Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who Pays for The Lens?

Below is a letter to Mayor Bill Foster from Bill Ballard of Concerned Citizens regarding financing for the LENS.
All of this information is presented here with no editing. 
From: William Ballard [mailto:wballard12@verizon.net] 
Sent: Monday, July 29, 2013 1:39 PM
To: 'mayor@stpete.org'; 'council@stpete.org'
Cc: 'john.wofe@stpete.org'
Subject: Who Pays for The Lens 
Mayor, Council Members – I can understand why you don’t want to call the pier project the “Lens” – the name the architect gave it.  Insofar as being a lens into our bay waters, it was dead on arrival.  What I can’t understand is how you, the majority of council members advocating this project, and you, Mayor Foster, can persist in leaving St. Petersburg’s voters with the wrong information about who pays for this project.  You have permitted city employees and the architect’s local representative to tell the public for over a year that it is only the downtown property owners who will pay.  I have heard them.  I see this misinformation in print in Basis of Design Book 1 at pages 2-6, 3-45 and 3 -46 and the Schematic Design Book at page 2-8.  I see it in the WOW ST.PETE literature, a now defunct organization sponsored by the City and the Chamber of Commerce.  I see it in the Tampa Bay Times July 21st edition and in the new Build The Pier political committee’s mail outs.   
Attached are my July 26th letter to senior management at the Times Publishing Company and my email exchange last week with Amanda Coffey, the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Deputy for Governmental Affairs and Staff Counsel.  In my letter, I incorrectly describe her as being a deputy in the Tax Collector’s office.  I correctly show with the city’s own 2013 fiscal plan documents that every St. Petersburg resident, except a homeless person using no utilities or city services, will pay for this project, as will nearly everyone in the county outside of St. Petersburg.  These documents show that downtown property owners are taxed on an ad valorem basis just like everyone else in the city and that every dime of their property tax payments goes into the general fund along with every other property owner’s tax payments.  It follows that every dollar that the city’s  general fund transfers to the downtown redevelopment district trust must be replaced with additional revenue from a combination of property taxes,  hidden taxes such as those on utilities, and over cost service fees, if the city’s service levels are to be maintained. The same applies to the Pinellas county taxes paid by all city property owners, as about 43 % of the 2013 TIF money for the downtown trust comes from the county’s general fund. 
Mr. Wolfe.  I respectfully urge you to advise the Mayor and Council Members of the significance of the clear and correct definition of tax increment financing that appears in the 2009 Bar Journal article which is cited in my email exchange with Ms. Coffey.  Please consider the importance of the concept that redevelopment district trust contributions can come from any source, not just property taxes, and the fact that the city’s own financial documents demonstrate this. 
The referendum issue for all St. Petersburg voters is whether this project is worth $50 million to our city, or whether we can do better for our waterfront with that $50 million.  The great majority of voters live outside the downtown district.  They are being misled by your silence today, as they vote, into believing that only the downtown property owners will pay.  This lie is certain to cause voters not in the downtown district to conclude that if The Lens is what the downtowners want, and they are paying for it, let them have it.  These voters will vote No.  If enough of them vote No they will be very surprised when they learn that they voted to pay for The Lens with their property taxes, utility taxes and service fees for the next twenty years.  They will be angry, because the truth will eventually become common knowledge. 
You have a duty to speak.  A fraud on the voters is being committed.  As long as you are silent, you are part of the fraud. 
William C. Ballard, President
Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, Inc.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Kathleen Ford Campaign, Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg
Have your say.  VOTE YES TO Stop The Lens.
Be sure to mark your mail in ballot, sign the back of the envelope and mail it right away.
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Legend of The Big Bed Pan - It's Time To Vot

