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passenger rail and regional connections be funded by levying a one percent sales surtax from January 1, 2016 until repealed, with the proceeds deposited in a dedicated trust fund?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"...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

No Boondoggle Plan - Fix our Roads First

Today the Hillsborough County Transportation Policy Leadership Group is meeting for the first time since their August 12th meeting where they voted to hire a transportation consultant to do "public outreach/engagement". At that meeting they voted without ever discussing what specifically they wanted or expected, how much was public outreach going to cost, how long would the effort be or who was going to pay for it.  They delegated those "minor" details to "staff".

The Eye will be at today's meeting to report afterwards.  Here is the agenda.  

As we previously posted, our county commissioners are handing Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) a no-bid contract. We reported that PB has given $50K to Greenlight Pinellas, they hosted an event in Tampa for the pro rail PAC, Yes for Greenlight last month, gave $25K in 2010 to the pro rail PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward and the former Executive Director for TBARTA, Bob Clifford, went to work for them in June.

From the agenda, the contract to PB is bigger than just validating cost estimates for the $15 Billion wish list of projects on the County Commission Transportation and Economic Development website and doing public outreach.  PB is going to write our county's transportation plan and then sell it to the public. 
Timeline for Transportation Plan (click to enlarge)
We noticed that Charlotte was conveniently left off this chart touting cities PB has apparently worked with to develop their transportation plans. PB wrote Charlotte's transportation plan that led to their light rail sales tax referendum passing and PB benefitting from the project with huge cost overruns to the taxpayers of Charlotte's Mecklinburg County.  
PB touts cities  - where's Charlotte?
Parsons Brinckerhoff is apparently going to mirror their public engagement to what was done by the city of Tampa for their strategic master plan for the urban core called InVisionTampa. George Walton from PB participated in that effort and it appears he will be leading the transportation public outreach effort for the County. Find all who participated in the InVisionTampa process starting on page 4 of their report and lo and behold Mickey Jacob, the recent HART board appointee, was a participant....Surprised?

The technique used by the MPO and the Planning Commission for gaining consensus within various groups and organizations appears was also used in the InVisionTampa process - the Delphi Technique.
To begin the workshop, the Project Team gave a presentation about the study covering the goals, schedule, and methods for public interaction. Following the presentation, a series of exercises were held. The attendees were divided into smaller, equally-sized groups.
We expect PB will use this same consensus building technique on targeted groups.  

The Communications Framework on the BOCC website lists all the "tools" they want to use for public engagement. It also states what must be the "real" agenda of the PLG - to "create a more balanced transportation system". 
PLG wants to "create" more balanced transportation system (click to enlarge)
Now look at the cost to taxpayers,  Hillsborough County taxpayers are going to pay PB via a no-bid contract almost $900K to write our transportation plan and engage the public, using the Delphi technique to build consensus within various groups and organizations.  
Cost to taxpayer for PB work via a no-bid contract
Is this the "Greenlight Pinellas" like plan for Hillsborough? 

Instead of using a PR firm, Hillsborough County will hand Parsons Brinckerhoff, who has a history of huge cost overruns, a no bid contract to do this work.

Of course this use of $900K of taxpayer dollars does NOT include the taxpayer funded marketing campaign (noted as "public education") that will ensue from taxpayer funded entities, unelected bureaucrats and elected officials. It also does not include the private sector PAC (noted as private sector advocacy) that will also ensue (like the current pro rail Yes for Greenlight PAC and Moving Hillsborough Forward PAC in 2010) filled with deep pocketed special interests who will benefit.

Every survey taken since 2010 referendum was defeated confirms the highest transportation priority in Hillsborough County is roads.  For a county of 1.3 million residents, Hillsborough County has a measly $6.5 Million for county roads in our FY 2015 budget. We can't fill our potholes or maintain our existing infrastructure. Where is this $900K of county taxpayer money being paid to PB magically coming from? $900K is almost 14% of our entire county road budget for 2015.

