Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Don't Pay Twice! Stop the Sales Tax Hike Madness June 9th!

Tampa, Fl
Posted by: Sharon Calvert


Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay


Did you think the sales tax hike was sent packing at the public hearing on April 27th?

Surprise (or not)! The county commission scheduled a public hearing for June 9th, 6pm at County Center for another sales tax hike public hearing.

However, after the last two weeks of commission meetings, who knows what the public is actually supposed to weigh in on at the public hearing. The commissioners first brought back a 1/2% 15 year sales tax almost immediately after they voted NO 4-3 to reject a 20 and 30 year sales tax hike at the April 27, 2016 public hearing.

Last week 5 and 10 year sales tax hikes were brought up and also a 1/4 % sales tax hike were brought up. Then at Wednesday's BOCC meeting, Commissioner Miller brought the 20 and 30 year sales tax hike the commissioners previously rejected back on the table. Ridiculous! Makes the commission look foolish and desperate.

When asked after the commission workshop Wednesday, County Attorney Chip Fletcher said he was noticing the public hearing generically for a sales tax hike up to 1/2% and no term is included in the notice.

Voila! The public can weigh in on any percent of a sales tax hike up to 1/2 percent and for any term.

The problem is no one knows what a 5, 10, 15 year sales tax funds or what a 1/4% sales tax funds.

When asked after the commission workshop Wednesday what transportation plan do all these sales tax hike iterations fund, County Administrator Mike Merrill simply said the plan is the plan.

How can that be? At last weeks BOCC meeting Merrill stated the streetcar and the Brandon and South County taj mahal BRT's would be funded in the 15 year sales tax hike. At Wednesday's workshop meeting Merrill stated they would not be in the 15 year sales tax hike.

So what's in and what's out? No one knows but the commissioners are expecting the public to weigh in on something.

Now it is 2 weeks before another sales tax hike public hearing already scheduled and all these iterations of a sales tax hike are up for grabs. Why weren't they discussed during the Policy Leadership Group meetings?  Wasn't Parsons Brinckerhoff supposed to vet all the funding options with the public?  We (taxpayers) paid the Parsons/Leytham team $1.35 million to do public engagement that included an entire phase on funding options.

That was simply for show because the Parsons/Leytham team came back with the only solution they were directed to come back with - another 30 year sales tax hike boondoggle. No true consultant ever comes back to their client with only one take it or leave it solution. Real consultants always provide several alternatives for their clients to consider.

Using taxpayer money for a campaign to increase taxes against the taxpayer is called electioneering. If that is not illegal, it is unethical and not being honest brokers with the public.

So here we are almost to June and now the commissioners are wanting to discuss other
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Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
It is difficult to look across a field of flags and find words that can attest to the sacrifices represented in that field.
So many lost fathers, sons, husbands, wives, brothers and daughters the cost for our freedom becomes overwhelming.
Perhaps Henry Ward Beacher captures the essence, "If anyone, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him - it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant; which was, in short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine that the world had ever known - the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties."
Memorial Day is for remembering.
There is no substitute for a loved one lost in war and the hurt never goes away.
As you read this prayerfully, ask God's blessing on all the families that have endured this ultimate sacrifice.
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.
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Friday, May 27, 2016

Debate – Sanders VS Trump

It would bring together on the same stage the two change agent political candidates of this election cycle.


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

As I write this on Friday evening, the Sanders/Trump debate seems to be gaining legs by the hour.

Would it be the debate of the century? I am not sure.

Would it really mean anything?

For Trump it would be a glorious show case.

For Sanders a single chance to get a real shot at Trump.

The risk to the Democrats is the very strong possibility that Sanders supporters may not see the boogie man in Trump the media has been selling and vote for him when Sanders is shunned by the Democratic Party.

There are tons of details to work out, which network, where, who will the moderators be and then there is the $10 million Trump wants to go to charity.

We are about to find out just how greedy the networks are as they try to negotiate their way around the big price tag. Private funders may step in.

There is a legitimate question as to what would actually come from a Sanders/Trump debate.

It would bring together on the same stage the two change agent political candidates of this election cycle.

It would allow those looking for change in the political process to hear their candidates air their differences and agreements.

