Sunday, April 30, 2017

100 days of bad news

While Trump has had an exciting first 100 days to say the least, the Republicans have had disastrous start to this congressional session.


St. Petersburg Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author:
In Search of Robin
There will be a lot of media talk in the next few weeks about the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. I’ll leave that to the media who have been consistent in their searching out and reporting of every piece of negative news, comment, assumption, un-named source and opinion they could find.
It is interesting that the media seems to be fixated on Trump’s low approval ratings.
It does not seem odd to me at all that the public’s approval ratings of a president they never hear, read or see anything positive about are low. Trump's low approval ratings are the result of a self-fulfilling media prophesy.  
While Trump has had an exciting first 100 days to say the least, the Republicans have had disastrous start to this congressional session.
I am not sure If the Republicans hate Trump out of jealousy or envy, or if the majority are dumb enough to think all those appearances on CNN tearing down the efforts of the administration are actually building votes back home.
As the media goes crazy castigating Trump, Republicans gleefully jump on the train trying to make themselves look smarter and bigger than Trump. Paul Ryan is directly responsible for much of the failure to get things moving in the first 100 days, and if Trump thinks, he has an ally in Ryan; he is sadly mistaken.
Trump is currently batting about 500 in his first 100 day’s campaign promises until you throw in the Republican-controlled Congress, and the liberal 9th circuit court and things pretty much go down the tubes.
As goofy as all this may sound to you, except for the ultra-liberal 9th circuit, which is as interested in writing law as it is interpreting it, things are going pretty much like they should.
Republicans should be a little less interested in picking apart the guy who made them all look like idiots in the election and more interested in trying to work for the people that elected them.
The real losers in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency are the people we elected to help him. Self-interest, political expediency and the opportunity to prove they know more than the Billionaire on the evening news has proven to be too great a temptation.
The media will continue to hype the negative. The politicians will feed on the media, and Trump will just keep plugging along.
The real “art of the deal” is patience I can’t wait until the midterms.
The media look like blithering idiots each trying to one-up the other with tabloid stories. The Republicans look like the fools they are; the Democrats have so much to work with they are overwhelmed.
And finally, not everything went wrong in the first 100 days. Bill O’Reilly is out of work. Maybe NBC will keep picking up the FOX trash and make Bill an offer.
e-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend Request, and be sure to Like of Share on Facebook.
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Friday, April 28, 2017

Political Self Righteousness condemning political misfortune

What struck me was how quickly the Senator's political allies, opponents and other politicians turned on their colleague.

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

I have followed with interest the fate of Florida State Senator Frank Artiles after a late-night rant among colleagues that went viral.

If you don't know the facts' check out the article by Patricia Mazzei, Steve Bousquet, Kristen M. Clark and Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau: Controversy over Miami lawmaker's racial slur engulfs Florida Legislature

What struck me was how quickly the Senator's political allies, opponents and other politicians turned on their colleague.

Granted the Senator's comments were completely out of line by all levels of conduct, but the rapid rush to be on the condemnation train was, at times, almost laughable.

It seemed like if you didn't issue a statement calling out Artiles you were somehow condoning his actions.

Also fascinating was how quickly this whole mess "took over" the state legislature. Everything stopped as everyone from the Governor to the Tallahassee cab drivers expressed their overblown sense of being offended.

The other thing that struck me was how most of those doing the condemning are probably just one drink, one conversation, one tweet or one hastily constructed e-mail away from a similar fate.

Do not believe for a moment that all of this self-righteous caterwauling by the political elite in any way indicates how they really feel.

About the only real lesson you can draw from the Artiles incident, is politicians are much more interested in making themselves feel good at the expense of others than they are doing the people's business.

My grandfather often used the expression, "Just the pot calling the kettle black."

I really loved the guy.

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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Thursday, April 27, 2017

St. Petersburg's noise issue is not just in downtown, it's citywide

An analysis of the addresses with more than six (6) repeat calls reveals there were a total of 59 addresses that account for 650 calls. 


St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff 

An examination of the St. Petersburg Police Call logs, as provided via a Public Records request, concluded that the St. Petersburg noise issue is not just a downtown issue, it's citywide.

While the City has access to the same Police call logs, there appears to not have been any effort to understand nor investigate the noise issue outside of the downtown bar scene. This was due to resident complaints.

