Saturday, December 22, 2012

Surveillance Cameras... Why Not Put Them Where the Crime Is?

Thursday at the Public Safety and Infrastructure Committee City Council members got the next chapter in Police Chief Chuck Harmon's ongoing quest to keep surveillance cameras out of high crime areas.
The 15 cameras, garnered from the Republican National Convention Party in St. Pete, are being placed where it can be pretty much guaranteed they will see little if anything significant criminal activity.
The Police Chief's plan puts no cameras south of 5th Avenue South and that's  interesting because somewhere around two thirds of the City's major crime takes place south of 5th Avenue South.
When asked about putting the cameras in crime "hot" spots Harmon gave a typical evasive answer "how do you define a criminal hot spot"
After alluding in several previous answers to his vast experience, if the Police Chief cannot identify  the crime hot spots in St. Pete, why is he the police chief?
Here is some help Chief.
Walk to the door of your office. Turn left, go down the hall to the IT department.
Ask the guy who does the statistics for a crime scatter map. It will take him less that 15 minutes to show you where the high crime activity is. That's it. It's that simple.
If you as a citizen want pretty much that same information go to
In the SEARCH WINDOW put: St. Petersburg, Fl. Click Search.
On the INCIDENT LAYER TAB you can select crime types. Go down to the right of the box and uncheck sex offenders. It clutters up the map.
You can click on any of the bubbles for more information.
Now you tell me where would rational person wanting to affect crime in St. Pete  put the cameras. On Beach Drive or 22nd Avenue South?
Here are some suggestions:
·         Dr. MLK and 12th Avenue South 
·         Dr MKL and 22nd Avenue South
·         28th Street South and 17th Avenue South
·         54 Avenue South and 28th Street
·         48th Street south and 13th Avenue South
With the a exception of Karl Nurse, who tossed a couple of soft balls, not a single City Council member would ask the obvious question, "why not put these things were the crime is?"
Harmon has the tools to analyze crime. He has several million dollars worth of software to do it.
He has a unit of light duty officers called the TRU unit who could monitor cameras in real time if he would only step up and use the resource.
 He knows where the crime hot spots are and so do his Assistant Chiefs, Lieutenants and Majors.
Why not use these tools to fight crime rather than watch the party people and people at public events.
Answer: Harmon does not want any record of any  ongoing criminal activity that he can be held accountable for. Harmon is an accountability distributor, not a responsibility taker.
City Council has one more chance to get it right. When the PD comes back with the funding request to install these cameras, mostly downtown, they should reject it and tell the chief to come back with a plan that uses the cameras to fight crime in the City's high crime areas.
Once Harmon has these cameras installed in relatively benign areas, the argument to move them to high crime areas will always be it is too expensive.
Mayor,  the Chief never had any intentions of following through on your plan to use cameras to fight crime. He has stalled if off for 3 years. He will stall it off until you are gone or he retires.
Someone needs to start asking the Police Chief some tough questions.
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Time to STOP the Red Light Cameras

