Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Ballot Amendments and Questions– How will you vote?

Election Day is November 6, 2018 are you ready to vote?

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of RobinSo You Want to Blog.

Here are few useful links as you form your opinion and try to better understand what each proposed Constitutional amendment will do!

The League of Women Voters and this pdf from Florida Tax Watch give great insight on each amendment, along with their recommendation on how to vote on each. They also explain the implications for voting for or against each amendment.

Florida Association of Counties offers a quick explanation for each proposal, along with analysis of how some of the amendments will impact county governments if they’re approved. Click on each amendment to learn more and to read editorials on the topic from the state’s largest papers.

Below is a handy table with recommended votes based on my research of various political sites, newspapers and Blogs.

There is a column to record your vote and you can print it and take it with you to speed up your voting process at the polls.

Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
Limitations on Property Tax Assessments
Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
Voting Restoration Amendment
Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees
Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
State and Local Government Structure and Operation
Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes
Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
Ends Dog Racing

Below is the official description of the proposed constitutional Amendments  

Proposed Constitutional Amendments
No. 1 Constitutional Amendment - Affects: Article VII, Section 6 Article XII, Section 37 
Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption - Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment shall take effect January 1, 2019.

No. 2 Constitutional Amendment - Affects: Article XII, Section 27 
Limitations on Property Tax Assessments - Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified non-homestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.

No. 3 Constitutional Amendment - Affects: Article X, Section 29
Voter Control of Gambling in Florida - This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.
The amendment’s impact on state and local government revenues and costs, if any, cannot be determined at this time because of its unknown effect on gambling operations that have not been approved by voters through a constitutional amendment proposed by a citizens’ initiative petition process.

No. 4 Constitutional Amendment - Affects: Article VI, Section 4
Voting Restoration Amendment - This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.
The precise effect of this amendment on state and local government costs cannot be determined, but the operation of current voter registration laws, combined with an increased number of felons registering to vote, will produce higher overall costs relative to the processes in place today. The impact, if any, on state and local government revenues cannot be determined. The fiscal impact of any future legislation that implements a different process cannot be reasonably determined.

No. 5 Constitutional Amendment - Affects: Article VII, Section 19
Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees - Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.

No. 6 Constitutional Revision - Affects: Article I, Section 16, Article V, Sections 8 and 21, Article XII, New Section
Rights of Crime Victims; Judges - Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.

No. 7 Constitutional Revision - Affects: Article IX, Sections 7 and 8, Article X, New Section
First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities - Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.

No. 8 Removed

No. 9 Constitutional Revision - Affects: Article II, Section 7, Article X, Section 20
Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces - Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.

No. 10 Constitutional Revision - Affects: Article III, Section 3, Article IV, Sections 4 and 11, Article VIII, Sections 1 and 6
State and Local Government Structure and Operation -Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even-numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counter terrorism within department of law enforcement.

No. 11 Constitutional Revision - Affects: Article I, Section 2, Article X, Sections 9 and 19
Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes - Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.

No. 12 Constitutional Revision - Affects: Article II, Section 8, Article V, Section 13, Article XII, New Section
Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers - Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.

No. 13 Constitutional Revision - Affects: Article X, New Section, Article XII, New Section
Ends Dog Racing - Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.

For City and County Ballot initiatives and Referendums check your local County Supervisor Elections web site

Pinellas County Located at the bottom of the page
City of Clearwater, City of Madeira Beach, City of St. Petersburg, City of St. Pete Beach, Town of Redington Beach, City of Tarpon Springs
Hillsborough County Amendments and Referendums at the bottom of the Page
Manatee County  You will need to fill out some voter information
Sarasota County  Sample Ballots are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view. Acrobat Reader is available by clicking a link on the site.  

This election is extremely important. These Ballot questions are key to Florida and your local jurisdictions future. Be sure to vote on all of the state and local ballot initiatives. 
E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.  

