging of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Transportation has focused on toll and paid express lane projects. Locally, that includes the $454 million Gateway Express, which will link Interstate 275 to U.S. 19. The state is also moving ahead with the $3 billion Tampa Bay Express, which will widen I-275 through downtown Tampa and redesign its interchange with Interstate 4, commonly known as “malfunction junction.”

The state is now funding road and other transportation at record levels, and even more money will be needed to keep up with demand, Polzin warns. That could be especially true in the Tampa Bay area, where the region’s unusual geography — a huge metropolitan area linked by just three bridges — will make it difficult to solve traffic woes.

The region has the second-lowest number of freeway miles of any major metropolitan area in the nation, he said. Attempts in the past to build ring roads to alleviate the burden on I-275 failed to materialize because of environmental concerns.

More people also will mean more cars on the road during events such as hurricane evacuations.

“Virtually everything in the region needs to go on I-4 and I-275; there aren’t good alternatives that would help relieve pressure on that critical link,” Polzin said. “It foretells some pretty serious congestion and traffic problems.”
Don't forget those hurricanes. Few people look towards transit for evacuations.

The vast majority of the new arrivals will be arriving by car, will continue to use their car in their daily. This growth is the driving reason why we must fix our roads now!

Many of the new arrivals will be baby boomers, seeking to retiree in the sunshine the rest of us have enjoyed for many years. But keep in mind where many are coming from, and why they are coming here. They are not coming here to replicate the experiences they had in the past. They want our lifestyle - sun, fun, affordable living and freedom and ease of getting around town and the state.

But all thats at risk if we don't get it right.
The challenge for Florida will be to accommodate that increased demand without land and property prices spiraling out of the reach of working- and middle-class families, said Jack McCabe, chief executive of McCabe Research & Consulting of Deerfield Beach and an independent housing analyst.
In the past, Florida was a natural destination for retirees with many becoming snowbirds, living in mobile homes in the mild Florida winters before returning north for the summer.

Many of the residential towers recently completed or under construction are luxury-priced and aimed at affluent retirees or millennials. Prices of condos and downtown apartments are already out of reach for many residents in places like South Florida and downtown Tampa, he said.

“That was always one of Florida’s biggest selling points in the past — that it was affordable,” he said. “That isn’t the case anymore.”
We are beginning to see the consequences of some of the decisions

Hipster urbanists, urban planners and environmental do-gooders that end up limiting the new arrivals residential choice to urban oriented condos, apartments, infill development and urban growth areas will only constrain residential supply and choice and make residences more expensive for everyone else.

If fact, it will homogenize the urban areas further, reducing our delightful diversity to the people who can afford it. Afford to be with others of the same class, and same thinking, forcing the underclass out, perhaps into the suburbs the hiptster urbanists abhors. See San Francisco. But they'll think they saved the environment and the black bear, ignoring the real costs they hoisted upon others.

But if you're rich, you'll be set. But it's these same type of urban containment policies making day to day life unaffordable that many of the new residents will be fleeing from.

Yet these are often the same crowd that wants to restrict suburban growth and therefore limit the "live, work and play" choices for new arrivals.

In reality, Tampa proper has only grown about 70,000 the last 20 years. It will not be able to handle the 580,000 new residents in Hillsborough County without nearly tripling density. Think about every single family home in Tampa becoming a triplex, or building 1,160 500 unit apartment towers in the next 25 years, or about 46 per year. This is a bit of reductio ad absurdum arguments,  but some urbanist are thinking along these lines. Perhaps we can get by with 800 high rises. If you like Hong Kong.

Also consider the over 500,000 that will be arriving in Pasco and Polk counties by 2040, many of whom will work and play in Hillsborough further straining infrastructure needs.

The growth will largely occur in the suburban, and what is now rural areas. There are now developments encroaching upon Wimauma, of all places. Soon to go beyond. Sure, we'll have urban infill, increased densification in some areas for those that want that lifestyle. But there is no room for the amount of people coming this way in Tampa. They will be "out there", and will need more roads to get around. Even if the new arrivals ride transit at triple the current rate to 6%, 500,000 new residents will still be on the roads in Hillsborough every day, going where they want and need to go. FDOT understands this, and that's why the Tampa Bay Express project must proceed.

At the end of the day, we'll have challenges with our infrastructure driven by growth, and will have to make some tough decisions on our water, transportation, development strategies and costs, and environment. But we should always gauge our plans decisions on what's best for the people, and not some theoretical growth management and containment plan.

The new arrivals are voting to be here with their money and time because they like it more here than where they came from. Let's keep it that way. For all of us.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Guns another view – Sunday Post Comments

We have developed in our country, a culture of violence, aggression, and a very real lack of awareness of the value of human life.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog.

