Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday March 30, 2014 Careful Charlie.......

I was a staunch supporter of Rick Scott in the last gubernatorial election, but I must admit I am on the fence at this point.

At least in my view, the election seems Charlie Crist's to lose at this point. I am not much swayed by all of the carping about Crist changing parties, in fact I sympathize with his of repeated mantra, "I didn't leave the Republican Party, they left me." I think he is on point.

As the Republican Party has moved steadily to right propelled by the Tea Party and other far right wing nuts, a lot of moderate Republicans feel they have been abandon and uncomfortable.

Rick Scott on the other hand is a lot like corporate turnaround downsizer Chainsaw Al Dunlap. There is a place in business and government for those who would come in and "clean house" so to speak. Confront the unions; clean out the educational system and so on. You can argue about morality, compassion and all of that other stuff all you want sooner or later someone has to clean out the closets.

History however has shown that the people, who do this type of work well, are generally not good long term corporate leaders. Dunlap recognized this fact, came in did his thing, was well compensated for it and moved on.

People like Dunlap and Scott bring great pressure and stress to an organization, and most organizations can only stand it up to a point then they may fracture.

The question Florida voters have to ask is has Rick Scott completed the task or enough of the task of  getting Florida back on track and is it time to take some of the pressure off?

Scott is an easy target. From his appearance to his actions he moves steadily forward not seeming to worry much about the fall out. Pundits love him and his continued ranking as the most unpopular governor in the US is unlikely to change.

So I think Charlie Crist needs to be careful about kicking Scott when he seems to be down and suddenly turning Scott into a victim.

Secondly, at least in my opinion, Charlie should be a little slower jumping on the Obama band wagon. It is one thing to embrace the goals of the "People's Party" and another thing to embrace a President who seems fixated on one issue, Obama Care, and weak on everything else. One hug was enough.

It would be a shame if this election turned into a referendum on Obama Care and Florida got lost in the argument.

Scott will go on the attack and stay there.

Crist can stay on the high ground for the most part and point to Scott's record. Explain what he (Crist) would do different and the former Governor may and find himself once again in the Governor's Mansion.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet, WATCHDOGWIRE-FLORIDA and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Don’t Let the Greenlight Wheels Drive You Crazy

The Campaign to sell GreenLight Pinellas and a $100 Million dollar sales tax increase is well underway. 

All of the high powered suspects that traditionally support large scale government projects are onboard: Politicians, Chambers of Commerce, Board of Realtors, big developers and the list goes on including the local newspaper that cannot even seem to manage their own business.

So far, it seems, Joe Lunch Bucket is still on the side lines.

To entice Joe to vote raise his sales tax 300% you will soon see a barrage of TV commercials, mailers, newspaper ads, editorials and social media ads.

It will be enough to drive you crazy.

The major problem is: this thing, Greenlight Pinellas, is the mother of all boondoggles. Don’t think so?

Here is a link to the actual ordinance Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance  you will be approving if you vote YES.

Note that there is no requirement for expansion of the bus system, just a promise to maybe do so.

There is no control on the enormous amount of money that will suddenly show up at PSTA. Just some vague language about: to be determined inter local agreements.

State Senator Jack Latvala is now openly trying to modify the Penny for Pinellas Tax formula to allow these sales tax dollars to be used for “public transportation infrastructure” in what is probably the first open
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kriseman and Red Light Cameras – What was He Thinking?

On the campaign trail Rick Kriseman was firm in his support for red light cameras as a safety tool.

After his election he remained firm in his commitment to the red light camera program. At one point telling me he would be open to moving the cameras to new more "productive" intersections if red light ticket revenue dropped to low.

Then following some pressure from Council Member Nurse regarding red light camera City revenue approaching the break even point, the Mayor announced he would shut the program down at the end of the fiscal year.
OOPS!!!

Right up to that point, at least from my perspective, the new Mayor was in the cat bird seat. The ball was totally in the City Council court. As they were told over and over again they could shut the program down. Public pressure was on City Council and the Mayor really had a free pass.

If City Council voted to shut the program down, the Mayor could just follow City Council’s wishes, shut the program down and let them take the responsibility and move on.

