Sunday, January 31, 2016

PSTA Board thumbs their nose at Sunshine Law Violation

Darden Rice should have PSTA's reputation and credibility at the forefront of her decision-making.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
At Wednesday's PSTA Board meeting the Board had the opportunity to clear up any possible hint of wrongdoing by electing a new Board Chairperson.

Simple answer: YES

Following a bit of convoluted logic by the PSTA legal counsel, the PSTA Board first voted unanimously to rescind the original vote removing Darden Rice from the Chairperson's position and then by and 8 to 7 vote the Board voted Rice back in as PSTA Chair.


Me too.

I am not sure how admitting there was a violation of the Government in the Sunshine Act by Ms. Rice and Ms. Johnson, then voting to rescind the vote that elected Ms. Rice, effectively removing her from the Chair role resolves the Sunshine Law violation question.

Even more perplexing was why the PSTA Nominating Committee put Darden Rice up for the Chairperson role the second time. Apparently, they have no view of or respect for Government in the Sunshine.

Then following a rambling discussion where Ms. Bujalski, Mayor of Dunedin and long time PSTA Board member, and current PSTA Vice Chair was nominated for the Chair from the dais the Board in a split vote elected Ms. Rice back into the chair position.

Here is how the PSTA Board Members voted.

For Rice
Samantha Fenger
Patricia Johnson
Ken Welch
Darden Rice
Janet Long
Mark Deighton
Ben Diamond
Lisa Wheeler-Brown

For Bujalski
Pat Gerard
Doug Bevis
Joseph Barkley
Bill Jonson
Julie Bujalski
Brian Scott
Dave Eggers

Darden Rice could have avoided all of this. The person who brought the Legal action regarding the Sunshine Law violation spoke before the Board and indicated twice he would not challenge Darden Rice serving as the vice chair.

All Rice had to do was remove herself from consideration as Chairperson and wait one year to become PSTA Chairperson.

Darden is a lot more about Darden than her flowing eloquence would leave one to believe.

Rice continues to enhance her reputation as a political opportunist since the issue of where she actually lived arose in the St. Pete City Council election, followed by a strong hint of running for the US House shortly after election to St. Pete City Council.

Now the PSTA has a split Board led by a Chairperson who still at the best sits under a cloud of an ethics violation and a CEO with a very checkered past. See my Post: PSTA CEO Continues to Hang on to His Job.

If Darden Rice is really all about public transportation in Pinellas County, then she should have PSTA's reputation and credibility at the forefront of her decision-making. That is obviously not the case.

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Contributor: Carly Fiorina for President, Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ethics Complaints Accepted

Re-posted from:
Eye on Tampa Bay
By: Sharon Calvert

The Eye has received information from George Neimann that the Florida Ethics Commission has accepted the Ethics Complaints filed last year by him against Mayor Buckhorn, Commissioner Hagan and Commissioner Murman. According to Neimann

On January 20, 2016, the Florida Commission accepted the cases that I filed against City of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandra Murman and Ken Hagan. The Ethics Commission is now fully investigating the charges. I filed charges against these politicians for misusing the power of their office to gain personal benefits for themselves while, at the same time, giving special benefits to the "connected lobbyist", Beth Leytham. As the press has reported, these elected officials took free consulting services from Ms. Leytham and then, in return, helped her get lucrative contracts from both the city and the county. In addition, Hagan and Murman discussed setting up these contracts with Leytham out of the public's view, which violates sunshine laws. Now they will have to face the full scrutiny of the Ethics Commission.

George Niemann

We also received information from Shirley Wood that her Ethics Complaints against Buckhorn, Hagan and Murman were also accepted on January 20, 2016.

Update: We have received information from Charlotte Greenbarg that her Ethics Complaints against Buckhorn, Hagan and Murman were also accepted by the Ethics Commission.

We understand a complaint filed by Charlotte Greenbarg against County Administrator Mike Merrill alleging violation of Florida Statute Section 112.311(3) and (6) for failing to properly track lobbyists was rejected by the Ethics Commission. We obtained a copy of the rejection letter Greenbarg received from the Ethics Commission, which can be found here, The reasons stated for the rejection was that Section 112.311 only expresses guiding principles but does not enact a standard of conduct which one would be capable of violating. In Chapters 11 and 112 of the Florida Statues, the Legislature has adopted requirements for registration of persons lobbying the Legislature, Executive branch and water management districts, but has not done so for other local entities. The rejection letter also stated that the only Statute within the Ethics Commission's jurisdiction which could possibly be implicated by the complaint allegations, Section 112.313(6) - the misuse of office provision, the allegations must show that the official corruptly used or attempted to use his or her position for personal benefit or to benefit someone else. The rejection letter stated, "An official's failure to do his job properly does not itself constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics."