If there was ever an indication of nature  of the St. Pete Red Light Camera program and the ends to which the people driving it will go to keep this turkey flying, you saw it this past week.
A deliberate attempt to withhold information from City Council when the fine folks over at Traffic Engineering did not include the intersection crash data in the Council Report. All of which follows an unannounced attempt to slip in more red light cameras past City Council.
The whole program just smells. As I have mentioned before, I set in on some of the early planning meetings with ATS, the Red Light Camera company, and I felt like I needed a shower after they were over.
Joe Kubicki  said, "we had no intention to mislead the public". It wasn't the public he was trying to mislead, it was just the eight people who make the decisions he wanted to bamboozle.
Kubicki, who has wrapped himself and his department in a warm coat of generating revenue for the City,  is the third guy Bill Foster should have fired on his second day in office.  Kubicki smiles, promises more money and the Mayor fawns, City Council drools  and away we go.
There is no evidence that red light cameras have made the "streets" safer.  They haven't even made the intersections where they are located safer. A study from USF Public Health Researchers, Take a Closer Look at Red-Light Cameras, indicates Red Light cameras have little safety value.
They are all about money..... Kubicki figured out a long time ago, if you generate enough money in this government you can get them to do just about anything.
And he is right.
Put a guy like him with a company like ATS and you get what you got. A woeful attempt to mislead the City Council. A program where the big losers are the citizens and the City is on the very short end of the revenue stick.
If I were a Council member what would anger me even more than the red light lies is the fact they think Council is dumb enough to have these tricks successfully pulled on them.
It is time to end this thing right now. The deeper you get in bed with these people the worse it will get.
It is time to face the facts City Council: You are not making this City any safer, and you are costing this City money and jobs, making it less pleasant, less friendly and supporting the people who willing mislead and lie to you to get your vote.
This year this program walked $3.6 million dollars of discretionary income out of this City, we got $707,000 back and lost the velocity of money gains on the whole $3.6 million.. How many jobs did that cost and what was the real benefit?
You are spending $3.6 Million of the citizens money, getting no significant safety improvement and netting just over $700K in return. If there ever was a bad deal this is it.
Have your say.  Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Has the Media Massacred the Massacre?

The event in  Newtown Connecticut has been another total media melt down. From overly aggressive reporting to inaccurate facts it has been a nightmare of over exposure and on the air guessing.
Reporting began almost before the smoke cleared and it was glaringly inept. In a raging desire to present the most gore, the most hideous view of the events, we can only be thankful that law enforcement was able to keep the news hounds out of the crime scene.
Take the guns. Not a single news agency that I am aware of got it right. On one local news outlet the news anchor introduced the Newtown story as a shooter with three handguns and was immediately contradicted by his local reporter who said 2 handguns and one rifle with all shots coming from the hand guns.
 Wrong...Wrong, wrong on all sides with no attempt to clarify either statement.
A local outlet I watch aired the same scenes: the anguished woman on the cell phone, the line of terrified children being lead from the scene and a teary eyed president 4 times in 4 separate segments of the same news program with different reporters reading pretty much the same news copy. Absolutely unnecessary, unprofessional and useless from news consuming public's perspective.
Why local news outlets think they can add anything to a major out for town out, of state event totally eludes me. Most of the local guys have a hard enough time getting the local news right.
 Personally I don't care what their view, opinion, observation or inaccurate reporting of the facts  of a national event may be. Why not stick to the local news and let the networks screw up the coverage of events like Newtown.
It makes the local news people look really stupid.
In an effort to be first, worst and inaccurate, all of the networks with the possible exception of NPR were likes sharks with blood in the water.
I'm not sure which made me sicker to my stomach, the event or the reporting.
The crowning and TV turning off event for me was one of the national networks'  "psychology expert" going on and on about how you should protect your children from hearing about the event before you tell them , while adding almost 20 minutes of air time doing just that.
The news media needs to step back and get out of the circus business and back in the news business. Getting it right, providing accurate information, no melodrama, respect for people in crisis and a renewed understanding of their responsibility to do news and not performances.
When a tough guy like President Obama is moved to tears in public by an event this horrific, every person in the news business, from the guy who drives the truck to the executives that have approved some of the trash aired during this event need to stop and consider what they are doing, who they are doing it for and why.
e-mail Doc at:, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Six People on A Mission, One not Sure, One Lone Dissenting Voice