With the Mayor’s announcement regarding a fall shut down of the program, the Mayor appeared to shift
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday March 23, 2014 The Legacy of Alan Harvey

This week's announcement that long time St. Petersburg City Administrator Rick Musset was retiring got me to thinking.

A large number of the St. Pete administrative management team has 25 to 30 and more years of service. Many of them started between 1980 and 1984 and have been with the City in senior management roles for many of these years.

If you really step back and look, there have been dozens of different City Council members, a number of weak mayors,  numerous City Managers, and four strong Mayors since the form of government changed in the early 1990's, but the staff has stayed very consistent.

So who was the person that hired all of these people who have endured for all of these years and been so instrumental in the creation of St. Petersburg as we know it today?

Answer - City manager Alan Harvey.

If you would like to read the set up that lead to Alan's arrival as City Manager check out this link: More than Mayor or Manager: Campaigns to Change Form of Government  in America's Large Cities.

Alan Harvey became City Manger following the 10 year tenure of Ray Harbaugh. Harvey was young, charismatic and aggressive. He wanted to replace the typical bureaucrat with people who wanted to get things done and he set about building a staff that would endure for over 30 years.

Most of his hires did not come from government; they came from the private sector.

My career at the City began in 1981, but my actual recruitment began over a year earlier as a friend and former Honeywell engineer who had gone to work for the City, kept chiding me about giving something back to the community and coming to work for this really neat guy Alan Harvey.

I had to take a pay cut to make the move but the stories he told were just to intriguing to pass up and so I remember saying "ok I'll give you two years and then Ill 'have to go back the private sector to make a living."

I retired from the City 28 years later. Some of my colleagues could tell you similar stories.

Once on board it was a whirlwind of excitement with a get it done form of leadership. Harvey instilled strong
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Musset Retires - Kriseman Continues to Remake City Hall

Rick Mussett, City Development Senior Administrator,
announced he is leaving the City administration at the end of March.

Musset started with the City in 1980, I began my career there in 1981. With the exception of a short hiatus  up north, Rick Musset has been a fixture in City administrations.

Mussett is an exceptional person. Hard working, intelligent and very skilled in negotiation and arranging the big deal, he easily navigated among the powerful and less fortunate.

A City manager once told me "He the best I got." "He is here in the morning when I get here, he is here when I leave, and it does not matter what day of the week it is or the time of day, when I call him he answers and if I need him he is right there." Pretty glowing accolades from then City Manager Bob Obering who was not always long on praise. 

Musset is a steady hand. Not given to panic even in the face of impending disaster. While others were wringing their hands, Musset was always figuring out a way to get the deal done.

Rick Musset is the consummate negotiator, prefers face to face and has always shunned the lime light. These attributes alone made him a perfect fit for the eight years of the Baker administration.

What many don't know is Musset's impact on day to day operations. Known more for the big deals, what is overlooked is the Musset touch on those frequent detailed economic development plans, real estate deals and property management deals.

Musset is a stickler for detail, and will pull an agenda item to change a word in a sentence if he thinks it will make things clearer. At the negotiating table Musset can drive a hard bargain, but he is well respected.

You will hear a lot of talk about institutional knowledge and the value of the experience that these people bring to the organization, and there is a lot of truth to those concerns. But a wise person once told me "government is a continuum. It has no beginning and no defined end it just continues." "No matter how valuable you may think you are, you probably aren't."

Come to think of it, that may have been Rick Musset.

Rick will be missed by City Council, City staff and those in the business community that have had the opportunity to work with him over the years. His calmness, competency and kindness will be hard to replace.

I certainly count it as an honor to have had the opportunity to work with Rick Musset and be a small part of the many great things he accomplished.

Best of luck Rick.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Trouble at The Tampa Bay Times

Several recent articles and posts have indicated the Tampa Bay Times financial problems may be deepening. For example see Richard Mullins Tampa Tribune Article: Tampa Bay Times Finances strained

It’s no secret that print media has been suffering as readers turn more and more to online sources for their news.

I don’t subscribe to the Tampa Bay Times, have not for years, and when they put up the pay wall I stopped going to the web site for anything other than research. Just the thought of paying for online access still kind of wrenches in my gut, although way down deep inside I know there has to be a new revenue model for on line content.

