Monday, April 24, 2017

Clearwater buys 1.4 acres of land, loses 6 acres earlier in same week

The city’s $4.5 million purchase of land coveted by the Church of Scientology was of great interest to the general public.


Tampa, Fl
From: Tampa Bay Guardian
Posted by: Editor Tom Rask

Posted by TBG2016 on APRIL 21, 2017

The Tampa Bay Times assigned two reporters to cover the City of Clearwater’s purchase of 1.4 acres of downtown land last night. However, the Times assigned no reporters to cover the city’s embarrassing loss in Pinellas circuit court earlier in the week in a matter involving 6.5 acres of land that the city had claimed it owns.
The city’s $4.5 million purchase of land coveted by the Church of Scientology was of great interest to the general public. However, the loss of these 6.5 acres of submerged land is equally interesting because it reveals questionable work by city legal staff. The outcome of the case may also have important implications for boating in the waters between Clearwater Beach and Island Estates.
Bill Blackwood is a retired Honeywell engineer and a 30-year resident of Clearwater. Blackwood owns a company called Bayesplanade.com, LLC which won a so-called “action to quiet title” lawsuit against the city this week. In simple terms, such a lawsuit is filed to suppress a claim by a specific party (but not all parties) to property specified in the quiet title action.
Blackwood filed his lawsuit in February of 2016 after the city in July of 2015 demanded that Blackwood cease and desist from “advertising [the disputed] city-owned lands for sale.” The dispute involves 6.5 acres of submerged land in waters off of Clearwater Bay, land that the city expressly stated in its letter that it has title to. Blackwood disagreed, and claimed instead that his company has title to the land.
The background to the court action is that Blackwood wants to build a mooring field in Mandalay Channel on 26 acres of submerged land that he owns. Mandalay Channel is a portion of the waters that lie between the northern portion of Clearwater Beach and Island Estates. Tying up a boat in a mooring field is less expensive than dock storage and allows the boat swing with the wind and tide without impacting other boats in the field.
Several cities in Florida operate mooring fields, including St. Pete, Sarasota, St. Augustine and Key West. Locally, Gulfport also had advanced plans for one before deciding to temporarily shelve the plan due to more pressing budget priorities . However, it appears that Blackwood’s would be the first private mooring field in the Tampa Bay area.

Above: a mooring field operated by the City of Fort Myers Beach

The Tampa Bay Times reported last September that “city and county officials were blindsided by the project because Blackwood started the application process at the top and received a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in June” of 2016.
However, given that Blackwood’s lawsuit was filed several months prior to the issuance of the FDEP permit, the city should not have felt “blindsided.” However, the city attorney and other staffers may now feel other emotions, such as “embarrassment” or “regret”, after this week’s clear court order.

