Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Recycling - St. Pete and the Blue Measles

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

I am a big one for not reinventing the wheel so if you would like to read a very thoughtful review of the current status of the St. Pete recycling program click saintpetersblog: Janelle Irwin, Patience needed in recycling battle.

Since I don't have to deal with the issue personally, I prefer to take a bit more light hearted view.

First off, this is a major screw up by the Kriseman administration, but in their defense there is a good chance the equipment, trash cans and trucks, were already well on the way to being picked before the Kriseman team took office.

Since the Rays and Pier are the really big ticket items, spending a lot of time checking on some garbage trucks and trash containers probably seemed like a poor photo op and a waste of time.

As I have pointed out before; in government as in most everything else the devil is in the details and the Mayor and his team seems detail challenged.

If their go to guy, Mike Connors, had spent a little more time on recycling and a little less time getting the Pier torn down the Kriseman administration might be better off on a number of fronts.

For crying out loud these trucks are huge and there are probably garage apartments in Old Northeast with fewer cubic feet than one of these blue behemoths.

If you drive around town the blue cans are everywhere and they look like some form infestation or outbreak. Measles came to mind. Blue blots everywhere.

I have a couple of friends who live in Old Northeast and over some drinks with one couple, who have a lovely restored home in Old Northeast (alley trash pickup), after just a few comments I decided making jokes about all of this was just not a good idea.

I caught up with the truck pictured above and when I started taking pictures the driver quickly sped through the CVS parking lot and headed the wrong way down a one way street and out of view. I rested the attempt to follow and never saw the truck again. I am not sure but I think he may have picked up a blue Fiat 500 by mistake. (Just kidding about the Fiat)

Like most writers and reporters I took the obligatory drive through Old Northeast and Old Southeast down rows really expensive homes now fronted with big blue trash containers, some overflowing, some probably empty, some neatly nestled between two parked cars requiring the truck driver to dismount and move the can out where his very expensive truck can actually pick it up.

It kind of looked like the Clampetts and their entire community had relocated to Old Northeast.

Go ahead hum the tune...you know it.

Could it be that the Mayor, who lives on the "other" side of town is sending a not so subtle message to many of those who likely didn't vote for him?

Probably not. That would way to Chris Christie like (the bridge) and I don't think the Dream Team is that clever anyhow.

For now all of this should bring a smile to your face, unless of course you are one those million dollar home owners who have a big blue trash can setting in front of your well manicured yard.  

I hope Janelle Irwin doesn't find it too scary that she is the current voice of reason in my mind but she is spot on. All of this is going to take some time to sort out and stamping your feet and screaming like 2 year old won't speed up the process.

For now either drag the "damn can" out to the curb or opt out and throw your crap away like you have been.

And, if you happen live in Old Northeast or Old Southeast and decide to get one of those Fiats or Smart cars; first I would not get a blue one and second I would park it in the alley. It should be safe there.

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

GoHillsborough Flawed: Data Skewed?

Hillsborough County taxpayers paid Parsons Brinckerhoff a million bucks handed to them by the county via a no-bid contract, including handing over $300K of our tax dollars to PR inside lobbyist Beth Leytham to conduct what appears to be a flawed transportation public engagement effort. 

We received the packet of information that Parsons provided the Transportation Policy Leadership Group on June 11 to back up their proposal to put another 30 year $3.5 BILLION sales tax hike on the 2016 ballot. Parsons handed the packets to the county commissioners at that meeting so it appeared the commissioners had not even had a chance to review what was in it. We assume that County Administrator Mike Merrill provided some type of briefing or summary of the information to the commissioners prior to the meeting.

However, what should have occurred is that all the commissioners should have had the opportunity to actually read the information to then be able to ask some challenging questions about the information they received. They should not be simply relying on what Merrill tells them for all their advice. Merrill is not a policy maker and he should not be acting like one as if he is an unelected County Mayor. Commissioner Hagan read a lengthy scripted statement supporting the tax hike and Commissioner Miller stated we'll be "DOOMED" if we don't pass the huge tax hike. But apparently neither one of them had even read the information packet to know exactly what was in it. Sound eerily familiar.

So we started reading the packet and some of the data appeared a bit strange. The packet stated that both transit and roads were "relatively" equal in prioritization response. We decided to look at where the GoHillsborough workshops were held as that provides some good insight for who had the opportunity to actually participate in this effort. Here's what we found:

GoHillsborough workshops held: Tampa vs County

 

Hillsborough County's population is about 1.3 million while the city of Tampa's population is about 350K. GoHillsborough held their workshops disproportionately in the city of Tampa vs the county based on population. What GoHillsborough did was force anyone in the county to have to drive much further to even participate in the workshops held in the county.

Why were the workshops disproportionately held in the city of Tampa? Was this intentional? 

