Sunday, February 23, 2020

Florida Poly Tech and New College – The Classic Example of Academic Self-centeredness

Tampa Bay, Fl 
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
It did not take long for the academic claws to come out following the announcement of the Florida House bill HB 7087 from the House Education Committee to merge Florida Poly with the University of Florida and New College with Florida State.

For some detail check out this Article by Gary White in the Ledger: Florida Poly leaders oppose merger with University of Florida.
Florida Politics Jacob Ogles, The fight to save New College is on
Baypost Media 2020
If you have ever had any significant involvement with a college or university, public or private, you have probably had at least a glimpse of the political structure of these institutions. For infighting, backbiting and turf protecting it is difficult to beat an academic institution.
That was clearly on display as the presidents of both Florida Poly and New College quickly mounted full-frontal  attacks to protect their turf.
Florida Poly President Randy Avent rushed to Tallahassee to defend his turf, and likely his job. Donal O’Shea president of New College was not far behind.
This may not seem like much of a deal to you if you do not attend one of these colleges or have a child who does, but in the bigger picture, it points out a serious problem at the intersection of legislative over site and perceived academic self-value.
One of the major concerns is the amount of administrative cost.
Small colleges can be a wonderful place for the academic elite. Havens for those prefer the academic life in contrast to the hustle of a big university. Small, usually lovely campuses, smaller classes, and fewer of them, lots of time to sit and think, good pay, tenure, and at the top, social status and often lots of money.
The day of the small publicly funded college be it liberal arts or STEM where students can be coddled in the academic womb may be a thing of the past.
Rep. Randy Fine, the Palm Bay Republican leading the charge for the mergers, said, “it’s critical for other lawmakers to consider the plan.
You will hear a lot about the value these smaller colleges afford their students, the benefits, often undefined, to the community, seemingly massive economic impacts they have, but little about what really matters most to them, which is protecting their turf.
I’ll bet you thought it was the students who were important.
If that was the case, we would have had a solution to the student-loan problem long ago. All that borrowed money flowing into University system is what has caused this problem.
If you want to see how big, the Florida Poly problem is just note that large and rather odd-looking white structure off, I-4 near Lakeland. One of the first structures put in place at Florida Poly, it is testament to how these things get out of control.
To paraphrase: Hell, hath no fury like a small college president challenged.
The Florida Legislature and the House Education Committee may have just grabbed a tiger by the tail. The old adage goes if you hang on it will drag you to death, and if you let go it turn around and eat you alive.
I would not be surprised if the Florida Legislature decides to pass on this one this year.
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Friday, February 21, 2020

Thursday February 19, 2020 Democratic Debate Observations

Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog
Some pundit commented right after the debate that it was more like Wrestle Mania than a political debate. I could not agree more.
First, the format was terrible. There were way too many members on the “panel” probably NBC’s attempt to prove they support everyone, but they really looked awful.
The poor guy from the Nevada Independent, Jon Ralston, barely got a shot. I’m not sure why he was there, and it looked like he didn’t know either. The on the dais NBC egos were on full display.
I don’t think these debates need a panel that whose numbers rival the number of candidates unless the idea is self-defense in case of a stage riot. The DNC calls it “diversity among the moderators," all they are really doing is allowing the networks to run in ringers.
This idea of having ethnic or “subject matter” questioners is just plain stupid. Also, whatever happened to just asking the question without a snarky tone in your voice? NBC needs to do some debate moderator counseling.
I am not sure why they say there are “rules” for these episodes of political theater. Nobody, including Lester Holt made any serious effort to reign in Warren.
For most of the night, Bloomberg looked like a deer caught in the headlights, Warren shrieked incessantly which some mistook for reinstatement of her “more aggressive campaign” I think she is just someone with little or no self-control and would be a disaster in the Whitehouse.
Sanders, obviously irritated that Bloomberg was even on the stage, hammered home his consistent talking points while painting Bloomberg as something just short of the Antichrist.
Buttigieg managed to stay calm in the storm. His bipolar description of the Bloomberg/Sander's views and the possible damage of nominating either was a sound point. Pete was the first to really get Amy Klobuchar off her game. It's been a long campaign, and it appeared to me, the workload and the stress are finally getting to Klobuchar. Klobuchar is good but not quite ready for prime time.
Biden finally got some legs under his campaign, but it is probably too little too late.
To sum it up, the format was lousy, the panel of moderators were generally terrible, Bloomberg should probably spend some of that money on a good debate coach, Warren needs to cut back of the coffee before the show, Sanders needs to smile more so socialism will seem a bit more friendly, Joe Biden is just Joe Biden, Buttigieg’s calmness is astounding at times, and Amy Klobuchar needs to take a few days off and just rest.
Everyone involved with putting on this debate from the DNC to top network brass should take a look at the results and begin to work on a format that is less a food fight and more of a delivery of issues and positions to the American public.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

PSTA’s Central Avenue BRT project loses out in federal funding process – again!