Judge Jack St. Arnold

In his ruling, judge Jack St. Arnold found that the city “failed to present any evidence to negate or contradict the factual circumstances” which he listed as 32 points of “fact and conclusions of law.” In a half-page conclusion, the judge then found quite simply that Blackwood’s company owns the disputed land.
The day after the ruling, the city filed a motion for rehearing in which it claimed that the judge’s ruling “does not comport to [sic] the actual findings and conclusions enunciated by the Court” during a March 2nd court hearing.
The city further claimed that it was “unaware that the Plaintiff has submitted its proposed order to the Court,” despite also admitting in the same filing that it received a copy of the proposed order from Blackwood’s attorney 13 days before the judge ruled. Notably, the city had submitted its own proposed order to the court a few days after receiving Blackwood’s proposed order, and a week before judge St. Arnold issued his ruling.
At 6:30 in the morning the day after the city asked for a rehearing, Blackwood sent a blistering e-mail to city council members and others in which he said that “the Clearwater City Council must responsibly cut its losses, finally accept it was dead wrong, and recognize the Court’s Summary Judgment.” Blackwood claims that the city “has already spent well in excess of $30,000” on the lawsuit.
In the aforementioned July 2015 letter from the city to Blackwood, assistant city attorney Laura Mahony wrote:
“I agree that this matter should be put to rest once and for all. To put the matter to rest, I suggest that Mr. Blackwood execute a quit-claim deed in favor of the City for the disputed submerged lands, as the chain of title clearly indicates title has vested in the City.”
Mahony’s use of “I” rather than “the city” in her letter reveals a relaxed communication style not appropriate for important legal matters affecting Clearwater’s navigable waterways.  The city may be spending too much time “going clear” instead of thinking clearly about important land issues such as this one.
More importantly, attorney Mahony had expressed the city’s desire to “put the matter to rest once and for all.” But after Blackwood filed his lawsuit, a different city attorney named Richard Hull took action that apparently conflicted with Mahony’s statement.
Hull claimed in court document that Blackwood failed to cite “the source” of the city’s claim on the land in his lawsuit, a claim which the city had clearly stated in Mahony’s letter. In other words, instead of squarely seeking to “put the matter to rest once and for all,”,  Hull’s approach was to try to thwart the lawsuit. Had he succeeded, the question of who owned the submerged land would have remained unresolved.
The city’s litigation tactic of trying to thwart the case rather than seeking to finally decide whatever issue the plaintiff seeks to resolve is a common legal tactic. However, that tactic has failed so far in this case. A thwarting tactic may also be inappropriate for a city acting as agents on behalf of the people, especially given that the city had stated that “this matter should be put to rest once and for all.”
Presumably, the city’s desire to “put to rest once and for all” the ownership of the disputed land is its guiding light in this matter, regardless of whether the city thinks it’s “winning” or “losing” the court case.
Decisions on city legal strategy are made by Clearwater city attorney Pamela Akin, who has held that position since 1994.  Akin’s salary is $181,621 per year and she received a 3% raise in both 2016 and 2015.  Only city council can hire or fire the city attorney, not the city manager.

“Everything just went Black(wood)”

The city had already lost round #1 in it’s battle with Blackwood when FDEP denied the city’s appeal of the mooring field permit it had issued to Blackwood in June of 2016. FDEP’s order dismissing the city’s petition was issued in December 2016. This week’s court order suggest that the city just lost round 2, may be down for the count, and should think about throwing in the towel.
The reasons for the Times’ decision to not cover this story any further since last September are unknown. The Times reported at that time that the city expected to “squash the [mooring field] project.” Now that round #2 was won by the “squashee”, a follow-up story might have been in order.
Whether the city’s actions in this court case were part of that attempt to “squash the project” is not clear, and the city does not comment on active litigation. However, once the litigation is over, all city records in this matter, including those on the city’ legal strategy, become public record. The Guardian will follow up and report what that strategy was.
As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish new stories.

Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Guardian
This post is contributed by the Tampa Bay Guardian. The views expressed in this post are the author's.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ridership Declining: No Need For Regional Transit Agency, Big Need to Fix Interstates and HF Bridge

Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

Special interests, lobbyists, Senator Latvala and their media enablers are feverishly working together to force a regional transit authority on Tampa Bay taxpayers. However, they cannot ignore the state of transit in Hillsborough and Pinellas - double digit ridership declines. Hillsborough's population is growing but its transit ridership is declining.

At the HART Board Finance and Audit Committee meeting this week, the budgetary pressures on HART were presented and discussed. The chart below from the budget presentation, found here, reflects HART's current budget issues.
HART's budgetary pressures
The video of the lengthy committee meeting that includes this presentation is found here.

To net things out, HART has a deficit of a little over $13 million dollars. The major causes of the deficit are declining ridership and rising healthcare costs (thanks Obamacare…) HART moved to using zero based budgeting this budget cycle that enabled them to reduce that deficit to about $8.5 million. (shows why zero based budgeting should be used by all taxpayer funded entities…)

The budget will be part of HART's Board meeting agendas from May through August with Budget public hearings in September. The May 1 HART Board meeting will be interesting and one to watch and pay attention to.

Across the Bay in Pinellas, PSTA, mismanaged for years, is experiencing ridership declines as well.

