Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Circle of Money Helps Stack the Deck

As we posted here, Hillsborough County Commissioners have handed Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) no bid contracts totaling almost $900K of taxpayer dollars to write our transportation plan.



It's a cozy relationship between those colluding and coordinating to push rail referendums in Tampa Bay. 

The Tampa Bay rail cartel is led by the Tampa Bay Partnership (TBP). Many of their corporate investors are also the largest donors to the pro rail PAC Friends of Greenlight and also to the pro rail PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010.

Tampa Bay Partnership developed "their" Transportation vision. TBP's 20/30/40 vision statement states - by 2040 we'll have 60 miles of rail, 60 miles of dedicated lane Bus Rapid Transit and a train going over the Howard Frankland bridge. 

Who helped TBP develop "their" transportation vision plan? Their rail cartel partners -  including Parsons Brinckerhoff....
TBP's partners who helped develop vision plan (click to enlarge)

Conveniently missing are costs associated with TBP's transportation vision. However, they do state that by 2020 "we" will have "secured all the long term solutions to funding, financing, building and operating the regional transit projects identified in the 20/30/40 vision (emphasis mine)."  

Who's the "we"? What happens if Greenlight is defeated next week, which is very likely? What happens when there's no federal funds available, as the AECom study reported, to pay for such projects? 

What about our county roads that have the critical funding gap?

How can a transportation vision plan with no cost estimates secure all of it's funding?  

Sounds like what we heard at last weeks Transportation Policy Leadership Group meeting - 
Pass The Referendum First To Find out What's in It?  

Parsons Brinckerhoff is very skillful in using their political prowess and resources to build a plan that benefits them.

With Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), it's a circle of money:
  • PB is an investor of the rail cartel leader Tampa Bay Partnership (TBP)
  • PB helped TBP develop "their" transportation vision
  • PB contributed $50K to pro rail Greenlight Pinellas
  • PB contributed to county commission campaigns
  • PB contributed $40K to pro rail Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010
  • Former Executive Director of TBARTA (who also helped develop TBP's transportation vision), Bob Clifford, went to work for PB in Tampa this past June
  • PB creates the cause and then they (and the rest of the deep pocketed rail cartel) can contribute tens of thousands of dollars to the advocacy of the cause they created.
PB circle of money
Now the Parsons Brinckerhoff mercenary force has been called in to lead the transit charge in Hillsborough County. Handed $900K of Hillsborough county tax dollars via no-bid contracts PB will write our transportation plan. How comforting is that?

It appears "stacking the deck" to force another huge comprehensive, long term sales tax referendum for another rail boondoggle has begun.  

Will PB write a plan that looks like the Tampa Bay Partnership transportation vision they helped develop?

We already voted down a costly 30 year comprehensive sales tax for rail in 2010.

Every survey taken since then states roads and bridges are our top transportation priorities.

Innovation in transportation is quickly emerging and that innovation is not based on 19th century rail technology. 

We should be looking at what we can successfully fund and implement in the next 10 years - not forcing taxpayers to pay billions for costly solutions that may become irrelevant, that rely on federal debt dollars that may not exist in the future and probably will never be built.

Taxpayers in Hillsborough should be very concerned.

You can stop the GreenLight Train Wreck



Tuesday those of you who have not yet voted will go to the polls and vote on some very important races and issues.

None is more important than the Pinellas County Sales Tax referendum question. It is the last item ON THE BACK of the Ballot

It Reads like this:
Levy of Countywide One Percent Sales Surtax to Fund Greenlight Pinellas Plan for Public Transit.
Summary: Shall the improvement, construction, operation, maintenance and financing of public transit benefiting Pinellas County, including an expanded bus system with bus rapid transit, increased frequency and extended hours, local passenger rail and regional connections be funded by levying a one percent sales surtax from January 1, 2016 until repealed, with the proceeds deposited in a dedicated trust fund?
 
        ______   YES, for the 1% sales surtax 


   
      __X__    NO, against the 1% sales surtax

If you vote yes you put an additional $100 Million annually into the PSTA coffers.

