Monday, June 24, 2024

Merging Will Not Fix the Woe's of the Tampa Bay MPO's, It Will Create Bigger Problems and the Largest MPO Pushing DEI Ideology

The Florida State legislature passed SB425 last year requiring the MPO's serving Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco explore how they may merge.

MPO's are federally mandated transportation planning organizations where all state and federal transportation project funding must be approved. They are governed by both Federal law and State statutes. 

Yes, the State legislature needs to step in and reign in out of control MPO's, especially Hillsborough and Pinellas County's MPO's. 

But merging the three MPO's is a nightmare not a solution.

The transportation planning processes of Hillsborough's MPO and Pinellas County's MPO aka Forward Pinellas are flawed. They focus too much on trying to force people out of their vehicles. They spend too much of their resources pursuing rail/transit boondoggles, road diets, tearing down interstates, social re-engineering (aka Socialism) and nebulous Complete Streets - the most expensive streets to build.

A regional tri-county MPO will not fix what is wrong but it will create bigger and more issues:

  • Merging will create the largest and most unwieldy MPO in the State
  • Decision making MPO Board members will be an arms length away from their local constituents 
    • Exacerbating the current lack of accountability, lack of transparency and lack of proper Oversight
    • Enabling higher influence by special interests and cronies
    • Reducing the influence of local voters and taxpayers 
    • Enabling regional taxation 
    • Enabling greater opportunity for corruption and cronyism. 
  • Emboldens deep pocketed special interests to launch multi-million dollar advocacy campaigns for regional rail/transit tax hikes

In addition, a merged Tampa Bay MPO will create the largest MPO in the State with a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) ideological agenda. 

Hillsborough MPO and Forward Pinellas created DEI plans in 2021 and 2022. The plans were rammed through during the COVID pandemic. 

We doubt many residents of either County today know about the DEI plans. Do our state legislators know about them?

With MPO merger talks going on, lets shine a light on these DEI plans.

Hillsborough MPO's DEI plan can be found here. The DEI Executive Summary is found here

Below is part of the MPO's internal approach for implementing DEI within the agency.

Encourage staff to indicate their pronouns in their email signature, pay community activists to engage and provide feedback, force employees to attend ongoing DEI/Cultural Sensitivity trainings. This is radical Left "Wokeness" funded by the taxpayers.

The Hillsborough MPO staff even searched "social justice" documents to include Distributive Justice, Procedural Justice, Interactional Justice....who knew? Progressive Academia gobblygook embedded in our transportation planning process. 

Do Hillsborough residents and taxpayers and our state legislators consider the following statements included in Hillsborough's DEI plan appropriate? 


Hillsborough MPO also passed a Racial Equity Resolution in August 2020....again under the radar of COVID when they knew the public was not paying attention.

Do Hillsborough County residents agree with this Resolution? Is this appropriate from the MPO? Most residents who live in Hillsborough today did not live there 60 years ago. 

Forward Pinellas MPO's DEI plan was created in 2022 and can be found here

Forward Pinellas DEI plan supports equitable transportation options, increased equity funding in their Long Range Transportation Plan, health equity, DEI training of staff, DEI processes and the use of DEI tools for decision making.

Forward Pinellas distributed an Equity survey that resulted in 467 responses. Forward Pinellas uses the "Woke" verbiage Latinx.

This was not a scientific survey. Almost twice the number of women responded than men. Larger municipalities including St. Petersburg and Clearwater were over represented while Unincorporated Pinellas was grossly under represented. 

How ironic. Pinellas County's equity survey results/data do not  "equitably" represent Pinellas County residents.

The Forward Pinellas DEI plan includes:
  • A strategic plan to ensure our work is inclusive and results in equitable outcomes for the entire community.
  • Diversify Forward Pinellas 
  • Develop equitable transportation options
  • Internal awareness 
    • Updated procurement policy, ADA Compliance Plan and Public Participation Plan 
    • Staff training & processes 
    • Equity focused tools for project review and analysis 
    • Equity matrix and decision flow chart
The Forward Pinellas DEI plan references tools used by San Francisco, Boston and Denver in their DEI transportation planning. Do Pinellas County residents want their transportation planning modeled after those cities?