This recent Tampa Bay Guardian article states PSTA's ridership is at a 10 year low. Even when PSTA made rides free on the Jolly Trolley, ridership for the Jolly Trolley was 52,235 in March, down a whopping 34% from 79,045 in March of 2016. And tourism is booming again in Pinellas.

The Guardian article also indicates how ridership is defined which overstates the number of actual riders. There is also a bit of a scandal regarding the recent contract for the trolley service and some sketchy changes to reporting done by PSTA.

HART and PSTA's declining ridership is what almost every transit agency in the country, except in NYC, is experiencing.

Existing rail systems are entering an era of disrepair as we have a backlog of $80 Billion of major repair and rehab needed. Trump's skinny budget eliminates the federal New Starts/Small Starts and Tiger grants for new transit projects. Trump has stated he wants to focus on getting our existing infrastructure in good repair.

Yet today taxpayers are funding another transit campaign, this time a regional one, the $1.6 million Regional Premium Transit campaign. The cost of this latest campaign is ghastly - especially after the $1.3 million Go Hillsborough debacle.

And conveniently timed with the transit campaign is Senator Latvala's bill. His bill will force taxpayers in Tampa Bay to fund a regional transit authority that takes away local control and will trigger  regional taxing.

What's more egregious is how the bill was created, the unscrupulous politics and the bully tactics being used. The bill was created behind the scenes by the same special interests organization who has been the biggest supporter of rail in Tampa Bay.

Latvala used  abused his powerful Appropriations Chair position in the Senate by playing games with the process rules and holding appropriations bills hostage to get his way to move the bill along. Fortunately Senators Lee and Brandes amended the bill to reign in some of the shenanigans we fully expect with a regional transit authority. Their efforts are greatly appreciated but we hope the bill dies.

With declining transit ridership in Tampa Bay, Latvala's bill and the costly transit campaign is absurd. Considering the state of our existing infrastructure and getting any federal dollars for new transit projects may be a pipe dream, these are out of touch with reality.

Tampa Bay has a transportation issue it needs to address not a sudden regional transit issue and it certainly does not need another transit agency, an arms length away from voters and taxpayers, to fund.

Regional transit authorities become very powerful, arrogant, wasteful and require higher taxes. Almost all, if not all, of the rail boondoggles were rammed through regional transit agencies pushed by deep pocketed special interests.

The focus needs to be on getting our existing infrastructure in good repair FIRST.

Focus on fixing and improving our interstates - the foundation of our transportation system in Tampa Bay - add the needed managed lane capacity that also creates a bus transit corridor that could also be used by AV's in the near future, fix the chokepoints and fix the Howard Frankland Bridge that hundreds of thousands of people in 180K vehicles use everyday. FDOT has the funding, no tax hike needed, to get this done.

Do the Basics First!

Stop pursuing the absurd.


—————————————————————————————————————-

Here again is the Genesis for Latvala's regional transit bill today. Everyone should watch it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Businesses and Residences with more than 6 repeat calls for noise in St. Petersburg, Florida

Noise is not just a downtown issue in St. Petersburg, Florida. It's citywide.


St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff

The interactive map plots businesses and residences addresses with more than 6 repeat noise calls. Use this The toggle button,
to toggle between the  toggle the business and residences layers.

For addresses with greater than 6 repeat noise calls, residences account for more calls than businesses. However, businesses have a higher population density than residences. Thus, business noise has a greater impact on the nearby population.

In 2016, the #1 and #2 ranked business for repeat noise calls were not downtown but in Skyway Marina District and Bartlett Park Neighborhood, and they are, respectively, Flamingo Resort and Hollywood Nights South.

The data investigation found that addresses could be separated into four categories:
  • Business (Businesses are defined as bars, clubs, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants and storefronts), 
  • Residences (Homes, Apartments, Condos), 
  • Intersections — Not included on above map
  • Individuals. The address for the one noise citation for an individual was not found in the data and not included. 
An analysis of the addresses with more than six (6) repeat noise calls revealed 59 addresses accounted for 650 calls, where:
  • 13 Business had 239 calls
  • 43 Residences had 366 calls
  • 3 Intersections had 45 calls
Three intersections are not included in above map.
  • 22 calls at 13TH AV S / DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR ST S, St. Petersburg, Florida 
  • 14 calls at 13TH ST S / 24TH AV S, St. Petersburg, Florida 
  • 9 calls at 12TH AV S / DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR ST S, St. Petersburg, Florida 
The businesses that had greater than 6 repeat noise calls are listed here:
† Need to research the Call for Service Report to determine if this was for the bar that moved out. 