It is easy to miss the "Comments" Section on a Blog Post. I don't normally repost reader comments but on the PATCH site there was an exceptionally insightful set of comments from reader mark Kamleiter.

Comment by Mark Kamleiter:
It would be naive to say that "guns" are the sole cause of the violence in our community and I do not think that was the message of either the mayor or those marching with him. Does ready access to guns contribute in a major way to the violent deaths in our community, in the country? The answer is undeniably - "yes!" Without question we have developed in our country, a culture of violence, aggression, and a very real lack of awareness of value of human life.

I have lived in countries with stricter controls on guns. Do individuals still become violently angry in this countries? Of course, the world still struggles with the violence and aggression everywhere. The point is that in these countries, when guns are not available, aggressive individuals reach for what is available. Doc. speaks of baseball bats. No, I don't want to be hit with a baseball bat, but give me a choice between an attacker coming at me with a bat or a gun, I will take the bat every time. Once in Paris, I came upon three young men on scooters attacking a single man at a bus stop. I tried to stop the attack and these boys grabbed bicycle chains and a small wooden bat and came after me. I am not big and not a fighter, but they backed down when I did not run. In the end, they ran away. If they had had a gun, I would not, today, be able to write about gun violence.

So, yes, I marched with the mayor. Yes, he is a Democrat, but I forgive him that. We need to stop making everything about politics. Were the mayor's motivations about doing the popular thing? Are you kidding? Americans are too much in love with their deadly, useless toys, for the mayor's actions to be popular. Guns make people feel bigger than they are, tougher than they are. They imagine themselves as rugged, tough individualist. They give no thought to the pain and destruction their guns can cause. They do not want to hear that guns cause more deaths by suicide and accident, than intentional deaths.

Thanks Mark for taking the time to share your thoughts they should cause us all, me included, to think carefully about how we deal with a gun centric society.

E-mail Doc at mail or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Ferry and Numbers

We like boating around Tampa Bay area as much as anyone. It's a great way to get another perspective on the area, and enjoy even more what our community has to offer.

The Tribune editorial yesterday was imploring Mayor Bob Buckhorn to join forces with St. Petersburg to bring in a ferry service between the two cities so even more people can enjoy the bay.
The cost to launch a pilot ferry service connecting downtown Tampa with downtown St. Petersburg is relatively modest when the entirety of the city of Tampa’s budget is considered.

St. Petersburg has committed $350,000 toward the project, and Tampa could be expected to contribute a similar amount to get the project off the ground and operating on Tampa Bay during the winter months next year.

Yet Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn seems reluctant to embrace the project. He says he doesn’t have enough information to know whether the private company that is eventually chosen to run the ferry service would bear the risks rather than the taxpayers.
Buckhorn is practicing some rare fiscal conservatism for him.
“What I’m not going to do is subsidize a private company and put all the risk on the taxpayers and have the private venture have none of the risk and get all the profit,” Buckhorn said. “That doesn’t fly with me. I’m not anticipating putting a lot of city dollars into this.
He hasn't taken this stand since he voted against the Tampa Street Car when he was on the Tampa City Council.

Will we get a ferry?
Regardless, the Tribune is undeterred.
The downtown ferry would take about $1 million to run a single boat for the winter, or $1.5 million to run two boats. Backers of the project want to keep the price of a round-trip fare in the neighborhood of $10, making it affordable.

Only half of the total expense to get the service launched and running might be recouped. But the public cost is justified. A pilot project would provide an understanding of how a ferry between the downtowns might work and whether demand is great enough to sustain a regular service beyond the pilot project.

The investment could pay dividends down the road if the ferry proves to be a successful way to get cars off the road and connect the two downtowns.
They admit the revenues will cover "only half of the total expense", but hope springs eternal.

What about "if the ferry proves to be a successful way to get cars off the road?"

Can the ferry really take cars off the road? This looks like another great opportunity to apply some 4th Grade Math.

St. Petersburg has issued a Request For Quotation for a ferry provider. The main requirements are that it must run at 25 knots (28.75 mph), and accommodate at least 100 passengers.

The distance across the bay from the the proposed Tampa landing at the Convention Center to downtown St. Petersburg is about 20.5 miles. Yes, it really is that far.

The Tribune states the trip will take about 50 minutes. It will arguably be longer, as there is a 2 mile no wake zone in Seddon Channel which may take 15 minutes alone. But lets' assume with boarding, the ferry departs every hour on the hour, for a 12 hour service day, or 12 one way trips a day.

Let's assume the ferry is a big success, and every trip is booked full with 100 passengers. That's 1200 ferry riders a day. However, most of those will likely be making the round trip, so that's 600 people a day total.