My review of the data found the address could be separated into four categories:
  1. Business (Businesses are defined as bars, clubs, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants and storefronts), 
  2. Residences (Homes, Apartments, Condos), 
  3. Intersections
  4. Individuals. The address for the one noise citation for an individual was not found in the data and not included. 

Addresses with More Than 6 or More Repeat Calls

An analysis of the addresses with more than six (6) repeat calls reveals there were a total of 59 addresses that account for 650 calls. 
  •  13 Business had 239 Calls
  •  43 Residences had 366 Calls
  •    3 Intersections had 45 Calls
The data provided in a public record request from the St. Petersburg Police Department does not identify the categories. Hence, I initially focused on the "Top 30" repeat offenders. Then expanded to addresses with 6 or more repeat calls.

According to the data, residents are impacted by bars, restaurants, clubs, entertainment complexes, car boom boxes and other residences. The City and Police failed to identify that there were 27,638 calls for noise and zero citations to businesses and residences from 2009-2016. The conclusion is, St. Petersburg’s noise ordinance is ineffective.

The data analysis of the 2015 and 2016 noise calls logs focused on four areas.
  1. Key Findings
  2. 2015/2016 Comparison of Repeat Noise Calls by Count
  3. Top 30 Noise Call Rankings
  4. Noise ordinance data model
  5. Additional recommendations

1. Key Findings

The City has not identified the types of noise offenders nor where they are located. 
  • The data identifies at least four types of offenders: businesses, residences, individuals, and intersections†. Businesses are defined as
    bars, clubs, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants and storefronts.  
  • In 2016, businesses had six less businesses than residences in the Top 30 Noise Calls, but generated more noise calls for police to investigate. Businesses impact a greater number of residents in the 1000' plus perimeter than a residence would. 
  • While there was an overall drop in calls from from 2015 to 2016, the repeat call percentage did not noticeably change from 2015 to 2016. If this trend is true for past years and continues, an increase or decrease in noise call volume will not change the percentage of calls. 
Reducing repeat calls will reduce the noise call volume. This can be accomplished through education and issuing citations.

  • Mayor Kriseman and City Council have no oversight to identify repeat noise calls to businesses, residences, individuals and intersections. The number of repeated calls  is a waste of resident taxes. If citations were issued, the cost to taxpayers for dispatch to take the call and police to respond would decrease. 
  • The City has the means to measure the noise ordinance’s success, but has no plan in place, according the the presentation for the 2nd Noise Ordinance Public Meeting.  
  • The City has not properly identified the types of noise offenders and their location. 
  • The 2016 noise calls saw two bars and entertainment complexes, Flamingo Resort and Hollywood Nights South, move into the #1 and #2 position in the Top 30 Noise Calls. Both are located outside the downtown area.   
  • From 2015 to 2016, the number of addresses reporting noise calls decreased from 3,348 to 2,921. However, the number of calls increased from 204 to 220.
  • There was an 1% increase in the number of repeat calls over 30. This accounted for an increase in 31 calls. These were from bars and entertainment complexes (businesses). 
  • Noise Codes Compliance. St. Petersburg does not have a noise compliance program. The data and trend analysis’s results warrant a program to ensure residents the noise ordinance is in compliance and tax dollars are not wasted. The noise compliance could be hosted on a web page similar to the Codes Compliance web page for “Reducing blight and improving livability”.  
  • The City issued 16 citations to individuals since 2009.
  • A data model will identify the repeat offenders. This would include key metrics and reports that can be automatically generated, and email and shared with City employees and neighborhoods. There will be an initial cost to build the model. Future costs would be for enhancements and maintenance.

2. 2015/2016 Comparison of Repeat Noise Calls 


Note: The time of day was not analyzed. Police did not provide the incident time in the call timestamp.

3. TOP 30 Noise Call Rankings

While the overall number of calls decreased by 427 in 2016, the noise calls to bars, clubs and entertainment complexes, and intersections increased, however...
  1. In 2016 an entertainment complex, Flamingo Resort, and bar, Hollywood Nights South, took over the #1 and #2 spots. 
  2. In 2016, businesses which include bars and clubs, had six less businesses than residences in the Top 30, but generated more noise calls for police to investigate. 
  3. 2016 saw one more business added.  
  4. In 2016, residences saw a decrease by four and 96 less noise calls than 2015. 