Over the last few months the PSTA administration has been investigated for electioneering, misused federal homeland security funds, lied to the public and spread misleading information about the train they want to build and its intended purpose.

They have stone walled public records requests, refused to answer direct questions and berated those who would question their actions and motives.

Just over 30 people have donated almost all of the $1 million raised to support the passage of this tax. They all expect to get their money back and then some, and the tactics of the current PSTA Administration and complete lack of oversight by the Board of Directors makes it a real good bet.

This sales tax referendum was never about public transportation, although I believe that there are some on the PSTA Board that still believe it is. It was always about a train that requires property and right of way acquisition for track and stations and the redevelopment around the stations and the rail line.

The nature of PSTA and its leadership can be seen in the e-mails unearthed by News Channel 10's Mike Deeson.  News Channel 10 PSTA E-MAILS

The inability of the Board to control the PSTA Administration is evident the actions of its CEO.

If he is not concerned about misusing and directing his staff to misuse federal funds why would we expect anything less when the sales tax dollars start rolling in?

Don't pay more for virtually everything you buy so the PSTA can repay the political cronies that supported GreenLight and waste the money on a train that does not serve those who actually use public transportation.

Don't put this County in to debt for up to 90 years that you as a citizen cannot control and those who represent you won't control. 

Right now you are in the driver's seat.  You can stop this train wreck before it happens.

You can vote NO

If GreenLight passes, Pinellas County does not own a train, a train will ultimately own Pinellas County.

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, October 28, 2014

Tricklin' down

"Trickle-down economics" and the "trickle-down theory" are terms in United States politics to refer to the idea that tax breaks or other economic benefits provided to businesses and upper income levels will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole.

So says Wikipedia.
A report by Ernst & Young projected that the GreenLight Pinellas transportation projects would create more than 67,000 jobs over 30 years, with 48,500 jobs in the construction industry. According to the same report, about $4.2 billion would be pumped into the county’s economy and will offer a return of $2.50 for every dollar spent.
So says  the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
The new proposed transit network is expected to generate positive economic activity, returning approximately $4.00 for every $1.00 invested in public transportation.
So says Greenlight Pinellas.

Hillsborough County PLG Value Proposition

Every $1 billion invested in public transportation capital and operations creates and supports an average of 36,000 jobs.

These 36,000 jobs result in roughly $3.6 billion in business sales and generate nearly $500 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

76 percent of public funding for transit is spent creating and supporting hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs.
For every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 is generated in economic returns.
Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation can return up to $30 million in business sales alone.  
So says Hillsborough County Transportation and Policy Leadership Group.

That's a lot of trickling coming down.

Most of the jobs numbers cited above are very misleading.  "20,000 jobs will be created" was a common statement during the Florida HSR debates.  That was false.  It was 20,000 job-years, as in one job for one year, not total long term jobs, with a peak short term employment of 8,000 jobs during heavy construction.  The long term jobs for HSR operations and business was about 1,000, or a fraction of the overall jobs cited. That same flawed logic is applied in the cases above as well.

Meanwhile, recall Hillary, who recently said
“Don’t let anybody tell you . . . that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”
Don't forget about President Obama's nearly $1T 2009 stimulus spending bill. Four years later we still had greater than 8% unemployment, and historically below average GDP growth averaging 2.4%.  We're still paying for that debt, and will be forever.

I'll defer defending trickle down theory and exposing these "value propositions" for another day.

But either you believe in it, or you don't.

Or you believe trickle down only when its convenient to believe in trickle down.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Millennials and their future

Millennials are under-employed, have tough job prospects, burdened with debt, living at home with Mom and Dad at high rates, and they will be asked to pay our share of the public debt. Millennials are challenged to earn money for cars, homes or much of anything else except a cool phone and an occasional tattoo.

Otherwise, we're repeatedly told millennials are our future.  Perhaps they are, but they are facing some pretty strong headwinds to build their own future.

