Thursday, September 18, 2014

The PSTA, Hand Shake Deals and GreenLight Yes



A recent Article in the Tampa Bay Tines by Sharon Taylor Martin, PSTA gaffe leaves agency on hook in cleanup of old bus depot got caught my attention.

At issue was the environmental cleanup of a site in South St. Pete PSTA used for bus maintenance.

PSTA had an agreement with the sites owner to clean up the site but did not get the agreement in writing according to Times article. It was a "verbal" deal.

PSTA Board Chair Ken Welch said, "Why the legal staff thought we had an agreement back in January that we thought covered the entire parcel, I can't answer that."

Since when did local governments an authorities starting doing serious business with "verbal" agreements?

The problem is these verbal agreements only become record when something goes wrong.

An even more pressing question is how many other "verbal" agreements does PSTA have and how many "verbal" agreements have been made with the 26 high profile donors who have contributed three quarters of a million dollars to YES-GreenLight?

The PSTA under Brad Miller's Administration and Ken Welch's Board leadership have been skating on the thin edge of propriety for some time now.  Just about every time someone kicks over a rock at PSTA what they find smells funny.

Perhaps if the PSTA counsel spent more time actually writing and getting legal agreements in place instead of stonewalling public records requests and providing campaign advice, PSTA could stay on a truer course.

It becomes clearer every day that PSTA cannot be trusted to run a project anywhere near the size and scope of the GreenLight Plan. Given the current practices at PSTA, the amount of opportunities for back door deals, verbal agreements, graft and corruption that will go on boggles the imagination.

Take a look at some of the potential beneficiaries of the GreenLight Plan in my Post, The GreenLight Quid Pro Quo - Or Your Tax Dollars Being Bought and see what they are willing to pay to get in on the train.

Pinellas County voters need to consider this sales tax referendum carefully. Public transportation is the red herring being used to convince you to vote for a 90 year sales tax.


Watch My Video Green Light - It's a Bad Law before you vote.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The PSTA Pinellas County Interlocal Agreement Review.................... You Should Know Before You Vote



Beginning tomorrow Monday September 15, 2014 Dr. E. Eugene Webb presents a 20 Post Series reviewing the PSTA/Pinellas County Interlocal Agreement.

This Agreement approved by both the PSTA Board of Directors and the County Commission will go into effect if voters approve the Sales Tax Referendum.

It does not become a law as the actual Ballot referendum will, but the Interlocal Agreement takes effect immediately up on the certification of the vote should the GreenLight sales tax be approved.

You need to look this Agreement over before you vote.

The Inter local Agreement focuses on bonding, financing, redevelopment and the light rail train. It allows your tax dollars to be pledged to bonds for up to 50 years and renewals for 40 more years, allowing the tax to exist for 90 years.

This series of Posts includes the actual language from the Agreement along with comments and analysis.

You need this information before you vote.

The Posts will go up on Bay Post Internet each WEEKDAY at 5:00AM for the next four weeks. Follow along and add your thoughts through the "Comment" link.

Please follow these Posts, Like them on Facebook, Tweet them on Twitter and e-mail them to your  friends. 

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks.

Sunday September 14, 2014 - The New St. Pete Fiscal Year



The Kriseman administration gets off to its first full fiscal year with its own budget October 1, 2014.

All the money should be in the right buckets so the Mayor and his team can get their programs underway.

The Kriseman administration has been a little slow on the uptake, so it may be a few weeks before we see things start to happen.

Look for Todd Yost (Codes) and Mike Dove (Neighborhoods) to get off to a quick start. Codes has additional funding for staff and technology, and Neighborhoods has some big plans and funding to make them happen.

I expect to see some real visible results from these two real fast.

Elsewhere look for some changes at the PD as new Chief Anthony Holloway begins to pull things together. The changes will likely be pretty subtle, but look for a shake up in the top level.