Elroy was comfortably resting in the sleeper cab of the big Kenworth at a truck stop just over the Georgia line. The CAT diesel purred quietly in the background and the AC fan provided  a comfortable breeze.
It was about 7:00PM the thermometer said the outside temperature was still 88 degrees. He would rest for a while, then go to the restaurant for a bite of dinner before turning in.
It had been a long day. Rained like cats and dogs on his way up from St. Pete. He was headed to Atlanta for a quick turn around and back to St. Pete.
Elroy had picked up his mail from the kitchen table before he left home and as he thumbed through the car ads, grocery store flyers, political mailers he came across his mail in ballot.
"Hmm" crossed his lips as he opened the packet, guess it's decision time, he thought.
About that time his reverie was interrupted by a loud banging on the side of the sleeper and a familiar voice yelled, "Hey Elroy you in there?" "This is Cletus!"
Elroy pushed the button that unlocked the cab door an Cletus jumped into the driver's seat.
Whew, man it is hot," Cletus said. "The AC in the Jimmy is working all that good"
Is that your mail in ballot you're looking at ," Cletus asked?
"Yep, sure is," Elroy replied.
"Ya know I just can't seem to get my head wrapped around all of the facts and myths that seem to be coming out about the Big Bed Pan err..... LENS," Cletus said.
"Really?" "How So?" Elroy asked.
"Is there an air-conditioned restaurant out there on that thing or not?" "And is that amphitheater an amphitheater or just some concrete steps to set on?" Cletus asked.
"If that thing faces south you would need some pretty thick padding to set on or your gonna end up with some burned buns in the daytime," Cletus went on.
Elroy smiled.
Cletus continued, "and what about that bike path that has a ramp to steep to ride down?  is that gonna be safe for my kids?" "I think I am just going to vote NO to stop this whole mess," Cletus said.
Elroy took a deep breath, he knew what he was about to say was going to lengthen the conversation.
If you want to stop the LENS you have to vote YES," Elroy replied.
"What?" Cletus exclaimed!
"You are voting to cancel the contract with the company that would design and build the LENS so you have to vote YES to cancel the contract," Elroy explained.
"So a YES vote means no LENS?" Cletus asked.
"Yep." "A YES vote means no Big Bed Pan," Elroy replied.
Cletus opened the door,  Elroy asked, "where you going?" "Back to the truck and mark that Ballot before I get more confused," Cletus replied. 
Elroy could hear Cletus as he walked across the parking lot:
"Yes means no LENS." "Yes means no LENS." "Yes means no LENS." "Yes means no LENS."
Elroy smiled again, filled in the circle next to YES on his Ballot marked the rest of his choices, sealed the envelope and signed the back.
He put it up on the visor so he would be sure to mail it the minute he got back to St. Pete.
Have your say.  VOTE YES TO Stop The Lens.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Kathleen Ford Campaign, Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Why is the Times Not Telling the Truth