It doesn't take a million taxpayer dollars paid to special interest PB to figure out we need to fix and fund our roads first. We do not want to pay for another PB boondoggle plan.

Why are our roads being willfully neglected while the "powers to be" keep pushing costly transit solutions that require coercively redesigning our county at taxpayer expense?

We have plenty of champions for transit and costly rail solutions on the Policy Leadership Group. They cannot ignore the AECOM transit study done in May the Tribune conveniently failed to report about, that Hillsborough County should invest in transit solutions cautiously and prudently. 

98% of us use our roads everyday in Hillsborough County, including our buses. 

We should not have to wait years to fix our roads.  

We need a champion for our roads NOW!

Change the Behavior of Everyone

Recently the Hillsborough County Commission reappointed Karen Jaroch and Wallace Bowers to the HART board.  Steve Polzin, a real transportation expert, was not reappointed.
Polzin is not your average HART board member. Currently the Transit Research Program Director for the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) located on the USF Tampa campus, he has served in transit agencies in Dallas and Cleveland prior to coming to Tampa. His reign on the HART board was one of the longest as well, having been named to serve back in February of 2008.
Polzin is a real expert in the field of transportation, and his insight will be missed.

He was replaced by Mickey Jacob, an Executive Vice President of BDG Architects in Tampa. Jacob has been an architect in Tampa for 30 years.

Jacob has traveled the world in his architecture work, and his travels confirm everyone wants the same stuff:
"They want good transportation. They want a healthy lifestyle, great education, prosperity. Everyone wants the same stuff," he says. It's also allowed him how to see other regions handle transportation, something that nobody would dispute needs improvement in Hillsborough County.
"I don’t think anyone will disagree that we have a car-centric transportation system here, and it's a cultural issue, we have to look at the culture of our community to start to change the behavior of everyone to embrace different modes of transportation, and that’s not an easy process," he says.
"Change the behavior of everyone"?

That's interesting, if a bit alarming.  Will there be some behavioral training to ensure the masses behave as he expects? Mr. Jacob, can you elaborate on your best guidance and insight how to change the behavior of everyone so they will embrace the approved modes of transportation from the department of Central Planning?

I know that's not an easy process. It's not an easy question either.

Mr. Jacob, can we focus on improving mobility in the modes that the residents of Hillsborough overwhelmingly prefer?  How did we go from a mission of improving mobility to changing the behavior of everyone?
"I think HART is going to be the key element in our transportation strategy as we move forward in the next decade or two in the county and in our region," he told CL on Wednesday. "They are going to be an integral part of solving our mobility problem, and I think as an architect, as someone who's been involved in urban planning, I’m a huge proponent of creating the urban density necessary to support our public transition systems, and improve them, including rubber-wheel transit, rail transit. All these things that great cities have that I believe our city needs to have. And I think it’s a great opportunity to use my expertise as an architect and bring that to the board."
"I'm a huge proponent of creating the urban density necessary to support our public transition (sic) systems" ?

Hillsborough County Urban Density map

Click here for the full Hillsborough County Urban Density map.

If Jacob is a huge proponent of increasing urban density, where in Hillsborough does he support increasing urban density to support public transit... including rail transit? How many more people than the 1206 average per square mile in Hillsborough does he believe is optimal? Which neighborhoods of Tampa or Hillsborough County will he target for increased congestion densification?  Sulfur Springs or Hyde Park?  Why not improve the mobility of people where they are now?

Which is easier -- making solutions fit the problem, or making the problems fit the solutions we like? Which will be less expensive?

He's got some ideas and vision how you should live.  But it's really not the same as the same stuff we all want.

Jacob seems to prefer the world as he wants it be, rather than the world as it is, the real one the rest of us live in.  Just listen to wise men like Jacob, look in the mirror, admit your transgressions, change your behavior, and all will be fine.

