Monday, September 26, 2016

Kriseman in a scramble needs to stop looking for a scape goat.

Rick Baker responds to the Kriseman blame game.

St. Petersburg Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
The hallmark of the Kriseman administration has been not taking responsibility for anything negative. The level of spin and denial that consistently comes from the Mayor’s office has eroded almost all public confidence in the Mayor and his inner circle.
The Kriseman spin and blame cycle has been in effect since the day he took office.
The impact of this approach to governing was emphasized during the most-recent  sewage spill when a member of Kriseman’s City staff requested whistle blower protection to make sure he did not become the victim for revealing a report the Kriseman administration should have known about.
Just the fact he felt compelled to seek protection tells you reams about the comportment of the Mayor’s Office.
Kriseman in a desperate effort to deflect, started blaming everyone he could think of: former Mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster, he suspended his Public Works Administrator and Engineering Director.
Now former Mayor Rick Baker has responded. From the Tampa Bay Times by Rick Baker, special to the Times Baker: Water, sewers are basic, constant city concerns.
Kriseman and his dream team like things shiny, they can brag about in Ben Kirby’s slick blogs and moderately professional U-Tube videos.
There is nothing blingy about sewer pipes, expensive waste water projects and sewage plants therefore, little interest from the Mayor’s office.
Couple that with a strong tendency against openness and transparency and we have a crisis of infrastructure and confidence.
There are a lot of people in the various city departments that want to help solve these problems. The issue is it seems they don’t trust the Kriseman administration and the Mayor’s office, and regardless of their platitudes, the Mayor’s office does not respect the staff.
The simplest method to deal with an administration that shoots the messenger is to not say anything.
Or perhaps more to the point the old adage: don’t try to save them from themselves, they don’t appreciate it.
Until Rick Kriseman and his dream team figure this out, all the city’s major projects, The Pier, the uplands, the Police station, the Rays, the purity of Tampa Bay and the public’s health and safety are all at risk.
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

The for-profit college debacle are state colleges any better?

It is time the US Department of Education look at State run colleges and universities. 


St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

The federal government through the US Department of Education has done an excellent job of ferreting out abuse and fraud in the for-profit college business.

There have been a number of these colleges, including Corinthian, and most recently, ITT Tech completely shut down.


The main concern was the intensive marketing efforts at those eligible for college loans and especially veterans.

There were many questions regarding the quality of the education the value of the degrees and certificates.

US Senator has Dick Durbin has led the charge looking into the for-profit college sector.

"The continued upheaval in the wake of Corinthian’s collapse is a long overdue reckoning for an industry that profits off of students while sticking them with a worthless degree and insurmountable debt," Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in a written statement.

For some additional insight check out the article in Higher Ed by Paul Fain Vanishing Profit, and Campuses.

Here is a List of For-Profit Universities and colleges Wikipedia which includes a list of those for profits that have closed.

It is time the US Department of Education look at State run colleges and universities.

The massive influx of money from student loans has allowed tuitions at state run colleges and universities to soar to astronomical levels. It is not hard to believe that some of these same aggressive and misleading marketing tactics are at play in major public colleges and universities.

Along with all this money has come over bloated salaries for professors and administrators, growing numbers of departments and degrees, which produce graduates with no marketable degrees or skills and massive student debt.

Nothing corrupts an educational institution, whether for- profit or nonprofit faster than a big infusion of easy money. State college campuses have become more palatial than practical. One only has to drive out I4 and look at Florida Poly tech to see the effect and expectation of big money from student loans.

It is time to look at the same issues: marketing techniques, job promises, student-loan marketing, placement and job results and make sure state run institutions are not just as guilty as the for-profits at running up student debt.

A degree fine art with an emphasis on cracked pottery that takes a student six years to earn and results in a $125,000 in student debt is not a career benefit. It is a millstone he or she will carry around their neck for a good part of their life.

Student loans are too easy to get; colleges are too quick to push them, too eager to let students extend times to complete degrees (more money from student loans) and provide little or no counseling regarding the after graduation effects of these heavy debt loads.