Recently, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported  Millennials are moving to Tampa, but more are moving to Texas.
The Tampa Bay metro region is near the bottom of the pack of Sunbelt cities that've grown their college-educated Millennial population — but it did beat out Charlotte, N.C.
Think tank City Observatory released a report this week with data on how the nation's 51 largest metros are faring in terms of attracting a young, educated workforce. Between 2000 and 2012, the population of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree in Tampa Bay grew nearly 41 percent, from 74,341 to 104,532.
It's interesting to note that with Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas is widely recognized for promoting the best business environment in the country, as did the TBBJ.  It is also interesting that those municipalities, along with Nashville, are pretty much the prototypes of suburban dispersion, and not the urban dream often cited for millennials desires.  Texas and Tennessee are low tax low regulation states, and each of the cities is often cited as a top job creator in the current economy. Perhaps that has something to do with it. None of those cities currently has a focus on transit as much as Charlotte, which Tampa beats as far as attracting millennials.

This is consistent with the recent Census data, according to Trulia:
The punchline: millennial population growth in 2012-2013 in big, dense cities was outpaced by big-city suburbs and lower-density cities and even by lower-density suburbs and smaller cities.
Trulia goes on to say nine of the 10 metros with the fastest millennial population growth were in the South and West.

A study dubbed "The Young and the Restless and the Nation's Cities," released Monday by the new think tank City Observatory, shows that more 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor's degree or higher level of education are moving to close-in neighborhoods of large metro areas.
"This migration is fueling economic growth and urban revitalization," the study says. We can see it in downtown Tampa and Channelside, in downtown St. Petersburg and a bit so far in Clearwater.
The City Observatory report indicates the "Young and Restless in Close-In Neighborhoods" (basically downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg), grew from 4,673 in 2000, to 7,794 in 2010, or an increase of 3,121.  During the same time, Hillsborough County grew from 998,948 to 1,229,224, or an increase of 230,276.

227,155 more people moved into areas outside downtown.  Do you think they had a greater economic impact than 3,121 that moved into downtown, regardless of age?

Trigaux seems to have missed that point.

Who is City Observatory?
We’re studying where in cities new jobs are being created and how the nation’s urban cores are doing in generating economic activity.
If you're not in the cities, do you exist for job creation or economic activity?

They launched their site on October 14, 2014.  They've been thinking and tanking all of 6 days when TBBJ and the Times Robert Trigaux swallowed the hook.  City Observatory are "unabashedly pro-city".

Demographer Wendel Cox has run the numbers and demonstrated that most millenials are moving into the suburbs faster than the urban core.
There is no question that the millennial population has risen in urban cores in recent years. Yet the growth in the younger population in urban cores masks far larger increases in the same population group in other parts of major metropolitan areas and in the nation in general.

20 - 29 Age group share in major metropolitan areas
Cox later states
[M]illennials, long said to hate suburbs, have embraced dispersion. The more recently built suburban areas saw their share of 20-29s rise from 20.6 percent to 24.4, an 18 percent gain. A smaller gain was registered in exurban areas, where the share of 20-29s rose from 13.2 percent to 14.3 percent; an 8 percent share gains (Figure 2).
The net effect from 2000 and 2010: a full five percent more of all 20-29s in major metropolitan areas lived in the later suburban and exurban areas, while 5 percent fewer lived in the urban cores and earlier suburbs. The later suburbs and exurbs added 1,500,000 more 20-29s than the urban core and earlier suburbs.
So much for downtown cheerleading.  

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe most recently brought forward his concern for millennials in the Transportation Policy Leadership (PLG) on October 21. From the transcript:
>>MARK SHARPE: I THINK A LOT OF
HEADS WERE NODDING WHEN YOU
DISCUSSED NOT DICTATING THE TYPE
-- THE SPECIFIC ALIGNMENT OR THE
MODE.
THAT'S CORRECT.
LET ME ASK YOU, YOU DID LIST A
LOT OF GROUPS THAT YOU'RE GOING
TO BE REACHING TO, VERY DETAILED
TO BE REACHING TO, VERY
DETAILED.
WHAT ABOUT YOUNG -- THE
WORKFORCE, THE FUTURE WORKFORCE?
YOU KNOW, I DON'T WANT TO USE --
I'M GOING TO USE THE WORD, THE
MILLENNIALS THAT EVERYONE'S
TALKING ABOUT.
WE HAD A LIST HERE.

