Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The New St. Pete Pier is starting to look like a financial train wreck

If  St. Pete has to put another $5, $10 or even $20 million into the project to get something workable, it is time to step up to the plate.

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

John Romano the Tampa Bay Times converted sports writer has an interesting and insightful piece in the Tampa Bay Times Romano: The St. Petersburg Pier is too important to get all cheap now

Reality has set in and what was carefully manipulated through the "public process" cannot be built for the amount available.

I don't know about you, but I am not surprised. I had a bit of the same sensation this weekend as my wife and I, who are looking for a new home, found this really lovely one for about $400,000, which seems a bit out of reach.

Romano comes up with the perfect solution: increase the budget.

I agree.

If  St. Pete has to put another $5, $10 or even $20 million into the project to get something workable, it is time to step up to the plate and do it. (I hate baseball metaphors, but it seems to work here.)

Romano takes exception to the bait and switch argument see my post Bait and Switch? Entice and transfer? Deflect and deceive? The New New Pier design is here.

Need more? Check out my Post The stampede to the new pier

I doubt if John knows what a bait and switch really is, but I did 10 years with Sears Roebuck 5 in management in the 80s and believe me, I know bait and switch when I see it.

The real issue is when Kriseman, and his crack dream team decided to turn Mike Connors lose to derail the public process, so they could tear down a $20 to $30 million asset they had no clue that they were being hoodwinked by the designers they were pushing. Or did they?

Sort of brings up the question did this design team know in advance they were a shoo in? Maybe Mike Deeson can take a look at that one.

Since I am waxing metaphorical, the horse is out of the barn, the die is cast, the chickens have come home to roost, or add your own the St. Pete Pier has become the expected mess.

All you folks in the arts community had better start tightening your belts and before those of you working on South, St. Pete programs funded by the City start spending, I would make sure you have the promised money in the bank.

The thing I really like about the City pitching in extra millions of dollars to build something most people do not want is that it makes a great Kriseman scoreboard.

Every dollar Kriseman has to squeeze out of somewhere to build the Pier is another reason not to vote for his reelection.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sorry no Gondolas for now

Until a serious, graft and corruption free regional transit entity can be created, things are unlikely to change.


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


The U. S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge pledged $40 million to a City that would integrate modern Technology into its transportation system.

Tampa proposed a bunch of small projects while St. Pete proposed Gondolas (think Ariel tram) connecting Gateway, Downtown and the beaches. Neither City received a nod from U.S. DOT.

You can get some detail in the Tampa Bay Times editorial: Failure to think Big on transit.

The state of public transportation, as pointed out in the Times editorial is a mess. Way too many cooks and nobody can agree on a recipe.

Until a serious, graft and corruption free regional transit entity can be created, things are unlikely to change.

TBARTA is useless, the various MPOs cannot get their act together and the two big players Pinellas County and Hillsborough County seem to keep each other at arm's length on transportation issues.

The issue here is the age-old problem greed.

Everyone in the decision process sees public transportation from his or her economic benefit perspective not from the public's need. Transportation redevelopment is usually the key issue with investors, developers and special interests more concerned about the ability to make money from the opportunities along the route and little concern for the actual user. GreenLight Pinellas being a good example.

The Go Hillsborough Parsons Brinkerhoff/Beth Laythem debacle is a classic case in point. As long as the connected have their hands either in the pot or access to it, the public should not tax itself one dime for these programs. The Hillsborough County Commission should quietly fold up Go Hillsborough, take a deep breath and start all over.

In Pinellas County, the grand plan of light rail seems to be languishing quietly below the surface while PSTA is a least trying to make strides with the bus system.

Pinellas, I am sure, is watching Go Hillsborough but the problem is Go Hillsborough has become so mired in typical Tampa/Hillsborough political shenanigans it is hard to get a real read on how the public would react if everyone was playing straight.

It is going to be a long, long, long time before the guy or gal that drives his/her BMW to work opts to ride on a bus or a train for that matter.

A lot is made that the millennials ride the bus. They may ride the bus from one bar district to the next; but when they want to go shopping at the International Mall or Countryside they do and will continue to drive their electric cars.