The Ethics complaints and the Go Hillsborough law enforcement investigation are totally separate investigations. 

We await any day now the completion of the law enforcement investigation investigating any possible criminal activity related to the $1.3 million contract awarded to Parsons Brinckerhoff/Beth Leytham using the CCNA process governed by Florida Statute287.055 for hiring "professional engineering services".

The Ethics complaints will now move forward regardless of the outcome of the law enforcement investigation.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Out on the campaign trail

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri holds his Campaign Kick off

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
 Presidential Race
If you missed Trump's alternative to the Presidential debate, I think you missed history in the making. You can see a replay at Donald Trump Special Event for Veterans in Des Moines, IA.

Much of the media hype about the Thursday Presidential Debate has started with comments like "what the Republican presidential race would have been like without Trump." I have to agree, a bunch of professional politicians that will say anything to get a job promotion.

I noted with interest the Tampa Bay Times Editorial recommending Bush for the nomination Tampa Bay Times Editorial: Jeb Bush is best choice for Republican nomination. That should be enough to bury Bush for good.

Most of the media are saying Bush won the debate. That seems to me to be more wishful dreaming than fact.

The FOX News attempt to use their most potent weapon, Megan Kelly, to bag Trump totally backfired. Rupert Murdoch and his whole FOX News organization look like a bunch of amatures simply trying to exploit the political process for a few rating shares and some big money. Murdock should roll a few heads.

Regarding the media and Trump, I have found it interesting how NPR has quietly reduced their news coverage of Trump trying to "manage" Trump's news cycle exposure. NPR news anchors have repeatedly carped about Trump's ability to manage the news cycle. Sometimes the folks at NPR just have a hard time hiding their bias.

Carly Fiorina, whose campaign I have contributed to, continues to bash Hillary Clinton. In a normal election cycle that would probably work, but in this one she just cannot seem to get any real lasting traction.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held his re-election kick-off fundraiser Thursday at the Hilton Carillon. In the interest of full disclosure, you will note below, I am a contributor to the Gualtieri campaign.

The event was well attended, and the crowd was enthusiastic in their support for the Sheriff. You can check out Gualtieri's background in his Bio on the Florida Sheriff's Association website.

Gualtieri has had a good 3 plus years as the County's top law enforcement official, advancing the agency in almost every operating area.

You can follow the Sheriff on his Facebook page.

So far, the only other announced candidate is James McLynas who filed to run about two years ago.

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2016 Disclosures:
Contributor: Carly Fiorina for President, Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Will the PSTA Board Continue its wayward Path?

Wednesday the reconsideration of the vote to elect Darden Rice as PSTA is the first item on the PSTA Board Agenda.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

The reconsideration vote resulted from a violation of the Florida Sunshine laws as Ms Rice and Ms. Johnson discussed the election prior to the actual vote.

For some detail see:
See Janelle Irwin saintpetersblog; Darden Rice nominated 2016 PSTA board chair
Then from Mike Ferrier and Mike Deeson at 10 News:10 Investigates Sunshine Law violation at PSTA.
And from Janelle Irwin at saintpetersblog, Darden Rice sets right PSTA Sunshine Law violation.
Bay Post Internet, Gene Webb Something smells out at the PSTA

The PSTA Board and the CEO Brad Miller have a very checkered past and electing a Board Chairperson under the cloud of a Sunshine law violation would be a big mistake. Every decision the Board Makes will come under question and could be subject to a legal challenge based on the Rice's appropriateness to serve as Board Chairperson.

This whole issue is not about Darden Rice's ability to do a good job or provide leadership; it is all about restoring trust in the PSTA Board.

Rice has been involved with Bay area transportation and the PSTA for many years and often expresses the need for confidence in the PSTA Board. The real question on the table is: is Darden Rice serious about the need for effective leadership at PSTA or is she more concerned about adding another high profile listing on her political resume?

There are already those making noises about legal action if the Board confirms Rice as Chairperson.

Darden should spare the PSTA Board the angst of not confirming her election as Chairperson. She should simply withdraw and let the PSTA Board elect someone else as chair. If she chooses not to withdraw her name from consideration, the PSTA Board should protect the taxpayer's interest and the PSTA Board's integrity and not confirm her nomination.

This is a real test of character vs ego.