AUTHOR BIO

Mr. Neff has run hi-end eCommerce operations for major national and international brands. He was Chief Web Operations Division at United States Mint and an executive in luxury retail eCommerce. He has several startups under his belt and has worked in Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., and Dallas. in the past, he was Director Online Sales for a consumer product company, directed eCommerce marketing operations and online analytical operations. Now retired, he is enjoying life as an award winning photographer, writer, and contemporary artist who has shown his work at one of Art Miami's International Art Shows, Spectrum Miami. He occasionally tests online products for companies in Silicon Valley. The value he brings is institutional knowledge from years of experience.

When the City of St. Petersburg noise issue became an issue for others and him, Mr. Neff dusted off his skills to conduct an investigation, data collection and data analysis.
Should you have a noise-related story to share or have a question, contact me directly via email.

Public input is being sought on the Noise Ordinance. You may express your concerns and thoughts by emailing the Mayor at mayor@stpete.org, and your council member, council@stpete.org.


The opinions here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bay Post Internet or the Blog Publishers where it appears

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Latvala/Long scheme for a regional taxing transit Authority dead – for now

The thinly veiled attempt to circumvent to will of the voters was obvious from the very start


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

The highly touted "New" Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority may have died an appropriate death in the Senate Community Affairs Committee Chaired by Senator Tom Lee of Thonotosassa.

Here is the detail from Steve Bousquet Times/Hearld Tallahassee Bureau, Political clash over regional transit divides Tampa Bay senators

Originally touted by Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, Latvala signed on and offered Senate Bill 1672.

Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg along with Senator Lee put forth an amendment stripping the requiring the authority to get legislative approval before spending any money of light rail or spending money advocating for light rail in a voter referendum.

The ease with which this effort stopped the whole regional transit authority effort should tell the voters just exactly where this effort was headed.

The thinly veiled attempt to circumvent to will of the voters was obvious from the very start.

What this political circus does clearly point out is the real problem with transportation reform in the Bay Aare - It's the Politicians.

This effort should have been killed before it every got off the ground. Janet Long's complete disdain for the voters and their will as it applies to transportation was clearly on display.

"Voters of Hillsborough County and Pinellas County have rejected these in the past," Brandes said. "My goal is that this doesn't become an opportunity for Greenlight Pinellas 2.0," referring to the latest rejection of a transit plan by county voters."

I for one am not sure what Long and Latvala didn't get about the how people feel about light rail.

For now, Long and Latvala will slink off to lick their wounds, but rest assured the battle is not over.

TBARTA is a blight on the public transpiration effort in the Bay area, and until it goes completely away and all of its political tentacles to light rail, politics and politicians are severed it will be all but impossible for a coherent public transportation policy to emerge.

If nothing else, Long, Latvala and their big dollar transit fiends are a tenacious lot. Look for  yet another new and improved TBARTA to rise from the ashes of this disaster.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Be sure to follow me on Pintrest (Doc Webb),  Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY

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Please comment below

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

St. Petersburg’s Mayor Kriseman and some on City Council are out of touch with City’s Noise Issue

Robert Neff's series on the application and enforcement of the City of St. Petersburg's Noise Ordinance Continues this week.


St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff

Mayor Kriseman and Council do not live near a bar or restaurant that is a REPEAT noise generator. They do not understand what it is like to be involuntarily objected to noise. Why do you think the CIA and Military uses noise as an interrogation technique?

“From 2009-2016, St. Petersburg Police issued ZERO noise citations to businesses and residences in 27,638 calls to police dispatch.”

On City Council, several members support residents but some do not. You need to ask your Council Member and Mayor KrisemanWhere do you stand?