I THINK WE LEFT OUT VEGANS.
>>MIKE MERRILL: HEY, LEAVE THE
VEGANS ALONE.
>>MARK SHARPE: I'M 75% ONE OF
THOSE.
SERIOUSLY, BLOOMBERG WAS
REPORTING SEVERAL DAYS AGO THAT
19% -- OR EXCUSE ME -- OF
19-YEAR-OLDERS, 30% DON'T HAVE A
DRIVER'S LICENSE.
NOW, AS WE'RE BUILDING A SYSTEM
AND WE'RE LOOKING OUT TOWARDS
THE FUTURE, ARE WE GOING TO BE
TALKING TO THE FUTURE?
DO YOU INTEND TO TALK TO THE
FUTURE WORKFORCE AND BRING THEM
INTO THE CONVERSATION?

>>KATHARINE EAGAN: THANK YOU,
COMMISSIONER.
I WILL ALLOW MARCO -- STAND UP,
MARCO.
NOT EVERYBODY KNOWS MARCO.
MARCO SANDUSKY IS THE MANAGER OF
COMPLIANCE AND PROGRAMS AT HART,
AND LAST WEDNESDAY, ACTUALLY,
HELD THE INAUGURAL MEETING FOR A
REGIONAL CHAPTER FOR YOUNG
PROFESSIONALS IN TRANSIT.
IT IS A NATIONWIDE ORGANIZATION,
AND THEY ARE TARGETING SPECIFIC
AND THEY ARE TARGETING
SPECIFICALLY MILLENNIALS, SO
THESE ARE THE FOLKS IN THAT
DEMOGRAPHIC VERY INTERESTED IN
TRANSPORTATION IN VARIOUS SHAPES
AND SIZES, SO WE'VE GOT A GREAT
OPPORTUNITY HERE.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW YOU'RE GOING
TO BE WORKING MORE -- SORRY.
BUT THIS IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF
HOW WE ARE GETTING IN CHARGE OF
THIS OUTREACH SO WE'VE GOT THESE
MILLENNIALSENING IN WAYS THAT
ARE BENEFICIAL FOR THEM.
I GUARANTEE THERE ARE A WHOLE
BUNCH OF OTHER THINGS LIKE THAT
LINED UP.
>>MARK SHARPE: AND YOU'RE ALSO,
THOUGH -- YOU'RE TALKING, THOUGH
THOUGH -- YOU'RE TALKING,
THOUGH, ABOUT BUILDING A SYSTEM.
THIS IS NOT EITHER/OR.
THERE SEEMS TO BE A DEBATE THAT
JOEL COCKEN AND RICHARD FLORIDA
THAT SAYS YOU'RE ONLY GOING TO
TAKE TRANSIT OR DRIVE A CAR,
WHICH SEEMS TO ME SILLY.
ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT A SYSTEM
WHERE PEOPLE HAVE OPTIONS AND
CHOICES AND CAN DECIDE, YOU KNOW
CHOICES AND CAN DECIDE, YOU
KNOW, TODAY I WANT TO DRIVE, BUT
TOMORROW I MIGHT BE GOING OUT
WITH FRIENDS AND IT'S JUST TOO
DIFFICULT TO FIND PARKING OR I'D
RATHER NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT
MY CAR?
IS THAT THE TYPE OF SYSTEM
YOU'RE BUILDING?
>> YES.
I MEAN, WE HAVE TO LOOK AT HOW
THE COMMUNITIES ARE GOING TO
GROW, WHERE ARE THEY GOING TO
GROW, AND WHAT ARE THE
EXPECTATIONS?
IF WE'RE LOOKING ABOUT WHAT
WE'RE DOING TODAY, THEN WE'RE
NOT DOING OUR JOB.
>>MARK SHARPE: AWESOME

I'm not sure if it's awesome or not to be a millennial, or to make them a core of our rationale for our transportation future.