Forward Pinellas uses a quote from the Racial Equity Alliance, now called Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE). GARE lobbies government entities to implement the DEI policies Forward Pinellas included in their DEI plan. GARE is funded by left-wing Progressive organizations including George Soros Open Society Foundations

Both MPO's have embedded DEI into their transportation planning process, hiring, staff training, public engagement and decision making tools.

Do our state legislators and Governor DeSantis know Hillsborough MPO and Forward Pinellas are "Woke"? Do they know a merger would create the largest "Woke" MPO in the State?

The Tampa Bay MPO's do not need merging, they need reform.

As Tampa Bay's designated Transportation Management Area (TMA), the three MPO's have collaborated for over 30 years on regional transportation projects. They created a regional tri-county Long Range Transportation Plan in 2018. 

Therefore, we were surprised to find out at the May 17th TMA meeting that MPO staff had submitted a Federal grant request for $1,056,000 to fund an effort for how to create and adopt regional transportation plans.

The Federal grant requested is a new grant program called the Prioritization Process Pilot Program (PPPP) begun under the Biden Administration.

We were also surprised to find out the Hillsborough MPO had already submitted the grant request, on behalf of the three MPO's, BEFORE the TMA decision making members ever saw it. The TMA decision makers never approved submitting the grant request. And the Hillsborough MPO did not tell FDOT about the grant before it was submitted.

That is bureaucratic overreach, not good governance! 

Note: Last year Hillsborough's MPO was forced to rescind a $1.2 million Federal grant they submitted to the Biden Admin. That grant was to study tearing down I-275 north of downtown and the Hillsborough MPO staff had submitted the grant without approval by the MPO Board members who had never seen it.

Surprise! Equity is included as criteria in the PPPP grant.

Climate change and environmental justice are also decision making criteria in this grant. Federal PPPP grants support using equity and climate change to prioritize transportation projects. 

If these three MPO's merge, they will use DEI, equity and climate change to prioritize our Tampa Bay regional transportation priorities.

Governor DeSantis recently signed a new law that removes the term "climate change" from State Statutes. Do the MPO's know this?

The Federal PPPP grant requested by Tampa Bay MPO bureaucrats is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Why do they suddenly need over a million dollars to do what they have done in the past with their existing resources?

The State legislature did not expect or request these MPO's to go chase a million taxpayer dollars to look at how to merge. 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the three MPO's last year for studying how to merge does not authorize the MPO's to pursue million dollar federal grants.

Pursuing wasteful funding grants is a red flag. In this particular case, going to the Feds for funding is another red flag.

The State legislators, who requested the Tampa Bay MPO's look at merging, should be wary of wasteful spending behaviors. They should be concerned about MPO bureaucrats submitting large grant requests without approval from the decision makers. 

Merging these MPO's would force Pasco County to participate in the  ideological DEI agenda of Hillsborough and Forward Pinellas MPO's. Do Pasco County residents want that?

MPO's using rubber stamp Oversight, pushing ideological agendas, and using unrealistic or fraudulent spending estimates must stop. MPO's lack of transparency, using absurd scenario planning, bureaucratic overreach and using inconsistent and flawed information in MPO documents must stop. 

The MPO's have been allowed to get out of control. They must be reigned in by the State. 

We need Statutory reforms and requirements for better Oversight, more Accountability and better discipline in the transportation planning process. Common sense must be brought back to transportation planning and a housecleaning of ideologically driven bureaucracies must occur.

The State legislature needs to step back and rethink about merging the three Tampa Bay MPO's.   

A merged Tampa Bay MPO creates the largest MPO in Florida imposing DEI and climate change into their regional transportation planning. 

Merging Tampa Bay MPO's is not the solution to fix what woe's the  MPO's.

It is a nightmare!

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