The Noise Ordinance is being revised. The 2nd Noise Ordinance Public Meeting was held on March 29.  Currently the presentations have not indicated there will be a "live demonstration" for Mayor Kriseman and City Council. They need to sit there for an hour or longer, so they can experience why we are calling the police to report bars and restaurants for repeat noise offenses. In addition, every bar, club and restaurant owner should be required to attend.   

What about your Council Member?

My Council Member Kornell stated at the 2nd Noise Ordinance Public Meeting, I have gone to the Flamingo Resort twenty times and never had an issue. This demonstrates his lack of understanding how outdoor amplified noise impacts lives and health. He is out of touch with the noise issue. He does not understand how noise can impact lives. 

Listening to the music and bass for an hour or two because you want to is way different than being subject to the constant audible noise or bass pounding in your home and AGAINST your will for one, two or more hours or even all day. Residences do not choose to be subjected to noise. We cannot leave our own home every time the bar, club, resort or restaurant wants to crank it up for its patrons. 

We live adjacent to the Flamingo Resort 52 weeks a year. We may be subjected to the noise four times a week, five on holidays and events. That is approximately 200 days that we could be subjected to noise as compared to Council Member Kornell’s 20 visits where he wants to be there. 

Mayor Kriseman and City Council need to be educated on how sound and noise work and disturbs your health. There is scientific data on the negative effects. Any noise expert would tell him, being inside is different than being 100 or 1000’ away and against your will. Again, the live demonstration should open their eyes!

I do not believe Mayor Kriseman nor City Council Members live within 1000’ of a club, bar, or restaurant that is a repeat noise offender. They need to ask themselves, Would I want to have to live like this? 

Here is a snapshot of how one of my weekends sounded in April. Since I live over 1000' away, Noise Ordinance 11-53(4) Loud and Raucous's "both a &b" applies from 8 AM - 11 PM and 11 PM - 8 AM (Midnight on weekends and holidays). If you live closer than 1000', you only have rights from 11 PM - 8 AM.  

SATURDAY:
11:30 PM. Thumping noticeable inside the condo for some time. Called Dispatch 12:23 AM, who said, Have an officer in the area. Thumping stopped at 12:40 AM. 
12:47 AM or so. Someone was on a mic and could hear it inside the condo. Called again 12:49 AM. When they get on the mic, you never now how long the audible noise will last or what the frequency will be.
12:54 AM. Silence

SUNDAY: 
Afternoon. After listening to the thumping in the condo for a good while, called Dispatch 6:27 PM. Left name, asked to be seen. Went downstairs to the docks to wait for police. Could clearly hear the bass on the docks. My Canadian snowbirds were on the dock for sunset. Several heard it, some did not. Unfortunately, the Officer did not show or call or I would have had witnesses, like I did at Kings Mooring earlier this year. 
6:36 PM. Thumping stopped.

By the way, the weather has been great, but the noise causes me to keep the windows closed. Windows can block some audible noise. The general rule is, the more you spend on windows, the more sound will be blocked. Not everyone can afford better windows, especially on a retiree’s fixed income. However, better windows will not block bass.

Listen to a resident who called the Police on Friday, October 14, after 1 AM.



Two excerpts from two articles on Noise

Article — Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague. Medscape.

The article's section "Adverse Health Effects of Noise" discusses: 
1. Hearing Impairment 
2. Interference with Spoken Communication
3. Sleep Disturbances
4. Cardiovascular Disturbances
5. Disturbances in Mental Health,
6. Impaired Task Performance
7. Negative Social Behavior and Annoyance Reactions    
A growing body of evidence confirms that noise pollution has both temporary and permanent effects on humans (and other mammals) by way of the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems.
The noise problems of the past pale in significance when compared with those experienced by modern city dwellers; noise pollution continues to grow in extent, frequency, and severity as a result of population growth, urbanization, and technological developments.
Article — 5 US Cities with the Highest Noise Levels
Miami. A city with a reputation for its nightlife will always have noise pollution issues. Miami added a city code to publish the worst offenders, but their enforcement of this law is notoriously inconsistent."

What have nearby cities done?