From the Board's perspective, this is not about getting their backs up and showing us they can do what they please. It is all about making sure the PSTA governing body can function free of controversy and challenge.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday January 24, 2016 Kriseman state of the City - trying to make things work in South St. Pete

Kriseman and his administration need to hold firmly to their pledge to work hard in South St. Pete

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

State of the _______ (fill in the blank) political speeches are all pretty much the same.

The elected official tells everyone about what he/she and their administration have accomplished in the last year usually with a few embellishments, promises many things in the future adds an emotional twist and thanks a lot of people.

Kriseman's speech Saturday pretty much followed the standard out line.

They leave out all the negatives like totally disregarding the will of the people on the Pier manipulating the Pier selection committee vote and screwing up recycling.

Here are some reviews:

Saint Petersburg Tribune Kristen Mitchell: St. Pete mayor Kriseman: City has much to offer Rays

Kriseman said he is planning to announce a “Baseball Forever” campaign in the coming weeks, which will feature local fans, business owners and politicians telling team officials why they should remain at the St. Petersburg location.

This effort should be entertaining, but it is most likely pointless as I expect the only reason the Rays will stay in St. Pete are they cannot get a deal anywhere else in the Bay area that any City or County can afford.

Kriseman should probably spend more time worrying about what he will do with the Rays if they decide to stay rather than investing a lot of time schmoozing the team.

I spent some time talking to folks about the Rays this week some from Tampa some from St. Pete the general feeling is the Rays will end up in Charlotte probably in 2022.

In rapid succession, Kriseman pledged $1 million then $5 million to help begin to repair South St. Pete. None of the money actually exists yet. The first million should be easy to come by, but City Council should ask for a lot of accountability. As to that 5 million well, Kriseman could be gone by the time that money becomes available, and that could be a problem.

Kriseman put together an impressive list of accomplishments. I cannot help but think that bubbling right under the surface is still a lot of anger about the Pier, the whole recycling mess probably did not earn the Mayor any new supporters in old northeast, and all that waste dumped in the Bay and Clam Bayou  didn't help much either.

Kriseman and his administration need to hold firmly to their pledge to work hard in South St. Pete even when the Chamber and the big power players come knocking.

It was cold on Saturday so the Kriseman team wisely moved the Mayors speech inside at the Palladium.

This Sunday Post's banner picture was taken Saturday at Pass a Grille beach where it was really cold.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Buckhorn Lies Along with Clinton

Re-Posted from Eye on Tampa Bay
By: Sharon Calvert

It should come as no sunrise that Tampa downtown only Mayor Bob Buckhorn is endorsing Hillary Clinton, although we are a bit surprised he came out so soon in the Tribune.

Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn evidently learned well from his heroine Hillary, as his op-ed is filled with lies and half-truths.
In cities across America, we mayors lie awake at night worrying about one thing more than any other: our deteriorating infrastructure. It’s a problem we face daily, and yet one we’re often powerless to solve on our own.

Like many other coastal cities, Tampa has a history of experiencing damaging floods. On average, we see eight water pipelines break every day. And in a state containing four of the nation’s biggest traffic bottlenecks, it’s no surprise that Tampa drivers with a 30-minute commute spend an average of 73 hours of their lives sitting in gridlock every year.
Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn would help himself and the entire city of Tampa besides downtown if he would spend more time on maintaining aging infrastructure and less time on glories of new stadiums, building parks, and rebuilding downtown while displacing lower income residents. But infrastructure maintenance is not where the glory is.

Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn uses a statistical slight of hand as well to make Tampa traffic sound worse than it is with his statement "Tampa drivers with a 30-minute commute spend an average of 73 hours of their lives sitting in gridlock every year," while he's done little to improve the commute of Tampa drivers, preferring to tout pie in the sky transit that will do little to relieve Tampa congestion. We've debunked this type of selective and intentionally misleading use of traffic congestion stats many times.