The point is public transportation is a long and difficult struggle in the Bay area. So far, we have seen the two poorly planned and misdirected transit initiatives designed more to line pockets than move people fail. If it makes it to the ballot, Go Hillsborough will be the third.

The politicians need to think carefully. They are actually educating the people to vote against these transit issues with the lies, misinformation and carryings on like Go Hillsborough.

It is time for the serious leaders in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties to jettison the likes of TBARTA, GreenLight, Go Hillsborough, Pasrsons Brinkerhoff Beth, Laythem and their counterparts and begins to develop a long-range comprehensive transit plan for the region that the people trust and believe.

Otherwise, in 2036 you will be setting on the Howard Franklin Bridge at 9:00 AM in your electric powered whatever at dead stop.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.
Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Friday, March 25, 2016

Through a Donkey's eyes

The day started normally the keeper of the flock singled out a few goats and a couple of us donkeys to take to the market place in a small village just outside of Jerusalem.

I had made this trip before. I was often put up for sale, but I have never been ridden, and a little hostile action sent most would-be buyers looking elsewhere for a donkey.

The trip from the fields to the village was uneventful, but there did seem to more people than normal on the road, and they were carrying palm fronds and seemed very excited, all very upsetting to me.

Once at the market things went pretty much as usual, a lot of lookers but no one seemed particularly interested in buying me.

As the day wore on, activity in the market dropped off as people headed back to the road to see a new King that was coming to Jerusalem.

My owners packed up and lead me to a small inn where I was tied to a hitch rack outside while they had something to eat and drink.

Suddenly, two men arrived and began to untie my line. The owners shouted, "Hey what are you doing with our donkey?" The men replied, "The Master has need of your donkey." The owners bowed as the men unhitched my line. I felt no need to buck or pull away; there was a strange feeling in my soul to go where I was needed.

In a short time, we arrived at a throng of people, in their midst a man like no man I had ever seen. His eyes met mine, and I knew that this was no mortal human.

As they threw their cloaks on my back, at first I shivered and wanted to throw them off, but then the man, this King, was at my side and laid his hand on me. All fear left me.

As they sat him on my back warmth filled my being, and we headed toward the great City.

The trip was not long the cloaks and palm fronds made stepping a bit treacherous, but there was always the steady hand leading me to the final destination.

The crowd was cheering, as the man climbed off my back. Our eyes once again met. This time he looked sad and deeply concerned. His eyes moved to the City for a moment then, for some reason, back to mine.

There was a loving smile, I could only close my eyes in response, and when I opened them, he was gone.

The two who had found me returned me to the village where surprisingly my owners still waited.

We returned to the fields, but I was never again taken to the market for sale.

Sometimes in the cool of the evening, my owners would come to my place in the field and sit and tell stories to their children about the day the King rode me to Jerusalem.

The children would pet me gently, and the warmth of that day would once again fill my body.

May the blessing of Easter be yours.

E-mail Doc at: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Will Nonsense or Common Sense prevail?

Re-posted from Eye on Tampa Bay

By: Sharon Calvert

Now that the Go Hillsborough law enforcement investigation found no criminal wrongdoing, Tribune reporter Joe Henderson decides it is time to move on to putting another huge sales tax hike boondoggle on the 2016 ballot. His column today Go forth with Go Hillsborough so people can make their choiceIt is almost comical to watch the schizophrenia. 
First, though, the Hillsborough County Commission has to decide whether to proceed with the referendum in November, and it’s anyone’s guess how that will play out. There’s a 3-3 split on the board on whether to proceed, with Commissioner Victor Crist waffling. 
But I say they should go ahead and have the vote. 
I have said, and still believe, that it will get stomped like a bug at the ballot box. Even if my prognostication skills are dead on, though, it’s no reason not to put this before the people. We’ve certainly been talking about it long enough. 
If a transportation tax is whomped at the ballot box again like the one in 2010, leaders will have gotten the message — maybe. They’ll be forced to go to Plan B, just as soon as they can come up with one. 
Joe admits the referendum will fail and it will. 

When I spoke to Joe and asked him what the upside was for putting a referendum that is DOA from the get go on the ballot, he gave the same lame excuse we heard in 2010 - "let the people vote".

There's two huge issues with that excuse now. 