"Another change, which raised eyebrows on the council and among some members of the public, allows police officers to use their own ears to determine whether to issue a citation."

This has not worked in St. Petersburg Officers (Have told me) they are afraid that they will not be able to defend themselves in court. I say, look at the call logs to see how many calls are repeat. But the Police are not doing this.



Meanwhile, Bradenton went the other way. Nearby residents do not like this.

New Bradenton Noise Ordinance Causing Frustration

Public input is being sought on the Noise Ordinance. You may express your concerns and thoughts by emailing the Mayor at mayor@stpete.org, and your council member, council@stpete.org.

Mr. Neff has run hi-end eCommerce operations for major national and international brands. He was Chief Web Operations Division at United States Mint and an executive in luxury retail eCommerce. He has several startups under his belt and has worked in Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., and Dallas. in the past, he was Director Online Sales for a consumer product company, directed eCommerce marketing operations and online analytical operations. Now retired, he is enjoying life as an award winning photographer, writer, and contemporary artist who has shown his work at one of Art Miami's International Art Shows, Spectrum Miami. He occasionally tests online products for companies in Silicon Valley. The value he brings is institutional knowledge from years of experience.
When the City of St. Petersburg noise issue became an issue for others and him, Mr. Neff dusted off his skills to conduct an investigation, data collection and data analysis.

The opinions here are the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bay Post Internet or the Blog Publishers where it appears

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Inside the Tomb

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

The moon had passed its zenith, and it was just past half-way between darkness and light on morning of the third day following Christ's crucifixion.

God summoned five angels, including Michael the Archangel. He dispatched them to the tomb of his Son with these instructions: "Minister to Him as he rises."

Shortly the angels arrived at the tomb. Two were left outside to guard the entrance. Michael said, "I will call to you when it is time to roll away the stone."

Michael, the Archangel and the two remaining angles passed through the granite walls and into the tomb. As they entered their radiance illuminated the tomb's chamber. The air in the chamber was sweet with the aroma of the embalming spices. Christ lay serenely as Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus placed him.

The angels each took a position, one at the feet of Jesus and one near his head. Michael the Archangel sat at the Lord's side.

A time passed and then Jesus stirred and the angels kneeled and removed the linen burial cloths.  Michael touched his arm, and Jesus removed the face cloth and looked into his eyes. "Michael," Jesus said, "You have come." "Yes," Michael replied, "Your Father sent us to minister to you and be with you until you come home to be with him."

Even Michael the Archangel was taken aback by the scene: the wounds, the cuts from the thorns. Tears streamed from his eyes for he loved his Lord.

Jesus sat up took the face cloth, folded it, and placed it on the ledge of the tomb.

Michael the Archangel touched the Lord's feet, and the wounds were sealed. He touched to Lord's side and hands, and the wounds were sealed. He wiped the Lord's brow with a warm damp cloth, and the scars of the thorns were sealed.

Then one of the angels provided drink and sustenance and garments for Jesus to wear.

"The time is near," Jesus said, "Soon she will come." "They all are frightened and alone," Jesus continued.  "I will provide them with comfort and assurance."

Michael, the Archangel, called to those angels guarding the tomb, "Roll away the stone, for Jesus Christ the Lord is risen." And the enormous stone sealing the entrance was rolled away as the break of dawn illuminated the earth.

Jesus arose and walked to the tomb's entrance. He stopped and turning to the angels. Nodding to them he said, "You two shall remain here for a while and announce to the woman I have risen."

"Praise God unto the highest," the angels replied.

Jesus's disciples arrived at the tomb, but only one entered.

 After the disciples departed, Mary, weeping, entered the tomb, the two angles greeted her and asked, "Why are you weeping?"

"They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him," Mary replied.

A voice from behind asked, "Woman, why are you weeping?" "Whom are you seeking?"

Mary turned and the man standing just outside the tomb said, "Mary."  Mary recognizing Jesus said, "Teacher."

And Jesus said, "Go and tell my disciples I have risen."