In any real study, Tampa is not listed amongst the worse in traffic congestion, commute times, time in traffic etc.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn commuting to work
Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn still dreams of the bullet train.
Over the years, Floridians have seen their priorities all too clearly. We watched in stunned disbelief as Gov. Rick Scott sent more than $2 billion in infrastructure funding back to Washington just to make an ideological point. This funding could have created good-paying jobs and spurred economic growth all across the state.
Ignoring the fact Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn can't mention he's referring to the bullet train, ignoring the fact the bullet train amendment was REPEALED by the voters by 64% super-majority in 2004 under Governor Bush, and ignoring the fact the bullet train would have resulted in about 500 mostly low paying permanent jobs, and ignoring the fact the Governor Scott has focused on bringing over 1,000,000 jobs since he's been governor, who's making an ideological point?
In fact, leading GOP presidential candidates like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have already stated they support slashing federal infrastructure funding by as much as 80 percent.
Bullsh*t. Many GOP candidates have stated support for various programs for states to KEEP most of their infrastructure related taxes, primarily gas taxes, rather than send them to DC and beg for our money back. This would help support states priorities on infrastructure, not DC politicians, and would ensure that Florida would no longer be a donor state on those related taxes.
Hillary has laid out a five-year, $275 billion plan to save families time and money by putting more Americans to work revitalizing our roads, railways, ports and waterways. It would connect all American families to high-speed Internet and expand investment in the new high-tech sectors and smart grids that will power a 21st-century economy.
Anyone remember Obama's $830 billion America Recovery and Reinvestment Act? While Tampa did benefit by accelerating the Selmon Connector, as it was one of the few real "shovel ready" projects, ARRA was seen a massive failure, as it did little nationwide to rebuild infrastructure, increase employment, and stimulate the economy, as it missed all projections.

Obama Stimulus missed all projections
A five-year, $275 billion plan will do little, especially as its divvied up in the DC graft factories, then split across roads, railways, ports, waterways, Internet, high tech, and smart grids. I think he left out street cars.
To build the Tampa we all deserve, we simply can’t afford to leave any more money on the sidelines. We need all the help we can get.
No, Mayor of downtown only Tampa, you need to do the basics. Re-prioritize budgets, focus on whats broken, keep up with the maintenance, and show you can execute the office of Mayor. Blocking and tackling is not glorious, but that's what we need now, now more than ever.

Tampa downtown only Mayor Buckhorn apparently has hooked his political future to Hillary Clinton. He's evidently learned from the master serial liar

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Buckhorn on the Rays crazy or sly like a fox?

Buckhorn's first pitch in the baseball stadium saga is low and inside.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

Just a day or so after the St. Pete City Council approved a deal to let the Tampa Bay Rays look for a new stadium site Tampa Mayor affectively  pours some gasoline on a newly smoldering fire.

Buckhorn is indicating an apartment complex housing 327 low-income families that are mostly African American currently is his favorite location for the new baseball stadium.

Here are a couple of articles:
Christopher O'Donnell Tampa Bay Tribune: Buckhorn wants Rays ballpark near downtown parking garages

Baseball - some history:
Los Angeles Times; May 28, 1985  Battle Rages On for Baseball in Tampa, St. Pete

Steven Kaylor, Jon East, St. Petersburg Independent August 1984: St. Petersburg Stadium will be a sure Winner supporters say

United States District Court, MD Florida, Tampa Division , March 8, 1990,  Locascio v. City of St. Petersburg, 731 F. Supp. 1522 (M.D. Fla. 1990) from the findings of fact:

From the (City of St. Petersburg) 1979-80 Block Grant application, the Project Summary section, covering the Project, reads:

The Gas Plant area has long been recognized as one of the worst areas of housing in St. Petersburg. Based on surveys showing that over 80% of the structures in the area were deteriorated or dilapidated, the City Council declared Gas Plant an area of slum and blight suitable for redevelopment in September of 1978 and mandated the preparation of a redevelopment plan

A draft of the plan has now been completed and was adopted in September, 1979. The plan seeks to rid the area of slum and blight as well as to "expand the employment and economic base of the City" (City Council Goal No. 4) and "encourage and reinforce downtown development" (City Council Goal No. 7) in conformance with the City's adopted Comprehensive Land Use Plan-Intown Sector

Towards accomplishing these objectives, the plan proposes the acquisition of 182 properties, the relocation of 25 businesses and 45 owner-occupant and 281 tenant households, the demolition of 262 structures, and extensive sight improvements, including street and sidewalk improvements, landscaping, the construction of detention basins and some municipal parking, and rerouting of utilities to provide redevelopment parcels unencumbered by utility and access easements.

Buckhorn said, "I don't hide my optimism for that particular site," following a City Hall news conference Friday.

Buckhorn's suggestion and optimism for the Tampa Apartments location brought up some interesting questions.

1. Does Tampa want to go through the agonizing relocation of 327 low-income families and all the negative publicity that might result?
2. Does Major League Baseball want to be a party to another political nightmare about displacing poor people for a palace for the boys of summer to play in?
3. Does Buckhorn really want to run for Governor while he is kicking 327 poor African American people out of their homes for a baseball stadium?

