Saturday, December 22, 2012

Surveillance Cameras... Why Not Put Them Where the Crime Is?

Thursday at the Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee City Council members got the next chapter in Police Chief Chuck Harmon's ongoing quest to keep surveillance cameras out of high crime areas.
The 15 cameras, garnered from the Republican National Convention Party in St. Pete, are being placed where it can be pretty much guaranteed they will see little if anything significant criminal activity.
The Police Chief's plan puts no cameras south of 5th Avenue South and that's  interesting because somewhere around two thirds of the City's major crime takes place south of 5th Avenue South.
When asked about putting the cameras in crime "hot" spots Harmon gave a typical evasive answer "how do you define a criminal hot spot"
After alluding in several previous answers to his vast experience, if the Police Chief cannot identify  the crime hot spots in St. Pete, why is he the police chief?
Here is some help Chief.
Walk to the door of your office. Turn left, go down the hall to the IT department.
Ask the guy who does the statistics for a crime scatter map. It will take him less that 15 minutes to show you where the high crime activity is. That's it. It's that simple.
If you as a citizen want pretty much that same information go to https://www.crimereports.com/.
In the SEARCH WINDOW put: St. Petersburg, Fl. Click Search.
On the INCIDENT LAYER TAB you can select crime types. Go down to the right of the box and uncheck sex offenders. It clutters up the map.
You can click on any of the bubbles for more information.
Now you tell me where would rational person wanting to affect crime in St. Pete  put the cameras. On Beach Drive or 22nd Avenue South?
Here are some suggestions:
·         Dr. MLK and 12th Avenue South 
·         Dr MKL and 22nd Avenue South
·         28th Street South and 17th Avenue South
·         54 Avenue South and 28th Street
·         48th Street south and 13th Avenue South
With the a exception of Karl Nurse, who tossed a couple of soft balls, not a single City Council member would ask the obvious question, "why not put these things were the crime is?"
Harmon has the tools to analyze crime. He has several million dollars worth of software to do it.
He has a unit of light duty officers called the TRU unit who could monitor cameras in real time if he would only step up and use the resource.
 He knows where the crime hot spots are and so do his Assistant Chiefs, Lieutenants and Majors.
Why not use these tools to fight crime rather than watch the party people and people at public events.
Answer: Harmon does not want any record of any  ongoing criminal activity that he can be held accountable for. Harmon is an accountability distributor, not a responsibility taker.
City Council has one more chance to get it right. When the PD comes back with the funding request to install these cameras, mostly downtown, they should reject it and tell the chief to come back with a plan that uses the cameras to fight crime in the City's high crime areas.
Once Harmon has these cameras installed in relatively benign areas, the argument to move them to high crime areas will always be it is too expensive.
Mayor,  the Chief never had any intentions of following through on your plan to use cameras to fight crime. He has stalled if off for 3 years. He will stall it off until you are gone or he retires.
Someone needs to start asking the Police Chief some tough questions.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Time to STOP the Red Light Cameras

If there was ever an indication of nature  of the St. Pete Red Light Camera program and the ends to which the people driving it will go to keep this turkey flying, you saw it this past week.
A deliberate attempt to withhold information from City Council when the fine folks over at Traffic Engineering did not include the intersection crash data in the Council Report. All of which follows an unannounced attempt to slip in more red light cameras past City Council.
The whole program just smells. As I have mentioned before, I set in on some of the early planning meetings with ATS, the Red Light Camera company, and I felt like I needed a shower after they were over.
Joe Kubicki  said, "we had no intention to mislead the public". It wasn't the public he was trying to mislead, it was just the eight people who make the decisions he wanted to bamboozle.
Kubicki, who has wrapped himself and his department in a warm coat of generating revenue for the City,  is the third guy Bill Foster should have fired on his second day in office.  Kubicki smiles, promises more money and the Mayor fawns, City Council drools  and away we go.
There is no evidence that red light cameras have made the "streets" safer.  They haven't even made the intersections where they are located safer. A study from USF Public Health Researchers, Take a Closer Look at Red-Light Cameras, indicates Red Light cameras have little safety value.
They are all about money..... Kubicki figured out a long time ago, if you generate enough money in this government you can get them to do just about anything.
And he is right.
Put a guy like him with a company like ATS and you get what you got. A woeful attempt to mislead the City Council. A program where the big losers are the citizens and the City is on the very short end of the revenue stick.
If I were a Council member what would anger me even more than the red light lies is the fact they think Council is dumb enough to have these tricks successfully pulled on them.
It is time to end this thing right now. The deeper you get in bed with these people the worse it will get.
It is time to face the facts City Council: You are not making this City any safer, and you are costing this City money and jobs, making it less pleasant, less friendly and supporting the people who willing mislead and lie to you to get your vote.
This year this program walked $3.6 million dollars of discretionary income out of this City, we got $707,000 back and lost the velocity of money gains on the whole $3.6 million.. How many jobs did that cost and what was the real benefit?
You are spending $3.6 Million of the citizens money, getting no significant safety improvement and netting just over $700K in return. If there ever was a bad deal this is it.
Have your say.  Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Has the Media Massacred the Massacre?


The event in  Newtown Connecticut has been another total media melt down. From overly aggressive reporting to inaccurate facts it has been a nightmare of over exposure and on the air guessing.
Reporting began almost before the smoke cleared and it was glaringly inept. In a raging desire to present the most gore, the most hideous view of the events, we can only be thankful that law enforcement was able to keep the news hounds out of the crime scene.
Take the guns. Not a single news agency that I am aware of got it right. On one local news outlet the news anchor introduced the Newtown story as a shooter with three handguns and was immediately contradicted by his local reporter who said 2 handguns and one rifle with all shots coming from the hand guns.
 Wrong...Wrong, wrong on all sides with no attempt to clarify either statement.
A local outlet I watch aired the same scenes: the anguished woman on the cell phone, the line of terrified children being lead from the scene and a teary eyed president 4 times in 4 separate segments of the same news program with different reporters reading pretty much the same news copy. Absolutely unnecessary, unprofessional and useless from news consuming public's perspective.
Why local news outlets think they can add anything to a major out for town out, of state event totally eludes me. Most of the local guys have a hard enough time getting the local news right.
 Personally I don't care what their view, opinion, observation or inaccurate reporting of the facts  of a national event may be. Why not stick to the local news and let the networks screw up the coverage of events like Newtown.
It makes the local news people look really stupid.
In an effort to be first, worst and inaccurate, all of the networks with the possible exception of NPR were likes sharks with blood in the water.
I'm not sure which made me sicker to my stomach, the event or the reporting.
The crowning and TV turning off event for me was one of the national networks'  "psychology expert" going on and on about how you should protect your children from hearing about the event before you tell them , while adding almost 20 minutes of air time doing just that.
The news media needs to step back and get out of the circus business and back in the news business. Getting it right, providing accurate information, no melodrama, respect for people in crisis and a renewed understanding of their responsibility to do news and not performances.
When a tough guy like President Obama is moved to tears in public by an event this horrific, every person in the news business, from the guy who drives the truck to the executives that have approved some of the trash aired during this event need to stop and consider what they are doing, who they are doing it for and why.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Six People on A Mission, One not Sure, One Lone Dissenting Voice