Actually, I stopped putting hyperlinks to the Tampa Bay Times site references because I didn't want to send you to a reference where you might be asked to pay for access.

So much for my quirks.

What prompted this Post was a subscription solicitation I received from the Tampa Bay Times in the mail a day or two ago.

It offered me a number of options to receive the print copy of the paper: weekly, Thursday through Sunday or Sunday only, with some pretty good discounts. What was missing was any reference to the online version of the paper, no offer of a subscription, no combo package, no deal throwing in online access - NOTHING.

The Sunday only offering was 80 cents a week or $41.60 a year about a 60% discount. If that offer had been Sunday only and full online access for $1.20 a week or $62.40 per year I would have swallowed my pride and bought in.

It is no secret that Paul Tash and his top brass are hard core print guys, you know the ink in the veins type. They have never viewed on line efforts with much love or respect, and the online product has generally showed it.

Online may not have saved the day at the Times, but a move to an online real time approach would make a big difference in the total Times news product.

More and more the Times is becoming a delivery service using the newspaper as a wrapper for preprinted ads. Sort of Val-Pac with a few stories.

One of the things that must be tough to stomach at the Times, is the decline not only in revenue and financial success but the general decline in the news product and respect for the newspaper itself. The Tampa Bay Times is just not the news source it used to be.

It may be too late for a turnaround at the Times. The social media train has already left the station, and the Times leadership team is probably not capable of making a fast enough course correction especially given the current approach of selling assets and borrowing money for operations.

At some point the boys who control the money and the debt will be in charge and the sandwich board will read “the end is near”

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks


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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Before the Red Light Revilers Rejoice - WAIT!

It was the moment red light haters had waited for: City Council seemingly agreed with Mayor Kriseman and voted to shut down the program when it reached the break even point.

Mission accomplished...the red light bandits are about to be shuttered.

But are they?  Here is the actual motion passed by City Council:

City Council Meeting 3/6/14

New Business: CM Wengay Newton
Agenda item (G-6) Termination of contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS)
Motion #1 (Newton/Kornell ) Terminate contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS).
Amendment to Orig. Motion (Nurse/Foster) Request that Administration end contract when city breaks even or by September 30, 2014, whichever comes first.
Roll call: Ayes – Rice, Kornell, Nurse, Newton, Foster, Gerdes
Nays: Dudley, Kennedy
Absent: None.

Break even was not defined, costs were not defined and the potential to move the little beasts was not prevented.

Given the past history of the Transportation and Parking Department: withholding information, shortening yellow lights and generally playing, hide the ball under the cup with the statistics, what would lead anyone to believe that they will play straight with the cost numbers?

Perhaps the Mayor does given his comment as reported in Saintpetersblog“Kriseman said. “I want to thank our Transportation & Parking Staff for their continued due diligence with respect to the safety of our citizens.”

It is hard not to think the Transportation and Parking Department director, assisted by his good friends at ATS, are diligently at work on new plans and proposals to lower those costs or at least hide them so the program can continue.

The Mayor, it seems, continues in a state of denial regarding the integrity of what is now HIS staff and the general effectiveness of the whole red light camera program.

In a conversation with me, I asked the Mayor if moving the cameras to new locations is a consideration should revenue drop he responded, "That is certainly something we would have to consider."

Look for a new and improved red light camera plan offered with concessions and free installs from ATS,
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Monday, March 10, 2014

PSTA and Public Records Stonewalling or Mismanagement?

There have been some claims made that PSTA has been darkening the tinting on transit bus windows so the public cannot easily see how many people are on a bus. Some people think this is a being done so people cannot confirm the claim many buses run empty or nearly empty.

I set out to try and determine how much money PSTA had spent in the last year on window tinting or window replacements for the transit buses.

The objective of the Public Record Request was to verify or refute claims made that PSTA is darkening the windows on PSTA buses. There could be many reasons for tinting bus windows.

On February 10, 2014, I submitted a Public Records Request to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority for information regarding tinting or darkening the windows on PSTA transit buses.

A previous, more general public records request for window tinting returned information for regular cars, vans and trucks but omitted any information regarding transit buses.

