Sunday, September 20, 2015

Public Transportation in the Bay Area why is it such a political mess?

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog  

The backdoor dealing spans the spectrum of Hillsborough and Tampa governments.

Last week brought a scathing review of potential corruption in Hillsborough County and Tampa by News Channel 10's Noah Pransky, Hillsborough County Failing to police lobbyists. After the 10 News report, Pransky filed a follow up:  Hillsborough orders review after 10 News investigation.

All of this was a result of Noah Pransky's report Questions of Influence: Tampa's political kingmaker.

These pieces are a must read or view for all Hillsborough and Pinellas County Citizens.

While these investigations center around one kingmaker/power broker, corruption on this scale is rarely one person deep. 

Much of this is tied to the Go Hillsborough a slick marketing effort in Tampa, which is attempting to raise the sales tax by ½ to 1% in support of "transportation."

From the Go Hillsborough website, they describe themselves as:
"The Transportation for Economic Development (TED) initiative is led by all seven Hillsborough County Commissioners, the mayors of Plant City, Tampa and Temple Terrace, as well as the chair of the HART board, and referred to as the Policy Leadership Group...... Read more at Go Hillsborough/About us.

What they fail to point out is the Parsons Brinckerhoff Team was handed the Go Hillsborough project without a competitive bid, assisted by political insiders as you will see in the 10 News reports above. They are expected to return a positive report, and you can bet they will.

The Pransky reports show the backdoor dealing and spans the spectrum of Hillsborough and Tampa governments.

You can read more in Sharon Clavert's Eye on Tampa Bay Blog: Go Hillsborough: a Tale of Cronyism, Corruption and Collusion and Circling the Wagons Yet Again

Over in Pinellas County following the GreenLight debacle, the PSTA Board continues to hang on to Brad Miller PSTA CEO even after a federal investigation revealed the mishandling of grant funds. Miller has lied to the Board, mislead them on key issues and yet a recent motion to fire him at a PSTA Personnel Committee meeting following poor performance reviews failed for lack of a second.

Makes one wonder why the PSTA Board would keep someone like Miller around? It's bad for morale, bad for the agency's image and may have cost the PSTA some State funding for express bus service.

So far, no hint of any corruption other than Miller, but the CEO sets the tenor for any organization and given the lack luster involvement of the PSTA Board it is a pretty good bet no one really knows what is really going on.

There are any number of players out there just waiting to start another "transportation initiative" in Pinellas County and start the tax money rolling in. Go Hillsborough was the latest stalking horse, and it looks like it is stumbling badly.

If Go Hillsborough goes down in corruption flames or fails miserably at the ballot box, which it should, look for a renewed transportation tax effort in Pinellas County to begin. 

The point of all of this is public transportation is a big ticket costing millions of dollars to operate and 100s of millions of dollars to improve or build. It is a money pit that far too many people know how to exploit, and we have seen how willing they are to bend the rules to get to the money.

These public transportation efforts and the taxes that go with them must have complete transparency, and the public must be willing to attend meetings,
make suggestions, investigate what is going on and take action when something does not seem right.

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