I spent Wednesday at the LENS hearing and Thursday at City Council listening to arguments for and against the LENS project.
Judge Williams was pretty clear in her voiced concern when she directly asked City Legal Counsel "why didn't you just let the people vote."  The answer was we could not reach agreement on the ballot language. I was never aware that any serious conversations along that line ever took place.
The Judge's question was never fully disclosed to City Council Thursday, perhaps the attorney/client meeting with City Council will be a bit more revealing. City Council should get the transcript and read it.
What has become increasingly discomforting  is six of the Council members are determined to go ahead with the LENS at all costs to the City regardless of the peoples will.
 Karl Nurse continues to be confused and conflicted saying one thing then voting the other way, Wengay Newton's position against the project remains firm. The Mayor, wisely, was generally quiet during the discussion. Why try to provide any leadership at this point?
Kornell, Dudley and surprisingly Gerdes, the only Councilmember to attend the Court hearing, are being lead around by the nose by Curran, Danner and Kennedy.
You have to wonder if Kennedy an Gerdes, both lawyers, would recommend a client paying them for legal advice,  go ahead finance and build a multimillion dollar home with issues like a pending legal action to stop the process and a neighborhood petition drive to prevent the construction?
A couple of times Thursday the whole "representative democracy" argument was raised. That's the old saw that says we elect officials to represent us and they do what they think is best. If that were totally true then why all of the harping about that well managed public input visioning process to justify their actions?
The fact is as long as you are saying what Curran, Danner and Kennedy and Kornell want to hear they will be willing listen to you. When you aren't saying what they want to hear, they are acting as part of the representative democracy that knows best and ignoring you.
It has become pretty clear that the LENS support base on City Council is going to push on until the public forces them to a stop.
City Attorney John Wolf said Thursday that the Stop The Lens Petition is legal and accurate, when they get enough signatures Council will either have to enact and ordinance stopping the LENS or put the issue to a vote.
There is your answer, there is your solution. Judge Williams may come to the same conclusion, but your best bet is to get a Stop The LENS petition and complete it properly. For information check out the  Stop The Lens website.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.    


Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Casual Conversation with Herb Polson


To be totally transparent, Herb and I have been good friends for well over 20 years, we worked very closely together while were both on staff at the City and I was a campaign worker and contributor to Herbs' City Council campaign in 2005.

I caught up with Herb a week or so ago at one of our favorite lunch spots, Coney Island on 9th Street.

For most of Herb's career with the City, both as a staff member and as an elected official, Herb dealt with the political side of the administration. Given that, Herb has an uncanny insight into the workings of the elected officials and the Administration. Herb served on the City staff during the City Manager era and the strong mayor period.

We had a lot of catching up to do but soon the conversation turned to politics and I asked the question a lot of people are asking: "are you going to run for Mayor?"

Our conversation had been pretty light hearted up to that point but Herb turned very serious, "I get that question frequently when I am out in public," Herb said. "Well?", I asked. "I am watching and listening carefully", was Herb's reply.

He went on, "The City has a lot of problems. There are serious issues that the next Mayor will have to deal with. The Pier/LENS, The Rays, the budget to name a few. Principle among them is the age of the senior administration, and the need to make some serious staffing changes. The old way of looking at things is just not working anymore."

"What are your major concerns?" I asked. Herb replied, "even though the Mayor is poling well, there is a serious lack of leadership on almost all issues." I don't get the sense that the staff or City Council has a clear idea of where they are going." Lack of leadership is clearly evident in the budget process, and the number of people leaving the administration is a serious problem, especially recent hires that have quickly left."

Our conversation moved out to the parking lot as the Coney Island lunch crowd grew, and it became considerably more detailed, but I'll leave that for Herb to make public later.

As the conversation drew to a close, Herb again waxed serious and said "I don't think we feel good about ourselves. The City seems to have lost its direction." The world is changing, our demographic is changing and it just doesn't seem like the City leadership is on board."

I could not help myself I had to try one more time. "So are you going to run for Mayor? I asked.

Without any hesitation but with a twinkle in his eye Herb replied, "I'll just wait a while and watch and listen to what the people have to say."

A quick handshake and we were off to our various destinations.

As I drove way I could not help but think, in all my experience with Herb, he has always been about what the people have to say.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Putting Lipstick On The Pig Continues


The evolution of the LENS design continues as the Michael Maltzan Architectural team unveiled their latest attempt to put something out there on the $50 million jogging track/walk to nowhere that might generate some enthusiasm.

They added some shade, an undeveloped beer garden, and a slab up front for restaurant that may or may not get built.

The Mayor was exuberant saying "I always wanted an eating experience at the end of the Pier." "The design", he added, "is starting to evolve into something that people can grasp and get excited about". "No one can say it is a sidewalk to a gelato stand anymore."

Nope. Now it's a sidewalk to a beer garden. I am sure Jim Kennedy will think it's a major improvement especially if it stays open until 3:00AM.

Maybe the Coney Island folks can grab the beer garden spot, now that would drive some traffic to the LENS.

It is unclear at this point if the beer garden will be part of the actual build or there just be a hole in the design so someone else can build it. Probably not a very viable business opportunity.
The upland "restaurant" is really just a slab, no walls as the City's managing director of Development Chris Ballestra was quick to point out. Usually you build the walls, leave the floor for the tenant to build out, but then this whole thing has been backwards from the start.

After saying The City of St. Petersburg is not in the restaurant business, Ballestra did point out there is $750,000 in the Pier budget to help build the restaurants. Any guesses as to which one of our fine Beach Drive entrepreneurs will grab that money?

Lot of talk about wrapping the LENS into the waterfront master plan. Don't be confused, that is just Gov speak for getting their hands into another pot of money because this oinker is in real trouble.

Still a lot of disagreement between Danner, Nurse and others about putting in playgrounds and other amenities on the upland or just putting up a sign that says "If You Really Want To Have Fun Head Over To North Shore Park". Maybe we should build a beer garden over there.

How will we know when the design has reached its maximum state of ridiculousness? When the design team excitedly unveils the new deluxe Pelican Feeding Station with credit card and cell phone friendly feed dispensers and a sloped automatic cleaning floor. Estimated cost $1.5 million. Those pelicans can create quite a mess.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens

Friday, November 23, 2012

Top 10 Reasons You Can Be Thankful For in Living ST. Pete

10. Stop the Lens is getting a good response to their petition drive
9. We are actually starting the process to build a new Police Building
8. While dollar weed is taking over, the parks are still open
7. Leslie Curran will no longer be on City Council
6. Wengay Newton who in his own way is a voice of reason
5. All of the people who work every day to make St Pete a great place to live
4. Our first responders who really care
3. For our water front and all those who work so hard to protect it
2. Rick Baker is thinking about running for Mayor
1. We will have a new Mayor in 2014

Friday, November 16, 2012

Should The New School Superintendent Be Caving In To The Teachers So Soon?