I submitted a follow up Public records Request for:

·The purchases of tinted windows, tinted window replacements or tinted window coverings for the passenger windows of buses used in regular PSTA bus line service.

·Tinted windows or replacement tinted windows for other PSTA vehicles are not part of this request.

Below is the e-mail thread from PSTA.

From: dr.webb@verizon.net
Sent:
 Friday, February 14, 2014 To: Clarissa Keresztes
To: Ms Keresztes:
Please see the Attached Public Records Request in PDF form.
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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday March 9, 2014 A Casual Conversation with CONA President Lisa Wheeler-Brown

On the campaign trail candidate Kriseman placed a strong emphasis on neighborhoods.

Under his predecessor Mayor Bill Foster the budget process had seriously eroded neighborhood support. By the end of Foster’s administration a lack of financial and staff support coupled with the city’s general disinterest in input from the neighborhoods had left St. Petersburg’s five decade old Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) at a very low point.

CONA has a new president, Wildwood Heights Neighborhood Association President, Lisa Wheeler-Brown. We sat down early in the morning at The Dome in downtown St. Pete for a casual conversation.

As of this writing CONA has about 24 member neighborhood associations, down from nearly 60 at one point. Lisa pointed out that former members are coming back and some new neighborhoods have joined CONA or are considering joining.

Lisa is an engaging woman, wife, mother and grandmother. She has been active in her Wildwood Heights neighborhood association for a number of years, and she has been active in CONA for the last couple of years.

I asked Lisa, "How did you find yourself in the CONA leadership position?"

Lisa responded, “When I saw the direction CONA was taking and it seemed everyone was looking for a change, I felt I was a strong leader and I could help lead CONA in the direction they wanted to go.”

“What direction do you think that is,” I asked?

“Getting back to their mission,” she replied, “advocating for the neighborhoods, and strengthening neighborhoods.

I asked Lisa to compare her experience with CONA’s relationship with the Foster administration and her expectations for the Kriseman administration.

“With the Foster administration we didn't really have a relationship,” she said. "With the Kriseman administration we have already have a relationship and I expect it to grow and we can work together side by side, and it’s already happening."

"What’s happening,” I asked.

"We will be meeting with the Mayor quarterly, the first meeting is on March 6th and in that meeting we will discuss our common goals and how we can work together," Lisa replied.

"Mayor Kriseman realizes how important neighborhoods are, and along with Neighborhood Affairs Director Mike Dove and his staff we are looking to strengthen that relationship by working together."

What are your plans for CONA as you get started?” I asked.

“We needed to set our priorities, and one of the things we have been talking about is Codes.” “I have had a meeting with Todd Yost (The Kriseman administration’s new Codes Director) and I am really excited.” “He is really going to get it done and the neighborhoods should be excited,” Lisa said. “This is a start to where you can tell the Kriseman administration cares about the neighborhoods.”

One of Lisa’s biggest problems will be to first reinvigorate St. Pete neighborhood associations and then convince them to become part of CONA.

"For many years CONA has been viewed as a “white” or perhaps even racist organization, but from my experience with CONA over the last two to three years I think that has been a misread by some of our community leaders," Lisa said.

Lisa’s election as CONA president should send a clear signal that everyone in St. Pete is welcome in CONA. That fact and the Kriseman administrations' announced focus on South St. Pete combined to together should help encourage all neighborhoods to step up.

To that end Lisa indicated that CONA and the Kriseman administration are going to be working on a mini grant project this budget year while planning the neighborhood support budget for 2015.

The mini grant program will provide small grants of up to nearly $500 for neighborhoods to use on organizational and planning meetings and small projects. The program will be administered from Mike Dove's Neighborhood Affairs department.

Our conversation turned to the Police Department and the selection of a new police chief.

Lisa is no stranger to the crime problems in St. Petersburg; she lost her oldest son to the violence.

Lisa turned even more serious during this part of our discussion, she said, “I feel the Police Department needs and is ready for new leadership.”

“Has there been any indication CONA will have a seat at the table in the selection process?" I asked.

Lisa’s response, “No, not yet, no, not at all.”

I followed up, “are you going to make that request?”