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Vote NO on the Clearwater Strong Mayor Referendum

The right choice here is a  NO vote on the referendum and a vote for the very best City Council members on the ballot.

St. Petersburg, Fl Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD Author: In Search of RobinSo You Want to Blog.
Originally Posted Sept 9, 2018
The City of Clearwater is operated under the Council/Manager form of government. In this structure, the Mayor is not the principal decision maker.
Day to day, operations, hiring and firing, and City Council policy implementation are handled by professional City Manager appointed by the City Council. Bill Horne is the current Clearwater City manager; he makes just over $200,000 Dollars per year.
If you happen to live in Clearwater and the name Bill Horne doesn’t ring a bell, that’s just the point. Horne is a manager not a politician. His job is to make the City run safely and efficiently and stay out of the headlines.
A while back, a group of Clearwater “businessmen” began circulating a plan that would change the City of Clearwater from a Council/Manager form of Government to a strong Mayor form of Government.
You can get more detail from Tracey McManus Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer, A strong mayor for Clearwater? Some think it’s time.
Clearwater would be wise to follow Lakeland’s example and send a resound NO on election day.
If you do some research, you will find that most of these efforts are brought by local “business people” not a group of regular citizens. Business people like the strong mayor because he/she is a politician, and they are much easier to influence than a City Manager, who does not need their campaign contributions.
Clearwater only needs to look South to St. Petersburg and see the current strong mayor mess with a pier that the public did not want and is now behind schedule and over budget, a wastewater system that is struggling, questionable staffing at City Hall and more lies than they can count.
One of the sales tactics the “business people” are using to promote this referendum is the assertion that a strong mayor would be better equipped to “deal” with the Church of Scientology and its continued growth in Clearwater’s downtown than the current system.
Read that - the big players would like to be making more money in downtown Clearwater, and the Church tends to get in the way.
I would offer that a strong mayor would not be particularly effective in dealing with what these “business people” see as a problem, and I suspect the Church of Scientology would be just fine with an elected strong Mayor.
If you’re interested in whom the business community is talking about running for the strong Mayor slot in Clearwater check out this recent article by Tracey McManus Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer, As Clearwater prepares to vote on strong mayor, the question is who would run?
A strong mayor form of government in a City dominated by large, powerful entity with significant land holdings is not in the interest of anyone who lives in Clearwater.
The people promoting this change do not understand how these two forms of government work, and their view that they can put their guy in and all will go like they want shows a complete lack of current political reality.
The citizens of Clearwater are much better served by a City Manager, who has their needs and wants clearly in view and is not fishing for campaign dollars to get re-elected with every decision.
The right choice here is a NO vote on the referendum and a vote for the very best City Council members on the ballot.
E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
See Doc's Photo Gallery at 
Bay Post Photos.
Disclosures: Contributor to: Rick Scott for Senate , Ron DeSantis for Florida Governor

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

All For Transportation Will Increase Congestion

Tampa, Fl

From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

Despite the $2 million and growing advertising campaign for All For Transportation and the 1 cent, 14% sales tax increase proposed as a county charter amendment in Hillsborough County, the plan will increase congestion and not relieve it. The evidence is hidden in plain sight in the details of the ballot amendment, which they conveniently avoid in their advocacy.

 You will move at snails pace with the AFT plan
Let's start with how AFT  Section 11.07 General Purpose Portion of their plan, which is where the road initiatives are specified.

Section 11.07. Uses of General Purpose Portion. For any Agency that the Clerk reasonably estimates will receive five percent (5%) or more of the Surtax Proceeds in a given calendar year, such Agency’s share of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended by the Agencies for the planning, development, construction, operation, and maintenance of roads, bridges, sidewalks, intersections, and public transportation (which, for purposes of this Section, may include any technological innovations such as autonomous vehicles and related infrastructure), to the extent permitted by F.S. § 212.055(1), and include expenditures in the following categories:

Cited directly from the plan, the funds in the General Purpose portion of the plan, which includes general road and safety, among the aforementioned categories mentioned in 11.07, totals nearly $8.5 billion, or 54% of the total taxes raised over 30 years.
Did you see what they did? The funding for the General Purpose category can also be used for "public transportation", or transit. Conversely, AFT explicitly requires the 45% dedicated to transit later in plan to only be used for transit and nothing else.