The new teacher evaluation system continues to create a fire storm among teachers. The system appears to be rife with problems and everyone from the superintendent to the school board is putting as much distance as they can between themselves and the evaluation system.

Since everyone generally agrees that the system has serious flaws, the question arises as to why the new Scholl superintendent would feel constrained to write a letter teachers can request and put in their personnel file that contains some language about how screwed up the new system is and their low evaluation score may not be their fault.

For more detail Curtis Kruger from the Tampa Bay Times has a good article For Pinellas teachers upset about evaluations, superintendent writes letter of explanation.

The problem I see with this approach is once in the file, the letter will stay forever. Any teacher with a nickel's worth of sense will want one of these letters in their file, regardless of their evaluation score, because the first time any action is taken regarding their performance out the letter will pop.
The entire conversation will shift to the evaluation system and that is precisely what the teachers union wants. Does not matter if it is next week or five years from now.

Superintendent Grego is about to find out how good the Pinellas County teachers Union is. They have run the show here for years and if he caves in early he will be just as ineffective at cleaning up the school system as his predecessors.

Everyone knows the evaluation system the Administration created is flawed. There has certainly been enough press. The Union made sure of that.

Grego and his Administration should quickly go back through the evaluation system and get a revised proposal to the State as soon as possible. Let's stop apologizing, creating documented excuses for poor performance and just get it fixed.

Then there is also the left hand chance that the system is more accurate than the teachers want to admit and the poor performers really are - poor performers.

Speaking of the Administration, if Grego hasn't already started a major house cleaning, the party is already pretty much over.

Snuggling up to the union has never worked out particularly well for Pinellas County School Superintendents, I doubt things have changed.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

 

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Casual Conversation With Rick Baker


A week or so before the election Theresa and were walking through Tyrone Mall when a familiar head appeared above the crowd. It was the "tall guy" as we all called him when he was Mayor, Rick Baker.

We both worked for the Mayor during his two terms so after a quick hello the first question we both asked almost simultaneously was "are you going to run for Mayor?"

The former Mayor's response? A twinkle in his eye and "I get that question a lot". "Well"? we asked. Rick replied "don't know yet, but I'll admit I'm thinking about it".

At that point the presidential election was still undecided and Baker indicated he was seriously under consideration for a Cabinet post should Governor Romney win. So in typical Rick Baker style again the smile and "We'll just have to see."

A lot of what we talked about I would consider off the record at this point, but the former Mayor turned very serious when he talked about what has been going on with current administration. He is concerned about the lack of leadership, and the current seeming ineffectiveness of City Council and general lack of progress.

Among his biggest concerns seemed to be his perception of a lack of continuing progress in Mid Town. From eight years working in the Baker administration I can assure you he was and is serious about Mid Town.

Rick Baker looks good. He has put on a few pounds. According to the former Mayor he is really enjoying his current work at USF and spending quality time with his family.

Current biggest impediment regarding a mayoral run - convincing his wife.

You cannot spend even five minutes in Rick Baker's presence without getting excited about the future. From the very first day I met him I noticed the man exudes a contagious energy. And that energy and leadership are what is lacking in the current administration.

The conversation lingered on for the better part of a half hour covering a wide range of subjects from baseball to the LENS. I'll leave the details to the former Mayor to reveal publicly when he feels it is proper, but it is safe to say Rick Baker has already formulated some ideas about most of the City's major problems.

As the conversation wrapped up we could not help but try one more time and asked, "So are you going to run for Mayor?" Once again that infectious smile and then: Baker looking pretty serious said, "well it may depend on who runs. There are certain conditions where I might be obligated to get in the race."

With that a quick handshake and the former Mayor was off on his shopping trip. Theresa and I had a lot to talk about on the way home.

Photo Credit Univesity of South Florida.

e-mail Doc at dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Useless Audit


The word is back from the external audit of the Hilton Impact fee issue. The outside audit firm Mayor, Hoffman McCann P.C. concluded there were no improprieties. This external audit only looked at the auditing methods used in previously evaluating the impropriety and random sampled impact fee cases.

Cost $50,000.
All of which goes to show if you narrowly draw the external audit parameters you can pretty much get the results you want.

St. Petersburg tax payers are $50,000 poorer, Don Tyre, the guy with the short memory who cut the Hilton the break, is still drawing his salary and headed for a retirement ride on the tax payers dime and we still don't know what happened.

Another attempt to bury the issue failed. Council member Danner wanted a Resolution that essential excused Tyre from any "guilt", never mind the fact he IS the guy who made the change. Wisely Council did not side with Danner.

I am sure there are a lot people at City Hall, Including the Mayor that would like to see this issue go away. But I don't think it will.

Why would you keep Tyre on the payroll? He committed an improper act.

Why not just fire him?

Let's get this thing into court and see if Mr. Tyre will incriminate himself in front of a judge. In my limited experience with the legal system, a faulty memory is not usually a good defense.
I don't think anyone in the administration wants to see this thing in the legal system. That is likely why the Police Department was never asked to investigate. The threat of some jail time might seriously refresh Mr. Tyre's memory.

Mr. Tyre is still on the payroll because it is in somebody or somebody's' best interest to leave him there.

The Mayor has no stomach for these issues, City Council has had more than enough, the taxpayers have been denied both money and justice, Mr. Tyre is seemingly safe and secure in his job: nothing is right in this world.

Will we ever know what happened? Not likely, unless, Mr. Tyre decides to write his memoirs, after he retires of course.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at
Stop The Lens.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Caught Again - The City's LENS Team just Can't seem to Follow the Rules


Once again the LENS Team lead by Chris Ballestra found itself on the opaque side of transparency. Weaverly Ann Moore writing in the Tampa bay Times has a story Scientists criticize lack of transparency in Pier plans.

This is the second time the LENS team has tried to slip one past the people monitoring the project. Early in October in what appeared to be a simple appropriation for Skanska, the construction management company, City Council caught an additional $60,000 neatly tucked away. See my Post The Lens The Real Game.

There has been an ongoing history of duck and hide on this project. Ballestra is proving to be a master at hiding stuff he does not want the public to know. Internally he has a reputation for bending the rules. The real question is: is he operating on his own or is he getting direction to be deceptive and if so from whom?

Every appropriation will need to be carefully scrutinized. Every meeting must made public. Quoting from Weaverly's article: "I think there is secrecy. It doesn't seem like a wise thing, considering the emotion and controversy involved," said Walter Jaap, a retired Fish and Wildlife Research Institute scientist, who now works as a consultant.