Why is the Times Not Telling the Truth
Below is correspondence from Bud Risser supporter of Concerned Citizens, the Group that managed to finally get you a vote on the LENS.
It is Posted here with no editing.
Friends 
Most of you likely saw, and perhaps read the Perspective section of Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times.   The entire page was about the Lens project, under the provocative title “Myths, lies and Facts”. 
It is just a damn shame that the Times falsely pretended to clear the air.  They did anything but.  Two days before mail ballots were posted by the Supervisor of Elections, and just one day before a terribly misleading piece was mailed by the “Build the Pier” group, the Times put this piece out there and totally mislead their readers.  
Unfortunately they insisted on prominently repeated two of the False statements in the flier being mailed by the pro-Lens people.  So now readers have seen back to back  fabrications -- in the paper, and in the flier.  Will they know these are lies?  Who knows.  As you know, fables repeated often enough become urban legend. 
Below is my letter to Tim Nickens expressing concern on this subject.  For those of you who do not know, Tim is in charge of editorials for the Times.  Bill Ballard sent an immediate letter Monday asking them to publish a correction of their assertion that there would be an air conditioned restaurant on the Lens.  Their disingenuous response was to tell Bill that they had privately talked to “the architect” and that there might be portable air conditioning units and moveable walls.  Then they posted a “clarification” (not a correction) the next day in the smallest print available.  Most people missed it. 
Look – each of us is entitled to our opinion.  Goodness knows our world is filled with opinionated people these days.  Personally I relish honest discourse with honest people with whom I disagree.   That is not what is happening here.  There is -- and never has been -- anything in any of the Maltzan plans that proposed there be a real air conditioned restaurant out there, and the editorial board knows it.
The financing piece (which I discuss below) is even more dishonest.  It is a simple fact (that almost everyone knows) that every single person in  Pinellas County will be obligated in paying back the $50 million loan.  How in the world they can say that it will be paid for by downtown property owners?  This fantasy is a real cause for concern.  Why?  Because there are only three possible reasons they would say this in print, and none of them are very reassuring.  They are  (1) The Times does not know the facts but makes them up anyway to suit their purpose.  (2) The Times lets someone give them data , but then publishes it without making any effort whatsoever to verify its accuracy, and (3) They are intentionally lying in order to sell the Lens project.  Read below, and then you decide which alternative fits. 
When you are finished PLEASE forward this email to anyone you think should read the letter.  Mr. Nickens has already told me he will not run it because it is too long.  I hope to convince him otherwise, but it is unlikely.  Email forwarding is the only way we can force the Times to be truthful.  Those of us who value accuracy and fair play have to do our part to counteract this malicious action. 
Thank you for your continuing support. 
Bud
To Mr. Tim Nickens -
I am sending this to you for publication on the condition that you will do no editing.  
To the Times: 
It is frustrating when the Times, whose staff properly takes appropriate satisfaction for being recognized as journalism professionals, publishes information that is - whether intentionally, or through ignorance - profoundly misleading to its readers.   Sunday's Perspective front page was an opportunity to be a real help to readers as they contemplate the future of the Lens.  It was not.  Your headline "Facts, lies & the Lens" implied you have done a careful analysis on behalf of your readers.  I only wish it were so.  Actually the material is filled with a number of serious errors and misstatements.  The most egregious of these involve financing and safety. 
For example:  "Myth 1" offers as a "Fact",   "Among the offering over water are an air-conditioned restaurant . . . ".   This will surely be a big  surprise for the City staff and the architects, because there is no such structure in the current plans (see BOD #3).  Moreover, just recently at a public meeting on July 10th, the City staff said clearly that there would be no air conditioning on the promontory (other than the gelato stand).  The real "FACT" is that the current plans show that people will be out there exposed on the promontory with no protection from our daily summer storms.  There are no walls to protect them from wind, rain or lightning, and certainly no air-conditioning.   ( BOD #3 details how they will be expected to evacuate during inclement weather, and details how this will be done and the time required to do so).   The most newly released depictions of the Lens continue to show no enclosed area.   This raises real and serious safety concerns that should have been acknowledged by you rather than pretending that the problem has been resolved. 
Then "Myth 4":   you state   "Fact:  The $50 million project . . .  is being financed with a portion of property taxes collected only on downtown properties, under a system known as tax-increment financing.”    This is blatantly untrue.  The source of the funds that will retire the debt is not the downtown property owners.  The source is the General Revenue Fund of the City of St. Petersburg, which is made up of a variety of revenue streams, including the entire ad valorem taxes paid by all property owners.    The "Fact" is that the financial burden for the project will be shared equally by all City residents.   County residents will similarly be contributing through the County’s General Fund.  Your misrepresentation appears to be a thinly veiled attempt – and gross misrepresentation -- to convince most City voters that somehow they will not be paying for the Lens. 
You go on to state "If it is not built, the money cannot be funneled to other city priorities without the Pinellas County Commission's permission. "  That statement is absurdly  and profoundly FALSE.    Florida Statute 163.387(7)(a) requires that any  Trust Fund money not spent at the end of each year must - by law -  be returned to the contributing agency at year end.  (There is one exception not relevant here).  Any money so returned clearly can be used for any City expenditure Council and the Mayor choose.   Similarly,  the County’s contribution is returned to the County for its use. 
You can easily follow how this money is transferred by Goggling the City’s 2013 budget.  The monies transferred into the Trust fund come from the General Revenue Fund of both the City ($4.66 million this year) and the County ($3.48 million).   (see the City Adopted 2013 Fiscal Plan, pages E-7 and E-27)  This money is raised from a variety of sources, including fees and taxes other than property taxes.  Clearly downtown property owners are no more responsible for paying for the project than any other citizen. 
It is one thing to innocently misunderstand an issue.  It is quite another issue to intentionally and egregiously misrepresent false statements as "Facts".   That is what you have done.  At the very least your readers deserve an apology, and integrity demands that you set the record straight before citizens begin to  vote.
P. N. "Bud" Risser