If we estimate automobile volume, at 1.5 passengers per car, that is 800 round trips, or 400 cars per day. As in "cars off the road" due to the Tampa - St. Pete ferry.

If  another ferry is added for $500,000 as may be considered, then the capacity can be doubled from the above numbers.

Now compare that to the major traffic route between Tampa and St. Petersburg on I-275. According to FDOT, the busiest segment on I-275 around Westshore is nearly 198,500 vehicles per day (two - way).

With the ferry, then, we reduce the traffic on the Westshore segment of I-275 to... drum roll, please.... 197,700 vehicles per day (two - way).

Evidently, they don't teach math in journalism school.

We could do the math comparing the the ferry to driving between the two cities, but you get the point. Math is cold, hard facts.

Now, there is a value for tourists to make a day on the ferry visiting the cities. Nothing wrong with that. Adding a ferry to Tampa Bay seems like an attraction that many tourists and local can enjoy.

But it won't make a dent in traffic reduction if we had 10 loaded ferries running between Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Whether the Tampa - St. Petersburg ferry should be backed by the taxpayers is something for another day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Recycling Waste

Time to confess. How does it feel to be part of the problem?
Separating used newspapers, egg cartons and orange juice containers from regular trash has become routine in recent years, an easy request of residents willing to do something to help the environment....

But doing right by Mother Nature is becoming increasingly more expensive for communities including Tampa and Hillsborough County as the price of recyclables slumps.

Even though residents are recycling more trash, revenue from the sales of recyclables has plummeted, records show. Feeling the pinch most are firms that sort and handle recycling trash. That has already resulted in higher handling fees charged to cities and counties, a cost that could be passed onto residents and businesses in increased pickup fees if prices stay low.
We've dutifully recycled for many years that its now habit. 2 daily newspapers, water bottles, Gatorade, wine, a few other odds and ends. Look for the recycle symbol. A quick rinse, and throw it the recycle bin. We even drag our recyclables back with us if we're out for a weekend and don't have a place to recycle.

Recycling is good, right?
It's good for the environment, we've been told.

Perhaps that's not really the case.
IF you live in the United States, you probably do some form of recycling. It’s likely that you separate paper from plastic and glass and metal. You rinse the bottles and cans, and you might put food scraps in a container destined for a composting facility. As you sort everything into the right bins, you probably assume that recycling is helping your community and protecting the environment. But is it? Are you in fact wasting your time?
Lower oil prices have reduced the demand for recycled plastics. Recycling levels have largely stagnated. Despite these conditions,there are calls for more recycling beyond paper, plastics, glass, and cans, which will further add to the costs.

But it must be doing us and Gaia some good, right?
But how much difference does it make? Here’s some perspective: To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in business- or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000.
Even those statistics might be misleading. New York and other cities instruct people to rinse the bottles before putting them in the recycling bin, but the E.P.A.’s life-cycle calculation doesn’t take that water into account. That single omission can make a big difference, according to Chris Goodall, the author of “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life.” Mr. Goodall calculates that if you wash plastic in water that was heated by coal-derived electricity, then the net effect of your recycling could be more carbon in the atmosphere.
Well, darn it! I've been fooled again.

But surely my recycling those nasty plastic bags is great!

Well, that "science" is pretty weak at best. Sure some plastic bags find there way into the oceans, waterways, and drains. No one likes looking at one tumbling in the wind. But plastics are not killing the dolphins, choking the whales, or clogging landfills in any real meaningful numbers. But still think those reusable bags make you right with nature?
Holding the typical HDPE grocery bag up as the standard, researchers found that the common reusable non-woven polypropylene bag—the ubiquitous crinkly plastic tote, typically made with oil—had to be used at least 11 times to hold its own against an HDPE grocery bag. Cotton bags had to be used an amazing 131 times to do the same.
Oh well, another bubble burst.

This is hard to take on recycle night. It's time to take out the papers, bottles and plastics. Including those we brought back from this weekend.

Old habits die hard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

So Long to Solar

The media seemed to go out of its way to support Floridians for Solar Choice.
The Floridians for Solar Choice amendment, backed by the nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, environmental groups and the League of Women Voters, among others, would allow businesses and homeowners to sell up to 2 megawatts of solar power with some restrictions.

Two megawatts is estimated to serve the power needs of a Wal-Mart or a neighborhood of between 200 and 700 homes.

The change in the law, if the amendment were adopted, would allow businesses and homeowners with solar panels to sell power to their neighbors or tenants.