The last thing the LENS team wants is a lot of public scrutiny. With 23,000 petitions already signed and summarily rejected by a disingenuous City Council, and an active new petition drive to stop the project, every effort will be made to keep any authoritative dissenting voices out of the mix.

Apparently the LENS team missed politics 101 - the more you try to hide and cover up the worse you look.
The Mayor needs to put a collar on Ballestra. Appropriations, meetings and the process should be well vetted and very public. Right now they are not. The push must be for more transparency, not less.

It may be time for a change. If you can't trust the guy leading the effort, how can you ever expect to gain the public's confidence?

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at    Stop The Lens.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Doc's 2012 Ballot


Below is my Ballot for the 2012 General Election. I tend to be conservative, believe strongly in limiting revenue to all government entities including the School Board.

The purpose here is not to tell you how to vote but to tell you how I voted.

Please take the time to inform yourself on all of the issues especially the Amendments and the School Tax referendum.

Do not let the length and complexity of this ballot keep you from voting. Every race is important and many, including the Presidential election, will be very close. If you are going to the Polls to vote on election day, write your choices down or load them in your smart phone.

Your vote will count be sure to have your say.

President and Vice President
• Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan Republican

United states Senator
• Connie Mack Republican

Representative in Congress
District 13
• Bill Nelson Republican

State Senator
District 22
• Jeff Brandes Republican

State Representative
District 68
•Frank Farkas Republican

Sheriff
• Bob Gualtieri Republican

Supervisor of Elections
• Deborah Clark Republican

Board of County Commissioners
District 1 - At Large
• Neil Brickfield Republican

Board of County Commissioners
District 3 - at Large
• Charlie Justice Democrat

Justice of the Supreme Court
R. Fred Lewis
• NO

Justice of the Supreme Court
Barbara J. Pariente
• NO 

Justice of the Supreme Court
Peggy Quince
• NO 

District Court of Appeal
Anthony K. Black
• YES 
District Court of Appeal
Darryl C. Casanueva
• YES

District Court of Appeal
Charles A. Davis Jr.
• YES 

District Court of Appeal
Edward C LaRose
• YES 

School Board Member
District 1 At Large
• Elliott Stern

AMENDMENTS 

AMENDMENT NO. 1 Health Care Services
• YES

AMENDMENT NO. 2 Disabled Veterans Homestead Property Tax Discount
• YES 

AMENDMENT NO. 3 State Government Revenue Limitation
• YES 

AMENDMENT NO. 4 Property Tax Limitations
• YES 

AMENDMENT NO. 5 State Courts
• NO 

AMENDMENT NO. 6 Prohibition on Public Funds For Abortion
• NO 

AMENDMENT NO. 7 This Amendment removed from Ballot 

AMENDMENT NO. 8 Religious Freedom
• NO 

AMENDMENT NO. 9 Homestead Property ax Exemption for Military Surviving Spouse
• YES 

AMENDMENT NO. 10 Tangible Personal Property Tax
• YES 

AMENDMENT NO. 11 Additional Homestead Exemption For Low Income Seniors
• YES 

AMENDMENT NO. 12 Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System
• YES 

Referendum Question - One Half Mill ad Valorem Tax for School Board
• NO

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The LENS Achieves Its Highest Status - Infomercial Recognition


The arts community must be cringing, Michael Maltzan is probably not returning calls and I can't wait for the City to put a positive spin on the LENS' latest supporter.

The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that TV pitchman Anthony Sullivan is starting an "unpaid" campaign to support the LENS. Not to take anything away from Mr. Sullivan a very successful protégé and partner of Billy Mays, who is without question one of television's most successful pitch men.

From CNN Money: "When     Mays and Sullivan are debating whether to shill for a product, their mental checklist could easily be a decision tree for a new product launch at a major corporation. "First, it's got to have mass appeal," says Mays. "If you can connect to a broader audience, there's just a better shot of making it work. Second, the product needs to solve a common problem. I need to be able to show that it makes one's life easier. And also it gives instant gratification, hits you on an emotional level." Both Mays and Sullivan swear that believing in the product is essential to being able to sell it".

Mays and Sullivan built a very successful business promoting products that we didn't know we needed. The LENS certainly meets some of Mays an Sullivan's requirements. The whole functionality thing and mass appeal seems to be a problem for the LENS.

With their magnificent iconic art piece reduced to a comparison with the Swivel Sweeper, no matter how accurate, it must be a crushing blow to those who have long touted the iconic value of the LENS design. Maybe the Maltzan people can name one of those sweeping loops the "Swivel" in honor of Mr. Sullivan's support.

The LENS project has been recognized for what it is by a true expert in the field of infomercial promotional marketing. Something cheaply made, of limited functionality, with unique eye appeal and limited life expectancy.

Not art, just cheap infomercial junk. Finally a valid definition.

I can't wait to see Danner and Curran schmoozing with Sullivan trying to put positive spin on this one.

There could be a back story here. If Leslie Curran is still thinking about running for Mayor, definitely an uphill battle, maybe Mr. Sullivan can give her some pointers. Mayor Foster may want to jump on the band wagon and try to lure Mr. Sullivan into his camp. Just what very iconic art story needs - a sub plot.

If you don't want the "as sold on TV" replacement for the Pier, be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

e-mail Doc at dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ballot Referendum Question Extending Property Tax Millage for the School Board

This Referendum extends the one-half mill property tax for five more years.

The Pinellas County school system continues to be one of the poorer The new Superintendent may change that, but the entrenched power structure and totally dysfunctional school board have thwarted all efforts up to this point.

Looking at the current School Board candidates and those who will likely win, I would say the new Superintendent is in for a pretty rough ride.

The Pinellas County school system may be looking at serious challenges with more charter schools, more private schools, more home schooling and more on line schools eating into student enrollment. Why? Because the public school system is not working.

My recommendation is you VOTE NO on the Referendum Question continuing the School District millage rate. The last item on the ballot.

Think about this. When was the last time you saw a governmental body willing reduce its size and change its approach when it was getting the money it wanted?

Right. Never.

It just may be, the best thing we can do to help the Superintendent accomplish his goals and deal with the teacher's union is to reduce the amount of money in play and let him use that as the catalyst to eliminate the waste, change the bureaucracy and improve teacher performance.

Don't pay much attention to the cries that education for the students will suffer. Educational performance will only suffer if the Superintendent and the School Board don't make the necessary changes to the organization that will insure kids get a proper education. Those changes are a lot more about management and leadership than they are about money.

History has shown the Pinellas County School Board is one of the best in the State at wasting money.
If you want more monuments to education, more bloated administrative staffs, poor and underperforming teachers carefully nested in their class rooms and poor student outcomes then vote yes.

Otherwise save yourself some money to cover those other tax increases, and VOTE NO on approving the Continuation of One-Half Mill Ad Valorem Tax for School District Operating Expenses.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The LENS - The Inspiration


A lot of thought went into the Pier Visioning process.