The Chief is going to move slowly, but I do look for a rapid implementation of his plan to get out of the Patrol car and walk around. It’s going to take some leadership from the Patrol management, but it will make a big difference in how the PD is viewed in the Community.

The Kriseman administration needs to keep a close eye on the infrastructure departments: Water, storm water, waste water, along with streets and roads.

With all of the heady stuff like the Pier, the arts, soccer and baseball it would be easy to overlook some real serious stuff. In the next budget cycle the Kriseman team should give a little more attention to the infrastructure side of the house.

Things to watch for:
Red Light Cameras
The Mayor indicated the red light cameras would go away at the end of the fiscal year. ATS, the red light camera vendor, is probably going to put on a big push to keep the cameras in place.

Look for Jim Kennedy, who is a benefactor of ATS campaign contributions, to make a big case for continuing the program.

Smart move here is to simply do as promised and not get caught up in a big red light camera controversy.

The Pier
Big trick here is to keep the process focused on the all the work that has been accomplished up to now.

Those that would hijack the process for their own purposes are still lurking in the wings. Diligence and transparency are the keys to success.

The budget process was a success and now the hard work on implementation begins.

Kriseman needs to manage the budget closely and hold all of his department leaders and those receiving grants and funding from the City accountable.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Major League Sports - All in on GreenLight



With the recent $25,000 donation from the Lightning all of the local Major League sports teams are on Board the GreenLight train.

Interesting point is: The train won't be running until sometime in the early to mid 2020s. The Tampa Bay Rays are the only team with a current venue anywhere near a proposed train stop and by every indication they will be long gone before the first train pulls into downtown St. Pete.

But all of the team's public relations people are singing the old "the fans can ride the train to the game" song. Not likely unless you want to take a couple of buses, or drive to a train stop and then take a bus over the Howard Franklin to where ever the new stadiums may be.

The trip could easily take longer than the game.

There is no money in the Greenlight plan to build rail to any current or proposed stadium locations.

Since most of the major league teams are looking to locate in Tampa due to a more sports friendly "demographic" and there is no money to extend the GreenLight rail to Tampa why all the major league sports interest?

Let me offer a suggestion.

Take a look at the list of GreenLight - Yes campaign donors.

Now if you were a major league team owner looking to tap public funds for a multimillion or maybe billion dollar sports complex wouldn't you want these guys supporting your referendum grab for some tax payer dollars?

You sure wouldn't want to walk into the Chamber of Commerce with your hand out for some support and get the: "where were you when we needed help with Greenlight" response, now would you?

In the world of major league sports, $25,000 or $50,000 is really chump change and GreenLight win or lose is going to have little effect on where the new stadiums or arenas get built or current major league sports attendance.

But that kind of money does buy the right to say "we helped you with GreenLight how about some support for our new public/private taxpayer funded mega million dollar sports complex referendum?

And that's the problem with GreenLight Yes.

It is not about public transportation it is all about money, power, influence, redevelopment and putting the County into debt for 90 years.

The only way to get viable public transportation in Pinellas County is to do exactly what they did in Hillsborough County.

Vote down this sales tax boondoggle and send the planners back to the table to design a practical public transportation system that actually serves those who need public transportation.

You can do that with a NO vote on your mail in ballot or at your polling place on November 4.

Watch My Video Green Light - It's a Bad Law before you vote.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

False Choices for Transportation

A regular refrain from transit advocates is about how we the taxpayers must provide more “choice” in transportation.

Who can possibly be against choice?

To the transit advocates, their vision of choice is mode of transportation. Train, light rail, bus, bike, walk, car are the modes they most often cite.

While we're talking choice, can I have my Ferrari? Please?

Tomorrow I may want to chose a dirigible. I'm sure we can attract some tourists and economic development dollars for that.

The Hindenburg was a bad choice for some
We're still waiting for flying cars.

Paid for by the taxpayer. Just like the investments that the transit advocates want for their preferred modes of transportation.