It would be great theater, great politics and I think it would enhance the current political process.

There will be no winner or loser between the candidates, but there will be a big winner – the people.

Is the $10 Million for charity to great a price?  Not really. Trump makes a good point; whichever network carries the debate will make a ton of money.

Networks are reporting funding sources are already stepping up. No names so far.

I can’t wait.

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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Thursday, May 26, 2016

No Sales Tax Hike Needed! Revenue Growth of Existing Budget Can Fund Roads & Transportation Needs

Tampa, Fl
Posted by: Sharon Calvert


Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

The sales tax hike and spender collaborators down at County Center are desperate and are trying to charge ahead again for another unnecessary sales tax hike. At Wednesday's BOCC meeting, the commissioners made it official as they voted 6-1 to hold another sales tax hike public hearing on June 9th at 6pm. We posted here they had voted at a workshop meeting the week before to take a 15 year sales tax hike. Perhaps they wanted to ensure the vote was legal and on the up and up so they put it on the agenda for a vote again at a regular BOCC meeting.

The Eye was there.

This time they plan to hold the meeting at County Center, apparently not expecting a big crowd. After enduring over three years of this transportation initiative turned three ring circus, it's a good bet many people are simply disgusted with the entire flawed, crony and deceptive process.

A number of citizens attended the meeting and made a public comment in opposition of the sales tax hike proposal. Two citizens who spoke analyzed the current budget and projected revenue growth and stated the county's existing budget growth will fund our roads and transportation needs - no sales tax hike is needed. Former county commissioner Ed Turanchik presented a forward looking revenue model that he and Steve Polzin, a transportation expert at USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research who was formerly a HART Board member for years, developed. The model is based on the county's existing budget of unrestricted general funds. The revenue model Turanchik handed to the commissioners can be found here.

Below is Turanchik's revenue summary chart using a 5% and a 6% growth rate.
Projected 10 year Revenues
Citizen Jim Davison also analyzed the projected revenue growth of our existing budget under numerous growth scenarios.  Davison's analysis can be found hereBy Limiting the growth in the ad valorem taxes available to budget, the surplus between the cap and actual revenues is what is available for transportation. 

County Administrator Mike Merrill presented to the commissioners at a February Budget Workshop he estimated County Revenue growth for FY2017 at 7.88%.
FY2017 Recurring New Revenue Growing 7.88%
According to the Florida Association of Counties, property tax values increased 7.77%from 2014 to 2015 and increased 7.3% from 2013 to 2014. Our revenues have been on an upswing for a number of years. When the recession hit in 2008, the county diverted all property tax revenues that have historically always funded our roads and transportation needs to balancing the budget. As our economy has improved and our revenues started to grown again, the county never re-diverted or directed any of our growing property tax revenues back to our roads and transportation needs.

As we have stated since last year, it is absurd for the county commissioners to ask taxpayers to raises their taxes for money the county already has.

We have been told for years there is no money for roads. That is simply not true. The public was told there was no money for our roads and transportation needs over and over and over throughout the entire Go Hillsborough debacle. That was simply not true. 

No business, individual or family runs their own budget by funding everything else except their highest priorities first. Where is the business community? Where is the media? Why aren't they holding our electeds accountable? Because they too simply want another unnecessary sales tax hike?

Commissioner Stacy White hit the nail on the head when he stated Wednesday there has been no organized group of people consistently showing up at BOCC meetings asking for their taxes to be raised. He is absolutely correct. We've been there. The Eye's been attending BOCC meetings and budget hearings throughout this transportation initiative and the only constituents consistently showing up to speak on the matter are those who oppose the sales tax hike who were offering alternatives and other recommendations.

County commissioners who three and a half years later suddenly ask for citizen input on alternative funding options indicate they have not been listening, either do not understand or refuse to understand the estimated growth of the county's existing budget, want to continue spending on lower priority items or their own pork projects, were provided filtered information from the crony Go Hillsborough debacle, refuse to seriously consider any funding option but a sales tax hike or refuse to use their own political capital to fund our roads and transportation. 

The easy way out is to throw another sales tax hike on the ballot and then the commissioners do not have to be held responsible for anything. They can blame you, the voter, when it fails. Is that what we expect from our elected officials who are paid $100K a year to be policymakers and provide significant oversight to our budget?