4. Noise ordinance data model

A data model will identify where the noise issues and who are the repeat offenders and action taken. The model would include a heat map to identify the hot spots. While downtown bars have been the focus when, citywide, the data shows there are repeat offenders at both businesses and residences. The data model should incorporate: 

  1. Noise ordinance database. This would pull data from the multiple data sources to create data tables, creating a new database. 
  2. Noise Citations. This data would be merged into the new noise ordinance database. Reports can be generated to track the citations history. The reports would assess the noise ordinance’s success or failure. 
  3. Key metrics will need to be developed to establish the noise ordinance metrics that assess the noise ordinance's success or failure. 
  4. Trend Analysis would determine the number of noise calls, time of day, day of the week, location, responding officer's notes, call and response times, applicable noise ordinance. 
  5. Most data points can be pulled from the data base. Some may requires data entry. In addition, the Call For Service Reports could be updated to include additional data points.   
  6. Heat map would superimpose the plot of the noise by address and number of times police were called to the location on a map.
  7. Reports would be both manually generated for analysis and automatically generated and emailed to city employees and neighborhood leads. Council members and neighborhood leads could monitor activity in their districts.
  8. Compliance web page for the city and public to review. Transparency is key to a successful noise ordinance compliance program.   

5 Additional recommendations

  1. The rankings require in depth research to identify the business name for each address. Changes in ownership will need to be considered.  
  2. Sometimes city blocks are used. Sometimes units are left off condos or apartments. There must be consideration for these occurrences. If an address is having repeat calls, dispatch could be alerted to gather additional information.
  3. Audio calls should be available for the responding officer and even the noise compliance web site. In addition, repeat calls to an address should trigger the investigating party listen to these. The audio archive requirement may need to adjusted or permanently maintained. Associated cost would need to be identified and budgeted.  
  4. To conduct accurate reporting, data analysis revealed an issue with how calls are reported. Dispatch and or officers were assigning calls to residences instead of business. Business names had been abbreviated or misspelled. Any search for data on a offender will have to consider the area. Here, the Call For Service Reports and audio calls should be reviewed to determine the location, outcome and to understand what the caller’s reaction to the noise.  
  5. Dispatch under reports calls and this skews the data in favor of the offender. Calls should not be rolled up into one Call ID.
  6. Repeat offenders. City should does not know which business or residences are repeat offenders. A report would solve this. 
  7. Reports and heat maps would assist officers and neighborhoods to identify and mitigate noise issues. A targeted data analysis revealed a 4 to 1 ratio of non-noise related calls to noise calls.  That is, there is 4 times more likely to be thefts, burglaries, call for officers, drugs, mental issues. 
Intersections are the least understood and warrant further investigation. Intersections, for example, 13TH AV S / DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR ST S, are easily identifiable by the two streets separated by the forward slash. Understanding this data, requires a review of the Call For Service reports and call audio. This will identify how the call was generated, by officers or residents. The Call For Service Report requires the nature, time of day and day of the week, and location. This was outside the data analysis' scope. Unless the city provides the data for free, this analysis would incur significant cost.

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

About the Author

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

St. Petersburg noise ordinance and the problem it created

According to the city’s last noise ordinance revision, the downtown bar scene is the issue. But, it is not.


St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff

The St. Petersburg noise ordinance had been altered in 2000 to incorporate low frequency bass thumping. Then again in 2008 focusing on the distance sound travels and what are acceptable times for noise. In 2016, City Council updated the noise ordinance to address downtown noise issues. When an ordinance is revised, the expectation would be to fix the issue. However, Mayor Kriseman, City Council and Police do not have a solid understanding of the noise calls and how it is impacting residents throughout the city.

According to the city’s last noise ordinance revision, the downtown bar scene is the issue. But, it is not. The problem is citywide. Had the city analyzed the police call logs, which are in a database, the problem would have found the problem to be a high number of repeat offenders. In fact, there were no noise citations issued from 2009-2016 for repeat business and residential offenders. Hence, the number of noise citations for businesses and residences before and after the 2016 revision are the same, zero.

An examination of the police call logs, obtained through a public records request, found that calls can be categorized as business (bars, clubs, entertainment complexes, restaurants and stores), residence, individuals and intersections. In 2016, the #1 and #2 noise calls were not for downtown bars. They belonged to the Flamingo Resort in the Skyway Marina District and Hollywood Nights South in South St. Pete.  

Not only do residents make repeat calls to police for noise at businesses, but the majority of calls are for noise at residences. While only the Top 30 calls were compared, the number of residences with a noise issue is greater than businesses. If the data analysis were expanded to include all addresses with greater than two repeat calls, I believe number of residences would greatly outnumber businesses.

