Saturday, March 5, 2016

No Sheriff's Report Yet but Tribune Thinks Opponents Are the Real Villains

The Tribune published this article State Attorney’s Office still reviewing Go Hillsborough investigation against a backdrop of the rumor mill that Ober or the Sheriff or someone was going to release the law enforcement investigation this week. The Tribune felt compelled to write an article about the rumor mill being wrong but it enabled them to try to rewrite history and call out who they think are the real villains of this mess.
The investigation opened up Go Hillsborough to a wave of attacks from opponents of the plan, which calls for a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax referendum to pay for more than 400 transportation projects. (emphasis mine)
Salinero cannot rewrite history. So we will remind him.

Opposition to Go Hillsborough did not suddenly start because the law enforcement investigation was opened in September 2015. There's been opponents, including us, of another huge sales tax hike boondoggle since the sales tax hike referendum in 2010 that went down in flames. We've been skeptics of the transportation initiative from the get go, long before the Go Hillsborough campaign ever started.

We've posted numerous times that lots of issues started in January 2014 when out of thin air County Administrator Mike Merrill suddenly took over the transportation initiative facilitating the Policy Leadership Group meetings. There was never a vote by the commissioners or any transparent discussion by the commissioners in the Sunshine handing Merrill this responsibility. It was obviously orchestrated all behind the scenes. Merrill had to grow the county bureaucracy and hire high level deputies to cover his County Administrator day job while he worked the transportation issue. Merrill has since continuously overstepped the bounds of his authority by running around the county, like an unelected County Mayor, for the last 2 years falsely claiming the county has no money to pay for our roads and transportation and pushing another sales tax hike boondoggle

Merrill is not a transportation expert nor is he an experienced facilitator - he is an unelected bureaucrat with a biased opinion in support of another huge sales tax hike. Facilitation best practices 101 states the facilitator must be neutral - have no skin in the game. As County Administrator responsible for managing the county budget, responsible for county procurement and responsible for any county financing, Merrill is not neutral. Good Facilitators, as truly competent consultants do, always include alternative approaches. They never push just one "take it or leave it" approach like we got out of the very flawed Merrill led Go Hillsborough process.

Handing Mike Merrill the transportation initiative was a fatal mistake for the entire process. We warned the county commissioners so there is lots of blame to go around. They should have listened early on.

The Tribune also reported
The publicity has also paralyzed potential supporters of the plan in the business community. A report that finds no wrong-doing will likely free up those supporters to finance a campaign on behalf of the tax should county commissioners decide to put the referendum on the ballot. They are scheduled to make that vote in April. 
County Administrator Mike Merrill, other county staffers and city of Tampa staffers, have spoken at numerous private business meetings (public not invited) begging them to champion the sales tax hike cause and lead the private advocacy campaign. We understand Merrill told the business leaders they were going to have to cough up $2 million for the campaign. (They spent $1.6 million on Moving Hillsborough Forward campaign in 2010 and we know how that turned out.) This kind of recruiting activity by unelected bureaucrats for a private advocacy campaign is not appropriate and it is not a role of the County Administrator or any unelected bureaucrat paid by taxpayers. This activity  violates the public trust and may even be illegal.

No one in the business community yet has publicly stepped up to lead the Go Hillsborough charge. Salinero insinuates that if no wrong-doing comes out of the law enforcement investigation, it will "likely" free up the business community supporters to cough up their $2 million for a private advocacy campaign. Really? Since he failed to name who those business community supporters were, we're left wondering if he actually talked to any of them, heard it second or third hand or just made it up. If there's no evidence to back up such statement, it is simply his opinion and belongs on the editorial page.

And what is Salinero's definition of "wrong-doing"? Is it the legal bar? Is it the ethical bar? Tip toeing over a legal bar does not equate to being ethical. We expect our local government to be leaping over the ethical bar not tip toeing over and going around the legal one.

Salinero conveniently ignores the ethics complaints also filed regarding Go Hillsborough as if the law enforcement investigation is the only investigation going on. No one knows how long it will take for the ethics investigations to complete. What business leaders want to be associated with a campaign fraught with a series of investigations? What business leaders want to spend their precious time and resources funding and supporting a $2 million campaign that is DOA the minute it starts?
No Go Hillsborough is going nowhere
Salinero is at most of the BOCC meetings as he reports on them. He has heard all our public comments but suddenly he now claims opines that the investigation "opened up" a wave of attacks from opponents.

Salinero is trying to make the opponents of the sales tax hike out to be the villains instead of those being investigated.

Deflect, deflect, deflect. Point the finger at others than the actual perpetrators. That is a tactic straight out of Beth Leytham's PR playbook.

Someone's still pulling strings behind the scenes….and we can bet we all know who it is.


  1. The Trib article also doesn't mention that Ed Turanchik's ferry is in the Go Hillsborough plan.... yet he is working to defeat the plan. So much for Kevin Thurman's charge that Ed's "primary motive is advancing a high-speed ferry service"
    Ed said on FB that he explicitly asked the writer, "why would I be opposed to Go Hillsborough because of the ferry project when the ferry is included in it." Ed further said that failure to include his statement "was a material omission to neglect this fact" (Ed's a lawyer). Finally, Ed said that the Trib "article fell well below any acceptable standard of journalism."
    Tea Party Sharon and Liberal Ed agree that this Tribune article was awful. So you see: the left and the right CAN agree on some things :-)

  2. If your plan can be thwarted by like 5 people working on a home-brewed, ballin on a budget website then maybe your plan was a bit flawed.