Selling any form of power is the exclusive right of the big utility companies under current law, and that has kept small solar producers from selling directly to consumers, depressing the solar market.
Yet recently, FSC has admitted difficulty in collecting the needed signatures to make the ballot.
A ballot initiative seeking to increase the amount of solar power generated in Florida by allowing businesses to sell sun power directly to consumers is unlikely to qualify for the 2016 ballot, supporters said.
Floridians for Solar Choice, a group of unlikely allies including tea party members and environmentalists, said they're still tens of thousands of signatures shy of qualifying for next year's ballot. The due date for verified signatures is Feb. 1.
The group says its signature-gathering efforts will continue into the 2018 election cycle if they're unable to pull it together by the deadline.
That was preceded by FSC's difficulties in coming to agreement with a signature gathering firm.
A dispute with a signature-gathering firm makes it likely that the group attempting to expand solar power choice in Florida will fall short of acquiring the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot next year.
Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC) needs to get 683,149 signatures turned in to state Division of Elections by February 1. Currently, the state has verified 262,499, but an additional 212,000 are being held in California and may never make it to Tallahassee, due to a financial disagreement between the group and PCI Consulting, a Southern California-based company hired to collect the signatures for the amendment.
Is there some conspiracy here that they failed to gather the signatures? Many seem to want to blame the power companies, (who doesn't hate their power company?) who did add some confusion by filing their own protectionist amendment. But it just seems a lack of execution and/or interest may have doomed FSC's petition, since there have been many less deserving... too many... petitions make the ballot in the past, and FSC is still short over 200,000 signatures, which have to be verified by February 1, 2016.

Broken down solar
The FSC amendment language did get approved by the Florida Supreme Court, so it had cleared that hurdle.

Both Floridians for Solar Choice and the utilities backed Consumers for Smart Solar are inappropriate for the constitution.

Anyone who wants solar today can install solar today, and get subsidies as well. Well, you can't sell power like the FSC petition would allow.  But we don't need a Florida Constitutional Amendment for that. Regardless, using a constitutional amendment to enshrine what should be a law is unsuitable in the long run for Floridians, and both parties are abusing the amendment process. Neither are the first to abuse the process, nor among the worse.

But it does feature a special carve out for Solar power, and uniquely enshrine a preference for solar in the state constitution over any other power generation sources. This is approved language from the FSC petition:
PURPOSE AND INTENT. It shall be the policy of the state to encourage and promote local small-scale solar-generated electricity production and to enhance the availability of solar power to customers.
Translated, it shall be the purpose of the state of Florida government to promote the special interest of solar energy producers over other power generation technologies. Tax breaks? Check. Subsidies? Check. Favorable regulations? Check. More lobbyists? Check.

Regardless, Floridians for Solar Choice have announced they have failed to gather the signatures for 2016, and will grace us with another attempt in 2018.

Solar, wind, fossil, nuclear are the power source choices we have. We'll need them all. Let's hope we don't need to make one favored in our constitution, now, or in 2018.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tribune calls for a "Plan B" - No Questions Asked

We posted here yesterday about the Tampa Tribune article targeting citizens who had alternative ideas about how to fund our roads and transportation without another 30 year huge sales tax hike. The Tribune was so concerned about who spoke to who about the transportation issue when we've been advocating for the commissioners to consider a Plan B for a long time.

Ironically the Tribune's own editorial today Give cities transportation keys basically admits the crony Go Hillsborough county sales tax hike proposal will fail. So guess what they did? The Tribune editorialized for their Plan B - allow the City of Tampa to hold their own municipal referendum for a transportation sales tax hike.
A simple measure would defuse much of the conflict over local transportation tax proposals that frequently pit suburban areas against urban ones.
…the state should allow municipalities to hold a referendum on a transportation sales tax.
While the Tribune calls this a simple measure, the Eye reports today that may actually be ill-conceived:  City Transportation Tax is a Bad Idea
Will the county be protected from backstopping any city transportation boondoggles gone awry? 
Will this result in more transportation bureaucracy in Tampa, which now must coordinate with HART, MPO, TBARTA, TED/PLG, TMLA, THEA, planning commissions, FDOT, just to name a few?
The Tribune states the 2010 rail referendum passed in the city of Tampa. We'll clarify that statement. The 2010 rail referendum passed in the urban precincts of the city of Tampa mainly along where the rail corridors were planned.
2010 rail referendum vote results by Precinct
The Tribune conveniently left out that Greenlight Pinellas failed last year countywide in Pinellas and in St. Petersburg too.

Where's the Tribune reporters when you need them?

The Tribune can publish their Plan B and no one questions who the Tribune spoke to about their idea.

But others bring forth a Plan B and the Tribune is compelled to target them.

City Transportation Tax is a Bad Idea

The Tribune editorialized today recommending the state legislature give cities the transportation keys, and allow cities to tax their constituents for transportation initiatives.
A simple measure would defuse much of the conflict over local transportation tax proposals that frequently pit suburban areas against urban ones.