“We have a new CONA Public Safety Chair and he’s just getting onboard, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

Lisa went on, “This is a new year for CONA. We have been dealing with some inside issues, when a new leader comes in there will be a new direction and some adjustments in philosophy that have to be made, so that’s what we have been dealing with for now.”

When I circled back to question about the police chief selection process, Lisa agreed it would be a good idea to have some input, but indicated that is a conversation she has yet to have with the Kriseman administration.

Lisa Wheeler-Brown is an engaging individual, with an infectious smile. It would be very difficult not to like her right off the bat.

Beneath that warm exterior is a strong heart and mind, a real love for all of St. Pete and a genuine desire to serve her community.

Rick Kriseman is serious about South St. Pete. I know because he looked me straight in the eye and told me that BEFORE he ever announced he was running for Mayor.

With Lisa Wheeler-Brown the Mayor has an ally that may very well help him accomplish what his three predecessors could not, a serious move toward a seamless St. Petersburg.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks


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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kriseman Confirms it Red Light Cameras are All about the Money

Mayor Rick Kriseman, in a pretty slick political move, has over hung today's City Council meeting with an announcement that if revenues continue to drop he will end the program in September, probably when the new fiscal year begins.

What is the Mayor really saying? If enough money does not come in to support the camera vendor and off set expenses he will shut the program down.

All of this red light camera crash safety justification is really a bunch of bunk. If enough of you don't run the red lights to pay for the system we'll just shut it down. Intersection safety is really not important enough to take general revenues away from programs to keep the intersections "safe".

Therefore, it's all about the money.

As long as enough people break the law to pay the cost of enforcing it, plus a little more, we will enforce it.

When you don't---we won't.

The real objective of the Mayor's announcement seems to be to give some political cover to Karl Nurse and Darden Rice, so they can vote for a motion to defer the decision, motion likely made by Charlie Gerdes and seconded by Jim Kennedy, to give the administration time to figure out how to jack this program back up and improve the cash flow.

Nice piece of political theater, you can tell Kriseman did learn something from his years in the state legislature.

Probably the most disheartening part of the Mayor's announcement was this quote as reported in Saintpetersblog

“Kriseman said. “I want to thank our Transportation & Parking Staff for their continued due diligence with respect to the safety of our citizens.”

Really? See my Post: Matt Florell Takes another Public Beating this Time Thanks to Jim Kennedy

These are the people that, snuggled up to ATS, the system vendor, shortened the yellow lights, withheld crash information from City Council and treated citizens who called them out like second class members of our community.

I guess if I was still a manager or assistant director in the Kriseman administration I would now know what is expected of me.

Let's hope City Council doesn't buy his charade and votes to kill this program once and for all. 

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Red Light Cameras and How Will St. Pete City Council Really Work?

On Thursday's City Council Agenda, once again is the issue of continuing the City's highly controversial red light camera program and refunds for short yellow light tickets.

Here is a FACEBOOK invite to the meeting from Matt Florell St. Pete City Council to Vote on short yellow refunds.

The whole issue will be on the Council agenda Thursday as a new business item. The Council members in favor of RLCs, Dudley, Kennedy, Gerdes, Nurse, the Council members opposed to RLCs, Newton, Kornell, Foster, Rice maybe"

With Kornell constantly moaning about how he doesn't want to deal with the red-light issue any more, Dudley waving his driver's ed teachers manual, Kennedy, responding to his only campaign supporter that really seems to matter, ATS the red light camera vendor, and Rice desperately looking for a way out of her campaign rhetoric against red light cameras and also dealing with a campaign contribution from ATS this thing has all the trappings of a three stooges movie.

There is however a bit more at stake here than the red light cameras.

Karl Nurse needs to take a look down the dais and figure out his best course of action for the future. His fellow red light camera supporters have not really returned the favor by helping Karl out with south side issues. In fact they have been, for the most part, his biggest hurdle to get past.

Kennedy, Dudley and to some degree Gerdes have been the biggest roadblocks to moving south side initiatives forward.

Sooner or later the City Council will fracture into at least two coalitions. Those who are willing to dedicate resources to the neighborhoods and south side issues and those that would moderate these efforts.  This could well be the vote that sets up the City Council coalitions going forward.