Tampa, Fl
From: Tampa Bay Guardian

Edited by: Tom Rask

Posted by TBG2016 on FEBRUARY 15, 2020

At PSTA’s Legislative Committee meeting on February 5th, PSTA’s federal lobbyist Harry Glenn spoke of a list that the FTA  has.  “It’s actually a list of projects…that kind of gives the Congress an expectation of what projects they [the FTA] expects to get funded in the next year,” Glenn said.

The FTA is the Federal Transit Administration. Glenn was responding to a question from Pinellas County comissioner Charlie Justice (full exchange here) about how so-called “Small Starts” projects like the Central Avenue BRT (CABRT) project are administered by the FTA.
Harry Glenn

Yet the CABRT project has now been on that “funded in the next year” list Glenn spoke of for three years without receiving a so-called construction grant agreement (CGA). Obtaining a CGA is the first and necessary step before being recommended for funding by the FTA.
And with yesterday afternoon’s release of the FTA’s “Annual Report on Funding Recommendations” for fiscal year 2021, it appears that this “funded in the next year” period Glenn spoke of will be at least four (4) years for the CABRT.

“Remember, this is the president’s request for funding, and Congress has appropriated more than that amount in the last couple of years,” Glenn told The Guardian. “PSTA is doing exactly what they should be doing.”

The Guardian previously reported on PSTA’s failure to secure a CGA last year as well, and the PSTA board’s unwillingness to acknowledge this fact at their meetings.

“This is not a competitively awarded program, where you will win and somebody else will lose,” Glenn said at that same February 5th meeting. ” You work through the process and as you check off the boxes, funding will become available to you.”

Glenn’s claim that the program is “not competitively awarded program” conflicts with PSTA CEO Brad Miller’s statement in that same meeting in which he called these projects “very, very competitive.”

The funds are awarded under the so-called 5309 program, which the FTA says is a discretionary program. That means there is no guarantee that a particular program will be funded, or that a program that receives a CGA will be funded.
Karen Jaroch

“It’s definitely a setback for PSTA that they still haven’t received a CGA,” former HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) board member Karen Jaroch said.
Jaroch said that the CABRT project is one of many projects totaling approximately $1.6 billion competing for a pot of money less than half that size. Jaroch continued – “The FTA awards project funding only when PSTA can assure them that the project scope and costs are firm and reliable, that all local funding commitments are in place, and that all localities in the corridor are on-board.”

“Significant issues have been raised by PSTA’s grant submission, such as falsely claiming that St Pete Beach was a funding partner in the original application, the formal objection to the project by two of the three cities impacted by the project’s auto lane elimination and changing route endpoints. These facts don’t inspire sufficient confidence in the project, “Jaroch added. “Overcoming these facts will be difficult when compounded by PSTA’s past track record of abusing a federal grant meant for transit security and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman’s unwelcoming comments about President Trump.”
ABOVE – Kriseman’s 2015 tweet

Jaroch was referring to Kriseman’s 2015 tweet (seen left)  in which he barred Donald Trump from entering the City of St. Petersburg. Most of the proposed CABRT will run within that city’s limits.

Obtaining a CGA doesn’t insure FTA funding. Some projects that obtained a CGA were never funded, and others , such as the Fort Lauderdale WAVE Streetcar, were cancelled by the City of Fort Lauderdale even after it obtained a CGA.

The FTA funded a St. Louis streetcar project that closed down in December after just one year of operation. The shutdown leaves local taxpayers on the hook to repay the FTA some 24 million dollars for construction costs. Adding insult the injury, the streetcar broke down on its final run, leaving riders to fend for themselves.

With such spectacular and recent PR disasters, the FTA is likely to look even closer at what projects it funds. The FTA is sure to want to avoid another “St. Louis Situation” at all costs.

 Absent a new funding source, i.e. more tax dollars, PSTA is headed for insolvency. Add the strong opposition from affected residents and municipalities and the CABRT project has a steep hill to climb.

“My understanding is that this is just a snapshot of where they are now,” Harry Glenn said, referring to the just published annual funding recommendations from the FTA. “There are additional funds available that can be allocated. When that will happen, I don’t know.”

Will the CABRT project ever be built? Or is it a project that is always a bridesmaid, but never a bride, at the wedding and spreading of federal funding?

As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish articles.

READ THIS POST AT: Tampa Bay Guardian

This post is contributed by the Tampa Bay Guardian. The views expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet or any publications, blogs or social media pages where it may appear.

Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Guardian