Tuesday, March 31, 2020

County Commission Chair Pursues Picking Your Pockets During Crisis.

While everyone is on lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic crisis, Hillsborough County Commission Chair Les Miller astonishingly displays where his priorities lie.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Miller had cancelled the April 1 public hearing about putting another All for Transportation (AFT) $16 BILLION rail tax hike on the November ballot. Miller had scheduled the April 1 public hearing weeks ago that now seem like an eternity ago.

With little notice at 7:51 AM this morning, the county sends an email announcing a "SPECIAL MEETING" scheduled for tomorrow at 1:30pm. The meeting notice to discuss rescheduling the public hearing for putting the AFT 2.0 $16 Billion tax hike on the ballot was sent out to the public about 30 hours before tomorrow's meeting.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Injustice? Tampa Homestead Property Seized by Court

The State of Florida has a Constitution, so does the United States of America. A Constitution, whether State or Federal, is the embodiment of the rights of the citizens.

Our Pledge of Allegiance ends “with Liberty and Justice for All”.

We want to believe our legal and judicial system is fair and will always ensure there is justice for all. But at times it appears there is a double standard where certain people or certain groups of people seem favored or disfavored in our legal system over others.

The people of the State of Florida, when they created the Florida Constitution, were committed to the concept of the inviolability of the Home, hence what is called the Florida Homestead Exemption found in Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The family home is as close to sacred as can come under the Florida Constitution.

But there is a legal case in Tampa that may shake the sacred foundation that homesteaded property cannot be seized to pay another party's creditors.

The case involves residential property purchased in 2009 by Tampa tax attorney Terri Gaffney from her father John Gaffney who passed away in 2011. The property never lost its homestead and the property has always been homesteaded.

A lawsuit was filed in 2014, which Ms. Gaffney claims was after the relevant statute of limitations had expired, attempting to reclaim the property as part of her father's estate to pay legal expenses incurred by another family member.

In October 2017 a 13th Judicial Circuit Court judge ruled to seize the homesteaded property. A Hillsborough County sheriff knocked on the door of the property one morning and told all who were there to vacate the property in 15 minutes.

Since then the property has gone into a state of disrepair. Two vehicles and family keepsakes were forced to be abandoned and the property subsequently became subject to county code violations. The county pursued massive fines against Gaffney and her family while a circuit court had removed their legal rights to the property.

The county code violations fines were recently tossed out by a county court judge but there continues to be a number of twists and turns with Gaffney's case.

The Eye recently had an exclusive interview with Terri Gaffney. Below is a clip of that interview and a statement from Gaffney's attorney Sheldon McMullen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

County Center: Stop Waging War On Small Business, Taxpayers and Move County Center Out of Downtown Tampa

The Eye headed to the Hillsborough County Commission meeting last week. Downtown Tampa is one big logistical headache to get to anywhere in downtown, park in downtown and get around in downtown.

Hillsborough County government needs to move out of downtown Tampa and provide much better access to County services. Downtown Tampa has become a mobility and parking nightmare. That is not fair to residents in unincorporated Hillsborough who need better access to County Services but are forced to go to County Center in downtown Tampa.

Residents of unincorporated Hillsborough should start demanding the County move out of the mausoleum building in downtown Tampa aka County Center.

Here is one suggestion. Hillsborough County owns the MOSI property on Fowler Avenue and MOSI is moving downtown. Swap places. The county could move county services to the MOSI property they own which is more centrally located with access between 2 interstate highways. The County can sell the County Center building. We know the city of Tampa wants more office towers - here's one ready to rent.

When we finally got to County Center, the March 4 BOCC meeting was a plethora of actions to shut down small business and raise taxes.

Listen to our latest podcast as we discuss how the county needs to get out of downtown Tampa and  stop waging a war on small business and the taxpayers.

According to Hillsborough County, more than 90% of all commercial ventures are small businesses. However, if this commission does not like your industry or business or they find one bad apple, they will punish everyone instead of addressing the bad apple.

Higher taxes hurts small businesses the most and having the highest sales tax rate in the state will hurt them even more.
Sales Tax Map Courtesy of WTSP
At just this one meeting, the Hillsborough County commission took actions to punish the entire pet retail industry, take choices away from their constituents, put another one percent 30 year $16B transit tax on the November ballot, eliminate clarity and transparency to voters and hold county roads hostage to funding costly rail in the city of Tampa

Considering the commissioners meet every 2 weeks, what other harm is this county commission doing to their own constituents and the residents/taxpayers of Hillsborough County?

Saturday, March 7, 2020

With $16 Billion AFT Transit Tax There's No New Road Capacity Planned for 38 New Schools in Hillsborough County

All for Transportation (AFT) never told voters their new $16 BILLION transit tax will not fund needed increased road capacity for any of the new schools planned in Hillsborough County.

But the central planning bureaucrats at the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) did know and they said nothing in 2018. The MPO transportation planners never informed the voting public of this huge transportation issue. 

Friday, March 6, 2020

Hillsborough's Leaders Ride the Train to Failure

Yesterday a group of "Hillsborough leaders" took a tour of SunRail SunFail, Orlando's commuter rail that has been the envy of our "leaders" for years. But the horror! The county commissioners got stuck in traffic, and they missed their train!
People are spending hours sitting on I-4 trying to get from one place to another,” SunRail’s deputy program manager Sandra Gutierrez told the Hillsborough contingent. 
“You talk to these people who have transformed their commute from a highway system to a commuter rail system, and it’s just night and day.”  I think we had that true life experience today,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp quipped, after meeting up with the others later in the morning.
What a nightmare! If we only had SunRail in Tampa Bay we'd never experience traffic jams again. 

Yet the real horror is Hillsborough's leaders plans to replicate SunRail failures in Tampa Bay.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

More talking points they don't want to talk about

As we posted here recently, the MPO has a set of talking points that ripple through their Long Range Transportation Plan, to the transit and urban activist, and into our political and business leadership.

A set of recurring talking points reverberate around our poor transit in Tampa Bay. It's holding us back, we need to invest more in transit, transit riders can't get to jobs, blah blah blah.

What does the data show?


A lot they don't want to talk ... or listen ... about.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Myth Busting the MPO's Talking Points

The Eye recently received "talking points" from Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Executive Director Beth Alden addressed to Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman as a public records request. Beth Alden spoke to many of these points offering support for the AFT 2.0 transportation tax at the February 19, 2020 BOCC meeting, apparently at Overman's invitation.

Beth Alden talking her points.
The complete "talking points" memo is here

There's plenty to digest, but we'll take a few talking points that missed a few talking points.

Monday, March 2, 2020

"Just Trust Us": AFT 2.0 Rail Tax Throws Billions At Rudderless Transit Agency in Chaos

Transit agency HART currently has no leadership at the helm and is in a state of at least semi-chaos due to some poor judgement by its own governing board. But the Hillsborough County Commission keeps pursuing forcing taxpayers to simply "hand" the chaotic transit agency Billions of new AFT transit tax proceeds.

After the November 2018 election, newly elected Democrat County Commissioners Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith replaced Republican Commissioners Sandy Murman and Stacy White on the governing Board of HART.

The new HART Board felt compelled to continue pursuing a new CEO….even after a lawsuit was filed in December 2018 legally challenging the All for Transportation (AFT) $16B transit tax.