Perhaps he'll change his behavior.  That should be easier than changing the behavior of everyone.

Don't bet on it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Car Access Provides Best Economic Opportunities

Today's Tribune includes a guest commentary from Brandon attorney Gail Gottlieb, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran against Republican Ross Spano in 2012, regarding low wage workers needing transit as a lifeline.  Gottlieb starts by obfuscating her point:
Do you resent the amount of time you spend in your car plodding through clogged roadways as you commute, shuttle kids to school and activities, buy groceries and do other errands?
The first question to Gottlieb then should be how does one commute to work, get their kids to school and other activities, buy a week's worth of groceries, run to the cleaners, stop by a neighbor or family members home, all in one day using transit? They can't. Perhaps that why 98% of residents in Hillsborough County do some or all of these activities everyday using their mode of transportation choice - they drive.

Gottlieb points out the need by low income households who see "public transportation is truly a bread-and-butter issue" and then refers to a study by the left-leaning Brookings Institute:

According to the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, although the working poor spend a much higher portion of their income on commuting than other workers — 6.1 percent vs. 3.8 percent — the working poor who drive to work spend the most: 8.4 percent of their paltry pay.

Even worse, in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, 700,000 households without access to a car also lack any access to public transportation. For these families, work must be reachable on foot, by bicycle or through the assistance of a neighbor willing to drive them on a regular basis to one or more jobs that may have no regular schedule.
However, Gottlieb was neglectful in her analysis because a few more google searches would find more information regarding access to cars and job opportunities. This New Geography article includes a NBC News report about car loan programs providing independence for low income workers:
A car means Hubbert no longer spends two hours each way to and from work in suburban Atlanta. It means spending more time with her 3-year-old daughter — and no longer having to wake her up at 5 every morning so she can be in the office by 8. It also means saving hundreds of dollars each week in day care late fees she incurred when she couldn’t get to the center before its 6:30 p.m. closing time. 
“There was just no room to relax, no room to breathe. It was always just go, go, go, go, go,” the 24-year-old single mom told TODAY’s Erica Hill about a life dependent on public transportation and family who could provide her with rides. 
Car loans for low income workers
“The number of job opportunities that are available in the car circle is about four times the number of opportunities that are available in the bus circle,”

“A car really is a freedom and economic driver for them,” Faulkner said.
The New Geography post also states:
A study by the Brookings Institute finds that, among the ten leading metropolitan areas in the US, less than 10% of jobs in a metropolitan area are within 45 minutes of travel by transit modes. Moreover, 36% of the entry-level jobs are completely inaccessible by public transit. This is not surprising given the fact that suburbia houses two-thirds of all new jobs.
The mismatch between people and jobs can be reconciled in two ways: car loans and car-sharing services. Basic car-sharing involves several people using the same car or a fleet of cars, as with the ZipCar. The concept has branched out to on-demand car sharing services, such as Lyft, mobile apps which link riders with drivers.
The Brookings Institute study also reports "The typical metropolitan resident can reach about 30 percent of jobs in their metropolitan area via transit in 90 minutes." Their agenda is also clearly stated:
Metro leaders should coordinate strategies regarding land use, economic development, and housing with transit decisions in order to ensure that transit reaches more people and more jobs efficiently.
Does this sound eerily familiar to what we keep hearing from the Hillsborough County Transportation Policy Leadership Group? Do we have to pay to redesign our county to increase transit ridership?