May the joy of Easter be yours.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a 
Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Be sure to follow me on Pintrest (Doc Webb),  Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY


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Friday, April 14, 2017

The Politics of Noise


From 2009-2016 there were 27,638 calls to police for noise and no citations were issued for businesses or residences


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

Last week, I published three articles written by Robert Neff detailing his lengthy struggle with the City of St. Petersburg regarding the City's noise ordinance. The Series will continue next week.

"Based upon the data, my conclusion is simple. The City of St. Petersburg has the worst noise ordinance in the nation because no business or residence has been cited for repeated offenses. – Robert Neff

In case you missed them, here are links to each of Mr. Neff's previous articles.




Mr. Neff's struggles with the City are about a specific location and a specific business, but the greater issue is why it is so difficult for the City St. Petersburg to come to grips with the noise issue.

St. Pete is not alone see Robert Napper, Tampa Bay Times correspondent; Noise ordinance, with changes, gets final approval in New Port Richey.

Excessive noise is an elusive target, often gone or changed by the time  police or enforcement officials are on-site and in many cases difficult to quantify.

There have been any number of high profile noise cases in St. Petersburg, Janis Landings and Bayfront Towers, a long battle over excessively loud car stereos in South St. Pete and citywide.

According to Mr. Neff's research, " From 2009-2016 there were 27,638 calls to police for noise and no citations were issued for businesses or residences."

That statistic indicates a complete failure on the part of the City to adequately construct an enforceable ordinance and give law enforcement working tools to deal with the noise issue.

Noise ordinances usually affect business, and business interests are always going to try to carve out a special exception for their own benefit. That is what makes writing a workable noise ordinance so difficult.

Mr. Neff has invested a lot of time and effort into his research regarding his specific problem. Reactions from City Council members and the Police department are surprising to say the least.

It is time for the City Legal Department to develop and City Council to adopt and require enforcement of a workable noise ordinance.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Be sure to follow me on Pintrest (Doc Webb),  Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY

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Please comment below

Disclosures:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Stop the Regional Power Grab for Higher Taxes in Tampa Bay!

Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert


There is a power grab occurring in Tampa Bay that must be stopped.

No citizen or taxpayer requested Latvala's bill (SB1672/HB1243) that creates another transit authority in Tampa Bay to fund. 

And the process for how the bill was created, it did not go through the local delegations of the counties impacted, was not properly vetted but hastily filed the weekend before the session started should be a concern of everyone.

But another transit authority in Tampa Bay has to get funded somehow and is created to fund something - how silly to think otherwise.

Voters in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties soundly rejected sales tax hike referendums in 2010 and 2014.  Latvala's bill is simply a regional power grab to circumvent the local voters which will trigger another round of sales tax hike referendums in Tampa Bay, this time thrust on voters in multiple counties simultaneously. 

The mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg spoke this week at the Florida Economic Forum luncheon. They confirmed our speculations on another sales tax hike referendum. According to this SaintPetersblog post:
On transportation, Buckhorn said that Hillsborough County may be ready to put up another half-cent sales tax referendum on transit in 2020, but not anytime sooner, a notion that Kriseman agreed with. As he has done in the past, Buckhorn blasted the critics of any such referendum, labeling them either as largely limited to living in the eastern provinces of Hillsborough County or as “disaffected former washed up politicians and PR firms who will try to throw any amount of sand in the gears to distract people from the fundamental question, which is, we need more mobility options.” 
Kriseman again brought up the notion of the Legislature changing state law that would allow big cities like St. Petersburg and Tampa to hold their own transportation referendums, a familiar complaint that has gone nowhere for years in Tallahassee. In fact, he admitted that it wouldn’t happen in the near term, and said that meant St. Petersburg and Tampa need to get creative for themselves.
Here is the map of Hillsborough County and the vote by precincts on the 2010 rail tax that was defeated 58-42. The green area reflects the precincts, mostly along the rail corridor, that voted for the tax. The rest of the county - much more than just eastern Hillsborough County voted No. 
Map of Hillsborough County 2010
rail tax by precinct
Talk about former washed up politicians….Buckhorn will be one soon as he is term limited out of office in 2019 and Kriseman, who is up for re-election, could become one too.

