Sunday, January 29, 2017

Third Season Update - Oldsmar still in the race for the new Rays Stadium

Where else in the United States could you go see a horse race or two, bet on the ponies, walk across the street, and catch a major-league baseball game.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

You just have to love Doug Bevis the Mayor of Oldsmar.

“I would say that we’re still in the running and I think we have a site that offers things that some of the other sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas don’t offer,” Bevis said.

In case you are not familiar with Oldsmar, it is a Pinellas County City, lying along the border between Pinellas and Hillsborough County North of St. Petersburg with a population of about 13,800.

Check out Bay News 9 Josh Rojas, Oldsmar still in running for new Ray's stadium site

As the Third Season, the time between the end of the World Series and early spring training, winds down it has been quiet especially in Hillsborough County and Tampa.

Ben Kirby, the spokesman for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, said the city has no formal meetings planned with the Rays, but the “mayor does talk with them occasionally.”

According to the Rojas, Bay News 9 piece Mayor Bevis indicated the Rays are hoping to pick a site in the next five months. Wonder of Kriseman knew that.

That would be interesting since MLB likes to focus on baseball during the season and leave the politics to later.

When Bevis first announced that the 120-acre site near the Tampa Bay Downs racetrack might be available, a lot of people just laughed it off. Apparently, the Rays did not.

Maybe Mayor Kriseman and St. Petersburg would be better off if he gave the Rays a little pat on the fanny and endorsed the Oldsmar location.

With a series of nightmarish problems, a number of huge projects, and a struggling south side, drumming up public dollars for a gazillion dollar baseball stadium may be a big campaign downer.

It will also be interesting to see if, when and how much the Rays put up for the Mayor's re-election campaign.

For now, my money is on Oldsmar.

Where else in the United States could you go see a race or two, bet on the ponies, walk across the street, and catch a major league baseball game.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Be sure to follow me on Pintrest (Doc Webb),  Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY

See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Please comment below.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

HART Must Protect Local Taxpayers and Their Sovereignty

The Eye was at HART's Legislative Committee meeting Monday where the proposed Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) agreement between HART and PSTA was discussed.

Important to note: this MOU is a legally binding agreement just like any other inter-local agreement.

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat who is also Vice-Chair of PSTA, has been using PSTA as a proxy to push her regionalism proposal that includes merging PSTA and HART, regionalizing decision making and power and pursuing a multi-county sales tax hike [2020?].

As we find out what is going on in those "quiet discussions" held underneath the radar of the public, there are valid concerns about the true intent (at least by some) of this MOU agreement.
Long's Regional Vision Presentation to PSTA
For transparency, I made a public comment at the beginning of the HART Legislative meeting expressing concerns about the MOU and requested assurances that this agreement not be used to pursue a merger with PSTA.

The Board members discussed the MOU. There were a few fireworks and some tap dancing going on as statements were made that the MOU is an endeavor to work together and collaborate and not a merger.

SaintPetersblog reported on the meeting: HART board members deny that collaboration with PSTA is a backdoor attempt to merge agencies. They reported what HART Attorney David Smith said after citizens voiced concerns during public comment.
“Anyone who tries to interpret this as a pre-merger or merger, is, I don’t want to say hallucinating, but there’s no basis in fact for that,” said HART attorney David Smith, when asked if it was necessary to include Calvert’s “no merger” request in the MOU itself.
Ironically it was HART Board attorney David Smith who recommended some changes for clarification and we assume he was not hallucinating.

Smith recommended changing the terminology in the MOU agreement from "Partnership Opportunities" to an agreement for "Future Collaboration". That change is an improvement since Partnerships are legal relationships whereas collaboration is to cooperatively work together. But who knows if their next collaboration will be to collaborate on merging…

Another change added to the MOU is that the agreement must be reviewed and re-authorized annually and a document on all actions taken must be annually provided. That is good as it adds needed accountability.