Gottlieb missed this July National Journal article How Car Ownership Helps the Working Poor Get Ahead
This March, the Urban Institute released a statistical analysis of federal data that found a link between car ownership and employment. Researchers took a look at federal data collected on two groups of low-income people who received housing vouchers in the 1990s and early 2000s.
"The families who had cars were more likely to get access to high-quality neighborhoods—and they were more likely to get jobs if they didn't have jobs already, and keep jobs if they already had jobs, than those households who did not have cars," says Rolf Pendall, director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. Access to public transit was associated with keeping a job but not with getting one. 
Marty Schwartz, president of Vehicles for Change, says that about three-quarters of clients who acquire a car through the organization get a better job within a year, and see an income boost of about $7,000.
This Urban Institute post in April (which was cross posted at CityLabs blog) states:
Housing voucher recipients with cars tended to live and remain in higher-opportunity neighborhoods—places with lower poverty rates, higher social status, stronger housing markets, and lower health risks. Cars are also associated with improved neighborhood satisfaction and better employment outcomes. Among Moving to Opportunity families, those with cars were twice as likely to find a job and four times as likely to remain employed.
Even as highly educated millennials and baby boomers fantasize about car-free cities, car access is still indispensable for many families seeking safety and economic security.
Gottlieb ignores data confirming access to a car provides the most economic opportunities, especially for low income workers. She ignores "Transit use outside New York actually “declined in absolute terms last year.”  

Gottlieb ignores car charities who have provided thousands of donated cars to struggling families nationwide. She ignores car sharing and ride sharing services and other innovations  coming out of the private sector such as autonomous vehicles.

If Shetara Brown was provided the opportunity to have access to a car, would she have more job options, more job opportunities and easier commutes for work, day care and doctor's appointments?

Gottlieb failed to ask that question.

USF Medical School in Downtown Tampa?

The downtown Tampa powers are piling it on heavy to bring the USF Medical School to downtown Tampa.  Recently, Lightning owner and downtown impresario Jeff Vinik, who's been buying up land around downtown, especially around the home of the Lightning, Amalie Arena, offered land in downtown Tampa to USF Medical school.
Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning owner who also controls dozens of acres of land in downtown Tampa, has offered to donate nearly an acre of land to the university — if the new Morsani College of Medicine and the USF Health Heart Institute are built there, USF spokesman Adam Freeman said Wednesday.

The land is at Channelside Drive and Meridian Avenue, Freeman said.
The Tampa Tribune endorsed the concept today.
Discussions are underway to move USF’s medical school and perhaps other health-care programs to downtown Tampa.

Such a move would transform the city’s urban core, galvanizing Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s effort to make downtown bustle day and night.
There really is no plan.  It's just a concept, and a donation of "nearly an acre of land" from Vinik.

USF Health moving downtown?
The mayor of (apparently only downtown) Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, is clearly behind the concept, as it will bring untold prosperity to downtown.

Again there is no plan, no financial impacts, no master development plan for the surrounding downtown areas.  Just a concept of if we build it, they will come.
But locating a medical-school complex downtown would likely cause an explosion of urban development, attracting more residential towers, health-care companies and other enterprises, restaurants, retail shops and such.

An urban school would complement nearby Tampa General Hospital, USF’s own downtown Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation facility, and would become the anchor for Lighting owner Jeff Vinik’s plans to redevelop the Channelside area.
Is moving the medical school about improving medical training?  Or is it more about economic development downtown and further lining the pockets of Jeff Vinick and other downtown developers?

Removing medical school facilities and jobs from the northern USF campus can only subtract from the north Tampa - USF area economy. Notably, it will be much cheaper to develop the new/improved medical school on or near the USF, and much less disruptive to the faculty, staff, and students.

Building the medical school downtown on an acre or two will be very expensive. The only option will be to build a tower -- building up is much more expensive.  Developing downtown will likely take more time than developing on the USF campus.  Not to mention other downtown roads and infrastructure that will have to be altered or built to support the project (or any large scale future project for that matter, which we do not uniformly reject).

Also, don't forget the medical school properties themselves will not pay taxes. Any move downtown will take valuable tax generating properties off future tax rolls.

Besides, it's not as if the USF area is currently barren of leading medical treatment and research facilities -- Florida Hospital Tampa, H. Lee Moffitt, Byrd Alzheimer Institute, the James A. Haley Veterans Administration are all on the campus or within walking distance of the USF campus.