cc: Mr. Paul Tash
     Mayor Foster
     City Council
     Public distribution 

P.S. There are a number of other misstatements in your editorial, but I have not dealt with those in the interests of brevity.   If you wish, I can do so privately.
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kathleen Ford and Politifact - A Second Look

The shots at Kathleen ford just keep getting cheaper and cheaper. It starts out with some name calling, progresses to the St. Pete Chicken and now we have a "Pants on Fire Rating" from Politifact.
Seems Politifact did not have the same problem in Oregon in February of 2012 with Ben Cannon, Oregon Governor John Kitshaber's education adviser, when he said "if we raise the number of third-graders who read at a third-grade level, we affect everything, from graduation rates to incarceration rates."
Cannon's statement is broader than Ford's "We know that our private prison systems are calculating how many new beds (they will need) based on the third grade, number of third-graders, and that's just wrong".
Let's look at some facts.
Politifact Oregon did its home work and found that there is a correlation between third grade performance and incarceration rates. Click the Link above.
The final ruling of Politifact  Oregon: "Cannon told Portland Monthly that by improving third grade reading scores, the state would also be improving graduation and incarceration rates. He did his homework before speaking. The link between the three seems absolutely clear to us. We rate this claim True."
So in Oregon Politifact seems to agree that third grade educational performance is a factor in incarceration rates, but in Florida they do not.
If the real question is do PRIVATE prison companies factor the third grade statistics into their planning models, I seriously doubt any one running one of these companies would be dumb enough to admit it even if they did. But they do use incarceration rates in their planning models.
So is Kathleen Ford wrong or does just recognize the problem?
I'll let you read the link above and draw your own conclusions.
We had a Mayor before Foster that was focused on education and he made a difference.  It would be nice to have that same attribute in a new Mayor.
The level of effort going into attempts to embarrass, discredit or put Ford on the defensive continues to escalate.
The better question is why?
The political power brokers and their minions just don't know how to deal with someone who deals straight up.
Look for more of the same tactics.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Kathleen Ford Campaign, Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg
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Friday, July 12, 2013