As SaintPetersblog also reported Murman and Suarez are on record stating
“None of these words in this document speak to any type of merger, taxation. Nothing about going to Tallahassee. Nothing,” said an exasperated Sandy Murman, chairman of the committee.
Board member Mike Suarez also said he didn’t see anything in the draft agreement that touches on merging.
Perhaps the HART Board members should watch the videos of PSTA's January 4th Legislative Committee Meeting where Long stated the timeline is more important than the MOU; and PSTA's January 6th Executive Committee Meeting where Miller outlined the aggressive timeline to get the agreement approved and immediately take it to Tallahassee to ask for state money to fund Long's regionalism agenda; and read Commissioner Long's Presentation she gave at PSTA's January 13 Workshop meeting that clearly states her direction is for a merger and regional sales tax funding.

The PSTA videos confirms Miller and HART's Eagan were working together on the agreement.

Considering all of this:
  • Multiple attempts to merge HART and PSTA (that failed)
  • January 2013 video of PSTA's Miller egregious proposal to go around voters with a backdoor merger
  • Commissioner Long's current proposal for a new regional entity, Regional Council of Governments which she has also referred may be called the Tampa Bay Transit Authority
  • Commissioner Long touting new regional sales tax funding [in addition to the current jurisdictional property tax funding]
  • Commissioner Long and PSTA orchestrating a fast path timeline for ramming the MOU thru
  • Intentions by Commissioner Long and PSTA to immediately take the MOU to Tallahassee to request another round of state tax dollars feeding yet another consultant funding another study on how to implement Long's Regional Vision
Commissioner Long's Regional Vision would
broadly take away local control
It is not "hallucinating" but healthy skepticism to have concerns about the intent of this MOU legally binding agreement.

While Long, Miller and the PSTA Board are clearly moving in the direction of a merger, HART Board members indicated otherwise at their January 23rd Legislative Committee meeting. Several HART Board members stated HART's sovereignty cannot be compromised.

The Tampa Bay Times, who clearly supports Commissioner Long's regionalism agenda, always wants a sales taxes hike for costly trains but never questions any budget, published an editorial yesterday about FDOT Secretary Boxold resigning that included:
Boxold's departure also clouds an effort pushed by Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long to create a regional structure for coordinating and implementing mass transit, which could include merging bus systems and transportation planning. That effort is gaining support and could require legislation this spring to study it.
Long's effort is not gaining support and there is no evidence of such. Making such statement is fake news trying to create a false narrative for support that does not exist. Most people in the Tampa Bay area do not know about Long's proposal or have any clue about what she and her cohorts are attempting to do.

Obviously, the Times missed HART's Legislative Committee meeting Monday discussing the MOU agreement, or someone did not hand them correct talking points, because there was no support by HART Board members for a merger or a regional sales tax hike.

HART, PSTA, Long and the Times have created confusion. That happens when trying to ram through a confusing agreement on a fast timeline. The only way to resolve the mess is for specific language be  included in the legally binding MOU that protects the taxpayers.

The MOU agreement, passed at yesterday's PSTA Board meeting, will be on the agenda of the full HART Board meeting on February 6th.

Collaborating where it is mutually beneficial makes sense and HART and PSTA already are collaborating. The best approach that would eliminate confusion or skepticism would be to address each area of potential collaboration separately so all the details of each collaboration is transparently discussed and provided in full disclosure.

This MOU is a legally binding agreement just like any Inter-local agreement and there should be no confusion or gray matter swirling around it. We all know how lawyer legalese works if things are not specifically made clear in writing.

Therefore, if the HART Board wants this type of agreement approved, we call on them to add language to the MOU agreement that specifically states "the intent of this MOU is not to pursue a merger or pursue a sales tax hike."

Making it specifically clear to anyone and everyone that the MOU agreement between HART and PSTA is not being used to pursue a merger or a sales tax hike is not unreasonable. It is the right thing to do that builds trust not skepticism.

Otherwise Commissioner Long and her cohorts will be coming to Hillsborough County again to sell their regionalism agenda.

The sovereignty of HART [and PSTA] must be protected to maintain their credibility.

Most importantly, the local taxpayers must be protected.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rationale to Push Regionalism Disappeared November 8th: Dump Long's Regionalism Proposal

We previously posted here and here about Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long's push for regionalism, the merger of HART and PSTA and using PSTA as a proxy to accomplish that agenda.