The reality is there is no appetite in Hillsborough County for a sales tax hike and the commissioners know it. Any sales tax hike proposed will continue to have a dark cloud swirling around it from the crony phony Go Hillsborough debacle. It will fail and then we all lose.

The pursuit for an unnecessary sales tax hike has become not only politicized but has a taint of vengeance by some who collaborate to marginalize anyone who does not tow their sales tax hike and spend agenda. It is not an attractive behavior to watch or observe.

It is no longer about an engineered, performance and metric driven transportation plan to relieve congestion, increase mobility and maintain our roads because Merrill and some commissioners have drowned out everything else.

It is now only about an unnecessary sales tax hike - any sales tax hike…

Posted by: Sharon Clavert
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bay area transportation – The real problem

Put a roads only initiative on the ballot 

and it stands a good chance of passing.


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

They just don't get it. The people of Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties are not interested in light rail. 

The developers are; the real-estate agents are; TBARTA is the MPOs are but the public just does not buy it.

The reasons are simple. Light rail is costly, light rail tears up neighborhoods. Light rail never delivers the results it promises and most importantly light rail is a technology whose time has passed.

The latest message begging for money for light rail comes from a caterwauling Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn who said. "It's about more than just this referendum. It has a huge impact on any potential mass transit; rail in particular, throughout our entire region."

Read more from Catilin Johnston Tampa Bay Times: Hillsborough transportation stalemate leaves rest of Tampa Bay in limbo.

Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Whit Blanton said, "We seem to spend a lot of effort and a lot of time but we don't seem to gain any real traction,"

The real issue for the politicians is the people who actually pay the taxes are smart enough to know that an investment in light rail is throwing money down a rat hole.

There is no "traction" Mr. Blanton because your concept is inefficient and out dated.

If the politicians and the unelected leaders of TBARTA and the MPOs want to see the real problem all, they need to do is take a walk down the hall to the smallest room in their house, go through the door, turn on the light and look in the mirror. The problem is staring them in the face.

Put a road only initiative on the ballot and it stands a good chance of passing.

The public is not ready to fund transportation based (light rail) redevelopment so a bunch of developers can get rich, politicians can pad their political war chests and the public can pick up the tab for a rail system that is ineffective.

One only needs to look at all the transportation alternatives under development by some of the biggest transportation and technology companies in this country to know that building traditional light rail would be a huge mistake.

"My hands are tied," Buckhorn said. "It is a painful reminder that elections matter. If the legislature won't give me the ability to change the law (and authorize a city referendum), then the only people who can change the outcome are the voters who elect these commissioners."

And this is the guy who wants to be Governor.

It is painful to politicians when the public gets it right and there is nothing the poor elected folks can do to get their way. Sort of like a kid, jumping up and down is his crib and screaming.

Gloom and doom if we don't give the power players and developers a big pot of tax money to build their train.

The message has not worked so far, and it should not work in the future.

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.


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long and the Bay area transportation problem

County Commissioner Janet Long has put her finger squarely on the real problem thwarting a solution to Bay area transportation problems.


St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
  
Long set up the problem in her Tampa Bay Times op-ed piece: Tampa Bay needs one powerful voice on transportation.

In her op-ed piece Long states, "It is past time to bring our region under one Tampa Bay regional transit authority that develops a collaborative and collective message and delivers a range of services to all people regardless of which side of the bay they work or live. The time is now for planning agencies to collaborate on mobility solutions and to discuss the advantages of merging organizations to achieve real partnerships across municipal and county lines. The parochial and independent nature of some of these collaborative agencies has contributed in great part to our struggles as a region when it comes to transportation."

If you read my Blog at all, you know I have often been critical of Long for her actions on the PSTA Board.

From Bay Post Internet:



It is also important to note that Ms. Long is up for reelection, and she now has a challenger, Martin Hughes, as reported by Ann Lindberg in saintpetersblog: Pinellas Commissioner Janet Long draws challenger

There are some good ideas in Ms Long's op-ed piece but the question really is where she has been for the past few years. Most of these agencies that have muddled up the Bay area transportation problem have been around for decades.

See my comments in Bay Post Internet piece: Go Hillsborough.