This fixation on mode of transportation is a fallacy.

Choice of mode is the wrong “choice” question to ask about transportation.

The right “choice” questions are
  • When do you chose to leave?
  • Where do you chose to go?
Trains, light rail, and buses limit your choice on when to leave. They (necessarily) constrain the schedule so you have to leave to catch the rail, bus, etc. when they leave... not when you chose to leave.

Likewise, trains, light rail, and buses limit choice on where to go. Trains and buses only go where trains and bus are routed, not the passengers destinations, each of which is unique. Yes, some passengers may transfer, hop and skip to a different mode of local transportation to finally arrive at your chosen destination, limited to within a comfortable walking distance from a transit stop. However, they did not make that choice. The central planners made the choice for them.

Bike and walking have flexibility on schedule, since most anyone can take a walk or hop on a bike any time. But there are only so many places within walking or biking distance, limiting choices on destinations. Choices on where to shop, buy groceries, get the best deal, visit friends, go to work, where to play, etc. are constrained by a reasonable distance of biking or walking, not to mention inclement weather conditions.

Few downtown Tampa residences will be riding their bikes, walking or taking transit to the Pinellas beaches any time soon.

If they want to chose when they go and where they go, they'll take a car.

If they want the most choices for shopping or entertainment, to find the best deal amongst many retailers, over a 30 minute radius from home, there are more choices for shopping or entertainment driving a car.

Tampa drivers choosing when and where to go
If they want the most choices for jobs, to work at the best place amongst many employers, over a 30 minute radius from home, there are more job opportunities using a car. Hillsborough county jobs are quite dispersed across 1100 square miles and the automobile nosbstill the best way to get to work.

Likewise, the distance and mode of commuting opens up a wider choice of where to live, rather than requiring workers to live near the job, and constraining their choices for housing.

Go ahead, take the bus, or walk or bike if that's you're choice. That's fine. Not everyone wants to drive, or can drive.

Transit gets you from point A to point B.

We need transportation solutions that gets you... and the rest of us... from point A to point Z, and any destinations we chose in between, on our chosen schedule.

That involves roads and automobiles.

We should build the real choices of when and where we go into our transportation plans.

Opening up choices for when and where to go, expanding opportunities for employment, retail, entertainment is the real economic driver for Hillsborough County.

You get to choose when and where to go.  Who can be against that?

Otherwise, you don't really have a choice, do you?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Let's Correct the Record about County Road Funding

Hillsborough County Commission is currently in their budget process for FY2015.  It is very clear  that Hillsborough County has a critical County road funding gap. From the recommended FY2015 budget for Hillsborough County, county road funding is a mere $6.5 million - for a county that has 1.3 million residents. That's $5 a year per resident. That's a problem.
FY2015 Hillsborough County Transportation budget
Click to enlarge
We're still perplexed how a one-time amount of $47 million highlighted in yellow for next year pops up from a funding source called "Undetermined". And the undetermined funding source is being spent in 2016 under "Construction". What is this?  Where's this money coming from and what is it paying for? Does it have anything to do with roads?

As stated before, there is no CIT tax dollars available for roads.  Most of our county transportation funding is sourced from our gas taxes, which may continue declining with more fuel efficient vehicles and vehicles fueled by other fuel sources such as natural gas, electric, hybrids, etc.

The commissioners know we have road funding issue. When I spoke to Commissioner Sharpe back in 2010 when he was pushing for the rail tax referendum, he knew there was no CIT for roads and stated then his concern about no funding for our roads. That was four years ago. What has been done since then to resolve our road funding gap? Nothing. Why? 

Our county budget and revenue has been going up but our road money has been going down. Perhaps some of the "gaming/casino" discretionary revenue should be directed to a higher priority of roads. Who is holding our road funding hostage?  

We've got champions for more transit on the county commission but where's the champions for our roads that 98% of use everyday? The public and taxpayers deserve an answer and a resolution to this problem.