New criteria for student loans need to be established based on the earning potential of the degree being sought. Degrees with a low market value should qualify for no or much lower student-loan  access.

There are a lot of 24 year olds and up college graduates living with their parents because they cannot get a job that will pay their student loans and any reasonable living expenses.

I for one would like to see all current college loans paid off to the loan holders, the leeches that mortgaged a generation of college students, at ten cents on the dollar and the entire current student loan program stopped or highly modified.

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Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff , Patrick Murphy for US Senate, Charlie Crist for Congress

Saturday, September 24, 2016

St. Pete sewage scandal – mayor takes cue from Duke Energy, seeks state bailout

At a meeting of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation on Tuesday, St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman claimed that he and “his top aides” didn’t know about a crucial 2014 sewage consultant’s report until last week. Yet somehow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) knew about the report, and disclosed at the delegation meeting that they had received the report from the city a year ago.
Kriseman at a ribbon cutting.
It was not at a sewage plant.
Kriseman said he intends to seek “state and federal assistance” to bring the sewer system up to standard. Seasoned lawmakers the Guardian spoke to said that means handouts, not loans.
Kriseman seems to be exercising the “Duclear Option”, so named after Duke Energy’s reach into taxpayer pockets to cover the costs of its own incompetence. Sewage and stormwater infrastructure are normally pipe for through a line item charge on the monthly bills of the utility’s customers. The relevant charge is actually the stormwater charge, currently $6.85 per month. More on why stormwater is the relevant charge later in this article.
Kriseman also indicated that he is lawyering up by ordering an investigation into the whole affair. However, before the investigation even got underway, Kriseman appeared to have found the culprits when he the next day put two top city employees on unpaid leave. Placing city employees on unpaid leave without an official finding of fault is a risky move even during the best of times. And these are not the best of times for Kriseman.
Any city investigation would likely be done by an outside law firm, no doubt one that would be picked by the mayor and city council. The opportunities for blame shifting and scapegoating would be great under such a scenario.
Governor Rick Scott appeared today to be displeased with Kriseman’s investigatory ideas and ordered the DEP to conduct its own investigation. In an official statement, Kriseman claimed that the governor’s actions were politically motivated.
Kriseman is a Democrat, Scott is a Republican, but the mayoral election is non-partisan as per sec. 3.02 of the city charter.
david_jolly_220Meanwhile, congressman David Jolly called for a federal investigation into the whole smelly affair by the EPA. Kriseman has yet to say whether he believes that is also politically motivated, given that Jolly is a Republican.
The problem is not insufficient sewage treatment capacity per se. The problem is infiltration of water into the sewer system during heavy rains. The infiltration can occur for many reasons, but according to St. Pete Public Works Administrator Claude Tanskersley, half of the problem may lie with the aging sewer laterals that connect a building to the utility’s sewer system. Kriseman specifically called for a rebate program to assist homeowners in replacing aging sewer laterals, a procedure that can cost thousands of dollars.
Wengay Newton.
Wengay Newton
Back to yesterday’s meeting: former St. Pete city council member Wengay Newton may have given opponents of Penny for Pinellas (PFP) some great ammunition with which to kill it. In his comments, Newton twice said that PFP funds earmarked for sewers had been “diverted” to other uses by the city.
If the controls are this lax after 30 years of PFP, are they likely to get any better should the voters reauthorize the tax for another 10 years? PFP is slated to be on the ballot countywide next year.
Newton termed out from council this year and is almost certain to be the next state representative for house district 70. However, Newton told the Guardian that he is “not taking anything for granted.” Newton made sure that the audience and the delegation knew that he voted “no” on closing the Albert Whitted sewage plant, a closing that seems to be the cause of all the troubles.
Even if an investigation finds that Kriseman, his top staff and council weren’t given the relevant information, the scandal highlights the importance of oversight by elected officials. To overlook is not the same as to oversee.
As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide.
Cross Posted with permission from Tampa Bay Guardian