Sunday, June 17, 2018

Beware the Blue Wave

This is not the election to vote by color (Red or Blue), or mascot (Donkey or Elephant), or because you have an issue with the guy in the White House.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
As we roll into mid-June, the State and local political races are really starting to heat up. Beginning with the Governor’s race and right down to your local County and municipal elections, there are plenty of candidates and plenty of money.
If you believe the old adage “follow the money” when it comes to who is trying to influence elections from the State house to City Council Chambers, I have a WEB site for you: Florida Politics.
Peter Schorsch and his staff of writers and sources at Extensive Media follow almost all the state-wide races gathering information on fundraising as well as political and issue positions. Key local races, especially in the Bay Area are included.
It is my go to site.
Most interesting to me in this election cycle is the concept of the Blue Wave where Democrats are trying to establish a state-wide game plan to take back at least one house of the legislature and the Governor’s Mansion.
The problem I see with all of this is that other than a Donkey as a mascot and a “D” beside their name it is difficult to get a group of Democrats to agree on anything. Kind of like herding cats.
When the Dems all start to talk alike and look alike common sense tells us someone is not playing straight. So, listening carefully and following the money are good ideas.
I am a Republican as you can see from the disclosures below, and on some levels, I can see how Republicans may be uncertain about the midterm elections and who to vote for.
Before you start buying into the so called “dissident” Republicans who hate Trump because he is rich, doesn’t follow their rules, is unimpressed by protocol and because the “we have always done it this way” is not his mantra, think before you grab board and hop on the Blue Wave.
One of Gwen Graham’s recent television ads tries to make a real negative out of the fact Florida’s Governor’s office has been in the hands of Republicans for over twenty years as has the legislature for a great deal of that time.
Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat look around at where Florida is. Sure, there are some significant challenges, especially in education, but where else would you really want to live?
It would be easy for Republicans to duck and run with all that emanates from the White House, especially if you watch too much CNN. These midterms are extremely important. We all need to do our research, listen carefully and vote for those candidates you believe can do the very best job.
This is not the election to vote by color (Red or Blue), or mascot (Donkey or Elephant), or because you have an issue with the guy in the White House.
These state and local offices and the politicians who are elected to them are most often the ones that affect your quality of life and pocketbook the most.
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Contributor to: Rick Scott for Senate 

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Friday, June 15, 2018

See the noise data Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the Police are not sharing with you

St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff

Mayor Kriseman and Police Chief Holloway had no idea the noise issue was citywide and included both bars and residences! Nor did they know which bars and residences were responsible for the noise! The City and Police thought the noise was just the downtown bars. 

Planning and Zoning presented the heat map to City Council's Public Services and Infrastructure (PSI) Committee. Everyone was in awe of the cool colors that highlighted the noisiest hot spots. However, the map was useless because it didn't show the bars and residences responsible for the repeat calls. While the City of St. Petersburg has identified many bars and residences with noise calls, the City has not made the data public. This is another example of a Mayor Kriseman's lack of transparency. That is why I am publishing the data. Here are a couple tidbits.
Many residents have stopped calling the police to report noise because the police seem to be protecting the bars. Instead of issuing citations, now the police ask the same bars over and over to turn down the music. However, police have no problem issuing a citation to residents who are playing their music loud. Residents are also not calling because some have been labeled a repeat caller, or re-occuring complainant. In addition, Police HAVE NOT published the geographic location of those calls. 
Last fall, I had met with Planning and Zoning to present my data on how bad the noise issue was. At the 2nd Public Meeting, the City did not know how may noise citations had been issued!
  • In 2017, there were 754 businesses and and residences with repeat calls. 
  • In 2017, twenty-five (25) establishments that serve alcohol with repeat calls had 141 calls out of 754 Calls, or 19%.
After the 2nd Public Meeting the City told me they would not build a heat map to show where the noise hot spots were. It was too difficult, the City said. So I built a map and published it here.

This Spring, we met again to discuss how the data can be used to create a heat map.  I shared what I learned in how the police under reports the noise for an establishment and other data points and concerns I had identified.

Through a Public Records Request, I obtained Planning and Zoning's spreadsheet used to create the heat map. I saw that with the City’s resources, they were able to identify more businesses and establishments than I was. Below is a table I created to list the bars and residences with repeat calls.
  • Note 1. The City's data does not identify every business and residence.
  • Note 2. Hotels and Apartments in gray may have calls from nearby establishments. This requires further 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.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fund Transportation and No Tax Hike Is Needed

Transportation planning and progress has been dysfunctional and elusive in Hillsborough County for over 20 years.

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

 After three failed sales tax initiatives, from the committee of 99 to to Moving Hillsborough Forward to GO Hillsborough, and multiple unfunded Long Range Transportation Plans from the Hillsborough MPO, the “Powers” that be may have finally faced reality and the future.