City voters are more inclined to favor spending on transportation projects, particularly mass transit. Suburban voters generally are more dubious, often viewing transit as a city service that doesn’t benefit them.

That was apparent in Hillsborough County’s 2010 transportation tax vote, which passed in the city of Tampa but failed overall because it fared poorly in the unincorporated county.

Although a countywide transportation plan that addresses all of a community’s diverse needs is, obviously, the better route, cities should have the option of being able to fund their mobility necessities without relying on a countywide vote.

But under state law only charter counties can hold a referendum on whether to impose up to a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects.
There are over 1.277 million residents in Hillsborough County, and 353,000 residents in Tampa.

Despite those numbers, county residents are already paying the majority for HART and getting less service, as most of HARTs routes service Tampa riders, so they have some reason to be skeptical.

Allowing cities to tax for transportation is a bad idea
The Trib's proposal leaves a few unasked and unanswered question for the reader.

There are many cities of many sizes throughout Florida. Is there a minimum size of the city or county population before this proposal can be enacted? If it's good for Tampa is it good for Wewahitchka?

If a city such as Tampa elects to tax its constituents for transportation improvements, will it lose access to the county tax revenues for the same purpose? For example, will the city have to pay more for HART, more in line with the benefits received by city HART riders? Or can the city create its own transit agency?

Will the county be protected from backstopping any city transportation boondoggles gone awry?

Will this result in more transportation bureaucracy in Tampa, which now must coordinate with HART, MPO, TBARTA, TED/PLG, TMLA, THEA, planning commissions, FDOT, just to name a few?

The Trib continues,
Suburban voters can be shortsighted in thinking spending in the city doesn’t benefit them. Thriving municipalities generate jobs, increase a county’s tax base and create business and cultural opportunities for the region.
I think they really meant to write
City voters can be shortsighted in thinking spending in the county doesn’t benefit them. Thriving counties generate jobs, increase a city's tax base and create business and cultural opportunities for the region.
Given the population of the county, and most of the recent job relocations and growth are in the county, perhaps the Tribune is wagging the dog.

Hillsborough County is 2.6 times greater than the size of Tampa. The growth and economic driver will continue to be in the county, as there is little room for Tampa to grow. What growth that will happen in Tampa will usually be more costly as it must increase density to build up rather than out.

It won't be fair for the county taxpayers to be the insurance policy for the city's transportation plans gone sideways. It won't be fair for the cities taxpayers to lose access to revenues from the growth in the county.

This is a bad idea.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Setting the Record Straight

The Tribune finally has acknowledged there are those out there with alternative ideas for how to fund our roads and transportation needs. Thanks to Mike Salinero for his Tampa Tribune article yesterday titled Surprise Hillsborough transportation plan came straight from anti-tax advocates.

It's about time the Tribune start publicizing what we have been saying publicly for the last year and half.

The irony is Salinero and the Tribune are so in the tank for a sales tax hike they have refused to acknowledge any other funding options. Why should they have an issue with Commissioner Murman deciding it was beyond time to finally have that conversation?

Salinero never called Mark or myself about this article so of course he left out some important points.

Salinero does not acknowledge we have for years consistently and publicly been asking the county to re-prioritize our current budget to appropriately fund our roads. He does not acknowledge that we have consistently advocated and been on the record for additional funding options other than just the sale tax hike proposed by Go Hillsborough.

Salinero also does not acknowledge that we have been offering funding alternatives to an unnecessary sales tax hike long before Murman ever presented her alternative funding plan. The Eye posted Hillsborough PLG: Where is Plan B? on July 12, 2015. We also posted Here's a Plan B back on October 3. Mark handed the Plan B to ALL the county commissioners when he made a public comment about it at the October 7, 2015 county commission meeting.

We came up with a Plan B for free.

The county paid Parsons Brinckerhoff and politically well connected Beth Leytham $1.3 million taxpayer dollars. All they came up with was one proposed funding option, Parsons standard template - a run of the mill sales tax hike. Why? Because that was the answer Parsons/Leytham was expected to deliver since Parsons was awarded, via a no bid contract, a scope of work titled "Hillsborough County Transportation Referendum Support. We don't ever remember the Tribune or Salinero questioning this.
County awards Parsons Brinckerhoff a no bid contract for
work titled Hillsborough County Transportation Referendum Support
Even Salinero's Tribune pal Joe Henderson stated it is time for a Plan B, C, D, E, F….when both Joe and I were on Florida This Week back in September.

Salinero's public records request apparently did not go back far enough or target all the right people.  He missed the unsolicited call I received from former county commissioner Mark Sharpe in early 2014 asking for our input on the transportation initiative. It was Sharpe who got us formally involved in the transportation issue long ago.