Researchers and commentators define millennials as those born in the years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

In other words, those who are now mostly entering the workforce, early in their career, not yet in their prime earning years.

From an advertising demographic, millennials roughly fit in the 18 - 33 or so age group.

But the most valuable age group that advertisers target are the 25 - 54 age group.

Some overlap, but not much. Why do advertisers focus so much on the 25-54 age group?  That's the age range when people marry, raise children, expand their spending, move up the career ladder, and are in their prime earning years.  They have more income, and therefore, more money to spend.

The 25 - 54 age group are the biggest demographic driving our economy.

Millenials, on the other hand, are early in their career, unfortunately often have poorer job prospects in the current economy, are commonly heavily burdened in college debt (average $30,000), and delaying marriage and family formation. They have many challenges inhibiting their progress up the economic ladder, and they certainly are not out of the woods.

For example, millennials do want to purchase homes, but don't have the money to come up with the down payment.
So say you’re this average Millennial and you’ve got $30,000 in loans, on which you pay $500 a month at 5 percent interest. It’ll take about five years to pay your loans off. With incomes for graduating college students at $45,000 a year—and honestly, I think that number is a bit generous, National Association of Colleges and Employers--that’s nearly a quarter of your take-home pay.

That’s not to say you’re necessarily struggling, but you’re starting to look at your early 30s as the first available opportunity to buy a home.

And then there's that 20 percent down marker that so many housing experts hold paramount:

“When buying a home today, it's critical to be conservative and to safeguard your purchase,” advises Trulia real estate expert Michael Corbett in the news release. “Forget the 'no money down,' or the 5 and 10 percent down payment purchases. Many banks will be hesitant to give you a mortgage otherwise, and a 20 percent down payment gives you some equity right from the start and usually gets you a lower interest rate. Best rule of thumb: If you can't scrape together the 20 percent, then you probably can't really afford to buy just yet.”

That’s all well and good, but home ownership still holds a solid piece of the Millennial heart. We want to own just as much as our parents did.
Home ownership has historically been one of the key drivers in our economy. Millennials are having to wait to buy that home.

Currently just 26% of millennials — those between age 18 and 33 — are married. At the same age, 36% of GenX and 48% of the Baby Boomers were married. And 69% of millennials say they want to get married, but the lack of jobs is holding them back.

AP has reported almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working.  There are many implications, starting with those young people unable to get in the workforce, start a career and build skills.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported (PDF)  around 44 percent of recent college graduates (ages 22–27) were underemployed in 2012—meaning they had jobs that didn’t require a college degree.

Yet, more young adults are living at home, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year (subscription required).
In a report on the status of families, the Census Bureau on Tuesday said 13.6% of Americans ages 25 to 34 were living with their parents in 2012, up slightly from 13.4% in 2011. Though the trend began before the recession, it accelerated sharply during the downturn. In the early 2000s, about 10% of people in this age group lived at home.

The figures are the latest evidence of the recession's continuing impact on young Americans, who are finding it harder to land jobs and take on the costs of setting up their own homes.
Not to mention the huge national debt overhang the millennials and upcoming generations will have to deal with, leaving them an even harder hill to climb than they would otherwise with our recent economy.

Sure, a few millennials have dramatically driven the new tech economy, such as Facebook and Twitter.  But what are the odds of more of those for us in Tampa Bay?  Even then, what does it really portend?
In contrast celebrated social media firms, overwhelmingly concentrated close to the venture capital spigot, are both geographically constrained and employ shockingly few workers. The darlings of the bubblicious tech boom — Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn and Google — employ roughly 58,000 people combined; in contrast the old-line tech firm Intel employ 85,000 people, half in the U.S., while ExxonMobil provides livelihoods to 80,000.