Bring this group of dysfunctional agencies, many of them populated by "elected" officials would be like herding cats. Long stated in the op-ed, "The parochial and independent nature of some of these collaborative agencies has contributed in great part to our struggles as a region when it comes to transportation."

In my observation of Ms. Long's political practice, I noted that she was usually pretty good at defining the problem just not really accomplished at following up.

It will be interesting to see what the challenger for the Pinellas County Commission District #1 Martin Hughes has to say about public transportation, the Rays stadium and a host of other issues.

It would also be interesting to see how Ms. Long proposes to dethrone the entrenched power players, elected and special interests that have managed to burrow their way into positions of authority in TBARTA, the MPOs, the HART and PSTA Boards along with a host of other committees, groups and big campaign donors.

An op-ed with some detail would be deeply appreciated.

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, May 20, 2016

Hillsborough County 15 year sales tax a bad idea

Hillsborough County's record of accomplishment at managing and planning big projects and the associated funding are sketchy at best.


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

Amid a chorus of negatives, the backers of the Hillsborough County sales tax for transportation have once again managed to get the idea of a sales tax referendum on the County Commission agenda.

In a desperation move to get some tax money flowing for those who depend on it for their livelihood the Hillsborough County Commission will consider a half-cent sales tax for 15 years. One commissioner has even asked County staff to prepare information on five and ten-year concepts.

This idea is so bad and so stupid it is difficult to know where to start.

Get some detail from Tampa Bay Times Staff writer Steve Contorno: Voting for transportation referendum is voting for a tax hike, Hillsborough commissioner warns

To begin with, Mayor Buckhorn was against the 15-year option at the last session when the tax was voted down. His main reason is with the period of the tax less than 30 years it makes using the tax revenue for bonding (borrowing more money) all but impossible.

But let's be a bit more practical.

Setting up a short-duration tax that flows into an undefined series of potential projects is a consultant's absolute dream. The likes of Parsons Brinkerhoff, Beth Laythem and host of other local and national law firms, consultants and planners must be salivating at the very thought of this thing getting to the ballot.

Hillsborough County's record of accomplishment at managing and planning big projects and the associated funding are sketchy at best.

For example, from Eye On Tampa Bay by Sharon Calvert: Go Hillsborough's Private Campaign Collusion Behind the Green Curtain

County Commissioners desperate to hang something positive on their political resumes regarding transportation would be well advised to run from this like they would run from a burning building.

Nothing could be worse for the fate of public transportation, than a poorly planned half-baked tax initiative that will become a poster child for every form of poor planning and graft and corruption one could imagine.

There is no way to sell a boondoggle like this to the voters. All the politicians are saying are we can't say NO to the special interests who want their fingers in a new transportation tax.

Should the Hillsborough County Commission decide to lateral the ball and place this referendum on the Ballot every voter in Hillsborough County should go to the poles and vote NO.

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.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Beerification of bar food

Today it is all about beer. Bars make a lot of money on beer, so they want you to drink as much as possible.


St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
  
I used to really like bar food. It was great to head to one of the local chicken wing joints order up twenty or so with a big pile of fries and have a feast.

In those days, you could actually taste the chicken in a chicken wing and the potato in a French fry. Then food and flavor were the goal.

Today, it is not just the chicken wings everything in many of my former favorite watering/dining holes has been beerificated.

 (Beerificated - Food flavored with hot seasonings to create excessive thirst for beer).

Today it is all about beer. Bars make a lot of money on beer, so they want you to drink as much as possible.

To accomplish the maximum beer consumption goal, wings, hamburgers, French fries and just about everything else is slathered in hot sauce and/or loaded cyan pepper and other thirst creating spices.

Time was you could order wings mild or medium, and they were actually good. These days even the mild ones are hot enough to eat the lining out of a healthy esophagus or stomach.

In my most recent and probably last visit to one of my all-time favorite wing establishments, I ordered my wings medium with the sauce on the side. These days to thwart people like me; they put hot pepper in the breading so you’re still gasping for something to drink.

I cut the “medium” sauce 50/50 with ranch dressing, and it still tasted like crap.

Fries are the same salted with salt and what I assume cyan pepper. Yuk.