The people did vote in 2010 and overwhelmingly said no. Go Hillsborough is simply 2010 all over again funding high cost trains that highly subsidize the affluent, will do nothing to help commuters or reduce congestion. 

Go Hillsborough may be worse than 2010 because the county revenues continue going up and up and up yet the county has continued to neglect our roads and transportation needs. The county has money but they continue spending our current budget on lower priority items. It is absurd to ask taxpayers to raise our sales tax for revenue the county already has. That will never sell. Since our roads have been neglected for almost a decade, we need the county commissioners to use their own political capital to start funding our roads and transportation needs now within the powers they already have - no referendum needed.

The second big issue with "let them vote" excuse is "they" went to Tallahassee and intentionally got the Children's Board property tax reauthorization off the 2016 ballot. Don't forget the Children's Board had their own scandal just a few years ago. Apparently, the excuse of just "let them vote" is selective of course, as Ken Roberts accurately points out in his Tribune letter to the editor we reposted here. County Administrator Mike Merrill applauded the removal because it would make the way clear……[for the sales tax hike referendum]. Really?


May 2015 text messages between Leytham and
County Administrator Mike Merrill
Go Hillsborough may also be worse than 2010 because it cost taxpayers $1.35 million. As we posted here, what Parsons Brinckerhoff handed to the Policy Leadership Group (PLG) on November 5, 2015 did not deliver what was presented at the October 21, 2014. County Administrator told the county commissioners multiple times that Parsons PRISM tool was needed and a reason they handed them the work.
Parsons Brinckerhoff's PRISM tool presented
 at 10/21/2014 PLG meeting
What did we get for $1.35 million? A proposed 30 year tax for a 10 year list of projects.

Parsons Brinckerhoff handed the county/PLG a 10 year alphabetized laundry list of projects, not a prioritized project list. Where is the benefit and cost analysis we were promised? Where is the output from Parsons Brinckerhoff PRISM tool? What is the benefit for spending all these billions - Improved road levels of service, reduced congestion, better throughput, safety, what? If that information exists, it is in hiding somewhere for the public to never see. No one at County Center can or will provide such information.

Why isn't Joe and the Tribune asking these questions? It's not rocket science.

Back to Joe's sales tax hike schizophrenia. Here's Joe's Oct 2, 2015 column It’s time for Plan B on Go Hillsborough effort (emphasis mine)
The effort is not exactly overflowing with public goodwill right now, given that the sheriff’s office is investigating how $1.3 million of taxpayer money was funneled to a contractor involved in the project. 
Was it an inside deal and ethically shaky, as a recent TV report made it out to be? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it’s all about credibility. A skeptical electorate tends to tune out after hearing words like “tax” and “investigation” used in the same sentence. 
That leaves the county with two options. Officials can wait until the morning after the election to get the message that voters don’t trust them, or they can go to Plan B.
We’ve been talking about traffic solutions around here for years, and all we ever do is vote down referendums and build more roads. The goal of Go Hillsborough is to address that with a comprehensive plan and then sell it to the public, but it’s not working.  
That doesn’t mean the plan is bad, but the execution has been. I think people understand the need to address this problem and they’ll be willing to pay for it, but they have to trust the process first.  
Right now, they don’t. 
It’s time for Plan B.
As I told Joe when we spoke the other day, the PLG was ironically created in March 2013 because former county commissioner Mark Sharpe correctly stated there was a lack of trust in Hillsborough County. The Urban Land Institute told the county commissioners that back in 2012 when Commissioner Murman brought them in during her Economic Prosperity Stakeholder Committee initiative. Gee - What happened to that initiative? 

Does the Go Hillsborough debacle and mess create more trust or distrust? I think Joe answered that question in his October 2nd article.
It also raises the question that if the county can’t even handle a relatively small amount of money like that without controversy, what will officials do with a pot of dough in the billions? 
I was on Rob Lorei's Florida This Week on PBS with Joe on Sept 25, 2015. The segment can be found here.  

Go to 16:58 of that segment and listen to what Joe said about Go Hillsborough then: 
"What part of no do they not understand", 
"yes they should have had a plan b, c, d, e and f",  
"people aren't going to vote to approve this stuff, they are just not".  
Talk about speaking in exclamation points (which Joe said I do) - too funny.