(1) Maintenance and Vulnerability Reduction. At least twenty percent (20%) of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended on projects that: (i) improve, repair and maintain existing streets, roads, and bridges, including fixing potholes, or (ii) reduce congestion and transportation vulnerabilities.

Cited directly from the plan, this category is estimated at  $1.7 billion, or 10.8% of the nearly $16 billion in the plan over the 30 year lifetime of the tax. This category is already largely funded with existing gas taxes, although we have our complaints with Hillsborough County's effectiveness with these monies. Which begs the question, what happens to these existing funds? A topic for another day.

(2) Congestion Reduction. At least twenty-six (26%) of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended to relieve rush hour bottlenecks and improve the flow of traffic on existing roads and streets and through intersections. Expenditures in the category described in this Section 11.07(2) may include projects that improve intersection capacity through the use of technology, the construction of new intersections, the redevelopment of existing intersections, and may include related infrastructure such as roundabouts and turn lanes. Projects described in the foregoing sentence do not constitute New Automobile Lane Capacity, as defined in Section 11.07(8) below.

Cited directly form the plan, this category should improve intersections, at an estimated cost of $2.2 billion, or 14% of the total plan. However, note they restrict increased automobile lane capacity.

(3) Transportation Safety Improvements. At least twenty-seven (27%) of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended to promote transportation safety improvements on existing streets, roads and bridges.

Cited directly from the plan, "Safety" will cost nearly $2.3 billion or over 14.5% over 30 years.

(4) Transportation Network Improvements. At least twelve (12%) of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended on bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure and related improvements that make walking and biking safer, to the extent the foregoing is or is planned to become a part of the transportation network within any Agency’s jurisdiction, and to the extent permitted by F.S. § 212.055(1).

Cited directly from the plan, "Transportation Network", or a fancy word for bike paths and sidewalks, and more safety, is estimated to cost $1 billion, about 6.5%, over 30 years.

(5) Remaining Funds. Any remaining portions of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended on any project to improve transportation in the applicable Agency’s jurisdiction to the extent permitted by F.S § 212.055(1) and this Article.

Cited directly from the plan,  the "Remaining" category, is estimated to cost over $1.2 billion, or 8.1% over 30 years. Note this category can be used for "any project to improve transportation", which would include any of the other categories above, as well as the transit categories (we will take those up in another post). The "Remaining" funds can only be used on those "permitted by F.S § 212.055(1) AND this Article". The Article means the entirety of the charter amendment that intentionally excludes new roads. The $16 Billion tax hike does not and cannot fund any new road capacity - for 30 years.

(8) Limits on New Automobile Lane Capacity. Agencies are prohibited from expending any funds from the categories mandated by Section 11.07(1), (2) and (3) above on New Automobile Lane Capacity. For purposes of this Section 11.07(8), “New Automobile Lane Capacity” means projects that consist of (i) adding additional lanes for automobile traffic to existing roads or streets that are not related to intersection capacity improvement, or (ii) constructing new roads or streets.

Cited directly from the plan, sections 11.07 (1 - 3), or about $6.2 billion over 30 years, are restricted from actually increasing capacity. Recall section 11.07(2) Congestion Reduction, excludes new lane capacity, the best way reduce congestion. 

It is very likely the General Purpose 11.07(5) Remaining Funds of $1.2 billion will be used for transit projects, as they are highly prone to cost overruns.
We agree with AFT that an estimated 700,000 new residents expected to move into Hillsborough County over the next thirty years -- with their cars.  How many new cars will be on the road? Well, I'm glad you asked. 