This is the data the county commissioners paid a million bucks for and are relying on to make decisions. Why aren't they asking these questions?

GoHillsborough's data looks skewed.

GoHillsborough looks flawed.

GoHillsborough 30 year $3.5 BILLION proposed sales tax hike looks flawed.

Former PSTA Board Chair 90% sure GreenLight defeat was a good thing

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

Wednesday's PSTA Board meeting was a typical right up to the very end.

The Board whizzed along Wednesday through the agenda and received a favorable budget report that estimates PSTA will be able to operate to nearly 2021 without dipping into reserves.

PSTA has done a good job of pulling some rabbits out of the hat but has used some estimates on fuel prices and property tax revenues that could be a bit volatile. The entire budget on paper looks pretty good.

More telling will be how the budget actually affects service, and that will become clear in the next few meetings as route changes and deletions begin to take shape.

All went along well until item number 12 on the Agenda which is simply Board Comments.

PSTA Board member Doug Bevis, Mayor of Oldsmar, was first up in this round robin of comments where most members resort to promoting some event in their community or thanking PSTA staffers for their efforts.

Mayor Bevis began by thanking the budget staff for their excellent work and then said, "I think it is a good thing GreenLight failed.' He went on to add, (Paraphrasing)"If Greenlight had not failed we would not have had the level of review we see in this budget and a leaner PSTA."

I was at the meeting and as he as speaking, I did a quick sweep of the dais and if looks could kill Oldsmar would be looking for a new Mayor.

The next couple of speakers tiptoed around Mayor Bevis's remarks doing the soft shoe that is typical of this section of the Agenda, then Commissioner Welch was up to bat.

Neither able nor capable of just letting it pass, Commissioner Welch said he could not agree completely with Mayor Bevis that the GreenLight defeat was a good thing but, "He was about 90% sure the Oldsmar Mayor was right."

What?......

Welch, who did everything to get the GreenLight referendum passed except lay his first born on the GreenLight alter is now 90% sure it was good that GreenLight was defeated?????

Remember Welch was the PSTA Board Chairman, who defended the ethics review during GreenLight, supported Brad Miller's bad judgment during the misuse of Federal funds debacle, lead the charge for a vote of confidence for Miller, constantly and vehemently pushing the GreenLight referendum and belittled those who opposed it.  

Now all of sudden 8 months later he is 90% sure it was a bad idea. Where was the great enlightening? It could not have been the vote because he was still up on the idea after GreenLight was mauled at the polls.

The unanswered question is: how many other people on the PSTA board really agree with Mayor Bevis but are afraid to speak out?

They booted Norm Roche when he didn't buy GreenLight.

Here in lies the problem with PSTA, HART and all of the "Taxing Authorities" that are set up and populated with a majority of elected officials. The problem is all of these people are politicians. These boards should be made up of a majority of citizens so the politics is second and the governance is first.

It does not take a rocket scientist to simply observe and see that this board does not really function as a governing board. It is politics first and functional governance second in virtually every case.

The evidence is pretty clear as the board snuggles up to its new consultants and members who may face elections begin to set the stage by distancing themselves from their failed attempt to take $130 Million a year from this County's economy for something the people did not want.

And then they wonder why we don't trust them.

As for me I am 100% sure GreenLight was a bad idea before the vote, after the vote and I will be forever. And it is a fact 62% of the voters agree. 

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Darden Rice looking to upgrade her political status


It really didn't come as much of a surprise that City Council member Darden Rice is throwing up a trial balloon in the 13th District Congressional race. That seat is currently held by David Jolly, who is considering a run for the Senate.

You can get some additional information in an article in the St. Petersburg Tribune by Christopher O'Donnell, St. Pete councilwoman Rice eyes David Jolly’s U.S. House seat.

Rice has always been politically ambitious and this would be a major leap should she decide to run.

Darden is smart, articulate and very politically savvy as her soaring rhetoric on City Council often shows. She is tenacious and has strongly held set of ideals and goals that have served her well right up to this moment.

There are some who would argue that Rice is not quite ready for the prime time of the US House of Representatives but I would strongly disagree. If you look carefully at her background she has spent the greater part of her life in public service and has navigated some very tough political waters.

She is a great consensus builder and can calm a political storm as well as anyone.

The other thing that Rice has going for her is she is not part of the privileged political class. Darden has had to work hard for everything she has accomplished. She is not afraid of failure or hard work.

There is nothing to indicate that that dedication would not continue with her to the US House.

In her run for City Council a lot was made of the amount of money she raised for her campaign, but I think you have to look past the dollars and look at the number of contributors who were willing to offer their support. There are a lot of people who trust and believe in Darden.

Darden and I don't always agree and every now and then she ends me an always pleasant e-mail reminding me where I may have gone astray. And I always appreciate them.