In Joe's article Tribune today, he states
"So for the love of congestion, can we please move on?" 
If he or the Tribune were truly serious about addressing our roads and congestion, they would stop pushing a sales tax hike referendum that is DOA and they know it will fail. 

If they were truly serious about addressing our roads and congestion, they would start holding our electeds accountable for the mess that's been created and demanding they start fixing the problem now.

If they were truly serious about addressing our roads and transportation, why do they want to kick the can down the road and lose another year and another budget cycle neglecting our roads and transportation needs. That is fiscally irresponsible. The longer our roads continue deteriorating the costlier it becomes to fix them.

Throwing another sales tax hike on the ballot that has no natural base of support and will fail is not good governance and then we all lose. That is not smart politics nor an indication of any common sense.

Yes Joe we need to move on…..move on from nonsense to common sense.

And Common Sense demands we move on to a Plan B NOW!

#NoGoHillsborough
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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bait and Switch? Entice and transfer? Deflect and deceive? The New New Pier design is here

No one should be too surprised given the Kriseman efforts to push this disaster through the process and get the old Pier torn down.


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


The long-awaited  St. Pete Pier Design proposal is here, and I bet you thought it would actually resemble the design the Kriseman administration crammed down your throat.

Boy were you wrong.

My original graphic was closer than I ever dreamed.

This thing looks like an outhouse on stilts.

No one should be too surprised given the Kriseman efforts to push this disaster through the process and get the old Pier torn down.

Here is an e-mail I received:
Speaking of jokes, bad jokes, this new pier design is even worse than the first one.  The Times' blog is so telling, nobody likes it and they are roaring again.  I have heard that there is a petition to take it on via the City Charter.  They are making a royal mess of the waterfront and I remember the people at the Birchwood Hotel objected to the City fostering restaurant development on the pier and how parking is being reduced.  HELP!  Isn't there something that someone of your stature can do?  Nobody listens to us "little people"  You know, when St Pete designed their own piers, they were great.  This one is terrible and will have huge subsidies and reduced attendance.  That picture of the upscale crowd at the proposed restaurant is telling.  They don't want us locals down there.  How dare they?  If you remember, not one restaurant company put in a bid for the proposed restaurant at the end and do you think that they would listen?  nope.  Everyone is calling it Potty Park again as the fresh water wading pool is still in the design and since they are working to get the homeless people out of Williams Park, they will proably gravitate to the wading pool and ample bathrooms.  I hate to say it but this mayor is worst than the last one. - JC

Tampa Bay Times Waverly Ann More asked the $46 million question in her article Is the new pier design what City Council approved?

Will Kriseman's fellow Democrats fall in line with the Mayor praising the new design as what the people want or will someone have the courage to blow the whistle on this mess and go back to the drawing board?

Their answers will be interesting.

Where was the City staff responsible for this project during this process? It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out this design is going to be a serious problem with the public and reopen some old wounds.

It looks to me like a lot of money is going into plans and politics that should be going into bricks and mortar...

Unless I miss my guess, Kriseman and his team are in for some rough meetings as the public process goes forward.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.
Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Politics - Rick Baker a different take

I have always thought Rick Baker is a fishes and pond's kind of guy


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


My good friend Peter Schorsch has a great piece in stpetersblog.  When will Rick Baker take the shot?

If you live anywhere in CD 3, this is a must-read Post.

Peter is pretty well convinced that the former St. Pete Mayor will eventually throw his hat in the ring for the CD 13 seat vacated by David Jolly.

I am not so sure he will.

In full disclosure, I worked for Rick Baker for the eight years of his run as St. Pete Mayor, and I have to tell you it was the best eight years of the 28, I worked for the City. The hours were long the tasks often daunting the demands unrelenting but every morning I could not wait to get to the office and do my part to help get the Baker Plan in place.

Baker recently told me now that his kids were well along he was "ready to get back into public service" He went on lament about the condition of the Republican Party, the current front runner then sighed and said, "I guess I have a decision to make pretty soon." That was a month or so ago.

What's holding Rick Back?

I have always thought Baker is a fishes and pond's kind of guy. Someone who would probably rather be a big fish in a bit smaller pond than a small fish in a really big and smelly pond.