On March 29, the City held its 2nd Public Noise Ordinance meeting. I learned, some residents have been working on and off with police and or city for two to five years. Some attended to let the city know they have an issue and how the police response has not deterred repeat offenders. Some have been asking for five years. Residences were asking for help and the city had been ignoring them.

In the meeting, residents from downtown and the neighborhoods continued to share their “noise horror” stories. Several businesses attended. One shared that they had done to try and reduce the air conditioning noise, but complaints continued.

In the presentation, the City was asked how many noise citations were issued. They city responded, they did not know. In response, I shared that from 2009 to 2016, residents called the police to report noise 27,638 times. Yet the police issued ZERO citations to businesses and residents. Sixteen citations were issued to individuals for unlawful motor vehicle noise, traffic safety-horns/warning devices unreasonably loud, and unlawful operation of radio/sound-making devices or instruments.

The Hyatt Hotel representative attended. He said the downtown bar noise issue was so severe, the CEO came very close to pulling out of downtown’s new marquis property, One St. Petersburg Condos. He added, the Hyatt spent over $1 million dollars in noise abatement.

Before the meeting started, a resident revealed several residents had been sued for calling the police. Attorney fees ranged from $6,000 to $15,000. The failure of the City to enforce the noise ordinance has created a hostile environment for residents. Businesses are free to intimidate residents with Cease and Desist orders and civil lawsuits.

One resident stood up and stated, it’s time for a class action lawsuit! One council member called his constituent a liar. To say the resident’s frustration level was high and the discussion heated was an understatement.

The city has created a problem where residents have no rights. As the city grows, Mayor Kriseman and City Council need to decide what kind of reputation St. Petersburg wants to have. Will the city be known as a noisy city where residents no longer want to live downtown? Will property values go down? These concerns were expressed in the meeting.

Business owners say a balance must be struck. One argued that businesses pay more in taxes than residents, but there is no data to support that statement. There are a good number of residents within 1000-2000’ who are impacted by a bar or restaurant’s noise. I suspect the cost analysis may prove the businesses wrong. The data suggests noise calls are not the only problem. The bars also have non-noise and crime calls, which care 2 to 5 times the number of noise calls. What is this cost to the City?

Meanwhile, nearby cities are tightening their noise ordinance and enforcement. Bradenton Beach restaurant owner was arrested for noise levels. The manager  had been previously warned and cited. He was even told the next step was to be arrested. The manager stated in the article, “…he’s still shocked he was arrested.”

New Port Richey has strengthened its noise ordinance to address residences complaints. In a Tampa Bay Times article on February 23, 2017, New Port Richey moves to strengthen noise ordinance, City Council wants to give it more teeth.
Complaints have continued to flood in regarding "low-level sounds," specifically bass sounds, emanating from downtown bars that rattle residents' windows, New Port Richey police Chief Kim Bogart told City Council members during a meeting Tuesday night.
Meanwhile St. Petersburg is struggling to change the noise ordinance, and, in the interim, continues to not issue noise citations. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars to have a noise ordinance where police repeatedly respond. The police have stated to me, the city will not issue a citation to a business. Then why are the police responding?

In St. Petersburg the data analysis of the police calls logs (that I conducted) has identified the repeat businesses and residences. The bigger question is why hasn’t the City done this?

The current police approach is not deterring repeat offenders. The process where a resident repeatedly calls to report noise, and the police show up is not working. Sometimes the police ask the bar to turn down the music. Yet, no citation was issued.

From 2009-2016, police have responded to the Flamingo Resort for 180 noise calls and 859 calls for non-noise and crime related calls. The police have asked 66 times to turn down the music. How can the residents can hear it, the police ask them to turn down the music, but not cite the Flamingo Resort? On many occasions the officers have stood with me and heard the music and or subwoofer.

A few officers have told me, they do not feel the noise rises to the level for a citation to be issued where they have to defend this in court. Then there are officers who admit the cannot feel or hear the bass thumping. Several have said weapons training has damaged their hearing.
Residents have asked the businesses to turn down the music but they do not want to inconvenience their customers. If issuing citations is the only way to stop the noise, then the city can provide the number of repeat calls to support the officer's court testimony. It’s time Mayor Kriseman directed the police chief to closely "manage" the repeat noise offenders.

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

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.


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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.

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