The LENS Some - Food for Thought

I get a lot of e-mails and thanks to everyone who takes time to send them.
Remember, I will never Post your e-mail without your permission.
Posted below with permission and with some reformatting for the Blog Post but no content editing,  is a recent e-mail from Pam West regarding the LENS.
Doc:
Since When do the Taxpayers of this city Succumb to a Limited few that happen to want to use our tax dollars to provide them with a $50Million Dollar exercise ramp??? 
Use the nearby parks if you want to have a picnic.  (open air restaurant)
Use the bike lanes all over the city that have been provided and lined off just for you.
Use the Pinellas Trail that is for that purpose.
Use the Gym 
Give ALL the residents and downtown business owners the opportunity to enjoy the benefit of having a #1 Tourist Attraction which brings our city millions of dollars of revenue a year.  Last year alone there was $463million tourist dollars spent in Pinellas County . The Lens offers nothing as a tourist attraction. 
The Lens is all wrong.  It makes no COMMON SENSE! It will end up to be nothing more than a monster bird landing (crapper) and a cesspool for our city. 
Food for thought: 
We all know this super expensive bike track, that loops around a toilet seat shaped structure, is the biggest waste of tax payers money in the world.  Not to mention the dangerous situations that will take place.  Who insures this accident waiting to happen and the liability of people getting hurt?  Which will happen!   Oh, wait I asked that question to a council member and was informed that the city” insures it’s self ”.  So that means We the taxpayers will pay for that too!!! 
The residents will not use the Lens after the novelty wears off.   It will be too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, too humid, too dangerous...etc,etc,etc.  Another costly mistake.    
No shelter or safety from what I see.  A shaded area is not shelter or protection from a storm or lightening. 
Most of the residents don't even ride bikes, use skateboards or go for extended long walks outdoors.  It will end up being a gathering place for teens just like Baywalk with no supervision and a drug dealers paradise...wow, what a ticket for trouble.   This makes no sense????   Can you imagine the gathering of teenagers since there will be no supervision?  Playground on the water.  Or  what will be the Cost of 24/7—365days  Security to keep peace and control the teenagers/minors? 
What will deter the homeless from camping out on their waterfront property?  Do I smell another Baywalk in the works if the Lens were to be built? 
Have you seen the new images of the Lens?  Where is the lane for Handicap and the walking challenged, the emergency vehicles?  I guess they’re only considered when it comes to paying the taxes.  
What happens when someone decides to turn around and is headed back into the traffic.  Or is it going to be one way traffic only?  If there is only a few people on the pier that may not be an issue …but for $50 mil it better be crowded.  Why waste the taxpayers money on such a nonfunctional structure.  If it’s exercise they seek there is the Pinellas trail or join a gym where there is air conditioning. 
Has there been any thought given to the Heat factor (temp) with the sun radiating off those aluminum panels? 
What about the dirt, salt and pollution in the air when it settles in the grooves on the canopy.  Not to mention the bird feces. 
That is the poorest excuse of an ice cream stand I have ever seen.
Please, Go back to the guidelines the Pier Advisory Task Force laid out and follow them this time.  The Lens is a joke and doesn’t belong on our waterfront. 
Everyone that lives in St. Petersburg pays taxes and deserves a Pier that serves as something useful or provides a service of some kind.  Not just a possible bike loop for a very limited few. 
What about the hundreds of jobs that were eliminated???  And the 28 businesses that were forced to close PREMATURELY? The Pier was still operational so why did it have to be closed before a final decision (vote) is made?    What purpose does that accomplish?   It really has no bearing on the outcome of the referendum does it?    To say it would cost the city more money to keep it open is nothing to what paying Maltzan Group is costing us.  At least the pier residents could of support their families a little longer. 
STOP THE LENS 
Thank You for your time’
Pamela West
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg

 
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

The LENS Road Show - A Bumpy Start

Apparently my take on Wednesday night's City LENS Road Show is a bit different than most. The crowd was estimated at about 120 by the Sunken gardens Staff.

Leslie Curran got things going with an introduction that included statements like "we will answer all your questions", and "we will stay as long as necessary to answer all those questions"

Chris Ballestra, the LENS project manager began with a rehash of pier history. I think that lasted about 15-20 minutes. It was a waste of time since the stated objective of the meeting was to discuss the recent LENS design changes. Most everybody interested in this issue has been through the Pier History a number of times.

Ballestra's comments were followed by some mildly useful information from Raul Quintana the City's architect about the actual design changes.

The new renderings on display do indeed show some of the new design details and as was pointed out by City staff, the LENS is a design work in progress, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

Attendees were asked to submit their questions on green cards, and the cards started coming quickly. People continued to send up questions as the meeting continued.

Ballestra started off the questions portion of the meeting by saying "we want to answer all your questions and will stay here as long as necessary". He began reading the questions and providing answers. Quintana joined in to help with some of the details.

I couldn't help but notice that there was some shuffling of question cards as the meeting progressed. After about 45 minutes or so Quintana abruptly stepped in and said that's all the time we have for questions. Several attendees quickly objected saying you have not answered the question I submitted.

Council member Curran, calmed the audience down and once again said we will stay and answer all your questions.