Add to that Baker likes to get things done. He likes tangible results he has a very strong impatience level, and he doesn't like people and the Party telling him what to do. And he really does not like being told something cannot be done.

Peter makes the point that Baker would, probably like to make another run for St. Pete's mayor, but thinks Kriseman may be unbeatable.

I am not so sure. Kriseman is working hard to shore up support in the all-important south side of St. Pete, but the rest of the City may be slipping through his grasp.

His low powered very expensive Mayor's office makes a lot of noise but doesn't have a lot to show for the cost. As far as the south side, plans and programs are one thing but results are another and even though the Kriseman propaganda machine is in overdrive things are only going so so.

Then there is the Pier.

By the time Kriseman is through with his first term my bet is St. Pete will be ready for a change.

Some of the folks the Kriseman administration are pushing aside, like current and future retirees, and   unfulfilled campaign promises about the west side of town are starting to bubble along with an over-emphasis on craft beer and millennials.

The St. Pete renaissance continues to be confined to downtown, as a large part of the City goes wanting.

In St. Pete, Baker can again work his magic and really serve the community he loves, in Congress, he just another fish in a big and messy pond.

More importantly, St. Pete is really going to need Rick Baker. Congress and CD 13 will be just fine with Charlie.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Downtown St. Pete moves front and center once again.

And you thought that Waterfront Master Plan was going to work for all of St. Pete.


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

Tuesday March 15, yes its primary election day, the St. Pete Pier will move to the top of the Kriseman Administrations' Agenda.

Here is the Announcement from The New St. Pete Pier website:

Barbara Wilks, from W Architecture and the Pier Approach Design team invite you to join them on Tuesday, March 15th at the University of South Florida Student Center. This is a workshop designed to hear from you as the design team presents conceptual layouts for the Pier Approach.

Pier Approach Public Workshop
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Please note: start time for this event has changed to 7:00 p.m.
USF St. Petersburg Student Center Ballroom – 2nd Floor 200 6th Avenue South
Free parking in the USF parking garage at 250 5th Avenue S. Levels 2- 5.

There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a very well done, thoughtful and informative presentation with a detailed public input format. Over the years, City staff has become exceptionally good at putting these types of presentations together.

The timing could have been a little better, but perhaps the Kriseman team hopes the presidential primary will keep the Pier approach a back-story from a media perspective.

Since this presentation deals with the approach and building an elaborate and expensive front yard for the Vinoy and Beach Drive look for most of the usual special interests to be ready with a number of suggestions designed to enhance their property values.

One of the things I find curious is for an administration that seems to be concerned about climate change and sea-level rise, the Kriseman team doesn't seem to be too concerned about spending $20 million on a development that could be underwater if the global warming people are even partially right. The new Beach Drive could be somewhere between 4th and 5th streets if the predictions are accurate.

I have thought from the beginning that this whole uplands project is a waste of money, especially in light of the City's infrastructure problems, failing schools, south side crime problems and the fact that just over 30 blocks away kids cannot get a decent education.

On the other hand, it does meet many of the Kriseman administrations' requirements: it is big, bright, shiny and makes the Chamber and the rich folks happy.

And you thought that Waterfront Master Plan was going to work for all of St. Pete.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Friday, March 11, 2016

Have You Voted Yet?

If the dog ate your mail-in Ballot, we can help.


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

Tuesday is Florida Primary day, and you can vote this weekend at the Supervisor of election offices. Click here for more early voting information

Remember Florida is a closed primary state so you must be registered with a specific political Party to vote.

If you received a mail in ballot, but the dog ate it no problem. Take your voter ID card and go to your precinct on Tuesday the nice people will help you vote.

As of 3/15/2016, 122,498 mail-in ballots had been returned and 4,172 early voters had cast ballots. Check on the latest counts at Unofficial Voter Turnout.

Be sure to look down the ballot and vote for local candidates and be especially attentive to those Ballot questions, which may be very important in your City.

This the most interesting presidential election cycle in some time, so do not miss your opportunity to be part of the results.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Down Ballot a Republican dilemma

Trump has brought in many new voters but will they vote down the ballot?