I attended the Hillsborough County Commission meeting Thursday, September 4 and made a public comment about the lack of county road funding.  Go to the HTV video link for the September 4 meeting to find my comment starting at about 36:25 but below is basically what I said:
The Federal Highway Administration just released a Press Release stating that vehicle miles travelled has increased back to what was seen in 2008 prior to the recession. Americans are back driving again. They stated we must invest in our highways to bear the growing volumes of traffic. It is estimated that 5-600 thousand new residents may move to Hillsborough County over the next 25 years. They will probably move to where the last 600 thousand in the county moved to – in the county but not in downtown towers. Roads are our county's biggest asset. Our roads must be maintained, they must be improved and we must build new roads, especially if all those new residents move here. However, Hillsborough County has a critical road funding gap. Our roads have been neglected for years as approved road projects were shelved due to lack of funding. This cannot continue. FY2015 budget at $4B is approaching levels before the recession forced cuts and our tax revenues are inching up. Yet our road budget for a county of almost 1.3 million people is a mere $6.5 million for 2015. This lack of road funding needs some resolution NOW. You are in the budget process today and road funding needs to be a priority for FY2015. This issue cannot wait. It cannot wait to be bundled in with some proposed future referendum that may or may not ever happen. County road funding cannot wait on the Policy Leadership Group. There are road projects that were approved – they need funding. Our roads should not be held hostage for other transportation or transit projects some may be attempting to pursue for the future. HART, our local transit agency, does not have the immediate critical funding gap today that roads do. 98% of us use our roads everyday. Maintaining our roads is a major responsibility of local government. Our 2015 budget and our current CAFR needs to be scrutinized.and this commission needs to begin addressing our road funding gap now.
As I walked back to my seat, Commissioner Sharpe (who is the chairman of our BOCC and chairman of our MPO) made this statement which is at 39:03 of the video:
At the MPO meeting yesterday the Board approved a lot of changes to our prioritized roads and it's good to know we have $1.4 billion dedicated to road projects over the next four years, five years.
First of all, was that statement appropriate? I or anyone else had no opportunity to rebut it or question it, though some of the other County Commissioners could have corrected Sharpe's false statement.

What MPO list was Commissioner Sharpe speaking about? I found the transcript of the Tuesday MPO meeting, which Sharpe chairs. (Very interesting meeting transcript worth reading in its entirety). The $1.4 billion list Sharpe was talking about is the MPO's Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  The September 2 meeting was to approve the updated TIP for 2015-2019. The TIP document can be found on the MPO website here.

What is the TIP? It is defined in the document as:
The primary 5-year spending plan of state and federal revenues anticipated to be allocated to the urban area as well as major transportation projects of ALL types (emphasis mine).
It is required that the federally mandated MPO's (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) update these documents annually as part of their certification process to ensure continued federal funding of transportation projects in Hillsborough County. MPO coordinates with a number of other organizations to complete this list.
Other organizations MPO coordinates with
 to complete TIP
But what is actually in this $1.4 billion list? Lots of transportation projects including for the Port Authority, for the Airport Authority including the huge expansion being done at TIA as well as projects for the 3 other general purpose airports and HART transit projects. There are numerous projects for sidewalks, safety improvements and for trails.  Those projects have NOTHING to do with improving our roads to help reduce congestion.