The property that the Tampa Apartments is on is privately owned and the owners have expressed an interest, so there would be little if any taking of property by eminent domain, but there will be gut wrenching stories of elderly African-American people being forced to leave their homes.

The real question may be is this Mayor Buckhorn's first choice or is just a simple way to not so quietly nudge the whole baseball question out to Hillsborough County?

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rays deal done – now what?

Cost is already a concern of Tampa Mayor Buckhorn who said, “I can’t tell you how we’re going to pay for this.”

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
January 3, 2016 I posted It is time to get the Rays deal done. Thursday January 14, 2016 the St. Petersburg City Council voted to let the Rays look for a new stadium site in Pinellas and Hillsborough County.

The memorandum of understanding is filled with caveats, and nuances so here are a few articles and Posts that may help you sort through it all.

Saintpetersblog, Janelle Irwin: St. Pete City Council approves Rays deal

Getting this part of the Rays saga behind us is good for everyone. Now maybe the Kriseman administration can focus on some of the more pressing issues in St. Pete.

The Rays deal did come with a bit of a cost as an "arranged" positive vote was virtually assured by Kriseman's support of Lisa Wheeler Brown's election along with a great deal of help from the Tampa Bay Times.

The spotlight now moves to the Rays as they begin to prepare a site selection process and look forward to navigating the Hillsborough County and Tampa political waters.

It will become clear as time goes forward a move to Tampa/Hillsborough County is going to be costly. Stadium costs are one factor but infrastructure costs, roads, interstate access ramps, water, sewer and electricity will represent a huge cost. Some think those costs could almost equal the cost of the stadium in some proposed Hillsborough County locations.

Cost is already a concern of Tampa Mayor Buckhorn who said, “I can’t tell you how we’re going to pay for this.”

Those facts are what led Mayor Rick Kriseman to the conclusion that The Trop site will end up being the best deal.

During all of these discussions, do not overlook the fact that no matter what they say publicly MLB does not like St. Petersburg. They never have and probably never will. A lot of it has to do with the market and attendance, but the deal that was just modified by City Council has stuck in the MLB craw since it was signed.

The City has now put a number on the Rays leaving, $24 million, and if the franchise is really worth $600 million, Sternberg could likely put the team up for $624 million and get a deal. MLB would not be unhappy to see that happen.

For now, the Rays get to move from one cranky set of politicians to another as they poke around in Tampa and Hillsborough County. Bob Buckhorn has been a bit less baseball excited than he once was since Jeff Vinik decided he was not particularly interested in baseball.

Mayor Buckhorn would probably like to avoid a stadium referendum if he is really going to pursue the Governor's office.

With all the trafficking in sports franchises who knows what might come up. Kriseman's procured vote to get this deal moving just may come back and bite him. $24 million will hardly get you a good outfielder these days, and the development rights while enticing is long-range money in the wind.

Hang on this could be a wild ride.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

One Year Ago - Same Sex marriage licenses in St. Petersburg

L00king Back to last year

decided to drop by the Pinellas County Clerk's office in St. Pete to check out the first same sex marriage license issuing in St. Petersburg. It was about 8:30 when I arrived and there was already a crowd waiting to see the Clerk.

The County Clerk's staff did an excellent job assisting those who were there seeking their marriage licenses. There were plenty of staff members on site and a special table set up in the hallway leading to the clerk's office to pass out forms, information and answer questions.

The demographics of the early morning crowd were interesting; older, more females than males. Many of the couples indicated they had been together 8, 10 and over 20 years.

When a reporter asked a couple why they were getting married, the answer was "this allows us to have the same legal opportunities as our married heterosexual friends, provides confidence in end of life issues, health care decisions, financial matters and reinforces our bonds as a couple."

It was poignant moment with smiles, laughter and more than a few tears of joy.

Most frequent comment of the morning, "I never thought I would see this day.

Ken Burke's staff deserves a great big thank you for providing a warm, friendly and thoughtful environment for those seeking their marriage licenses. More than once I saw a staff member with a misty eye as they helped couples complete a part of their life that many thought would never come.

Here in a photo gallery Same Sex Marriage Licenses are some of my impressions.