In a letter to Mayor Bill Foster dated June 13, 2012, William Ballard, president of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, the group trying to stop the LENS, wrote the following:
"The Lens is not a pier. The Pier Task Force knew what a pier was and what a pier should be. I urge you to pick up your copy of the Pier Advisory Task Report of June 2010. Turn to page 13 "Case Studies" which contains photographs of seven successful piers. Please read the case study conclusions on that page. One of those conclusions is "All have either amusement type program or very specialized program as the predominant draw." Our Municipal Pier, all the piers studied by the Pier Task Force, and all of the pier alternatives proposed by the Pier Task Force, have the look, feel and "program" of a real pier. It is immediately obvious that The Lens does not have the look and feel of a real pier and it is equally obvious that The Lens will lack the amusement feature which was touted as the predominant draw. The reef which The Lens was to focus on would not provide much amusement by reason of the natural turbidity of Tampa Bay. It may be there, but people wouldn't be able to see it."

In the Pier Task Force Final Report their Vision of the Pier was:
"Our vision is for a vibrant Pier Complex that appeals to both local residents and visitors throughout the year. It should speak to our city's beautiful aquatic setting, and of spectacular views of our cityscape and the Bay. The Pier should complement the larger downtown waterfront and serve as its front door, centerpiece, and anchor. The architecture of the main building should reflect our history and unique identity as a place and City, and be a worthy symbol of our great City".
 
It sounds to me like the Pier Task Force had it right.

In a paper entitled "The Lens" - We Can do Better, William Ballard says "Michael Maltzan first set foot in St. Petersburg on September 19, 2011. His contest winning submission was filed by the November 30, 2011 deadline."
That's just 72 days counting weekends.
That seemed like a pretty short time window to come up with such an eclectic design. Surely there had to be some motivation for the concept, so I grabbed my camera and headed to the Pier for some inspiration of my own.

Assuming Maltzan and his team took some time to swing through the Dali museum on the way to the Pier, the pictures above may help explain the motivation and concept.

All of that dripping and looping had to come from somewhere.
City Council, are you really going to build this thing? Really?

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's Really Going On At City Hall


It's all over the newspaper, the blogs and is a general topic of conversation in St. Pete, what is going on at City Hall?

A lot of the writers, me included, have hung the blame on Bill Fosters' lack of leadership. And, as Mayor that's where the buck stops. It is the Mayors' job to lead, and pretty much everyone agrees that he has come up woefully short in the leadership column.

Bill gets up every morning truly believing there is a lot of good in everyone and if he just waits long enough they will do the right thing. Things just don't work that way. especially at City Hall.
A while back I posted "Does Bill Foster Really Want To Be Mayor of St. Petersburg" on SaintPetersblog. It is still a relevant question.

Mayor Foster has lost the respect of the staff, and more importantly they don't have any sense of fear that they may be held responsible for what they do. City Council sees the Mayor as a wishy washy adolescent who inadvertently got elected Mayor. Virtually nobody on the staff takes Bill Foster seriously. I know I was there.

City staff members have always had their own agenda, from Codes Enforcement to Parking to the Police Department the people running every City Department have their agenda and they work at it quietly all the time. Left without leadership they move in their direction.

The two really strong administrative leaders, Tish Elston and Mike Connors cannot seem to get any traction with the staff, most likely because Mayor Foster won't back them up.

All of this leads to the debacle at last Thursday's Council meeting item regarding red light cameras where staff goes off on its own agenda without any direction or reporting responsibility. Follow that with the LENS team trying to slip a cool $60K past Council so they have some wiggle money and you have a total lack of respect for leadership, or a leader totally in the dark
.
Unprepared and politically motivated, City Council members pounce and the whole organization looks like a very bad joke.

The child like sniping and condescending approach of the Mayor only infuriates Council and gives the public that sinking feeling in their stomachs.

What's Going On At City Hall? You're just seeing the proof that electing an adolescent adult to run a big City just doesn't work. And it's not going to get any better until there is a new Mayor and a couple of new Council members.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request

Have your say. Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information at Stop The Lens.
 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Where is the PD Video Surveillance Vehicle?


It has been just over 1 year since the Brinks Corporation donated an armored truck to the St. Petersburg Police department to be converted into a mobile video surveillance vehicle.

That's right 1 YEAR.  

City Council approved the funding months ago and Police Chief Harmon promised City Council they would "see it" in July.

So where is it?

PD management has stalled, delayed and put off deploying this crime prevention tool. Why?
No one seems to know. Council member Nurse has asked repeated questions but gets the typical Chief Harmon generalities and lame excuses.

I built the first prototype in about 6 weeks so why is this one taking so long?

The simple answer is the Police Chief and his three assistant chiefs just don't want the thing on the street. They are not technology savvy enough to figure out how to use it, and scared to see what it might actually find.

Their approach follows the Chuck Harmon model "if I don't see it, I don't have to act". Or more appropriately, I can't hold the truck accountable for what it might see, so I would actually have to do something.

Mayor Foster promised the expanded use of technology in his campaign, but interestingly not one new piece of significant law enforcement technology has been deployed since his election.

Only two things motivate Chuck Harmon, fear of personal responsibility and boot you know where. That's all you've got work with Mr. Mayor, otherwise it will be at the PD as it has been since you took office - status quo, delay, delay, excuse, delay.

Where is the Brinks Truck? Last sighting it had a nice new white paint job, no Police markings and was sitting peacefully in a bay at the fleet maintenance lot with no one working on it.

Mr. Mayor, it is time to stop grinning widely and start talking to your Police Chief firmly otherwise all of those Public safety campaign promises are just so much smoke.

e-mail Doc at dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Will a Community Redevelopment Agency Work For Midtown?


Before any discussion of a Community Redevelopment Act here is the State Statute Title XI, Chapter 163,

Given the history of midtown, the recent easy manipulation of tax increment funds(TIF) in the Pier debacle, the City has absolutely no business creating a CRA for midtown. Here are some reasons why.
  • The CRA is an independent authority. It will be quickly riddled with special interests and the opportunity for fraud and mishandling of funds is almost a certainty.
  • Look at the fine job the City has done managing the Housing Authority. This is the Housing Authority on steroids.
  • The big question is will tax rates be increased in the CRA to provide the tax increment funds?
  • How much will the City borrow against the tax increment funds?
  • Who will pay the interest?
  • What happens when the Midtown CRA goes bust. Who picks up the tab?
This section of St. Petersburg has never responded to redevelopment efforts and it is unlikely it will until it is policed better. It won't be policed better until the current Police Chief and most of his assistant chiefs are gone.
You have to start where the problems are: drugs, prostitution, crime and begin to solve those issues without worrying about the next riot. Throwing Tax Increment Funds into some huge bond effort in an attempt to somehow build our way out of these problems is unlikely to work.
Unless Mayor Foster is ready to make some long needed changes at the PD this whole effort is merely good money chasing the wrong problems.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.