In term of profits, the supposed holy grail of business, it’s not even close. In Exxon’s disappointing last quarter it racked up $6.9 billion. By contrast Google earned $3.1 billion, while Facebook made $333 million and LinkedIn $3.7 million. Yet what the new tech oligarchs lack on the balance sheet, they seem to make up for with a combination of presumed potential and PR panache.
The old established businesses still have something going for them too, even for millennials.

Commissioner Sharpe seems to be weighing in on other reports that indicate millennials have less interest in owning cars.
A large majority of Millennials want access to better transit options and the ability to be less reliant on a car, according to a new survey of Millennials in 10 major U.S. cities, released today by The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America. More than half (54%) of Millennials surveyed say they would consider moving to another city if it had more and better options for getting around, and 66% say that access to high quality transportation is one of the top three criteria they would weight when deciding where to live.
Perhaps we didn't need to bail out General Motors if we don't need as many cars in the future.

As the article stated, "Saving money is a key driver for many Millennials looking for more public transportation options, particularly among low-income respondents."

In other words, it's the economy stupid. (PDF)  People drive less, and are less able to afford cars, due to the poor economy.  Millennials included.

Most affected have been men, of all age groups.

Most men are driving less

Given the challenges we've outlined above, millennials have to save money... and earn more money than they currently are earning.  If they had more earning potential, they'd have more money to spend and contribute much more to the overall economy... and their future.

Perhaps the driving boom is over, or perhaps it will be augmented by autonomous vehicles, which may increase travel more.  There are many changes occurring now or in progress from online shopping, increasing telecommuting, increase in social network technologies,  to car sharing that may affect miles traveled and car ownership.  We really don't know where all this will end.  But many of the same affects will also affect public transit options.

Millennials will be challenged to move up into the middle-class and be the big driver of the economy that we all want if they continue to be underemployed or not employed at all.  

Millenials and the rest of use we will all be better served if we improve their economic and employment prospects rather than simplifying the solution as more transit.

Then they may want to help support the economy and buy a few more cars.

GETTING THE WORD OUT ABOUT THE GREENLIGHT SALES TAX - You Can Help



A majority of people when they hear the facts about GreenLight decide that it is a bad deal for Pinellas County and indicate they will vote NO.

The problem is the only serious effort to get the facts out is taking place right here where you're reading... Social Media.

Big news organizations are reluctant to go against powerful advertisers like the Board of Realtors, and the Chamber of Commerce with all their members. Big media needs the ad revenue.

Quite frankly No Tax for Tracks is out gunned in the money department by several folds.

The Polls consistently tell the story. As pollsters ask more detailed questions about the sales tax increase, reluctance turns in to opposition.

So here is what you can do.

Up there in the picture are three icons that are the key to getting the word out.

Somewhere on every Blog page and on-line newspaper article are a series of boxes with those ICONs. If you click the one that looks like an envelope you can mail the post your reading to up to five e-mail addresses. So every time you see something about the sales tax that you think is good information, click the e-mail envelope and send it to 5 friends.

You can click the envelope and send to as many groups of 5 as you want.

While you're at it, ask your e-mail contacts to forward the post to five of their friends. That will spread the word.

Here are some reports and Posts you may want to send to your friends:

Use Facebook and Twitter to like Posts you think are relevant and let your friends see them.

Give it a try.

Check out my video Post GreenLight - It's a Bad Law . If you agree with my thinking, e-mail the post to everyone in your contact list and ask them to do the same.

Help save this County from the biggest tax grab boondoggle in Pinellas County History.

Vote NO on the sales tax referendum

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, October 24, 2014

GreenLight Pinellas - An Analysis of Ordinance 13- 34



In the November 4, 2014 election Sales Tax Referendum you are NOT voting directly on the GreenLight Plan.