I was deeply honored to be there.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

NYU Study: Faster Commuting Improves Productivity

Reposted from Eye on Tampa Bay
By Sharon Calvert

We became aware a week or so ago of a couple of related studies released recently byNYU Marron Institute of Urban Management. Some new and unexpected insights on the relationship between commuting and productivity of cities. Please take some time to read COMMUTING AND THE PRODUCTIVITY OF AMERICAN CITIES: How self-adjusting commuting patterns sustain the productive advantage of larger metropolitan labor markets by Shlomo Angel and Alejandro M. Blei. It is some rather academic reading, but worth gaining some new perspectives. They also released a companion study,COMMUTING AND THE SPATIALSTRUCTURE OF AMERICAN CITIES:The dispersal of the great majority of workplaces away from CBDs, employment sub-centers, and live-work communities. which we'll review another time. It also provides some new perspectives on the urban form.

The net of the "Commuting and Productivity" publication is that as cities double in size the expected commute times do not increase nearly as much as expected. The authors seek to find out why that is by analyzing commuting times across 40 cities in the US.

This was reported in Citylab on January 4th as Why Commutes Aren't Twice as Long in Cities With Twice the Population. We'll start with Citylab's take on the research.
A productivity analysis of 40 U.S. metros of varying populations, conducted by Shlomo Angel and Alejandro Blei of
 the Urbanization Project at New York University, found that cities with twice the number of jobs sustained a labor market nearly double in size within a “tolerable” commute of 30 (87 percent), 45 (94 percent), or 60 minutes (97 percent).
An important concept in Angel's and Blei's work is the actual jobs available within a "tolerable" commute, which is really the key driver behind the greater productivity, known locally as "economic development", of larger cities.

Angel and Blei found that increased density, residential and business relocation, and improved mobility were the factors in reducing expected commutes as the cities grew. From Citylab:
All told, density, relocation, and mobility reduced expected commute times in a large metro area by a factor of six, relative to one half its population size. For those keeping close score at home: density contributed to 25 percent of the reduction, relocation 41 percent, and mobility 34 percent. Angel and Blei conclude with some broad policy suggestions for urban planners: help people find affordable homes near work, help businesses relocate near workers, and help commuters get from home to office.
Another way to look at it, only 25 percent of the reduction is attributed to increased density as cities grew, the other 75 percent reduction is due to where people choose to live, where the jobs are, or move to, and improvements in the broader transportation infrastructure resulting in higher speeds.

Faster commuting to jobs
(Courtesy AHeneen, WikiMedia Commons)
Citylab goes on concerned the study did not separate transit components, nor does it seek to quantify if one form of metro areas such as Atlanta is bettor or worse than more dense New York. (emphasis mine)
The work also offers some mixed planning messages. On one hand, the

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mayor Kriseman stepping up on South St. Pete

Kudos goes to Mayor Kriseman for stepping up and taking action on a serious St. Pete issue.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
Sunday Mayor Rick Kriseman did the right thing and pledged 1 million dollars in immediate aid to St. Pete’s south side.

Here are a couple of links with details:

Kudos go to Mayor Kriseman for stepping up and taking some immediate action on a serious St. Pete issue.

Kriseman plans to focus his latest spending on creating opportunities, including improving education, skills training and job placement.

Kriseman also wants to focus efforts on what he calls a “catalyst for commerce” by increasing job recruitment and business retention. He wants to increase efforts to boost cultural, arts and improve neighborhoods.

There are some questions and some serious concerns.

First, was City Council aware of the Mayor’s plan before the announcement or was this another Kriseman “surprise." Given the serious nature of the problems the Mayor is trying to address the whole chicken and egg question should not be a big issue, but some,  ala Jim Kennedy may be a bit miffed.

A second and much more serious issue is how all this money will be managed. I can imagine even as I am writing this the line is forming outside City Hall with all the usual suspects who like to get their hands in a City pie. With Kriseman throwing in arts and culture, he just made the line longer.

There is a real opportunity to do some good with the Mayor’s initiative if it is well managed and focused.

Giving money to the same organizations that have been running programs that feather their nest and do not work would be a big mistake. The last thing we need is this money being used to buy cars, office space, trips and consultants.

City council should hold this one close to the vest; maybe even manage these programs in house through the Deputy Mayor’s office. It would be better to add a little internal administrative overhead than have this thing blow up in a scandal.

It might be better if the task force were more advisory than managerial.

I believe everyone in St. Pete would be in favor of spending the Million and probably a lot more in south St. Pete if we could get a structure that could actually deliver results.
Which brings me to my final point.

This is not a onetime effort. Even if it is applied absolutely perfectly, one million dollars will barely scratch the surface. This effort needs to be a City budget line item that should increase by at least 25% for the next five years. Even that may not be enough.

If you think I am going overboard, I encourage you to get in your car and drive through south St. Pete.