If we use the average household size of 2.64, Tampa's average of 1.49 cars per household, there will be an estimated 395,075 more cars on the road, or about 50% more than are now in Hillsborough due to the 700,000 new residents.
The Tampa transit advocates who authored the plan clearly gave a lot of thought on exactly what they want, which included explicitly ignoring new road capacity. This is a recipe for disastrous gridlock for Hillsborough's future. 

Yet AFT must spend a minimum of $1 billion on bike paths and sidewalks, but could spend nothing on new roads! Got that?!
For reference, here are just some of the failing (Level of Service "F") roads across Hillsborough County, form the latest MPO Level of Service Report that will not be fixed under this plan:

Bloomingdale Ave 
Bearss Ave 
Big Bend Road 
Erlich Road 
Falkenburg Road 
Fletcher Ave 
Gunn Highway 
Lithia Pinecrest Road  
Lumsden Road 
Memorial Highway 
Sheldon Road 
Van Dyke Road

But it really gets worse. 
AFT regularly mentions their plan is based on the Hillsborough County MPO Long Range Transportation Plan. 

AFT has also advertised "Fixing 450 miles of dangerous streets".

 Recent AFT Mailer

That came directly from the MPO LRTP, page 69:

Projects in Level 2 1⁄2 include over 450 miles of “complete streets” treatment that will cover all priority corridors and 300 miles of new sidewalks.

Complete streets may include more sidewalks, more bike lanes, traffic calming, dedicated transit right of way, greenways, etc. Typically, the idea of complete streets are sold for safety, environmental and urban planning benefits. They are also the costliest, most expensive streets to build. 

 Hillsborough MPO 2040 LRTP page 70

Complete Streets are not complete in increasing traffic throughput. In fact, they are based on creating more traffic congestion by slowing down and constraining traffic. Road diets, or actually reducing road capacity, is the term the MPO uses. Don't believe me? Check out the "illustrative" road diets from the MPO. 
 Hillsborough MPO 2040 LRTP page 71  
Complete streets and "road diets"

Where does the space for more and wider sidewalks, transit, trees, bike paths come from? By reducing and removing lanes available for the most popular mode of mobility, your car.
Do you see what they did? They are playing the "safety" card without recognizing the rest of the impacts of their plans. We are all about safety. In fact, we would advocate for even more safety with increased separation for bikes and pedestrians, with separate bike and pedestrian trails away from major roads. There are few good outcomes involving automobiles and bikes or pedestrians regardless who is at fault. Yet there is no evidence there will be a major increase in bikes and pedestrians over the 30 years in this plan. But they are committed to spend billions regardless.

 Not only does the AFT plan consciously ignore the need for new road capacity, they are explicitly seeking to further constrict another 450 miles of road capacity with "Complete Streets". There is no magic here. Reducing capacity for the mode of transportation well over 90% of the residents of Hillsborough prefer will increase congestion.

 A major overlooked impact of the AFT sales tax is the reduction in mobility fees. The majority of people in Hillsborough from the South of Kennedy urbanists to the ruralists in Lithia want the developers and new residents to pay for the new infrastructure. Hillsborough County has a mobility fee assessed for new construction to help with those costs. The basic formula for the mobility fee is

Net Mobility Fee = ((Cost to add road capacity) - (Credit non-impact fee revenue)) x Demand

The "non-impact fee revenue" includes sales tax revenue. Therefore, the AFT sales tax will reduce mobility fees by 30% or more. The developers will be paying less for the impact of new development and you will be paying more!
The AFT plan, hiding clearly in its language, will only increase congestion faster. They do this by over allocating funds to transit, explicitly not funding increased road capacity, forcing "road diets" on 450 miles of complete streets, all while another 700,000 residents arrive with their 395,000 cars, while making you pay more. And wait more.

Posted by EyeOn TampaBay at 6:00 AM

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay 

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