We updated our last post to highlight that the direction of Long's Regional Vision she presented at the January 13 PSTA workshop is to regionally control a big huge new pot of tax dollars:
Pinellas County Commission Long's Regional Vision
Trump was elected because voters want to stop the over reach of government, which is at every level of government, and return power back to the People where it belongs.

What Commissioner Long is pushing is the exact opposite. What Long, PSTA's Brad Miller, the Tampa Bay Times and their cohorts want is to take power away from the people and regionalize decision making.

Regionalizing decision making is being done in coordination with the Obama Administration's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Affordable Housing regulations. The Obama Administration forced the AFFH regulations on all localities receiving HUD funding in July 2015, obligating them to compare their demographics to the region as a whole, nullifying municipal boundaries. 

Long presented her Regional Council of Governments Cronies proposal in October at a joint meeting of HART and PSTA. The chart below reflects the broad areas of focus her regional decision making agency would control, including all their pots of money.
Chart from Commissioner Long's presentation
at the joint HART/PSTA meeting in October
Long's focus areas fit right into the Obama Administration's over reaching AFFH regulations and the MPO merger regulations pushed through AFTER the November election. Both of those regulations force regionalism and regional decision making upon us all without ever going through any deliberative, legislative process.

Taxpayer funded use of local resources to start implementing the over reaching AFFH regulations has started. HUD has provided their "regional" data and maps to begin the regional implementation.

Transit plays a part of the AFFH regulations with HUD provided data related to disparities in access to transportation as this presentation reflects.
HUD provides their data to locally
comply with AFFH regulations
The election in November was about de-centralizing government power and decision making and pushing power back to the People where it belongs. Long's proposal to take away local control, regionalize power, take away local decision making and influence, enable greater special interests/lobbyists influence and push for regional sales tax funding goes in the exact opposite direction.

Long used the last minute MPO merger rule, pushed through by the Obama Administration on December 20th and Obama's AFFH regulations to rationalize her regionalism agenda.

It is obvious that a real goal of Long's regional proposal is to pursue a new multi-county regional sales tax hike to pay for her regional agenda.

Perhaps last October Democrat Long envisioned Hillary, who would have simply continued Obama's policies, would win in November.

The reality now is that a new Trump Administration and a Republican Congress will be rolling back and eliminating many over reaching burdensome federal regulations.

The reality now is there's a very good probability Obama's tyrannical AFFH regulations and the last minute MPO merger rules are going away.

So what Republican elected officials in Tampa Bay are going to support Democrat Long's proposal that supports Obama's regionalism agenda?

Time to Dump Long's proposal because her rationale excuse for pushing her regionalism agenda disappeared on November 8th.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Aggressive Timeline: Merge HART PSTA Into Tampa Bay Transit Authority

We recently posted here there is an orchestrated backdoor effort to merge HART and PSTA.

This is the latest.

After some HART Board members had issues with the Inter-local Agreement HART drafted, an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) was subsequently drafted.

PSTA held a Legislative committee meeting on January 4, 2017 where the MOU was discussed. 

A video of the meeting can be found here. At about 3:00 PSTA CEO Brad Miller starts the discussion of the MOU with admitting HART and PSTA already work closely together. He states the MOU is binding just like an Inter-local agreement but this MOU is more definitive about merging departments and looking at all functions to "combine".

Miller said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, who is pushing the regionalism agenda, spoke with HART's CEO Katherine Eagan to create a "timeline that was more important than a MOU". Miller indicated that the full PSTA Board would be "comfortable" voting for this MOU at their January 25 Board meeting. 

PSTA also held an Executive committee meeting on January 6, 2017 and video of that meeting can be found here.

At about 2:00 in the video Miller begins speaking about the MOU stating the intent of it was to present it to the state legislature. He outlined a timeline of PSTA approving it 1/25, HART approving it 2/6 and then he and Eagan and their lobbyist(s) going to Tallahassee on 2/7 to jointly present it. 

Such an aggressive schedule indicates the orchestration for this has been going on for a long time. 

Miller states this agreement fits into the larger context of a governance study they are asking the state legislature to pay for on how to implement Commissioner Long's proposed Regional Council of Governments Cronies. Miller also states "it's not going to take an act of the legislature" to do this - merging without going through a legal merger.