Note to restaurateurs: If you buy your cyan pepper in 100-pound  bags, you probably have the answer to those empty tables at traditional dining times.

Don’t get me wrong I like beer. How can you go wrong with something made by throwing some wheat, barley or some other grain along with some hops into a big kettle bringing it to a boil then toss in some yeast and letting the whole mess rot for a while?

Pump it through a cold filter and add some carbonation, or if you are into real beer, put in a wood keg and let it carbonate naturally.

If you want craft beer, add some crazy flavors (they call that infusion for you non craft beer aficionados),  and you have craft beer. Cheap to make profitable at the bar, and if the food is hot enough you will drink it by the gallon.

I had dinner with my wife a few weeks ago at one of the finer dining establishments in Indian Rocks Beach and the “featured craft beer” was $24 a glass. There is nothing crafty about that. It is just plain highway robbery.

You up for that?

When I want a beer, it is because I want a beer, not because some wackjob in the kitchen had to wear safety gloves to handle the breading mix or drowned my chicken wings in 4 alarm hot sauce.

For now, I am abandoning the “traditional” wing houses.

If you know of a place where mild is mild, medium is medium and hot can still be consumed without needing a pint of beer per wing post it below. I will become a regular and consume a beer every now and then.

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, May 15, 2016

The Pier – who got us here

Along with the Pier problems, the uplands development is starting to raise a few eyebrows.
St. Petersburg, Fl


Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

I thought it was time to remind everyone about who got us into the slowly unfolding Pier and uplands debacle.

The well-orchestrated effort of the Kriseman administration to tear down the inverted pyramid and build a new millennial playground on St. Pete's waterfront is starting to come back and haunt them.

Things continue to move a bit slowly at the Pier construction site. It appears the demolition contractor, Sonny Glasbrenner, is having a few problems of their own.


Apparently, the old Pier approach may have been a bit tougher than City Council was led to believe. Demolition originally scheduled for early spring is  estimated to be finished in September.

You can check out the administration's spin on the pier at Current Progress and what's next.

Along with the Pier problems, the uplands development is starting to raise a few eyebrows. Local restaurateurs on the Beach Drive have suddenly figured out that those nice new water front restaurants proposed by the administration may be a problem.

Here is a comment from a reader:

Hi Doc.  Did you know that people are getting stirred up about the uplands development that is planned by hizzoner, the mayor?  The pier issue aside, virtually nobody wants those restaurants on the uplands of the pier.  The City is planning on removing parking for the public for the most part, unless you are a restaurant customer and they definitely want to remove the parking along the shoreline, on both Straub Parks.  I have heard that the Museum of Fine Arts is not happy about this and that Beach Drive establishments aren't either.  

The owner or manager of the Birchwood was quoted a few months ago saying that St Pete has reached a saturation point of restaurants.  Now, the City is using public money to increase their competition.  Everyone knows that restaurants with a closer view of the water will surpass Beach Drive.  Look what happened to Baywalk/Sundial when Beach Drive was enhanced?  

All in all, the City and the wanna be greenies think that people will abandon their cars and rely on those looper trolleys that really belong at the beaches, not as a legitimate form of transit.  Keep hearing that the residents aren't all that happy with the over abundance of activity on the waterfront and the mayor just doesn't listen to their concerns.  

There is a petition about to happen to address waterfront development.  It is being started by Tom Lamdon of Vote on the Pier.  He thinks that nobody cares anymore and I keep telling him that people are just not aware that there IS something that can be done with this over development.  

They are separating the pier issue from the development issues.  If you recall, it was overwhelming at the Pier Envisioning sessions that people didn't want development on the uplands.  Overwhelming, even more than the support of the inverted pyramid.  I bet that none of the council and certainly not the mayor were at the envisioning sessions.  They are wolves in sheeps' clothing thinking that we elected them to make all our decisions for us.  They don't listen even though they meet with people. –JC

As you watch all of this unfold and the price starts rising, the features disappear and the Kriseman spin machine keeps telling you it will be another iconic destination just remember: these are the same people who promised they would heed your input and totally ignored your whishes.

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, May 13, 2016

Who is trumping whom?

This week was a head spinning rush of Republicans trying to sort out how they would deal with Donald Trump.