As citizens, we all have the right to contact our elected officials, meet with them and speak to them about important issues. I regularly advocate for citizens to contact our county commissioners, talk to them and establish a relationship with them. That's how our participatory form of government is supposed to work.

We know the special interests and politically well connected meet and speak with the commissioners all the time. We all now know about the politically well connected PR lobbyist Beth Leytham's influence. She's the one that got caught orchestrating behind the scenes outside of Sunshine and with NO transparency at the same time she was receiving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

The fact is everything we have advocated for is very public knowledge. We have not been paid a dime and have never asked for anything in return. We are simply concerned citizens voicing our opinions.

Is Salinero and the Tribune trying to make the transportation issue about who spoke to who? Then Salinero should get all the phone records of the pro sales tax hike transit advocates and special interests who have contacted any of the commissioners over the last 2 years on the transportation issue.

While he's at it Salinero should get all the phone records and text messages between Beth Leytham and any county commissioner or Mike Merrill. We anxiously await that report.

Salinero had the courtesy to call Ken Roberts and Tom Rask for this article. Next time Salinero wants to write about me he should call me first so he can get his story straight.

Are guns really the problem in St. Petersburg or is the Kriseman Administration letting its citizens down?

It is easy to stand in a crowd like Friday's march and decry firearms as the reason for these recent incidents.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog.
Worry continues over the recent string of shootings in St. Petersburg and the worry is well founded. Friday's article in the Tampa Bay Times by: Hanna Marcus and Kathryn Varn, Times Staff Writers: As a community reels, St. Petersburg police find no pattern in string of fatal shootings sets the scene.

Marcus and Varn cut right to the point with their view about Mayor Kriseman's comments and proposals as "weak" and "not plausible.

Kriseman's public approach was a hastily arranged short march to allow for some expression of public concern and outrage. The march got some media time, produced a couple of sound bites but really accomplished very little given the Mayor's lackluster comments.

It is probably not fair to politicize these events, but Republicans have one view of this problem and Democrats have another and Kriseman being a good Democrat is singing the company line. Let's blame all of these issues on guns.

I agree we have a gun problem in the United States and quite likely in St. Petersburg. However, guns are the mechanism not the cause. If all ten of these homicides or even half of them had been caused by people being beaten to death with baseball bats would everyone be calling for stricter control on base ball bats?

The last time I checked illegal trafficking in guns was a crime and perhaps the St. Pete PD should be backtracking a little harder on where these guns are coming from a making some prosecutable cases on those providing the firearms. It is way past time to start taking some illegal gun dealers off the street along with the drug dealers.

It is easy to stand in a crowd like Friday's march and decry firearms as the reason for these recent incidents, but it could just as easily be a knife or a tire iron.

After promising the African American community just about everything you could think of to get their vote,  the Kriseman administration has really done very little to address the root cause of poverty and the conditions that lead to the level of frustration and anger that foment incidents like we have seen in the last few weeks.

A couple of hours of the Mayor's time marching down a street will not solve these issues.

Kriseman and his dream team need to stop playing to the millennials, the downtown rich, the Chamber of Commerce and focus on helping those in St. Pete who need it most.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Greater Tampa Chamber of Cronyism

Robert Triguax of the Times published a puff piece about the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce turning 130 years old. New leadership, some new companies, blah blah, aren't they great. But he accidentally let the cat out of the bag.
If only Tampa could find a way forward on improving a transportation system. It remains a controversial topic that shows little sign of positive momentum.
That is true, as we've documented repeatedly here at, starting with Beth Leytham, (a former VP of Public Affairs for GTCC) who states on her web site "[w]hether it’s working behind the scenes with decision-makers or mounting a grass-roots campaign to rally behind your cause – we can help you affect the process, not become a victim of it."

Most of that "little sign of positive momentum" is due to the cronies lined up at the trough for the relatively small beans of the Go Hillsborough initiative, exhibit one in cronyism run amok. Just wait for the real thing, and the cronies will really be looking to gorge on the public dime.

The Tampa GTCC reluctantly endorsed the plan, despite some reporting by La Gaceta of internal battles (which we've confirmed independently as well, but has not been reported in other media which required a small group of county and business leaders to cut a deal to gain the endorsement). The GTCC has been laying low given all the bad news behind the plan. They've not even bothered to publish a press release on their web site, except perhaps this broken link for the Chamber's letter to Chairman Ritch Workman in regards to Local Flexibility for Transportation Funding Options. Apparently GTCC is hoping for the dust to settle before they line up at the trough.