Greenlight Pinellas sales tax hike was defeated in 2014 by a greater margin 62-38 and Polk County's 2014 sales tax hike was defeated by even greater 72-28. Analysis done by SunBeamTimes blogger David McKalip shows even a Majority of St. Petersburg Residents Also Rejected Greenlight Pinellas, 52:48.

We get it - Buckhorn and Kriseman both want costly rail. Buckhorn was very vocal and adamant about demanding rail during the Go Hillsborough campaign and all through the Transportation Policy Leadership Group meetings. Some Tampa Bay politicos want to tie costly rail with a new Rays stadium….

Rail envy is not a positive trait but certainly an expensive one.

Regarding the mayors quests for city transit referendums, where is the business model and business case that even suggests that the cities of Tampa or St. Petersburg can fund costly rail projects? Hint: it does not exist.

Ironically, Buckhorn was on the only NO vote on the Tampa Streetcar when he was on the Tampa City Council in the 1990's. He said back then the Streetcar did not have a viable financial model. And he was absolutely right now that it's basically bankrupt and has very few riders.  Don't fret though - the solution to government funded failures is to expand them. The taxpayers are enriching more consultants paying them $1.6 million for another study to expand the failed streetcar. The insanity continues.

The timing of these mayor's bringing up another sales tax hike referendum in 2020 is no surprise. It conveniently coincides with Latvala's TBARTA bill and the latest taxpayer funded $1.5 million Regional Premium Transit Plan Campaign launched last year.

It is all about money - pursuing federal money (aka federal debt dollars) for new transit projects. And the pursuit of any federal funding requires a committed long term local/regional funding source. 

And Voila - another sales tax hike referendum in 2020 - this time a regional, multi-county transit tax hike referendum. A regional referendum will generate a massive multi-million dollar advocacy campaign funded by deep-pocketed special interests blasted across Tampa Bay and cheered on by their media accomplices. 

But the timing is so off considering the direction of the new Trump Administration.

President Trump's "skinny budget" is eliminating federal New Starts/Small Starts and Obama's Tiger grants for new transit projects. Why? Because our existing infrastructure is in disrepair. We have an $80 BILLION backlog of major rehab and replacement needed for our existing rail systems. 

No one today should be relying on federal monies for new transit projects. With no federal money being doled out for new transit projects, what's the Plan B here? That question needs answering. Who is even asking the question?

Latvala's bill is misguided because we have a transportation issue in Tampa Bay that needs addressing not a sudden transit issue requiring another transit agency to fund and another bureaucracy to bloat.

Laser focus in Tampa Bay should be on getting our existing infrastructure into good repair. That's what FDOT's TBX project, now delayed, does - by fixing the Howard Frankland Bridge, fixing the chokepoints at 60 and I-4, and adding the needed additional interstate capacity that also provides a regional express bus transit corridor and can be a catalyst for use by autonomous vehicles/buses. 
No one knows (or is not willing to tell) how this regional transit authority will be funded, who will fund it or what it will fund. We should not have to pass this bill to find out those answers. That is not good governance. 

Latvala's bill will trigger the push for regional taxing and higher taxes in Tampa Bay, just as Mayor Buckhorn and Kriseman said. Powerful politicos and special interests want costly rail and apparently do not care that voters in Tampa Bay have already soundly rejected these boondoggles.  It's the try try try again attitude attempting to wear out voters. 

And regional transit authorities pushing regional tax hikes is how most, if not all, the light rail boondoggles were passed.

This latest scheme is probably the last gasp of air to push rail in Tampa Bay. 

Pull the ventilator plug by stopping Latvala's misguided bill and stop the power grab for regional power and higher taxes in Tampa Bay.

Senator Latvala, who is the powerful Senate Appropriations Chair, will arm twist his bill through the Senate. 

It will be up to the House to stop this regional power grab bill. 

Contact your state representative, Speaker Corcoran and Governor Scott to voice your opposition to House Bill 1243.
State Representatives
Speaker Corcoran
Governor Scott  (who defunded TBARTA when he was first elected)