A crowd developed around the podium where Ballestra and Quintana were standing and the exchange grew somewhat heated. Ballestra became agitated and frequently used the phrase "let me know when I can talk" as the citizens asked some pretty probing questions.

The crowd gradually drifted away and the meeting ended.

If this "information" campaign is be successful at all, enhancing an adversarial atmosphere is not going to help. There were supporters and detractors of the LENS in attendance. All needed to hear the questions and the answers.

Someone needs to take Ballestra aside and remind him this is not his personal fight to save the LENS. If you can't stand the criticism and critical comments and react to them like a professional then the City should put someone else up front as the information spokes person.

Next, the format needs to be geared more to the subject at hand- forget the history lesson. Begin with explanation of the latest design changes and then straight to the questions from the attendees. The only real way to find out what the public wants to know is to let them ask their questions and role that information into the next presentation.

If you don't want to answer ALL of the questions, state a time limit up front and then stick to it.

Finally, don't prescreen the questions and move the ones you don't want to answer to the bottom of the pile. That may not be what happened, but it sure looked that way.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

A little less defense and some better planning would help the information flow
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Saturday, July 6, 2013

South St. Pete - Something That Might Just Work.


Here is a Comment that was added to my Post District 8 Candidates on South St. Pete Quality of Life by Kim D:

I would like to see some sort of partnership - maybe USF college of Education, All Children's Hospital, SPC, and Eckerd College get together to intervene to stop the cycle of poverty and crime by providing medical check-ups and education for at risk parents- to- be. Then the USF, SPC, and other students studying to be teachers could begin to work with these babies from birth in a child care program provided free to the parents while they work to complete their education and receive skills and job training. If the education students had the opportunity to work with these kids teaching them the basics, talking to them, reading to them then when those kids later enter their classrooms they will be ready to learn, not way behind and struggling to catch up. The college students could receive credits for doing this and any money spent on this endeavor would be a good investment, not needed for police and prisons later. Why do we invest so little in our people? If we don't do something to break this cycle of poverty in our community the quality of life for all residents will continue to be adversely affected. I would like the city council and mayor to seriously put effort into something like this. It is a huge problem and until it is solved we will also have trouble attracting business here no matter how great the tax breaks.

I Reposted this Comment because a lot of people don't read the Comments under the Posts, and you should by the way, because that is where the real insight will be found as in this case.

I was struck and moved by the simplicity of the concept and the profound way everybody in this idea wins. This idea leverages valuable assets already on the ground in St. Petersburg and applies them right where they are needed.  

The outcomes: better prepared kids and better prepared teachers are to valuable to even put a price on.
I do not know who Kim D is but this is the kind of thinking that will begin to move St. Petersburg forward.
Unlike TIFS, CRAs and streetscape projects, ideas like this will actually help in South St. Pete.
We desperately need more of this kind of thinking and less politics and special interest pressure.

Someone in the current or next administration should catch this idea and run with it.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request
It is time for some out of the box thinking






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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dr. David McKalip CandidateDistrict 4 Releases a Budget Statement

Dr. McKalip Proposes $10 Million Tax and Fee Cut, City Employee Raises, and Funding of Pension Plans.$80 million in excess reserves will be used in first year and spending reform and cuts in future years.

Dr. David McKalip City Council candidate for District 4 has released following response to the recently released City Budget proposal. Press release provided by the McKalip campaign and posted here with no editing.


St Petersburg, FL -- Dr. McKalip, candidate for St. Petersburg city Council, is proposing tax and fee cuts for the city of St. Petersburg’s 2014 budget year.  The $10 million in cuts to benefit the citizens is in stark contrast to the $10 million hike in property taxes and water and sewer rate proposed by the city government for 2014.

http://www.mckalipforcouncil.com/dr_mckalip_proposes_10_million_tax_and_fee_cut_city_employee
_raises_and_funding_of_pension_plans

Dr McKalip offered:
 “For too long the citizens of St. Petersburg have been taken for granted by a city government that wastes the citizens’ money and refuses to meet its basic obligations in a fiscally responsible way. The City of St. Petersburg government costs a family of four an additional $1,500 per year compared to a more reasonable baseline of spending in 2001 – that is with 3,500 fewer citizens and 365 fewer government workers!  It is time for some tax relief for the citizens.”