At 6:55 in the video, the question of how funding works with this "joint" agency is asked. Through Long's proposed regional entity? Long responded that the state legislators did not like the name "Regional Council of Governments" and preferred Tampa Bay Transit Authority, confirming this is really about merging and regionalizing decision making.

At about 8:30 in the video, Long states a merged entity speaking with "one regional voice" will enable the merged entity to get more federal funding. At 10:59 Long says that because the two entities were established differently - PSTA by a local bill and HART by general law, it is difficult to legally "undo"(because it would take a referendum).

PSTA then held a Board workshop on January 13, 2017 off site so there is no video recording of the meeting.  The agenda packet found here included Long's Regional Vision Proposal and Proposed Regional Planning Governance Study.
Agenda for January 13, 2017 PSTA Workshop
The proposed MOU is also in the agenda packet. 

Long's Regional vision presentation reflects where "they" are going - REGIONAL SALES TAX FUNDING
Long's Regional Vision includes
Regional Sales Tax funding

Included with Long's presentation is an editorial by the Tampa Bay Times last month supporting Long's proposal, the HART - PSTA merger and all the scheming done behind the scenes orchestrating it all.
The quiet discussions are particularly reassuring in the wake of three failed transit initiatives in the bay area in recent years. 
This approach has the opportunity to improve bus service, ease road congestion, lay a path for regional rail, save tax money and make for smarter growth, easing the costly impacts of sprawl. To voters looking for a better strategy before agreeing to tax themselves more for transit, these are positive developments.
There are more particulars to deal with, and Tampa Bay is still a long way from a robust regional transportation authority and one common plan for mass transit that includes light rail.
The Times have been wrong and on the losing side of every proposed transportation sales tax hike in Tampa Bay. Including an oped of support from those who consistently lose seems odd but it does reflect how our local rail cartel operates in their own echo chamber.

What's missing from their "collective" narrative?  Ridership at both HART and PSTA has been declining. Innovation and technology from the private sector are driving the future of transportation which will be a disruptive factor to transit, especially on costly fixed guideways. 

In addition, with a new Trump Administration there will be change that very well could change the criteria and decision making for what and how federal funds are awarded. 

The net of all this scheming and aggressive "timeline" is to quickly ram through HART and PSTA Boards the approval of this MOU before the public can appropriately weigh in or even fully understand what is actually occurring (get it passed before the public knows what's in it). 

Then HART, PSTA and their lobbyists can immediately take the MOU to Tallahassee and jointly present it. The MOU is being used to get Senator Latvala's (Senate Appropriations Committee Chair) blessing to fund yet another study for how to implement Long's Regional vision and somehow the merging of the two transit agencies.

The fast path of this MOU Miller expects is first approval at the January 25 PSTA Board meeting. It will then be discussed at the HART Board Legislative meeting on Monday, 1/23 at 10am. Then Miller expects the MOU to be on the agenda for approval at the next full HART Board meeting on February 6th.

There is method to their madness because the transit agency merger action is being pushed in  conjunction with the completion of the Tampa Bay Premium Transit Feasibility Study Plan (a post for another day) targeted for late 2018. 

Reminder: pursuing federal capital grants for transit requires a long term committed local funding source. (Watch out Hillsborough and Pinellas in 2020…) 

Watch the video again and cringe. The egregiousness of recommending going around voters is appalling and PSTA was using taxpayer funded consultants and attorneys to recommend such action.

Hillsborough taxpayers should not be put at any risk and we certainly do not want to bailout PSTA. 

HART and PSTA can and should collaborate when it is mutually beneficial but no merger is needed to collaborate.

Can we stop all the "quiet discussions" scheming behind the scenes for new baseball stadiums and how to regionalize power and more time focusing on fixing our neglected roads (that 98% of us and buses use everyday), and our stormwater and sewage systems that impacts us all?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Backdoor Attempt to Merge HART PSTA?

As has been reported, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long has proposed creating a Regional Council of Governments that would serve as a decision-making body for transportation and function as the regions consolidated MPO.

As we posted yesterday, the impetus for regional decision making is the new MPO merger dictate pushed through in December by the lame duck Obama Admin. However, there is a good chance this midnight rule will be eliminated by the new Congress under the new Trump Admin.