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

If you ever had, any doubts about how two-faced politics are you saw it play out this week.

Some of the most vocal Trump opponents started to walk back their positions and some of the most adamant like Mitt Romney and the Bushes trying everything possible they can think of to get Trump on the defensive.

It didn't seem to work.

Paul Ryan tried to out trump Trump with an outlandish no support position followed up with a meeting with the presumed nominee. Everyone came away smiling, but if I were Trump, I would ask Ryan to step down as convention chair.

Assuming Trump wins the Presidency a new speaker of the House would be in order. That would depend on the Republican House: not the most courageous group on Capitol Hill.

For now, Trump will play nice, but once the nomination is in hand the slick haired smiling congressional members who work more for their self-interest than ours, better be on guard.  

Trump will be expecting more than lip service from elected Republicans and there will be little patience for those who try to operate with one foot on each side of the line.

The Republican Party is at a major crossroad, and the next few months may well determine the Party's long-term future.

Locally, down ballot candidates find themselves in a quandary not knowing which way the County, State or National committees may go.

For now expect most local Republicans to maintain a low profile on the presumptive nominee until he actually becomes the Republican standard bearer.

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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Thursday, May 12, 2016

CONTEXTFLORIDA Now on Bay Post Internet

This week I have added CONTEXTFLORIDA as a page on Bay Post Internet


 CONTEXTFLORIDA is an online opinion network dedicated to driving the discussion about the issues, personalities and politics shaping Florida.

The Executive Editor is Peter Schorsch.

Contributors include Phil Ammann, Mitch, Perry, Jim Rosica, Ryan Ray, Bill Rufty, Gary Shelton, and Bob Sparks.

You can access CONTEXT FLORIDA by clicking the CONTEXT FLORIDA  page located just below the Banner

To submit an op-ed to CONTEXT FLORIDA for consideration, to inquire about advertising, or for any other information, please contact peter@contextflorida.com

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.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Scheming For A Two-Headed Sales Tax Hike Referendum

From Eye on Tampa Bay

By Sharon Calvert
It's been one week since the county commission voted NO to putting another sales tax hike boondoggle on the ballot. The local media, however, insists on continuing to insert themselves into our transportation by creating news stories, confirming once again that "they" are part of the problem.

Yesterday's Tampa Bay Times (who just bought the Tampa Tribune) reported Hillsborough, Pinellas leaders wonder if twin transportation tax hikes will work  

Maybe it's time to try something together, Pinellas County administrator Mark Woodard said Tuesday. 

In a meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Woodard said he's already had conversations about it with his counterpart in Hillsborough, county administrator Mike Merrill (emphasis mine). 

The idea is the two county governments would ask their respective voters in the same election year to approve a half cent sales tax increase that would finance a transportation plan that improves services and infrastructure locally and also spans Tampa Bay, finally linking Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

That kind of campaign, Woodard said, could finally lead to a breakthrough.

Woodard is the husband of former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. He got the job permanently in August 2014. It was Iorio who wanted high cost rail projects and used the last year of her mayoral bully pulpit in 2010 pushing hard for the failed rail referendum in Hillsborough County.

Merrill and Woodard are unelected bureaucrats accountable to no voter. They are not policy makers. The electeds cannot delegate their policy making authority to bureaucrats and the electeds cannot empower the county administrator to cross the bounds of his authority. In the Hillsborough County Charter, Section 5.04 Political Activity by County Administrator states:
The county administrator shall not hold any political office nor take part in any political activity other than voting. 
Merrill has been stepping way outside and over the bounds of his authority the last two years. Like former Mayor Pam Iorio, Merrill's been running around the county pushing another huge sales tax hike referendum as if he is an unelected county mayor. Referendums are elections and elections are political activity.  

The electeds must reign in the unelected bureaucrats scheming for a two-headed sales tax hike in Hillsborough and Pinellas. Stop focusing on sales tax hikes for boondoggles. In Hillsborough start funding our roads and transportation needs NOW within our growing revenues in our ballooning budget. Start acting like everyone else must - fund our highest priorities first within our existing budget.
Get our budget under control-fund highest priorities first
The electeds must remember that Hillsborough's CIT tax and the Penny for Pinellas tax are coming up for reauthorization. Those taxes must be taken into consideration and the reality that today's electorate is not happy with the status quo.