Then this.
[Guy] King [III, incoming GTCC leader], a longtime Tampa business observer, recalls the days when a small group of city/county leaders could sit down and cut a deal to move forward. No muss. No fuss (at least most of the time).
Triguax moves on... but he buried the lede.

"A small group of city/county leaders could sit down and cut a deal."

Where were the rest of us when those deals were cut?

The GTCC got theirs. Did you get yours?

The incoming leader of the GTCC is missing the days of cronyism and corruption. The old business as usual, cutting deals in private meetings that you and I were unaware of, but deals we get to pay for. What's not to like about a touch of crony nostalgia of the good old days?

Got that?

If you're looking for someone to blame for the way things have been in Hillsborough County, start with the connected, the self appointed elite who know better what's good for you, and how to leverage their power and money "working behind the scenes" with our politicians to get you to pay for their "deals".

As Trigaux's article confirms, many in the media know about it, yet continue to promote and enable the cronyism.

They Greater Tampa Chamber of Cronyism should live in the real world with the rest of us.

With more muss.

With more fuss.

Monday, December 14, 2015

When will Go Hillsborough Go Away?

This just in from the Tribune.
Once slated for December, a Hillsborough County Commission vote on a sales tax increase for transportation projects is now likely to come no earlier than February, County Administrator Mike Merrill said.
More delays. But apparently its just hard to get all the commissioners scheduled and pay attention to what is reportedly the top priority for the county for years. They can't get a workshop scheduled about mobility fees in over a month.

Your tax dollars at work.

The workshop is now scheduled for February 4th. For now. The big vote on the plan for February 17th. For now.
In some ways, delaying the commission vote on the tax could be a good thing for proponents. Go Hillsborough is still under the cloud of a sheriff’s office investigation Merrill requested in September. Investigators are looking into suspicions about back-room dealings in the hiring of the Go Hillsborough consultant, engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.
In some ways, delaying any further activities on Go Hillsborough over the last couple of months, has been a good thing for Hillsborough County taxpayers, preventing more damage to their wallets.
Merrill said the investigation will be completed by Christmas, removing an obstacle that has stymied public deliberations on the transportation plan and tax. If no criminal activity is found, the public discussion can get back to what’s in the transportation plan.
Excuse me, but how does one of the.. no, strike that, the principal subject in the Sheriff's investigation, know the investigation will be completed by Christmas?

Another F-Rated road in Hillsborough - Bearss Ave
Mike Salinero, or perhaps some other dashing reporter, can you ask a few questions rather than take dictation?  Your last couple of dozen of readers want to know how and why Merrill knows when the investigation will be complete.
“I think it’s great that they’re taking the time to focus on projects,” said Kevin Thurman, executive director of the pro-mass transit group Connect Tampa Bay. “I think some of the politicians have been focused on the politics of this. That’s not where the voters want us focused.”

Thurman was referring to efforts by the tea party and other conservative groups to use the Parsons Brinckerhoff controversy to derail Go Hillsborough. At recent county commission meetings, the anti-tax activists have urged commissioners to shut down Go Hillsborough, thus scuttling the tax vote next November.
Thurman was referring to what? There is nothing quoted here about what he may have said about tea party and conservative groups, so again, Salinero is spinning on behalf of a transit advocate. I remind Salinero and Thurman, they've already lost the Sierra Club and others on this they know very well, not just conservative groups. If they don't know who else they've lost, well, they're not very curious or just burying the real story.
Commissioner Al Higginbotham, saying Go Hillsborough had “lost its way,” reneged on a campaign promise to support whatever plan came out of the city-county transportation Policy Leadership Group. The group voted 8-3 on Nov. 5 to recommend that the half-cent tax go on the ballot.
When Higginbotham professed his changed outlook on transportation a while back, the Tribune proudly stated he had "evolved". Now the recent information about Go Hillsborough shenanigans has raised questions about its viability, which Higginbotham has reviewed, he has "reneged".  Do you see what they did?

Of course, Salinero enables a Beth Leytham interlude to unilaterally defend herself despite all the evidence to the contrary. She's toast. None of her enablers will be giving her a dime. Why give her the time of day?

But they're already planning for the advocacy campaign, even though Go Hillsborough has not passed the commission, and the date keeps getting pushed out.
If the commission does vote to put the transportation plan and tax up for a vote, the county’s role in Go Hillsborough role will be over. At that point, business interests will lead a private campaign to pass the ballot measure. Beginning that campaign later rather than sooner may actually be better for the pro-tax forces, experts say.

“It seems to be the consensus that the shorter the private campaign the better,” Merrill said, “probably because it’s just a limited attention span and you want to have a more focused campaign that doesn’t get stale over longer period of time.”
If the commission passes the sales tax ordinance in February, Merrill said the private campaign could potentially start in March.
Not too long ago, Merrill was stating they'd need a year to get their message out. He pulled that one cent tax rabbit trick out of his hat before he hid it again. This time, it's different.