Part of Long's regionalism proposal is an interlocal agreement between HART and PSTA.

But what is really going on regarding such interlocal agreement?

Go back to the end of 2012, beginning of 2013 when Senator Latvala was demanding the first of his two taxpayer funded studies be done regarding a merger. Note that merging was rejected after both studies.

Here is a video from January 2013 of a presentation being given to Latvala and some others by PSTA CEO Brad Miller. Miller presented how to merge and consolidate HART and PSTA through a backdoor Joint Powers Authority (JPA). This backdoor agreement is a way to get around a voter referendum that is required to merge and create a new legal entity. A direct link to the youtube video is here.

As Miller explains consultants and lawyers (of course) came up with this proposal to go around voters and taxpayers. At 2:11 in the video Miller states that this JPA or some type of interlocal agreement is "the answer" (at least to the consultants, lawyers and Brad Miller) to merging the two agencies without going through a referendum to actually legally merge them.
PSTA CEO recommends JPA or interlocal agreement to merge/consolidate
HART & PSTA without going through a referendum
What this backdoor merger does is leave HART and PSTA as the legal taxing authority to collect the taxes. All the decision making regarding how those revenues are spent would be made by a new merged/consolidated Board. As Miller states, the existing Boards of HART and PSTA would have no powers or become nonexistent which takes away local control. This JPA/interlocal agreement regionalizes all decision making, including how revenues collected in both counties are spent - such as costly shiny new toys like the fiscal disaster called SunRail.

It is apparent why this interlocal agreement between HART and PSTA is being pushed as part of Long's proposal for regional power and decision making regarding transportation. It creates a single, larger pot of money that would be controlled by a new highly politicized Board run by either all electeds or by electeds, cronies and special interests.

Let's connect the dots.

Long first proposed her regional council of governments in October.

As reported in December here
Long would fold PSTA, HART, and other transportation providers such as the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, ferryboat operations and others under the regional council of government. Certain functions, or entire organizations, could be consolidated within the council of governments concept.
HART, the transit authority in Hillsborough, voted in November to develop a written interlocal agreement with the PSTA that would commit the two to continuous collaboration and coordination for the region’s benefit.
And here
The two [HART and PSTA] would continue collaborating on those items and would research areas that could benefit from joint ventures. That could eventually mean the merger of some departments, Miller said.
HART drafted an interlocal agreement but concerns were raised by some HART Board members (who are citizen appointees not electeds) as reported here.
Among the more problematic proposals for Jaroch, as well as board member Mickey Jacobs, was one that said that “staff will develop a strategic coordination plan to merge operational functions in IT.” Another said that “Staff will identify two departments, including IT, for functional merge in calendar 2017.”
HART CEO Katherine Eagan said that she would work with board members and Smith and have a new draft of the interlocal agreement available for review at the committee’s meeting next month. 
Meanwhile, PSTA officials want to see the agreement go forward.
Of course PSTA, who has been fiscally mismanaged for years wants to consolidate and merge with HART. Their CEO Brad Miller said so back in 2013.

According to this article, Pinellas County Commissioner Long based her regional proposal on SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) that is a regional decision making Board composed of 18 cities and county government with advisory representatives from numerous other government agencies.

Modeling anything after how any government agency is run in the almost bankrupted state of California is highly suspect.

This is how huge regional entities with deep pockets use taxpayer monies to "sell" their plan. SANDAG created a taxpayer funded campaign to sell a $204 BILLION 35 year plan where 75% of the money spent goes to transit:  How SANDAG Worked The Media On Transportation Plan

Does using taxpayer monies egregiously on taxpayer funded campaigns sound familiar? Go Hillsborough, Greenlight Pinellas….and could a new regional campaign be starting now with the launch of the $1.5 million "Premium Transit Study"…We'll save that for another post.

We cannot forget Brad Miller misused federal transit security funds on the Greenlight Pinellas campaign. Miller had to return the $350,000 to the feds, he still has his job and last year earned praises and a raise just six months after one Board member proposed a vote whether to fire him.

We also cannot forget Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill's ridiculous proposal in 2014 to reconfigure the HART Board into a super sized agency with an expanded mission and governed by all electeds which would totally politicize the agency.