This is the language you will see on the Ballot:
Levy of Countywide One Percent Sales Surtax to Fund Greenlight Pinellas Plan for Public Transit.
Summary: Shall the improvement, construction, operation, maintenance and financing of public transit benefiting Pinellas County, including an expanded bus system with bus rapid transit, increased frequency and extended hours, local passenger rail and regional connections be funded by levying a one percent sales surtax from January 1, 2016 until repealed, with the proceeds deposited in a dedicated trust fund? 
___ YES, for the 1% sales surtax 
___ NO, against the 1% sales surtax 

Read that title very carefully. You are voting to make Ordinance 13- 34 a law. This is an important distinction, because Ordinance 13- 34 will become a law if the referendum succeeds, but the GreenLight Plan does not.

Here is a link to the actual Ordinance (Law) that you are being asked to approve in the sales Tax Referendum: Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance

You can also read my review of the Pinellas County/PSTA Interlocal Agreemet 
which  activates if the Sales Tax Ordinance passes.
 ORDINANCE  NO. 13- 34 
AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF PINELLAS COUNTY LEVYING THE CHARTER COUNTY AND EGIONALTRANSPORTATION SYSTEM SURTAX SUBJECT TO ELECTOR APPROVALAT A RATE OF ONE PERCENT; ESTABLISHING THE EFFECTIVE DATE OFTHE SURTAX; PROVIDING FOR ADMINISTRATION, COLLECTION, ANDENFORCEMENT OF THE SURTAX; PROVIDING FOR THE DISTRIBUTION, USE, AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF SURTAX PROCEEDS; CALLING FOR A REFERENDUM ELECTION FOR APPROVAL OF IMPOSITION OF THE SURTAX; PROVIDING A BALLOT TITLE AND SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED REFERENDUM QUESTION; PROVIDING FOR NOTICE OF THE REFERENDUM ELECTION; PROVIDING FOR NOTICE TO BE GIVEN TO THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE; PROVIDING FOR INCLUSION IN THE PINELLAS COUNTY CODE; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY; PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.

The paragraph presented above in its format from Ordinance No 13- 34 is called the Preamble and appears at the top of the Ordinance document. The Preamble describes in legally acceptable terms what is in the Ordinance that follows.

Here is a Breakdown:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF PINELLAS COUNTY LEVYING THE CHARTER COUNTY AND REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM SURTAX SUBJECT TO ELECTOR APPROVAL AT A RATE OF ONE PERCENT;
This Section establishes the Board of County Commissioners legal authority to levy the sales tax increase.

ESTABLISHING THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE SURTAX;
This section establishes the County Board of Commissioners ability to set the effective date of the tax.

PROVIDING FOR ADMINISTRATION, COLLECTION, AND ENFORCEMENT OF THE SURTAX;
This section establishes the legal grounds for the administration and collection of the sales tax.

PROVIDING FOR THE DISTRIBUTION, USE, AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF SURTAX PROCEEDS;
This Section sets up the overall responsibility for management of the proceeds of the sales tax.

CALLING FOR A REFERENDUM ELECTION FOR APPROVAL OF IMPOSITION OF THE SURTAX;
This section sets up the referendum mechanism and calls for a public vote.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pass The Referendum First To Find out What's in It?

The two year push for a 2016 transportation referendum officially took a leap forward Tuesday with the Hillsborough County Policy Leadership Group doling out $900K of our tax dollars to hire a mercenary force to engage in the next phase.

At Tuesday's Policy Leadership Group meeting, County Administrator Mike Merrill informed the county commissioners and other PLG members that Hillsborough County is handing Parsons Brinckherhoff (PB) a $900K no-bid contract. The almost million dollars of taxpayer monies will be paid to PB for some technical analysis regarding the laundry list of $12-$15 Billion transportation projects listed on the TED website, performing public engagement and outreach and then writing our county's transportation plan

After spending 2.5 years of county time, county effort and county resources on this very issue, we will now outsource, at a cost of almost a million taxpayer dollars, our transportation plan to special interest Parsons Brinckerhoff. PB is a well-known mercenary force for their political prowess to push local ballot initiatives through the political system. 
Transportation Plan outsourced to Parsons Brinckerhoff via
a no-bid contract (click to enlarge)
PB can then give back to the cause they helped create. By donating tens of thousands of dollars to the private advocacy campaigns, like the $50K they gave to Greenlight Pinellas, helps ensure PB gets another contract at taxpayer expense and the mercenary force continues.