 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Can The St. Pete Administration Cut The Budget?

For the past few years the City administration has used the traditional budget balancing methods of reducing capital expenditures, eliminating training budgets and reducing general operating expenses. There have been a significant number of staff reductions including eliminating positions, resignations and retirements. But the administration has run out of quick fixes.
There have been calls to use the City's massive reserves to defray operating expenses, but Mayors and City Councils have generally shied away from this as a bad business practice since it really just pushes the problem down the road.
The private sector for decades has used a combination of plans to incentivize people to leave the payroll. These plans allow those at or near retirement to leave early or if they have just been hanging around, like a lot of City employees, it encourages them to leave.
Three steps To Transforming the City Administration
1. Determine the total amount of savings necessary to bring both the 2013 and estimated 2014 budgets into balance.
2. Look at the entire MANAGEMENT team and reduce the number of supervisors and managers, Majors, Captains, Assistant Chiefs, District Chiefs and administrators to meet that goal. As a general rule of thumb reduce:

  • 2 senior administrators, and their support staff such as secretaries and assistants
  • 1 manger in every 5 and their support staff such as secretaries
  • 1 supervisor in every 8
  • Public safety must participate but only with senior staff such as Assistant Chiefs, District Chiefs, and Majors, Captains, and civilian managers and supervisors.
  • Once identified these people must leave the organization.
  • No cut and shuffle leaving them hidden away on the payroll.
3. How?
  • Put together a viable incentive program that adds significantly to the normal termination pay and will encourage people to leave.
  • Don't worry about people walking away with large sums of money. This thinking is a holdover from the David Fisher Administration and is last century's thinking. These payouts are investments in the City's future.
  • Identify those whose positions are being cut, inform them of the decision, and they will have 1 month to take the incentive package or simply be removed from the payroll.
  • Take whatever amount is necessary to fund the incentives and termination pay from the reserve funds.
  • This approach creates permanent solution to the problem, blunts the argument against using reserve funds, because this program is a onetime effort that resolves the problem going forward.
  • The pay back on this investment should be 100% in less than three years.
  • Do not hire a consultant to study or do this - just do it.
  • Maintain a hard hiring freeze for at least 24 months.
Draconian? Insensitive? Uncaring? Perhaps. But if Bill Foster had had the courage to take similar steps when he came to office, there is a good chance the budget would be balanced and maybe even running a slight surplus.
Two administrations, Baker and Foster, have tried to wait this thing out hoping something magical would happen. There is no magic bullet, it's time to act.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The St. Pete City Budget Round 2


In what could easily be called a rare show of wisdom the City Council voted down the Fire Fee.

Ill conceived, as an attempt to load budget responsibility on the fire fighters, who by the way did not support the mayor's election bid, and would not have benefitted from this fee, it created yet more unneeded controversy and division in the City. To say nothing of the cost of the "consultant" brought in to give the administration some cover in this debacle.

Council agreed to a millage increase, the right way to go if the City really needs more money, and then started asking some budget questions. The Mayor could not provide any answers simply because he has no clue what is going on in the budget process.

A public records request for the third quarter numbers and year end estimates resulted in the two documents above you can look at for yourself.

The Third Quarter shows a $5.2 million deficit and a yearend surplus of $12.5 but the Year End only reveals a $2.66 million deficit a bit short of the Mayor's $10 Million number.

Council wanted some questions to ask so here are a couple:
1. Where is the other $7.5 Million? The LENS Maybe.
2. Is the bond fee for the LENS financing included in the 2013 Budget?

Council is looking for some recommended budget cuts here are a few:
Police

Eliminate the Assistant Chief of the Administrative Services Bureau ($162,000), eliminate 3 crime analysts (about $200,000), and if the City started moving the Police dispatch to the Sheriff there is several million dollars in recurring savings. We don't know how much because not one City official will ask the Sheriff for a cost estimate.

City Development Administration  
Could likely be eliminated $652,000. What do they really do?

Planning & Economic Development
If you can find $3.2 million dollars worth of value in there send me a note. This is likely where LENS money is buried. A $1 million dollar cut here probably would not affect any citizen.

Public Works Administration/Engineering
With a combined budget of $6.2 Million there has got to be some room here for some house leaning now would be the time. Let's get $750,000 out of this area, and the City will be better off.

Budget and Management
I am still trying to figure out how this department runs a $2.6 Million dollar deficient. Someone help me.

The problem is all of these cuts involve eliminating jobs. The Mayor and his administration have not had the stomach for that, but it needs to be done. Still plenty fat, the staff has got to be cut and City council will have to hold the Mayor responsible.

Council needs to be very specific that cuts in police officers, and fire fighters, that are designed to enflame the public, will not be accepted.

These cuts designed to stir up the public and engender things like this millage increase and are the oldest tactics in the political playbook book. It is way past time to recognize them for what they are - political theater.

Look through the documents above and come up with your own ideas and send them to your District Council person. If you don't want to do that, just copy this and forward it to them.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook friend Request.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where Did all of Those RNC Bucks Go?


Now that the RNC is over and most of the clutter is cleared up we are starting to see local
merchants and businesses carp about how little business they did during the RNC. How the RNC revelers didn't patronize the local businesses like the RNC and local politicians said they would.

Alarmingly, and apparently surprisingly, the RNC folks did not drink as much, shop as much, or cavort as much as the local business folks expected.

Fearing the worst for South Pinellas County, I took a drive down the beaches on Wednesday of RNC week and was amazed at what I did not see. Hotel lots were empty. Right below the WELCOME RNC signs the Vacancy sign was on.

If you listened carefully to the convention, only Clearwater was mentioned as a delegate site. I did not hear St. Pete mentioned after the welcoming Party.

Even the famous "Gentleman's Club" on St. Pete Beach had the "WELCOME RNC" sign out along with an empty parking lot. This group of Republicans were truly a conservative lot.

More and more often these days, large events promoted by the Politicians as great money makers turn out to be duds for the local business owners. You may want to think about that before you make a major donation.

For many, the GOP Convention and St. Pete "RNC WELCOME PARTY" turned into a local business debacle. It should not have come as a big surprise, since many of the delegates who showed up for the welcome party were bussed in bussed out and had no way to get down to Beach Drive, the real heart and soul of St. Pete. The weather didn't help much either.

On the Saturday before the Convention started, I saw one downtown moderate sized bar with 5 beer trucks lined up outside unloading kegs of beer. Probably as much beer as they sell in a month or more. Wonder how that worked out?

Small business owners are not the only ones that may end up hoodwinked by the RNC Convention. Apparently there is a bill at St. Pete City Hall for over $500,000 that somebody, most likely the tax payers, will have to foot. I did note that the Mayor seemed to have a good time.

There is a message here. If you're a small business person you need to carefully evaluate any of these large scale events promoted by the County or City as a "big economic benefit". Look at where they are, when the events are scheduled, how attendees are transported, how they affect your customers access and the nature of the attendees.