Long's Regional Council of Governments is Merrill's proposal on steroids.

Government entities and agencies can collaborate whenever it is mutually beneficial and agreed upon. Collaboration does not require consolidation and merger creating a bigger and more powerful bureaucracy that controls all the purse strings.

As we posted here, it is time to dump Long's proposal to regionalize transportation decision making.

Watch the video above again of Brad Miller.  No one should be recommending circumventing the taxpayer and the voters to consolidate power and decision making away from them.

Now watch closely the interlocal agreement between HART and PSTA because such backdoor shenanigans must be stopped in its tracks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Local Disconnect On Federal Over Reach Dictating MPO Mergers

As this article Regionalism: Spreading the Fiscal Irresponsibility by Wendell Cox reports, smaller government and decision making closer to the people are more fiscally responsible and tend to better reflect those most impacted.
The only economies of scale in larger local government benefit lobbyists and special interests, not taxpayers or residents.
The voters are no match for the spending interests with more efficient access to City Hall. The incentives in such larger jurisdictions are skewed against fiscal responsibility and the interests of taxpayers. Making an even larger pool of tax revenues available can only make things worse. 
One of the 4000 new rules and regulations winding through the last year of the Obama Admin's Federal bureaucracies in 2016 was a rule by the Feds dictating the merging of MPO's to create larger regional MPO"s.

According to the rule published December 20, 2016 to be effective January 19, 2017, MPO Coordination and Planning Reform, Final Rule 40 CFR 613, (Fed Register 12-20-2016):
The purpose of this rule making is to improve the transportation planning process by strengthening the coordination of MPOs and States and promoting the use of regional approaches to planning and decision making.
The FHWA and FTA believe that the benefits of the rule justify the costs. The total costs for merging 142 MPOs, the cost of transportation conformity adjustments, and the one-time cost of developing a dispute resolution process results in an estimated maximum average annual cost of this rule of $86.3 million. The FHWA and FTA were unable to quantify the benefits for this rule making.
Sixteen commenters expressed support for the NPRM. The FHWA and FTA received 156 comments in support of the stated purpose…..While these commenters supported the stated purpose of the rule making, they did not support the specific requirements and procedures articulated in the proposed rule because the commenters believe the rule will not strengthen coordination efforts beyond current practices.  
The FHWA and FTA received 299 comments in opposition to the NPRM, of which 249 requested that FHWA and FTA withdraw the rule making. Commenters expressed various concerns about the NPRM.
The Feds cannot quantify the benefits of this rule but somehow they "believe the benefits justify the costs". Only in government…can that attitude exist.

Many who commented on the rule raised issues, including that it overstepped the DOT Secretary's authority, it contradicted Congressional intent and it stepped on state laws, those federalism issues.

The Florida Department of Transportation opposed the new rule. They sent their letter dated August 17, 2016 opposing it and asking that the rule making be suspended. The letter clearly summarizes their opposition.
Summary of FDOT 8/17/2016 letter to Feds opposing mandated MPO mergers
In addition, our Florida MPO Advisory Council (MPOAC) sent their letter to the Feds opposing the rule and they succinctly brought up more issues and clearly stated their strong opposition to this over-reaching mandated rule by the Feds. 
FL MPO Advisory Council letter to Feds opposing mandated MPO mergers
This new federal rule was being pushed by the Obama Admin right before the Presidential election and it was published by the lame duck Obama Admin after the election. House Republican leadership sent a letter to Obama Administration on November 15 cautioning them to not push last minute regulations through in the last two months of Obama's term but that caution was ignored.

Why did our Hillsborough County Commission support this rule? Why did they vote 7-0 on August 17, 2016 to send a letter to the Feds fully supporting the rule? That was the very same day our FDOT sent a letter to the Feds opposing the rule.  

Why would our Republican dominant county commission support an over reaching federal dictate right before a Presidential election?

The letter to support the MPO merger rule was drafted by County Attorney Chip Fletcher and can be found here. The letter not only states the county commissioners fully support the rule but they request a specific change to prevent any "institutional inertia" from delaying implementing the stated objective (regionalism) of the rule. 