The Mayor released his 2014 budget proposal on July 1, calling for a 0.1% cut in the millage rate which would still result in a $3.2 million tax hike for citizens. In addition the city would raise water and sewage bills 4.2% for an additional $7.3 million.  Dr. McKalip observed:
 “Last year, the city raised property taxes $10 million for this fiscal year and now proposes to remove another $10 million from citizens and the economy –further hurting both.” Dr. McKalip is promising to work for a true tax and fee cut for citizens if elected to city council in November.  “I will not vote for any budget that raises taxes. I will hold up votes on budgets that attempt to raise taxes or fees in any way. If elected, I will be the first city council member in years to actually work to cut city spending”

While future tax and fee cuts are also entirely feasible after wasteful spending is analyzed and stopped, the first cuts will be financed by tapping excess reserves the city has built up. The city has placed into its bank accounts money from the citizens totally in $81 million above what is required by law or required for emergencies. $10 million of these reserves will be returned directly to the taxpayers and water, sewer and sanitation customers through tax and fee cuts. The remainder of the funds will be used to finance long delayed raises for government workers.  On average, city workers can receive a raise of $750 by using $2 million of reserve funds. A greater raise can be given if the workers’ unions agree to reforms in the pension and health benefit plans that will make them more fiscally stable in the long run and avoid tax hikes in the future. Finally, $60 million of the additional reserve funds will be used to begin to fill the hole in pension and retiree health benefits that have been underfunded by $325 million.

The additional cost of pay raises in the future will be paid for through reform of health benefits, pension plans, ending wasteful spending, ending corporate subsidies and focusing government spending on the basics of public safety, utilities, roads and parks.

Dr. McKalip stated: “Returning money to the taxpayers will help kick start the economy through true stimulus, resulting in higher tax revenue from the city through a broader tax base. That is the kind of leadership this city government needs and the citizens deserve.”

 Dr. David McKalip has been a nearly lifelong resident of St. Petersburg. He is a community leader and businessman who has practiced brain and spine surgery in St. Petersburg since 2000. Dr. McKalip is an elected or appointed leader on many boards and committees. He has been happily married to Ann, his wife of 22 years, and is the father of three wonderful children.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign




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Monday, July 1, 2013

Kathleen Ford’s Response to the TBT Editorial: Saving the Pier makes no fiscal sense


Posted without editing

Tampa Bay Times: Editorial: Saving The Pier makes no fiscal sense

In 2003 and 2004, Parsons Brinkerhoff performed an engineering analysis of our Pier. This examination (which included underwater analysis of spans) revealed the City’s need to renovate The Pier. Thus, on February 15, 2005, the City Council approved Ordinance 715-G, which extended the expiration date for the Intown Redevelopment District to 2035 and added Pier/Pier Approach Improvements to this District’s Plan. Specifically, the Plan identified the following repairs and renovations of The Pier as the project:
Demolition/Replacement of Pier Approach ($22.2 M);
Demolition/Replacement of Pier Head Structure ($12 M);
Demolition/Replacement of Pier Head Retail ($6.1 M); Restoration of
Inverted Pyramid Structure ($4.3M) and Design/Permitting Construction
Administration of $5.4 M, for a total of $50 million. This is where
the $50 million Pier Project number originated.

The Pier Task Force subsequently suggested widening The Pier approach (bridge portion) from 100 ft to 150 ft. This widening would never have been approved by SWFMD or the Army Corp, however, because both agencies limit construction of new piers to almost the exact footprint so as to protect our Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserve. The City’s estimate of $74 million for renovating the inverted pyramid structure was derived from this never-to-be-allowed-widening of The Pier approach. The City received a letter from architect Kenneth Kroger, showing how the construction costs for replacing the pier approach and renovating the inverted pyramid could be managed within the original $50 million budget by reducing the width of the pier approach.