I spent Wednesday at the LENS hearing and Thursday at City Council listening to arguments for and against the LENS project.
Judge Williams was pretty clear in her voiced concern when she directly asked City Legal Counsel "why didn't you just let the people vote."  The answer was we could not reach agreement on the ballot language. I was never aware that any serious conversations along that line ever took place.
The Judge's question was never fully disclosed to City Council Thursday, perhaps the attorney/client meeting with City Council will be a bit more revealing. City Council should get the transcript and read it.
What has become increasingly discomforting  is six of the Council members are determined to go ahead with the LENS at all costs to the City regardless of the peoples will.
 Karl Nurse continues to be confused and conflicted saying one thing then voting the other way, Wengay Newton's position against the project remains firm. The Mayor, wisely, was generally quiet during the discussion. Why try to provide any leadership at this point?
Kornell, Dudley and surprisingly Gerdes, the only Councilmember to attend the Court hearing, are being lead around by the nose by Curran, Danner and Kennedy.
You have to wonder if Kennedy an Gerdes, both lawyers, would recommend a client paying them for legal advice,  go ahead finance and build a multimillion dollar home with issues like a pending legal action to stop the process and a neighborhood petition drive to prevent the construction?
A couple of times Thursday the whole "representative democracy" argument was raised. That's the old saw that says we elect officials to represent us and they do what they think is best. If that were totally true then why all of the harping about that well managed public input visioning process to justify their actions?
The fact is as long as you are saying what Curran, Danner and Kennedy and Kornell want to hear they will be willing listen to you. When you aren't saying what they want to hear, they are acting as part of the representative democracy that knows best and ignoring you.
It has become pretty clear that the LENS support base on City Council is going to push on until the public forces them to a stop.
City Attorney John Wolf said Thursday that the Stop The Lens Petition is legal and accurate, when they get enough signatures Council will either have to enact and ordinance stopping the LENS or put the issue to a vote.
There is your answer, there is your solution. Judge Williams may come to the same conclusion, but your best bet is to get a Stop The LENS petition and complete it properly. For information check out the  Stop The Lens website.
e-mail Doc at:, or send me a Facebook Friend request.    

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Casual Conversation with Herb Polson

To be totally transparent, Herb and I have been good friends for well over 20 years, we worked very closely together while were both on staff at the City and I was a campaign worker and contributor to Herbs' City Council campaign in 2005.

I caught up with Herb a week or so ago at one of our favorite lunch spots, Coney Island on 9th Street.

For most of Herb's career with the City, both as a staff member and as an elected official, Herb dealt with the political side of the administration. Given that, Herb has an uncanny insight into the workings of the elected officials and the Administration. Herb served on the City staff during the City Manager era and the strong mayor period.

We had a lot of catching up to do but soon the conversation turned to politics and I asked the question a lot of people are asking: "are you going to run for Mayor?"

Our conversation had been pretty light hearted up to that point but Herb turned very serious, "I get that question frequently when I am out in public," Herb said. "Well?", I asked. "I am watching and listening carefully", was Herb's reply.

He went on, "The City has a lot of problems. There are serious issues that the next Mayor will have to deal with. The Pier/LENS, The Rays, the budget to name a few. Principle among them is the age of the senior administration, and the need to make some serious staffing changes. The old way of looking at things is just not working anymore."

"What are your major concerns?" I asked. Herb replied, "even though the Mayor is poling well, there is a serious lack of leadership on almost all issues." I don't get the sense that the staff or City Council has a clear idea of where they are going." Lack of leadership is clearly evident in the budget process, and the number of people leaving the administration is a serious problem, especially recent hires that have quickly left."

Our conversation moved out to the parking lot as the Coney Island lunch crowd grew, and it became considerably more detailed, but I'll leave that for Herb to make public later.

As the conversation drew to a close, Herb again waxed serious and said "I don't think we feel good about ourselves. The City seems to have lost its direction." The world is changing, our demographic is changing and it just doesn't seem like the City leadership is on board."

I could not help myself I had to try one more time. "So are you going to run for Mayor? I asked.

Without any hesitation but with a twinkle in his eye Herb replied, "I'll just wait a while and watch and listen to what the people have to say."

A quick handshake and we were off to our various destinations.

As I drove way I could not help but think, in all my experience with Herb, he has always been about what the people have to say.