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


Never heard of the term down ballot here is a definition from Google: denoting a contest for a political office that appears in a relatively low position on the electoral ballot, which typically lists contested offices in descending order from national to local.

You will start to hear this term tossed around a lot as the Republican Primary narrows and the likelihood Trump will be the nominee increases. Party politics have long depended on a presidential nominee to unite the Party and be the source of votes for those at the State, County and local level running as Party candidates.

Down ballot party influence is what has kept political parties in control of the US political process for decades if not centuries.

This time, however, when challenged by a political outsider, Donald Trump, where the typical Party controls of money, influence and threats have not managed to keep the candidate in line or derail his march to the nomination panic has begun to set in.

As more and more of the Party establishment endorses "anyone but Trump" they would be wise to remember that Trump has a long memory and those endorsements which make the Party elite giddy may just come back to bite them.

The Republican Party is seeing the Party structure start to fracture and crack.

What if Trump is nominated?

He has brought in many new voters but will they vote down the ballot?

Will Trump work for the down ballot Republicans or will the Party be left twisting in the wind to save national and state legislative seats.

Will local candidates for partisan offices get any help at all?

There are some unannounced Republican candidates who might like to run, but some of them may pass not even wanting to be on the Ballot with Trump at the top. Locally, Rick Baker comes to mind.

The Republican Party is quickly backing itself into what may be an unmanageable situation. A Presidential nominee that they do not like and who does not like them, a new group of voters who really do not understand the issues or the politics and a growing distrust not only from the new Trump voters but from inside their own ranks.

As the public watches one after another high profile Republican slither up in front of the TV cameras and denounce Trump while two clips later, they see Trump in rallies with 10s of thousands of people Republican credibility continues to crumble.

The ripple down the ballot can and probably will affect everything from School Board elections to the State legislature.

Down ballot Republicans have a lot to worry about and some big decisions to make. Do they follow the Party line against Trump or go with the people and hope for the coattail effect?
  
We should start to get that answer next week.
  
E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook.
 See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Old VS New: The Battle over the Pheil Hotel

It is in everyone's best interest for the demolition and sale to proceed.


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

You may not know where the Pheil Hotel is or anything about it. For some detail on the latest skirmish between the Kriseman administration and the group St.Pete Preservation here is some detail from an article by Waverly Ann Moore In the Tampa Times: Wrecking ball plan for Central Avenue block in St. Petersburg draws ire from preservationists.

In typical form the Riesman administration is moving forward at fairly good clip to get the buildings demolished and redeveloped.

Here is a quote from the St. Pete Preservation Web site:
The Central National Bank & Pheil Hotel are two beautiful historic buildings located at the corner of 4th St. & Central Ave. Since the early 1960's, their splendor has been hidden behind the "cheese grater" looking aluminum grill work. Today, demolition threatens. These beautiful historic buildings can be brought back to life by taking off the "cheese grater.

You can follow the progress in this series of articles from the Tampa Bay Times.



There are a lot of emotions on the preservationist's side as they see the historical architecture of downtown St. Pete fall in the wave of new redevelopment. The problem is the deal for this piece of property is a bit complicated as you can see in the article by Waverly Ann More: Is the end nigh for downtown St. Pete's cheese grater buildings?

There are many things that can be done to slow down or tie up this project, but I think it is in everyone's best interest for the demolition and sale to proceed. It would be a shame if the proposed developers were to decide to pass on the project not wanting to get into an extended battle over the property.

There could be some opportunity for incorporation of the old Bank Building and Pheil hotel features into the exterior and perhaps lobbies so the historical significance of the site is not lost.

The battle to preserve the city's heritage will continue but this is one where it is much more practical to let the downtown core continue to build out while the opportunity is there.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

No Go Hillsborough

Support for Go Hillsborough is dwindling on the county commission. Good! 


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

Commissioner Beckner offered up his alternative plan that included a 10 year 1/2 percent sales tax hike at the Budget and Transportation Workshop held Thursday afternoon.

And Commissioner Hagan, Mayor Buckhorn and County Administrator Merrill are not happy. Even Better!

It is revealing what the Times and the Tribune reported from the meeting and some reaction to it. We note the media did not bash Beckner for offering up his alternative plan, even later in the game than Commissioner Murman did last year, like they bashed Murman. Is our media sexist?