While stating the county doesn't have a dime to spare in our budget, Merrill magically found $500K for transportation planning to include in the FY2015 budget. Those county dollars will be handed to PB. However, the PLG still needs another $400K to pay PB for the contract work awarded them. Did the county sign, seal and deliver the PB contract without having the funds to pay for it? 

Apparently, Merrill will be now be knocking on the door of the MPO, which conveniently was handed a $600K grant for their federally mandated Long Range Transportation Planning from FDOT at last weeks October 15 BOCC meeting.
BOCC appropriates $600K FDOT LRTP grant to MPO 
We also learned at the PLG meeting Tuesday that Merrill has already been presenting to groups and organizations that a "something for everyone" transportation plan is coming.  We don't know what the plan is, we don't know what's in it and we don't know what it will cost. But no worries, rest assured - everyone will love it because "it" will have something for them.  Sound eerily familiar - like our CIT tax?

So how will we pay for this "something for everyone" non-plan plan? No worries there either. Merrill is telling those organizations and groups to "prepare" for a 2016 sales tax referendum.  When did the county commissioners give Merrill the authority to do such presentations?  Was there a discussion among the county commissioners and a vote giving Merrill all this authority that we missed? If the county commissioners want this information presented now, why aren't they doing it?

The Tribune covered the PLG meeting by reporting that we're getting another comprehensive rail referendum similar to what was defeated in 2010.
County Administrator Mike Merrill has already been meeting with business groups and community service organizations to discuss the policy group’s preliminary plans. These include road, bridge and trail projects; a doubling of the HART bus system; and a light rail line from Westshore to downtown Tampa.

Voters will be asked to approve a 1 cent sales tax increase in 2016 for the work to go forward.

Merrill estimated he’s made 15 speaking appearances, “but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are 200 more that need to be done.” 
Merrill said once he explains the county’s finances, and why more money is not available for needed transportation improvements, listeners have been more willing to back a comprehensive plan that would likely include a tax increase.
County leaders have made public engagement a priority. A number of county leaders blame the failure of the 2010 transportation tax referendum on a lack of communication with residents.
How does a train from Westshore to downtown Tampa help move people in Hillsborough County from where they live to where they work? Wasn't that the main purpose of this effort? Maybe the Westshore Alliance, the Tampa Chamber, the Downtown Partnership and the Tampa Bay Partnership, who continually insist we need this train, will pay for it. But why should Hillsborough County taxpayers?

While it appears Merrill is publicly presenting to others that this light rail is coming, he also stated at the PLG meeting Tuesday that the transportation plan or referendum may not include any specifics about mode of transportation. TBT picked up on that:
If Hillsborough County voters are asked in 2016 to approve an extra sales tax for transportation, the ballot question might not mention the words "light rail" — or any other specific mode of mass transit. 
In a move that sharply differs from the Greenlight Pinellas referendum, a Hillsborough plan that could be the backbone for a referendum here would refer only to "fixed guideways" — a term that includes bus rapid transit and all types of rail, including heavy, light or commuter.
BRT, Light rail, commuter rail and heavy rail are all very different services. They have very different cost structures and are used for very different purposes. 

We certainly hope that elected officials would not even think about hiding from voters and taxpayers exactly what a new tax will be used for. That invites waste, fraud, corruption and no accountability.

How can the county commissioners hide what a new tax will pay for? Financial impact information must now be included on all county referendums. Revenue generated from the tax and costs associated with what the tax is paying for must be included in the ballot language of the referendum. How can cost information be included in the ballot language of any referendum if it doesn't state what any new tax will be paying for?

 Haven't we heard that before?

"You just have to pass the referendum first to find out what's in it"...