Additionally, the Tampa Innovation Alliance is supportive of the further investment in and around the north Tampa and USF.
The effort to rejuvenate a downtrodden area that happens to house some of Tampa’s most vital institutions will get a new perspective with outgoing Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Mark Sharpe joining the campaign.

Sharpe will serve as a consultant to the Tampa Innovation Alliance, a group formed by powerhouses in the fields of entertainment, education and medicine – Busch Gardens, the University of South Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center and Florida Hospital Tampa.
In other words, its an economic zero sum game, possibly worse.  Moving the USF medical school downtown will remove more property off the tax rolls, which will not happen if USF expands the school on campus.  Developing downtown will also be much more expensive.  Someone will have to pay for it.

It may get interesting watching the downtown proponents battle it out with the north Tampa Innovation Alliance as this deal further progresses.

Will Vinik pay for the reconfiguration of roads and infrastructure, and the excess costs of building a medical school tower, or will the taxpayers?

What else is missing in any of the discussions about relocating the medical school to downtown?

Is it the best option for improving the medical training for the future medical students?

It's not yet a plan, much less a "done deal".

Perhaps they should consider the consequences before developing this any further rather than more mindless cheerleading for downtown Tampa.

Downtown Tampa is not the only area in Hillsborough where the economic development and jobs are important.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cannot Trust Brad Miller or PSTA - Vote NO!

PSTA CEO Brad Miller again shows bad judgment and now there is more proof Mlller and PSTA knew they were misusing DHS transit security funds.

Miller is supporting a boycott of businesses who oppose Greenlight Pinellas the Sunbeamtimes blog reported yesterday.
The Greenlight Pinellas team is using bully tactics to punish Greenlight opponents and suppress support.
The Transit Union workers posted a call on their facebook page calling for a boycott of Crabby Bills on Indian Rocks Beach and Tiffany’s in Palm Harbor based on their opposition to the highest sales tax in the state for the Greenlight Pinellas plan. In what many have viewed as an inappropriate action, PSTA CEO Brad Miller endorsed the boycott by “Liking” the post on Facebook.
The Transit Union page told their union member bus drivers to give the message to their “patrons”. Thus is appears the Union worker’s goal is to abuse their position as a government employee to tell bus riders what business are “union-approved”. 
Sunbeamtimes blog post included the Facebook page post Miller "liked". 
PSTA CEO Brad Miller endorses boycott
of business opposed to Greenlight
The Tampa Tribune picked up the story today.
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller is under fire again, this time for appearing to endorse a boycott of businesses opposed to Greenlight Pinellas. 
Miller liked a Facebook post made by the transit workers union that called for union members not to refer people to two local restaurants that supported Greenlight foe, No Tax for Tracks.
When asked by the Tribune about this, Miller reacted by stating this:
“I really don’t think that is a major issue; I can’t even remember doing it; it was 11 o’clock at night,” he said.
Miller can't remember what he does...What kind of excuse is that? I am expecting the dog ate my homework any day now. This deception appears to be a pattern of behavior by Miller and this incident proves again that Brad Miller will do ANYTHING to ram the Greenlight rail boondoggle onto the backs of taxpayers.