From the Times:
County Commissioner Kevin Beckner at a budget workshop Wednesday revealed his vision of a 10-year, half-cent sales tax that would fund transportation improvements.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the Beckner plan "threw the cities under the bus" and negates 2½ years of effort, including nearly 100 public meetings that led to the drafting of Go Hillsborough. That plan, originally supported by Hillsborough's mayors and a majority of county commissioners, has faced a series of setbacks in addition to critiques from the tea party. 
"The vast majority of us were willing to take that risk and not back down in the face of three tea party bloggers sitting in their underwear in their basements in Ruskin," Buckhorn said. "That's not leadership." 
"It kills any option for mass transit, particularly rail in the urban corridor," Buckhorn said. "Without a 30-year time frame, I can't go to the bond market to issue debt. You can't do major, major infrastructure projects like rail without issuing debt."
Desperation can often cause stupid actions. The peeping Tom Mayor of downtown Tampa only Buckhorn has now been reduced to bashing bloggers in basements in Ruskin. Huh? We don't have basements in Florida. But It is Buckhorn and his cronies who are being investigated by law enforcement - not any bloggers.

Buckhorn wants to blame critics from the Tea Party for the Go Hillsborough crony mess he helped create. Buckhorn conveniently ignores the critics from his own political party, the Sierra Club and others. Is Beckner a Tea Partier?

Buckhorn also ignores that even as power brokers (him) and unelected bureaurcrats (perhaps illegally) have been begging the business community to pony up $2 million for an advocacy campaign, no one has stepped up to lead the charge.

Buckhorn and the city of Tampa did not take any risk with  Go Hillsborough. The city of Tampa never paid a dime for Go Hillsborough. Buckhorn got to sit back and ride the coattails of county taxpayers who paid for the $1.35 million crony, phony, baloney Go Hillsborough campaign.

Buckhorn created risk with Go Hillsborough by helping to hand his own campaign consultant, the politically well connected Beth Leytham, hundreds of thousands of county taxpayer dollars to run the Go Hillsborough campaign. We're left assuming he thought no one would care and everyone would look the other way. Those silly bloggers - they kept refusing to look the other way.

So much for Buckhorn leadership - it can lead to cronyism and law enforcement investigations.

Also reported by the Times:
Beckner, a Democrat, said he's had to deal with opposition to Go Hillsborough from his side of the political aisle, as well.
Proof again that Buckhorn is out of touch with his own constituents.

When Go Hillsborough first proposed the 1/2 percent sales tax hike last summer, we said they were making ground sausage - a plan that no one likes.

The Tribune reported about the meeting too:
After two years of meetings and public workshops, Hillsborough commissioners are not even close to a consensus on how to pay for needed road and mass transit improvements.  
The level of division on the seven-person board was evident Wednesday as yet another commissioner came forward with an alternative to the Go Hillsborough transportation plan developed last year at a cost of $1.3 million.

But Jean Duncan, director of Tampa’s Transportation and Stormwater Department, said reducing the tax to 10 years would hurt the city’s efforts to attract federal funds to extend the city’s street car system and to build a commuter rail from downtown to Tampa International Airport. “We need a 30-year plan to leverage those dollars for the street car extension and the rail extension to TIA, and 30 years is needed for operations and maintenance,” Duncan, who was at the commissioner workshop, said. “The 10 years does not support transit in that regard.”
It is about time the public hears some differing opinions on this county commission. Let the sparks fly. Transparency in the Sunshine has been sorely lacking on this commission for a long time.  The county commission needs to stop rubber stamping so many things and take control back from County Administrator Mike Merrill - an unelected County Administrator who works for them not the other way around.

Thank you Jean Duncan. Finally, someone is publicly admitted the only reason for a 30 year sales tax hike for a 10 year plan is to fund Buckhorn's high cost trains. We've been saying that since the 30 year sales tax hike was proposed.

In the Times article Buckhorn also stated "You can't do major, major infrastructure projects like rail without issuing [30 year] debt."

Duncan and Buckhorn confirmed Go Hillsborough is 2010 all over again.