There is a new Facebook page Draft Darden where people are expressing their support.

Darden Rice would represent the 13th District well in Washington. I hope she gives the idea a lot of thought.

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

PSTA misses another opportunity for funding as a grant request disappears from the State budget

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want to Blog

In Friday's PSTA planning meeting the subject of the disappearing million-dollar PSTA State budget line item came up briefly. The response from the PSTA administration was "we will make an application to FDOT and get the money from them".

It is hard to tell if the decision to pass on a budget line item for a PSTA grant is just a State budget issue or a not so subtle message to the PSTA Board and Pinellas County.

It could just be that the people who actually control the way money flows in Tallahassee are sending a suggestion that it is time for the PSTA to clean up its house and replace the team that pushed all of the limits in the GreenLight debacle up to and including the misuse of Federal FEMA funds which ultimately had to be returned.

I am not sure why any State or Federal funding agency would want to get in bed with Brad Miller and a public board that condones his misuse of federal funds and then gives a vote of confidence to those who misused the money.

The PSTA Administration cited State Senator Jack Latvala as the likely emissary to help acquire the FDOT funds. The good Senator might want to think twice before he hitches his star to an organization that views outright misuse of funds as "bad judgment".

There is no doubt that public transportation in Pinellas County is a major problem. But the real problem at PSTA is how it is being run. It may be time for a call to the governor's office and full scale complete review of PSTA and its Board.

These public transportation boards made up of elected officials sound good on the surface, but in reality all they seem to do is centralize everything bad about elected officials and their in ability to really represent the citizens.

FDOT should be cautious about turning over any funds to PSTA unless there will be extensive follow-up on how they are used.

Probably the most difficult thing to understand is why the PSTA Board has not moved to replace CEO Brad Miller who was at the center of all of the shenanigans at PSTA.

Then again maybe it's really not too hard to understand at all.

E-mail Doc at: mailto:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Another 30 Year Sales Tax Increase? No Surprise, Nothing But Blue Skies....

Were there any surprises at the Transportation Policy Leadership Group (PLG) meeting?

No.


Another 30 year tax hike is totally unnecessary, especially after we experienced the CIT tax.

County Administrator Mike Merrill admitted they can plan well up to 5 years and only plan fairly well up to 10 years. HART's Transportation Development Plan is 10 years.Technology is emerging quickly and transportation and transit may look quite different in 10-15 years. The private sector, technology driven consumer to consumer economy, the sharing economy that benefits us all is fast emerging.  

So why tax us for 30 years for "stuff" they can't plan for?

Must be Nothing but Blue Skies.....From Now On....

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sign or Symbol the City of St. Pete may have a Flag problem

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

Janelle Irwin has an interesting Post in saintpetersblog: Larry Ahern has his panties in a bunch over gay pride trumping pro-life at City Hall.

You can read Janelle's Post, but the flap is over a request by a pro-life life group to fly the pro- life flag promoting their event 40 Days for Life. The issue, as the pro-life people point out, hinges on the Mayor's decision to fly the Gay Pride rainbow flag supporting the St. Pete Gay Pride event that is held every year here in St. Pete.

I'll leave the abortion argument to those dealing with it and the Gay Rights Flag/Pride thing to that camp for the moment.

Janelle's Post turns into a gay verses abortion rant which I don't quite understand, but I guess that's the point.

There is however a much bigger issue here and that is how the Mayor is dealing what probably seems to him a minor issue.

The Mayor's communication director Ben Kirby's comment on Facebook , "The City flies that flag because the event has a multi-million dollar impact on the city and “it’s the right thing to do”, once again shows the Kriseman administration's complete lack of maturity in dealing with these issues.

So the point is if I bring enough money into town I can get my flag raised over City Hall? 

Once the Mayor made the decision to put a special event flag over City Hall he opened a can of worms and now someone has kicked the can over.

I would point the Mayor to former Assistant City Attorney Mark Winn and suggest he ask Mr. Winn about the issue of "signs and symbols". Mark Winn, myself and a number of other staffers had a long running discussion (about 10 years as I recall) about the differences and the precedents involved.

Once the Mayor decided to fly the Gay Pride Flag he at the least set a precedent of some sort, and picking and choosing who can display their flag based on the economic benefit to the City or any other criteria may not be legal.

As to the Mayor not responding to the Pro-life request, it seems the Mayor has a tendency to just ignore those things he doesn't want to deal with and as usual that approach comes back to bite him.

For now the Mayor should set down with group requesting the their flag be flown and work out something before he finds himself in the middle of the Pro-life battle, with a federal lawsuit and another costly distraction caused by poor decision making.

As to the Ben Kirby statement, as I have pointed out before the Mayor needs to put a muzzle on these inexperienced staffers they are only opening up their mouth's long enough to change feet.

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.