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Morality, Diversity, Free Speech and Mayor Kriseman

I doubt seriously Rev Bryant was all that interested in a key to the City anyhow.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

If you haven't been following the dust up between the Local NAACP Chapter, the gay rights movement and Mayor Rick Kriseman check out the recent articles in the Tampa Bay Times, by Charlie Frago:

You might also find Janelle Irwin's Post/near rant in saintpetersblog; St. St.Pete City Council’s invocation highlights commitment to diversity interesting.

Early word was Kriseman refused to present the key to the City to Rev Jamal Bryant due to his openly anti-gay  stand. Probably no big deal, I doubt seriously Rev. Bryant was all that interested in a key to the City anyhow.

Kriseman now says he will "educate" the Baltimore minister on his anti-gay  views. Assuming the meeting can be arranged I would really like to be a fly on the wall in that conversation.

Two things strike me about all of this first, embracing diversity is one thing, exploiting it is another. I am not sure whether Kriseman is exploiting the situation or pandering.

I also find fascinating, those interest groups so very willing to throw away some ones' right to free speech when their ideas do not fit with the anticipated message. It was not all that long ago that LGBT community was fighting to be heard.

The NAACP has the right to invite whoever they want to speak at an event, and they should know the individual well enough to anticipate the message, and the speaker certainly has a right to speak his or her opinion without interference from an elected official, special interest group or anyone else.

If you don't like the message go to peacefully protest the event. That is your right also.

Kriseman and his team like this kind of publicity they think it makes him somehow look "Mayoral."

I think at times it just makes him look foolish.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

The St. Pete-Tampa Ferry - A real fairy tale

If the Ferry brings three full loads to a Rays game that's 300 people or about 2.2% of the average attendance.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
While south St. Pete struggles with just about every conceivable problem a community could have the Kriseman administration is in a head long rush to get a pilot project for a ferry from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Pete.

Part of the hype from the Mayor's office is what a boon the Ferry will be for attendance at the Rays Games.

The numbers just don't play out. Look at our Post from Eye on Tampa Bay by Sharon Calvert: The Ferry and the Numbers

If the Ferry brings three full loads to a Rays game that's 300 people.

Assuming an average attendance of 13,500, that is a total impact of about 2.2% per game.

Why not ask the Rays for a couple of hundred thousand dollars to test the effort, so we can get an idea of how they feel about the concept.

The trip from Tampa to St. Pete is just over 20 miles. Estimates the Ferry trip would take a little over an hour is probably low. If you add boarding and unloading, it is more like 1.5 hours.

Let's look at an estimate of total commute time to and from Tampa for a Ray's game:

To the Rays game from Tampa
Drive time to Ferry landing and parking 35 minutes
Ferry boarding 20 minutes
Ferry Trip to St. Pete 1 hour 30 minutes
Unload Ferry 20 minutes
Commute from St. Pete Ferry Port to Tropicana Field 20 minutes
One way time to game 3 Hours 5 minutes

Return to Tampa
Return from the Trop to St. Pete Ferry Port 30 minutes
Ferry boarding and departure 30 minutes (Assumes departure delay due to multiple trips from Trop to the terminal to get all riders to the Ferry)
Ferry Trip to Tampa 1 hour 30 minutes
Unload Ferry and get to car 20 minutes
Drive Home 35 Minutes
Return Trip 3 hours 25 minutes

Round Trip for first group of 100 would be about 6 hours and 30 minutes.

If you are in the second group of 100, you have to wait for 2 plus hours for the Ferry to return from Tampa for your trip, and if you are in the third group 2 or more hours more for your ride to Tampa.

Assuming the game is over at 9:30PM the total commute and wait time of the third group could be over 10 hours.

Most practical would be an inter modal approach with a Ferry ride to the game and busses to take everyone  back to their cars in Tampa when the game is over.

Throw in the fact that Tampa Bay can get rough in a hurry, sea fog, foul weather and night time commercial traffic in the ship channel and the Ferry is interesting to say the least.

Similar scenarios can be developed for casual daytime tourist Ferry riders and people who would use the Ferry to commute to work.

Keeping the Ferry full of paying customers will be a challenge. The City must be careful to avoid a per seat subsidy or some other costly financial arrangement. The Ferry operator should bear the risk.

The Kriseman administration is more interested in the hype and PR potential than they are providing transportation services. It's one thing to have 66 passenger buses running around the County with three people on them. It is a totally different thing to be supporting a 100 passenger Ferry and associated costs with few passengers, so we can have some pretty brochures for the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development people to hand out.