Some local business people always benefit. But they are usually the ones who know the "right" people.

e-mail doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, so send me a Facebook Friend

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Charlie Crist - Republican, Independent, Democrat, Chameleon

The first time I met Charlie Crist was at what is now Tropicana Field, then the Thunder Dome. It was a brief meeting short introductions, couple of questions about what we were working on. For the next few years every time I ran into Charlie he went out of his way to say hi.
 

I supported Charlie for Governor, was there at the Vinoy victory party, and I thought Charlie would make a really great governor.

Sometime during the second year Charlie seemed to become weary of being Governor. It is a tireless and somewhat thankless job. The problems never end, you can't put them all in jail its probably not that much fun. It seems to take someone with the tenacity and conviction of a Jeb Bush to really do the job and enjoy it.

Charlie started looking around for a high profile political spot that didn't have all of that grungy detail like unions and budgets to deal with. The US Senate was perfect.

But the party had grown weary of Charlie, dumped him for a better looking Marco Rubio so Charlie took the Republicans money ran as an Independent and lost.

Now Charlie is courting the Democrats. And boy are they interested. They are especially interested if they can snag a little of that John Morgan money and influence.

Could Charlie beat Rick Scott? Good possibility if the Democrats can rustle up some serious cash. It would be a brutal campaign against Scott. If he didn't win, Charlie would be done in Florida politics.

But what if Scott decided not to run? Impossible you say, but maybe not. How would you like to get up every day facing an almost impossible task, where everything you read and hear about you, your efforts and your family is trash talk. Where you can't trust anyone including your own staff, and you're doing it all on your own dime?

Rick Scott is far from a quitter, but even you harshest Scott critics have to admit it will have been a grueling 4 years. The real question may be how much of this is Rick Scott willing to put his family through?

What would Charlie do? Run as a Democrat and risk another defeat? Come dashing back to the Republicans with John Morgan in tow begging forgiveness? All good questions.

If I were the Democrats, I would watch Charlie very carefully. This mad rush to get him on the speakers list at the Dems Convention may be another indication of just how good a politician Charlie Crist really is. Who is really being showcased during this speech? Charlie Crist not Barack Obama.

Charlie's party may actually be the POM Party(Party of the Moment).

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Foster- Flip Flopping or just Desperate?


Mayor Foster is now trying to gain some support for the sagging fire fee by asking City Council to exempt non-profits. I don't know if this one qualifies as a genuine flip flop but it sure shows some serious desperation on the part of the administration.

Foster has also said he wants to lower both of the components of the fire fee. Either you have budget problem or you don't. If you're going to reduce the base and lower the amount of the fee it sounds like the true budget detail may not support the fire fee at all.

If you want some detail, Mark Puente has an informative piece in the Tampa Bay Times: "Mayor Foster now says nonprofits shouldn't have to pay the fire fee"

Foster has done a good job of keeping Council off point on the Budget with the fire fee. It appeals to the base instinct of a politician, because it raises revenue but is not really a tax. Most of the discussion has been about raising revenue not really looking at costs.

Council rolled over and voted for the fire fee to "get a balanced budget" when what they should have done is reject the fee, send the budget back to Foster, specified no cuts in public safety and directed him to bring back a balanced budget. Put the pressure where it is supposed to be - on the Administration. That is what the Charter amendment voted in during the last election allows them to do.

It is hard to imagine that in a $200 million plus budget, with a shortfall of around $10 million, that another 5% cut would as the Mayor said, "lead to the deterioration of our city and the deconstruction of what we have built up over the last 20 years." It might if the Mayor let that happen, but if he would just lead instead of waffle, things would not deteriorate.

Proving once again it is easier to grandstand than fix the problems.

Council has one more opportunity to kill this really regressive fee/tax. No talking, debating, over thinking, legal mumbo-jumbo from the lawyers on the Council, just vote it down.
It is time for the Mayor to look at all of the departments and do some more cutting. There is room and he knows it.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@veriozon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Unanswered Questions = More Fees and Taxes

City Council and the Mayor are pretty good about starting things but not to good at following up.
 
Here are some lingering questions that need answers:
 
Several months back Chief Harmon told the PS&I City Council Subcommittee that the Armored Video Surveillance Unit to be built in a vehicle donated over 9 months ago would be available in July. Where is it?

Well part of the problem is the PD decided to have a "naming" contest so they can figure out what to call the thing. Good idea or just a delaying tactic. I'll let you decide.

While we're on the subject of video surveillance cameras, the PD was supposed to come up with a policy on where they would be located, who would monitor them and so on. Never mind the fact they have had a draft policy for over a year, no report yet.

What about the $250,000 or so in cameras from the RNC? Did anyone ever really figured out what they are going to do with those after the party?

Sticking with the PD, did anyone ever call or e-mail the Sheriff and ask him how much it would cost to have the Sheriff's call center dispatch the PD? Last time Wengay ask the question they all just ignored him. But the amount you're going to pay the City to cover the PD budget overage of $9 million or so is real. Either you'll pay a regressive fee/tax or a property tax increase, but no real serious effort to reduce cost.

While we're on a roll with the PD, that new building will have $2 to$4 million or more in costs associated with the communications center. Last time Mike Connors was asked for a cost estimate on that part of the project he said he didn't have the number but would get it. Anybody seen the figure?
 
Foster was supposed to bring a balanced budget to City Council in accordance with the last Charter amendments but he really didn't do that. He used the Police budget overage as a lever to get a fee/tax increase.
 
Mayor Foster should ring a few bells and get some answers. Good luck.
 
Council should throw out the fire fee/tax, forget any mileage increase hand the budget back to Mayor Foster and tell him to bring it back with no operational cuts at the PD.
 
E-mail Doc at dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Gateway Project - Who Knew What When

The Gateway Project - Who Knew What When?

Mayor Foster put on his innocent look. Council Chair Curran shrieked secrecy and back door deals. City Council ran for cover.

Then there is an interesting name, Rick Musset, that surfaced.

It is no stretch to say that Rick Musset is probably as close to a genius as anyone on the City staff. Beginning with the Dome and Bay Plaza right up to Bay Walk, Beach Drive, the downtown condo renaissance and the Shops at Bay Walk you will find Rick Musset's finger prints on virtually every major City development project in the last three plus decades.

Musset has an insatiable work ethic. A former City manager once told me, "Rick is my kind of guy. He is here when I get here, here when I leave, and usually answers his office phone on Saturday if I call". Musset was deeply trusted by two other notable deal makers: Rick Dodge and Rick Baker.

Serving City Mangers, strong Mayors and Councils since the 80s, save a brief stint up north, Musset has always been the consummate behind the scenes planner, problem solver and deal maker. In my experience the only people who knew what was going on are the people Mussett wanted to know and they only knew what Rick wanted them to know.