On Wednesday, June 6th the Hillsborough BOCC voted to send a future transportation revenue plan presented to them earlier this year to the county Citizen Advisory Committee for their consideration and advisement. The plan was initially presented by Dr James Davison to the Board on April 4, 2018.

Davison's plan consists of 5 separate revenue sources totaling $8.468 Billion, yes billion with a “B”, over the next 25 years. About $6.2 billion goes towards transportation, but the unique thing about this plan is that for its last 20 years there is no increase in your property tax millage or sales tax rate. There is a small increase of 1/4 percent in the sales tax for the first 6 years until 2026 and then the sales tax returns to its current 7%. There are “No New Taxes” for Hillsborough residents in the plan. 

Not only are there no new taxes, but more money is available for transportation/transit than in the recent GO Hillsborough plan

The entire plan revenues are shown below:
1. Mobility Fees on new development passed 2016: 2021-2045 - $600 Million 

2. Restructure current 10 year property tax BOCC Transportation Policy to 25 year program: 2020-2045 - $1.15 Billion 

3. Value Capture (tax increment financing, development rights, etc) along any premium transit line to leverage state and federal money: 2021-2045 - $1.0 Billion

4. County Transportation Sales Tax @ 1/4 percent: 20121-2045 - $3.01 Billion total
  • $ 1.054 billion to HART
  • $ 1.37 billion to HillsboroughCo
  • $ 499 million to Tampa
  • $ 41.1 million to Plant City
  • $ 27.4 million to Temple Terrace
5. Renew CIT @ 1/4 percent instead of 1/2 cent currently levied:  2027-2046 - $2.708 Billion total **
  • $ 894 Million to School Board
  • $ 190 Million Affordable House
  • $ 1.137 Billion Hillsborough Co.
  • $ 414.3 Million to Tampa
  • $ 34 Million to Plant City
  • $ 22.8 Million to Temple Terrace
**Note: The CIT tax is a local infrastructure sales surtax enabled by FL 212.055. The statute currently only accommodates a 1/2 percent or 1 percent tax. The state legislature will need to amend the statute to support 1/4 percent or make it similar to the transportation sales surtax that can be any percentage up to one percent. We believe the state will accommodate when the county (or counties) request the change.

Dr Davison stated that over $2 billion would go to transit or almost 3 times what was being allocated with GO Hillsborough. Plus over $4 billion dollars to the county and cities to pay for repaving, bridge repair, sidewalks bicycle paths, increased road capacity and new technology. All within a shorter period of time and with no new taxes. At 1/4 percent, the renewed CIT will raise more money in 20 years then the present CIT did at 1/2 percent in its last 20 years and over $1 billion dollars more then in its first 20 years.

After Dr. Davison made the presentation to the BOCC on April 4th , Commissioner White requested that the plan be forwarded to the county Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). County Administrator Mike Merrill requested that the administration “vet” the numbers before taking them to the CAC. 

Last month Dr Davison and Commissioner White met with Hillsborough County's Director of Finance, Bonnie Wise, Director of the Budget Tom Fesler and Chief County Economist Kevin Brickley in separate meetings. It was confirmed that the numbers and future estimates in the plan are accurate. Of course they were the county's own numbers to begin with.

Wednesday June 6th the BOCC unanimously voted 6-0 to send the plan on to the County CAC. Conspicuously, Commissioner Ken Hagan and County Administrator Mike Merrill, who keep pushing tax hike referendums, got up and left the room right before Dr. Davison was to speak Wednesday. Commissioner Hagan has a consistent behavior of rudely walking out of meetings when he does want not his vote recorded. Since Hagan is running again, he should be asked by voters/constituents if he supports the county seriously looking at this alternative funding plan. 

Davison stated there is still a lot of work to be done, but he is confident that this plan can be accomplished. “There is no reason to raise taxes when we have growth in our revenue streams going on like we are have in Hillsborough County”, he said. The key is funding priorities.

In addition, Davison could not explain why the MPO has not included “Value Capture” to pay for transit capital costs in the LRTPs like it did prior to 2000. Value capture includes recovering some of the property value gains to finance the transit project. The Trump Administration has stated they want to make federal transit grants conditional on value capture.

The Hillsborough County Citizens Advisory Committee meetings are held the 4th Friday of every month at County Center. We anticipate numerous different groups will be there to weigh in on the matter and we will also be keeping an EYE on it.

We have often asked here at the EYE the same questions. Why has it taken so long to come up with a plan that together with revenues already committed over the next 25 years, will provide Hillsborough county over $17 billion dollars to improve roads, transit and mobility. All without increasing taxes. 

The county commissioners must seriously consider this plan and throw out any plans that would needlessly raise taxes. 

To be continued! 

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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