This red light program which is the poorest managed, implemented and justified effort of the City in a long time simply needs to go as do the people managing it.

If Nurse really wants do the City and the Mayor a favor, he will cast a vote that ends the program which will end the discussions, end the time being wasted by City Council and give the Mayor a chance to clean house over in the Transportation Department, an opportunity the Mayor should not miss.

Why the Mayor continues to support a department management team that has been proven by members of the public, to be untrustworthy, deceitful, capable of withholding information, and generally disrespectful of the public and City Council is beyond me.

Karl Nurse may not only hold the key to the red light program, but his vote may also go a long way toward establishing a City Council that can get things done rather than one that remains generally deadlocked.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Who Says Campaign Contributions Don't Pay Off?

It sure looks like ATS (American Traffic Systems), the Red Light Camera Vendor to the City, is getting their money's worth from the $1000 contribution to Council Member Jim Kennedy and $500 to Council Member Darden Rice.

In Friday's red light camera workshop, Mr. Kennedy continued his steadfast support for the system that over 50% of the public seems to want ended, has been fraught with mismanagement and outright deception by the City Department managing it, and statistics continue to point to its questionable effectiveness.

Mr. Kennedy is so enamored with the system; he wants the Mayor to expand it.

Darden Rice, who steadfastly said on numerous times on the campaign trail when directly asked, said that she would vote against continuing to red light camera program, and now seems to be searching for some socially acceptable way to justify the systems existence by wanting to dedicate the money to some benevolent civic cause.

Perhaps this pandering effort would provide cover for supporting one of the most flawed, poorly managed and unpopular programs in the City.

The problem with Darden's approach is, as Council Member Nurse pointed out, the whole program is at or near a breakeven point where the City's share of the revenue, is going to zero and there will be no money to divvy out. So I guess Darden will have to look for some other reason to support the program.

She may have an ally in the Mayor; he thinks the solution to the revenue problem is to move the cameras to intersections where they will catch more red light runners. Read that create more revenue.

There was a great deal of concern expressed by Council members regarding the program's turn to negative cash flow, and is it "cost effective"..

If saving lives is as important as the supporters say it is, then the fact it costs money should not be the consideration, unless of course stopping all of those red light runners is important as long as it doesn't negatively impact the City budget.

But then it's never been about the money.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks
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Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Sunday Post - A Casual Conversation with Todd Yost St. Pete's New Codes Enforcement Director

That name, Todd Yost, may sound familiar. Todd was the St. Petersburg Codes Enforcement Director starting in the Baker Administration and the Foster Administration, until he was unceremoniously forced out of the position under the Foster Administration. That's another story.

Todd took over Codes Enforcement in 2007 with a mandate to improve both efficiency and results and to become more responsive to the needs of neighborhoods. I had the good fortune of working with Todd and providing some technical input as he began to automate the administrative side and the field operation of the Codes Enforcement operation.

The primary objective of a municipal codes enforcement department is to assure that the properties in the municipality conform to the standards that the municipality has established. The goal is compliance.

Todd and I settled into a booth at Midtown Sundries in downtown St. Pete to talk about what he had been doing, why he came back to the City and what he sees as the future of the Codes Enforcement Department.

Todd is an intelligent and engaging man with a really fast mind. When you set down with him to talk you better be ready to focus.

Todd shares that feeling that there is something special about public service. Once you have worked in the public sector and it really sinks in what you are doing, it is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have.

We all know that working in the private sector can be financially and personally rewarding and frequently comes with a lot less exposure to criticism than the public sector.

When I asked Todd what he had been doing he quickly responded he had been working for one of the large financial institutions here in the Bay  area and doing a lot of volunteer work.

He said when Mike Dove, the new Director of Neighborhood Affairs,  called to offer him the job, Codes Enforcement now reports to Neighborhood Affairs, he was flattered and shocked but politely declined. "It would be so difficult to leave his current position," he said

Often that is the first reaction when you have left public service and the phone rings and someone is asking you to come back. Why would I want to go back to all that hassle?

But, as also often is the case, in a day or so that whole public service thing starts nagging at you and you find yourself on the phone asking: "when you would like me to start?" Such was the case.

Todd has been back as of this conversation about three weeks. I asked him what had changed, and his
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