Just breaking tonight related to the misuse of the DHS transit security funds, is another report by Channel 10's investigative reporter Mike Deeson which continues the latest lies and deception by Brad Miller and PSTA (emphasis mine):
Shocking emails have been uncovered by 10 Investigates showing the PSTA plotted to misspend a federal grant to promote its upcoming transportation ballot issue Greenlight Pinellas, and now Congressman David Jolly is calling for Homeland Security to investigate.
Pages and pages of emails we obtained through a public records request show that instead of using hundreds of thousands of dollars of Homeland Security money to make the buses safer, PSTA had a plan to advance its transportation initiative that goes to the voters in November.
While Welch tried to pass off the misuse of federal money as an honest mistake, the emails show it was intentional.  
In one email Director of Marketing Janet Recca stated, "We were able to leverage our federal grant dollars and further Greenlight efforts." 
In another, Miller says of the ads they must have the Greenlight logo. "I insist on this and won't approve payment on anything else."  
And another Miller again says, "And I know you [referring to Chief Development Officer Cassandra Borchers] and Janet have heartburn about how this grant is being used[...] we can easily add some stuff about your beloved security."
These latest incidents are just another reminder of how PSTA and Miller operate:
  • PSTA/Miller uses $400K of taxpayer dollars last year to hire a public relations firms to create the Greenlight Pinellas brand.  This brand was used to target specific groups, friendly to their rail cause, to lobby Pinellas County commissioners to place the rail referendum on the ballot.
  • PSTA/Miller did a bus study last year and PSTA knows they can improve their bus service at a fraction of the high cost of light rail. Check out this interview with Barbara Haselden.  She explains the results of PSTA's own bus study which confirms the need for PSTA to do due diligence for improving their bus service, not asking for a huge tax increase for a costly light rail few will ride.
  • PSTA /Miller uses another $400K of taxpayer dollars and other PSTA resources this year to advocate and market a tax increase that will benefit PSTA.  PSTA buys and hands out campaign yard signs throughout Pinellas county at PSTA and other taxpayer funded agencies. PSTA calls doling out campaign signs and other campaign/marketing trinkets "education". PSTA distributes their taxpayer funded literature at Pinellas libraries and colludes with other taxpayer funded entities like St. Petersburg who includes Greenlight Pinellas glossy brochures in their water bill.

  • PSTA/Greenlight Pinellas uses elected officials, who have dollar signs dancing in their heads, and the elected officials bully pulpits, to advocate for the over $100 million a year tax increase. 
  • PSTA and Brad Miller wraps their PSTA buses with Greenlight Pinellas ads for which they receive ZERO revenue while refusing to allow NoTaxForTracks to BUY some bus wraps and actually pay for them providing revenue to PSTA.
PSTA wraps their buses with their own at their
 expense their own Greenlight ads
  • PSTA decides they don't like all the Public Records Request they started getting from concerned citizens since pushing the Greenlight boondoggle and decides to publicly name all who have submitted a PRR on their website.  Public outrage forced them to take that information down.
  • PSTA's CEO Brad Miller colludes with the private pro rail PAC.  On taxpayers time and dime, Miller spoke at the pro rail PAC Yes for Greenlight kickoff event held in February.
PSTA's CEO Brad Miller speaks at pro rail
PAC's kickoff event in February
  • PSTA's CEO Brad Miller was caught lying on a video from the PSTA June 25 meeting that DHS had approved the use of the DHS transit security funds (go to 11:15 in video).  DHS never approved the Greenlight Pinellas "feel good" ads as we previously reported here that included reports by Channel 10's Investigative Reporter Mike Deeson.  PSTA/Miller misused those funds and Miller was forced to hastily return the $345K to DHS, hoping the issue would simply go away. It didn't.
  • Our previous post also provides a quick recap of PSTA activities since Brad Miller was hired by PSTA in July 2011. 
PSTA's CEO Brad Miller encouraging and endorsing a boycott of those businesses who oppose Greenlight and the "shocking" emails admitting Miller knew PSTA was misusing DHS transit security funds is proof that Miller and PSTA simply cannot be trusted

Miller and PSTA cannot be trusted with a 14% sales tax increase that hands him and his corrupt agency a $100 million a year tax increase.

Brad Miller continues to be found lying and Miller needs to be fired.

PSTA needs new management and it's board a complete housecleaning.  

The answer to PSTA and Brad Miller's poor judgment, unethical and possibly criminal behavior is simple.

Vote NO on Greenlight Pinellas boondoggle!