What is going on?

City staff is hobbled with a lack luster Mayor and a dysfunctional City Council. Right now my bet is most of the serious work is being done way behind the scenes. Staff can't trust the Mayor to keep his mouth shut about the deals in work, City Council is suffering from a serious case of talking too much, doing too little and ignoring the constituency. Curran, Council Chair, has lost any shred of public respect and provides no leadership. It is not particularly surprising they are not in the loop on anything big.

The fact that the entire elected City administration is not respected or trusted is evidenced by the fact the Darryl LeClair went to the County Commission about the Gateway project before coming to the St. Pete elected body.

It would be hard to believe that Musset would not be involved in something as big as this since the project would ultimately need a lot of City support. Musset is the principle deal maker and can string together a series seemingly impossible situations to make a deal work.

Musset plays Chess not Checkers. Curran has been around long enough to know that. When Rick Musset asks you to change something like a formal request from the Council Chair there is always more on the table than there is on the plate. Ask a few questions.

Just maybe if City Council and the Mayor listened to the people, paid more attention to the details and postured a little less, the serious people in the City with the ability to make things happen would include them.

They call that confidence.

e-mail Doc at dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baseball at Gateway a Good Idea or Not?


A new private (for the moment) plan to build a new stadium may be just the catalyst needed to get things off dead center. But is Gateway the Right place?
Scenario 1
You live in Pinellas County or Manatee County and work in Tampa. You are going to face a horrendous traffic nightmare every time the Rays play an evening home game. There are not enough roads and bridges to handle all of the traffic efficiently even if you use all three bridges as part of the equation. It would not seem possible to build an off ramp large enough to handle the stadium back up. Once again the Howard Franklin would become the "Car Strangled Spanner"


Scenario 2
A lot of the same people who ballyhoo the tourist industry as part of the Tampa Bay economy are deep in the stadium issue. Consider a family of four who have just flown into Tampa International on Friday arriving about 5:00PM, get a rental car and spend the next 2-3 hours on the Howard Franklin or Courtney Campbell Causeway trying to get to their hotel on the beach. Sounds like a set up for another of those "Least Friendly" awards.

Scenario 3
One of the really great things about this area is the Tampa International Airport and the ability to get to and from it for both tourist and business travelers. Placing a baseball stadium right in the middle of access to that benefit seems like an incredibly bad idea. If we want to continue to tout this area as a place for high tech business investment, good airport access is much more important than a baseball stadium.

And speaking of roads, just who will be picking up the tab for the massive exits, entrances, ramps and other road improvements required to support the Echelon plan. (Hint: go look in the mirror).


A stadium on the other side of the bridges where the it does not impact interstate rush hour commuter traffic flow and baseball traffic is generally using the lower volume side of the interstate system to get to the games seems like a much better all around approach.

For now it is an interesting conversation piece, but it's much more about finding a use for piece of Echelon property that has not developed as expected than it is about saving the Rays for St. Pete.
It might also be a good idea to go back and look at the City's box score in dealing with Echelon. I don't believe the City is leading in that series.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Is Billy About to Lose the Ball?


He stood there on the mound haplessly kicking the ground rolling the ball around in his barely used glove. He looked around for his eight team mates but there were none to be found. Not even a catcher they had all abandoned him.

Stu stood at the plate his teeth clinched his eyes squinting the bat raised determined to knock one out of the park.

The Trop was empty save for a lone person sitting behind home plate. Bud Selig sneered as Billy looked into the batter.

In the opposing dugout were those nasty Hillsborough County Commissioners and Mayor Buckhorn jeering and threatening to take away his ball.

In the home dugout the Pinellas County Commissioners were hooting and hollering wanting their turn on the mound.

What to do? What to do?

The water front stadium had sunk. The secret plan had not materialized, the threats to potential pitchers have lost their credibility. The empty threats, lack of leadership, unwillingness to compromise and failure to act had finally come home to roost.

Besides all of that Stu didn't seem to like him.

If Billy threw the pitch, all Stu had to do was let it go by, the ball would roll hopelessly to the wall and Stu would run the bases scoring a run and winning the game.

Billy looked dejectedly at the ground. Suddenly a huge figure of a man strode slowly from the home bull pen and put his arm around Billy. Newt, perhaps the most compassionate of the team members, helped Billy off the field.

Immediately both dugouts erupted as each Commission dashed to the mound. An epic struggle ensued to see who would pitch next. Yelling, screaming, sign waving (they are all politicians).

Almost unnoticed was a small gathering at home plate. Stu, Bud and Bob. Bob had what appeared to be some plans. Everyone was smiling.

Baseball is good for the Tampa Bay region. We need to keep it here. The best way to keep it here is to work together. After all it is a team sport.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend Request.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Small Business and Trickle Down VS Trickle Up Economics

We are hearing a lot about the economy and what works and what doesn't. Why all of this talk about small business?

What is a small business? Here is the Small Business Administration's definition. You might be surprised to find that you actually work for a small business. Generally 100 to 1500 employees, $2.5 million to $15 million in revenues.

Here are some facts from the Small Business Administration (SBA),
Small Businesses:
Represent 99.7 percent of all employers
Employ half of all private sector employs
Pay 44% of total U.S. private payroll
Generated 65 percent of net new jobs in the past 17 years
Hire 43 Percent of high tech workers

In the Bush era, trickledown economics failed principally due to unbridled greed in the financial sector, a failure of the Bush administration to properly regulate banks and Wall Street and to heed the warning signs that the economy was at a tipping point.

In the Obama administration, trickle up economics have failed to revive the economy principally due to poor execution and an over emphasis on socioeconomic welfare i.e. the Obama Health Care Plan. Continuing to borrow money to inject into the lower level of the economy has not worked. Stimulus money misapplied and mismanaged and weak economic policies have created an anemic growth rate that cannot sustain the national debt or the economy for much longer.

President Obama wants to stay the course, continue to develop stimulus packages, grow the government and expand the welfare state. All requiring a bigger government, more debt and more taxes. There is no Obama plan to scale back government and reduce the national debt. Obama wants small business to grow but with little help, less money, less opportunity and less reward for more risk.
Romney has not embraced the Bush approach, he has not fully embraced the Regan approach, he is proposing a new way to look at our economy. The Romney economic plan would refine regulation, reduce taxes, spending and government programs and get the rising national debt under control. 

Romney would develop economic stability, move more resources and decision making power to the states, increase domestic energy production, and yes hold steady or reduce taxes on the top earners and savers to encourage investment, business growth and expansion especially in the area of small business.

The choice is very clear.


If you want to work, have a career and an opportunity for success you must vote in this election.


If you own or work for a small business you should be extra sure to vote in this election. It is your future most at risk.

Forget political parties, forget how mom and dad vote, you should look carefully at both candidates and make a decision that is in your best interest.

e-mail doc at dr.webb@verizon.net or send me a Facebook Friend request.