The Tribune also reported:
Hagan, in an apparent effort to call Murman out, suggested that commissioners who supported a gas tax increase “put it on the floor and we’ll vote it up or down.” Murman didn’t bite. 
“I heard it through the grapevine that was coming; I was prepared for the comment,” Murman said after the meeting, referring to Hagan’s ploy. “But to totally discount any options would be premature. Not knowing if the half-cent referendum is going to pass our commission, do you want to be left with no options?” 
Hagan expressed frustration that commissioners, who in just six weeks will vote on whether to hold the referendum, are still floating alternatives that will not address the county’s backlog of failed roads and lack of transit. 
“We spent nearly three years illustrating our enormous transportation deficit and the dire straits of our transportation network,” Hagan said. “We are weeks away from scheduling a referendum and we are still chasing our tails.”
Good for Murman for not taking Hagan's bait. Who orchestrated that strategy behind the green curtain? We can only speculate - Hagan's close confidante Beth Leytham, the Wizard of Oz of County Center Mike Merrill, BOCC Chair Miller or all of them?

We do know it was an intentional tactic by Hagan to take raising gas taxes, a user fee for roads, off the table as a funding source for our roads. Hagan's strategy backfired and his repetitive  talking points are stale and robotic.

Hagan admits what we have always been saying. Go Hillborough was never intended to be an honest, transparent public engagement effort. It was a marketing campaign to push another huge sales tax hike on the ballot. His admission is backed up by his own action trying to take other funding options off the table.

No opportunities were provided for the PLG/county commissioners to transparently, honestly and openly discuss all funding options throughout the entire Go Hillsborough process. It is better late than never for the county commissioners to have these important discussions in the Sunshine. It is disingenuous for Hagan to lament that now others are "floating alternatives" to the Go Hillsborough's proposed sales tax hike when the discussion never occurred.

Lessons learned from the Go Hillsborough mess is our electeds must listen to their constituents, address valid issues and concerns when raised- don't let the issues fester, and stop listening to the special interests and unelected bureaucrats pushing their own political agendas.

Regardless of what comes out of the investigation, Go Hillsborough continues its downward spiral.

With Commission support dwindling in the run up to any Commission vote,

It is now No Go Hillsborough!

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Would you really want Marco Rubio negotiating with Vladimir Putin?

If there was ever any doubt that Rubio was not presidential material, he confirmed it in the most recent debate.


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

I watched the last Republican Presidential debate swinging from laughter to outright fear. Here was Trump being wailed away on remaining mostly calm and in control while Rubio hurled insults and rapid fire accusations.

My first thought was, “How would I like to have this guy negotiating with Vladimir Putin?

Somewhere between the 3rd and 5th Rubio tirade, Putin would either reach across the table and strangle him or just get up and walk out of the room laughing hysterically.

Talking at machine gun speed, Rubio mustered up every bit of immaturity he could put on display and what was worse he seemed to revel in his behavior grinning and smiling like 4-year-old.

Political theater? Maybe, but do you really want to put a tantrum throwing career campaigner in the White House?

They all talk a lot about Trump’s inexperience and lack of knowledge in politics, foreign policy and government, but the facts of domestic and foreign policy are easy to come by. Budget, management, leadership and finance are unilateral skills that are in Trump’s wheelhouse. Where Trump is far above all of his fellow Republican competitors is his ability to sit across the negotiating table and control the process.

What we saw Thursday evening was neither Rubio or Cruse know how to deal with someone they have no advantage over. Faced with a level playing field or one tilted against them they revert to hysterical rock throwing which only puts them at a further disadvantage.

These days virtually everything a President of the United States does is a negotiation. US Presidents are surrounded by large groups of people and specialists who are responsible for getting the facts. It is the President’s job to provide leadership and then get the deal done.

Do you really think Rubio or Cruz can get that accomplished with Russia, China, Japan, Iran, the Senate, the House, the Democrats or the special interests?

While your contemplating that question think about this. How good will you feel with Marco Rubio sweating, whining and yelling across the negotiating table at one of our adversaries that is almost as powerful as we are and more than willing to exploit any weakness they perceive?

I don’t know about you – but it scares the hell out of me.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook.
See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures:
Contributor: Bob Gualtieri for Pinellas County Sheriff
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