Go Hillsborough is not a done deal. If it passes, then, and only then, will we see if the shorter campaign is better.

March is a rather short runway. Coordination and more cronyism anyone? Wouldn't be the first time.

With that logic, perhaps a commission meeting plan to vote on the Go Hillsborough October 2016 might be their best odds.

But it's best for Go Hillsborough to Go Away. The sooner the better.

We'll wait another year, and it will fail. We'll end up with nothing.

We're better off to pull the plug on Go Hillsborough and start working on realistic solutions within our existing funding. Now.

Go Hillsborough Go Away.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Something smells out at the PSTA

PSTA can't get Board chairman nominated legally

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog.

See Janelle Irwin saintpetersblog; Darden Rice nominated 2016 PSTA board chair

Then from Mike Ferrier and Mike Deeson at 10 News: 10Investigates Sunshine Law violation at PSTA.

According to the Ferrier/Deeson report, Pat Gleason assistant attorney general says the nomination vote and the vote by the entire Board today to elect Rice chairman next year is null and void and needs to be redone.

And from Janelle Irwin at saintpetersblog, Darden Rice sets right PSTA Sunshine Law violation.

Well voting again on something that was already a violation of the Sunshine laws doesn't exactly "set it right."

First of all, Darden Rice is always looking for something to add to her political resume because that what she does public service. So it almost is an intuitive given that she would jump at the chance to set in the lead chair on the PSTA Board.

You might want to shrug all this off as a simple mistake upon the part of Ms Johnson and Ms Rice, but both are seasoned politicians; both understand the Sunshine Law, and both should know better.

Deals or "understandings" no matter how innocent they may seem are inappropriate in a public body and Rice's ducking of the Channel 10 news teams direct question about the incident should raise further questions.

The PSTA Board has a less than stellar history over the past few years from their booting out Norm Roche to their continued support of Brad Miller as CEO after serious questions arose during the GreenLight debacle have been a classic examples of how screwed up this Board really is.

To set it really right Rice should simply withdraw and let the PSTA Board elect someone else as chair.  If she chooses not to withdraw her name from consideration, the PSTA Board should protect the taxpayer's interest and not confirm her nomination.

Let's not start out 2016 by approving something that was obviously done wrong and simply re-voting does not erase the violation that occurred.

Large amounts of Federal money are starting flow into PSTA again, and the Board needs to be pristine in its operation.  With Miller and basically the same GreenLight staff still in place the PSTA Board chair has a significant challenge on his or her hands to keep the PSTA administration in line.

Starting off with a questionable Board Chairmanship election process is just not the way to go.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jeff Vinik on baseball and economic development

If baseball is the first concern of a company, Vinik is trying to lure to Tampa, I think I would look around a bit.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of:
So You Want Blog.

Last Friday Jeff Vinik made an appearance at the Cafe Con Tampa discussion group meeting at Hugo's Spanish Restaurant in South Tampa. You can read the details in Richard Danielson's Tampa Bay Times article For Jeff Vinik, the key question is not which side of Tampa Bay the Rays play on

Vinik was asked yet again about a new Tampa Bay Rays Baseball Stadium in down town Tampa.

He nicely soft balled the question and then added, "If we lose the Rays, when I fly up to New York or Connecticut to talk to a company (about moving here), I’ve got two strikes behind me: ‘You guys can’t even keep baseball in your community?’ That’s literally going to be the response.”

I hate to disagree with the father of all things' downtown Tampa, but if that is the first concern of a company Vinik is trying to lure to Tampa, as the landlord I think I would look around a bit.

Actually, the bigger question might be: why are you guys wasting all of that public money on something that has already proven unsuccessful in the Bay Area?

Major League Baseball has for years sold the myth that baseball and MLB teams and big stadiums equal economic development and they are a pivotal part of a community's signature.

The concept of Major League baseball driving economic development has simply not panned out in Pinellas County and there is little to indicate that would change even with a shiny new stadium in Hillsborough.

Also note that so far Vinik has politely refused to put up any of his holdings as a site for the new stadium.

True, it is nice to wave a lot of shiny bobbles, like Major League Baseball in the eyes of corporate relocation decision makers, but I think more and more of them are seeing these big sports complexes as a hole into which public and private money is thrown.

Hillsborough County, Tampa, Mr. Vinik and the corporations he would like to attract downtown would all probably be much better served if instead of pouring 100s of millions of dollars into a baseball stadium, the County and the City would focus on putting together a scandal free public transportation plan and investing those dollars as much as possible into roads and public transportation where everyone can benefit.

E-mail Doc at mail or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.