Moreover, the City’s current annual subsidy would be greatly reduced and/or eliminated altogether if a new Pier structure was built, the HVAC systems were replaced, and the facility was more efficiently managed. Not too long ago, City staff advised City Council that the City made money from the Pier leases when the costs associated with maintaining the Pier approach were removed. In other words, the City actually made a profit from the inverted pyramid shops and first floor retail. Again, if a new bridge were built those significant subsidies would disappear.

To date, no engineer has opined that the inverted pyramid or the foundation supporting it is structurally unsound. And, there is expert testimony (architect Ken Kroger) suggesting that the cost to build this same inverted pyramid structure brand new today would be more than $35 million. Thus, the iconic inverted pyramid building is a significant City real estate asset. Furthermore, independent engineers (not dependent upon the mayor for a salary) have estimated that the Pier approach can be demolished and replaced and the inverted pyramid building renovated within the original budget of $50 million. Facts are important and should be the basis of all City fiscal decision making. Creative and artistic expression is an important element of our city life, but practicality and fiscal responsibility come first. Here, the citizens of St. Petersburg have a significant investment in their Pier and they should have the final say, vis-à-vis a vote, on
whether their Pier should be demolished or renovated.

Finally, almost a year ago, I proposed ballot language to the Citysuggesting that the City seek direction from citizens on whether to:
*save the inverted pyramid or
*build the looping figure 8 sidewalk over the water (the Lens) or
*seek a design compatible with the Waterfront Master Plan to be
developed that included the criteria established by the Pier Task
Force of a 36,000 sq ft building with 26,000 sq. ft of restaurant or
*demolish the bridge and pier head and restore the entire area to a
waterfront park.

Of course, I thought it would be fiscally prudent to obtain voter approval prior to spending millions of dollars on a project that might not be built. So now we find ourselves facing the August 27 vote where we will see whether Bill Foster and City Council wasted $3.8 million
on Maltzan’s Lens.

Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Kathleen Ford Campaign, Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg

Have your say. VOTE YES TO Stop The Lens.
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Bud Risser emailed me this update posted here with his permission.

Here is a link to the Original Post 828 Should Probably Wait

Sir

I offer a correction of your recent post that someone was forwarded to me regarding Mayor Foster's plan for the Pier.

First, I am not part of that committee. I have been working with the Mayor in hope that my management experience could be helpful in forming a productive committee that could keep the momentum we now have should the August election terminate the Maltzan contract.

Second, your message suggests to me that you - and frankly a lot of others including Council - do not understand what the Mayor is proposing. This group is being formed solely to recommend a process that could (and hopefully would) lead our City to a better solution. When they decide the process, their job is completed. The group who would execute the process leading to a selection would come next. My guess is that this will be a much larger group, with lots of thought given to diversity, interests, politics and such.

For reasons I am certain you will understand, the idea here was to get a small group who understand the importance of compromise, and that would represent key interests and move quickly. My recommendation was 7 to 9 people. The Mayor chose to make it larger than that, which may slow things down. But you notice that CCSP and the Chamber are there. The Mayor wanted Sullivan (and I strongly agreed) but he said no. I do not know why. That is too bad because it not only would have brought his ideas to the table, it would have added credibility.

From my vantage point I can already see many places where there is already common agreement. It would be inappropriate for me to share those now, but I will say that most - if not all - of the ideas I consider important likely will be accepted by the participants I have talked with. As a result, I am optimistic that this could be a good start. I say could, because you know how quickly the complexity of these things can cause them to go astray. I would hope that using the Pier Task Force report, working in sync with the new waterfront master plan, and taking constant input from the community would be just a few of the things everyone could agree to. If so we should be able to avoid the problems that the earlier process created.

The truth is that this group of people, and many others, love our City and we are simply working to get the best solution we can. I look forward to you helping to keep our little world informed!

Best regards,

Bud

Thanks Mr. Risser for the update and the clarification.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.




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