From the transcript of the September 2 MPO meeting:
  • Page 9 - "WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING THIS YEAR A LOT OF ADDITIONS TO THE PRIORITY LIST BECAUSE OF THE DISCUSSIONS AND THOSE COORDINATION ACTIVITIES WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, SO WE ARE RECOGNIZING THAT WALK/BIKE SAFETY IS A TOP PRIORITY (emphasis mine)."
  • Page 11 - "THE WESTSHORE MULTIMODAL CENTER, WHICH YOU'LL HEAR ABOUT LATER ON THE AGENDA, IS ANOTHER REGIONAL PRIORITY THAT WAS
  • ADDED AS WELL AS THAT TRANSIT CONNECTION THAT WOULD GO FROM THE WESTSHORE MULTIMODAL CENTER UP TO THE TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.  ON THE MAJOR REGIONAL TRAILS PROJECT WE'VE KIND OF REORGANIZED THOSE FIRST TWO, THE UPPER TAMPA BAY TRAIL AND THE SOUTH TAMPA GREENWAY (emphasis mine)."
  • Page 11 - "THE ONE CAPACITY PROJECT THAT WE'RE RECOMMENDING ADDING TO THE LIST IS U.S. 92 FROM U.S. 301 TO 579, SO THIS IS RIGHT AROUND THAT I-4/I-75 INTERCHANGE AREA IN SEFFNER (emphasis mine).
We  note our previous post that the Westshore Multi-Modal Center is NOT yet funded and many other projects must be completed first. The MPO adds a transit connection to a multi-modal center that's not funded and one road capacity project and states that walk/bike safety is their top priority. 

The MPO, as rail proponents, included in the MPO's priority list projects that would need addition funding, rail from the airport to Westshore. Why? Does that project help anyone in Hillsborough County get from where they live to where they work? 
Rail Project added to MPO's TIP that needs additional funding
Click to enlarge
Commissioner Sharpe, Chair of the MPO, then asked at the MPO meeting what the total amount of money was being spent on the existing priorities already funded. The response on Page 13 of the meeting transcript:
>>WALLY BLAIN: IT IS A LARGE NUMBER.I HAVE THIS GRAPHIC.THIS IS WHAT'S CURRENTLY -- ON THIS GRAPHIC HERE, THIS IS WHAT'S CURRENTLY IN THE 2014/2015 TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM, SO IT'S ABOUT $1.4 BILLION OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS, BUT THAT INCLUDES A LOT OF MONEY THAT SPECIFICALLY GOES FOR THE SUPPORT -- YOU CAN SEE IT THERE -- UNDER THE PORTS, AIRPORTS, AND RAIL.WE HAVE A MAJOR AIRPORT AND A MAJOR PORT FACILITY AS WELL, SO YOU CAN SEE THAT MONEY IS GOING TO THOSE AS WELL, SO ABOUT $1.4 BILLION IN TOTAL FOR OUR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM IS BEING SPENT OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.>>MARK SHARPE: OKAY.SO ABOUT 1.4 BILLION OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?>>WALLY BLAIN: MM-HMM.>>MARK SHARPE: EXCELLENT.
The thimble sized $6.5 million of County funded projects that are listed in the FY2015 budget, and funded almost totally by our local gas tax, are in the TIP:
  • $5.2 million for repaving/resurfacing
  • $400K for Bridge work
  • $250K for paved shoulders/bike lanes
  • $550K for sidewalk safety/ADA improvement
The road improvement projects in the TIP that will help address congestion are for state roads and interstate highways NOT County roads. While the State is doing its job to fund our roads, the County is not. In addition, a large portion of the projects in the TIP are not for roads and have nothing to do with roads. Many of the projects in the TIP for 2015 are part of the airport expansion.

The truth is and to correct the record - Hillsborough County does NOT have $1.4 billion dedicated to roads. It was disingenuous for Commissioner Sharpe to state that directly after my public comment.

Commissioner Sharpe signed off on the TIP as chairman of the MPO. Did he know what he signed?  
Commissioner Sharpe signed TIP
The MPO's TIP is a comprehensive list of projects across the spectrum of our local transportation system for the next four to five years. It is not a $1.4 billion list of projects dedicated to roads. 

We'll report and let you decide whether Commissioner Sharpe felt compelled to make his statement directly after I spoke to discredit my public comment about the lack of County road funding.

However, the record needs to be corrected because the public deserves the Truth!