Buckhorn is right. Everyone should take a serious look at the numbers and let's make sure that the taxpayers are not subsidizing the Ferry operator to store his boat in a nice warm place.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

St. Pete floundering in a sea of violence and indecision

In the last quarter of 2015 St. Petersburg had a sudden increase in shootings.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman seems to be taking a page from the Obama play book and blaming the current rash of shootings and South side problems on guns and especially on stolen guns.

Why guns and not failing schools, or jobs, or ineffective policing, or refusing to dedicate sufficient resources to cause a change?

When you are a politician, and you have a major problem you do not really want to deal with what do you do?

You deflect.

Guns and gun control is a hot button right now and what better way to get the focus off the real problems in south St. Pete than to bring up the gun issue.

It is a lot easier to yell guns than it is to take on the Pinellas County School Board and fight for the people that elected you or take money from your pet projects and actually do something.

Charlie Frago’s Tampa Bay Times article St. Pete to start thinking outside box on gun violence sets the stage for bringing the gun control issue front and center to St. Pete, so we can waste a lot of time and money arguing about something that will never happen - local gun control.

All of which begs the interesting question: if the St. Pete Legal Department is working on these issues, and the Mayor doesn’t know about it how does the word get to the media?

Maybe the Times is being played.

Kriseman made a lot of noise during the election about the problems in south St. Pete, but he has been short on practical solutions. $900,000 for a jobs program, $350,000 for a ferry, $70 million and for a playground for the millennials, it seems if the Mayor was really concerned there would be a major reallocation of resources.

Look at the age of those involved in the recent rash of shootings, walk back their educational history and let’s see how that correlates with the failing schools that are at the heart of south St. Pete's problems.

From the comments at Saturdays swearing in, it seems there is a realization that something has to be done.

The question is can Wheeler-Brown, Nurse, Gerdes and Foster stay the course and bring along Kornell, Rice or Montinari to form a voting block to get something done for south St. Pete?

Kennedy will remain the outlier on all things south of Central.

It is time for Kriseman and his dream team to take a step back and look at the big picture.

If the current level of violence spills over into the millennial's is back yards or their downtown play ground, you can look for a major flight and all the art, bars, coffee shops and craft beer you can muster up won’t stop the exodus.

It is time for the Mayor to go “hands on” in south St. Pete, no more politically slick diversions, no more ducking the issues. The Mayor needs to reallocate significant resources to south side issues and take a firm stand on the south county schools by actually putting some political pressure on the school board.

How about endorsing Bill Dudley in the School Board election?

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Waterfront Charter Amendment (Vote on The Pier), Carly Fiorina for President

Sunday, January 3, 2016

It is time to get the Rays deal done

The Kriseman administration and/or City Council should put a reasonable deal on the table.

St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
St. Petersburg has been dragging out the Rays stadium issue for far too long. Trying to position the Rays into a deal they simply do not want has caused a lot of unnecessary strife and contention.

It is time for the City to allow the Rays to look in the Bay area for a new stadium site.

Jim, Kennedy's position regarding compensation is a laudable one, but looking at the time frame for a new stadium, wherever the Rays decide to build it and 2027 when the existing lease expires, a big dollar request to the Rays will simply not work.

Here is a recent comment from a reader:

Happy New Year.  Just read in the Trib that the mayor is asking each council rep to meet with the Rays.  Please, please consider just letting the Rays look, as they probably are doing now within a legal framework, and to let the forces that be unfold when they find a place.  There is really no need to set a price for them to break their lease right now, that is putting the cart before the horse.  Market forces will be different when they find a location and if council cannot come up with a fair penalty, then the Courts will, which is what the Rays don't want so the incentive to settle then is strong.  St Pete will be in a rightfully stronger position then.  Please consider and do have a happy new year.  


With the economy booming and local development both residential and commercial exploding throughout the Bay area, owners of currently viable sites may have to think carefully about committing a large parcel of land to a sport that barely draws 14,000 fans to each of its events.

Furthermore, egos aside, getting Hillsborough County and private investors to pony up any significant portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars required to build a stadium may be very difficult.

St. Petersburg has already put the Rays in the unenviable position of coming late to the relocation game. Time is no longer on the Rays side. They need to start the search for a site sooner than later.

The Kriseman administration and/or City Council should put a reasonable deal on the table, allow the Mayor the joy of harvesting "his" new yes vote and get on with it.

There are things much more pressing to deal with in St. Pete.

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