Commissioner Miller sits on the MPOAC Governing Board, the decision making body for the MPOAC which consists of one representative from each MPO in the State (27), that opposed the rule.

Why the disconnect? 

It's all about money. 

Below is from the transcript/video found online at HTV (starts at 18:22) of the August 17, 2016 county commission meeting discussing the Feds new dictate

County Attorney Chip Fletcher:  
Sandy Murman:
Merging MPO's is not controversial? 

Pinellas County MPO, who rebranded themselves as Forward Pinellas, sent their letter opposing the merger rule on August 23, 2016. Regional special interest organization Tampa Bay Partnership sent an opposition letter on August 26, 2016. Find both of those letters here.

Pasco County MPO also opposed the rule and Hillsborough County MPO seemed squishy and a bit nebulous about the rule.

As we previously posted here scheming is going on behind the scenes to push regionalism in Tampa Bay. Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long admitted she believes regional power is the way to get more state/federal tax dollars.

Some powers to be are using this federal MPO merger mandate as the impetus excuse for pushing a regional agenda in Tampa Bay and push again to merge our transit agencies HART and PSTA. 

The House recently passed HR 21, the Midnight Rules Relief Act, that will eliminate a group of rules pushed through by a lame duck Administration after the election all together instead of one by one. This bill is now in the Senate. 

There is a good chance the controversial and over reaching MPO merger rule will soon be eliminated. 

So the MPO's will not need yet another consultant they were hiring to facilitate a so-called "collaboration" workshop for how to implement a rule that will be going away.

But the question remains why our local county commissioners are so disconnected and want more Federal dictates.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The 2016-2017 Baseball "Third Season" – a sleeper so far

Are the Rays are having some trouble getting a serious stadium conversation started?

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

I have defined the Tampa Bay Baseball "Third Season" as that time between the last world series game and the start of the spring training media hype or roughly late October to late February.

This is the time when the Rays usually beat the drum loudly complaining about poor attendance blaming it on Tropicana Field and lack luster appreciation of the sport by the local population.

In the past the Third Season" has included games between Tampa, Hillsborough County, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and this year the City of Oldsmar and a small skirmish with Derby Lane.

There has been little of the normal posturing and hype associated previous "Third Seasons." While one could conclude that there is a lot going on in the background, the silence is deafening.

Mark Topkin, Tampa Bay Times staff writer reports some interesting comments from Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in, Manfred: There has to be "end game" in Rays stadium bid or ...

Manfred said, "Ultimately, there has to be an end game. If in fact, there's not a site or there's not a financial arrangement that's viable and we become convinced of that, our rules allow for the possibility of relocation."

Every since Jeff Vinik made the statement about his downtown Tampa development "Baseball is not the best and highest use of the property" (paraphrase) interest seems to have waned across the Bay.

Smart money in Tampa has apparently heard Tampa's premier developer and current talk in the Legislature about limiting funding for sports stadiums has thrown a bit of cold Gator Aid on the new stadium site.

The clock is ticking.

With the dawn of 2017, the Rays have just ten years left on their lease agreement with the City of St. Petersburg. That may sound like a long time but when it comes to new stadiums, the time window from start to first pitch could consume most of that time.

Consider getting land accumulated, an actual agreement, arranging a controversial and complicated financing deal, a possible referendum, a plan for paying for infrastructure costs, and an electorate not real thrilled with public funds being diverted to sports franchise owners, the whole process spanning several major political races and elections while baseball interest in the Bay area continues to deteriorate.

How much of your money would you invest in a new stadium?

It could be the reason why we have not heard much during this "Third Season" is the Rays are having some trouble getting a serious conversation started.

It is starting to look like Mayor Kriseman may be correct about the Rays looking around and finding the Trop site is the best place after all. Maybe what they find is it is the ONLY place.

I have long said the real problem St. Petersburg faces with the Rays is not that they leave, but they will want to stay.

As the Commissioner said, "Ultimately, there has to be an end game. If in fact, there's not a site or there's not a financial arrangement that's viable and we become convinced of that, our rules allow for the possibility of relocation."

So far, not so good.

Or there's always Oldsmar. See Christopher O'Donnell, Times Staff Writer  Rays stadium in Oldsmar? The mayor sure thinks so.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, be sure to Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY

See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.