The Times also reported in their article that Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA and Katherine Eagan, CEO of HART were open to merging their transit agencies. Bigger government agencies do not equate to better, more cost-effective or efficient agencies. Two state funded studies requested by merger supporter Senator Latvala about a PSTA-HART merger confirmed that. Bigger government agencies further distanced from the taxpayer often increases the influence of special interests while reducing the influence of the local taxpayer. 
“I’m a little frustrated with our friends in Hillsborough,” Commissioner John Morroni said. “Not to give the people a chance to vote on it was really bad in my opinion.”
Where was Morroni in 2010?  The people of Hillsborough did vote in 2010 and overwhelmingly said NO like Pinellas did in 2014. Morroni voted to put the Greenlight Pinellas boondoggle on the 2014 ballot that went down in flames. Why does he think Hillsborough County commissioners should trust his judgment? 

Our electeds must respect the will of the voters and stop throwing sales tax hike referendums at us over and over and over. The old sales tax referendum template of try try try again is broken. 

More from the SaintPetersblog post:
Commissioner Janet Long said there are multiple government agencies across the Tampa Bay area working independently of each other to provide transportation solutions. She estimated that there are more than 100 officials and citizens serving on various committees or in various agencies. Those need to be consolidated, she said. 
Commissioner Karen Seel pointed to the formation in 2014 of the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area. It was formed by the metropolitan planning organizations of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco. The TMA recognizes the fact that the transportation systems of three-county area are closely linked.
The history of transportation in Tampa Bay appears to be when someone(s) does not like what a current agency, commission or committee is doing or they cannot get their agenda through, they simply create a new agency. Of course none ever go away and now we have this convoluted mishmash of unnecessary overlapping organizations. That's how we got the TMA Leadership Group in 2014 - why not just add another group to the other 12 organizations that already deal with transportation in Tampa Bay.

All these organizations become taxpayer funded venues for all kinds of dog and pony shows and much of it flies under the radar of the public.

The TMA is the MPO's of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. Could the TMA be tied to the idea of the two-headed sales tax hike referendums in Pinellas and Hillsborough?

Their April meeting included a presentation from a transit advocacy organization on transit referendums. Hmmm…
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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Kevin King asset or liability to Mayor Kriseman?

The Kriseman/King relationship has been a long and somewhat curious one dating back to Kriseman's time in the State Legislature.

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

Kevin King, Rick Kriseman's chief of staff, continues to be a bit of a lightening rod. His recent comments regarding the City of Oldsmar's overtures to the Rays regarding a new stadium site have created a bit of a dustup.

Kings' comments as reported in a Charlie Frago Tampa Bay Times article Could hunt for stadium lead Tampa Bay Rays to ... Oldsmar?: "Kevin King, chief of staff for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, dismissed the idea as failing to meet the Rays' stated criteria for a new stadium. Oldsmar, he said, "won't have the "arrive-early, stay-late" appeal of an urban center.

"If the Rays want to alienate St. Petersburg and Tampa, it may be ideal," King said. "To me, Oldsmar's like Georgia."

King's Comments seem to have irritated everyone from the Mayor of Oldsmar Doug Bevis to Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland, and a couple of members of the Pinellas County Commission.

Beverland said in response to King's comments, "I don't give a rat's rear end about St. Petersburg, because it is like a rat's rear end, and you can tell him that because I don't really care. That man can go to Hades.'' (Piper Castillo Tampa Bay Times Oldsmar snipes back over St. Petersburg official's comment.)

King is also not that popular with County Commissioner Janet long see another Charlie Frago Tampa Bay Times piece Pinellas Commissioner says Kriseman has set back regional cooperation by two years

The role of Kriseman's chief of staff Kevin King in the recent political squabbles with the County Commission and State Sen. Jack Latvala also annoyed Long.

The Kriseman/King relationship has been a long and somewhat curious one dating back to Kriseman's time in the State Legislature. King was a political behind-the-scenes operative in the Kriseman campaign for Mayor and was repaid handsomely by Kriseman with the six-figure chief of staff job.

Which by the way, he has yet to execute properly.

All part of Kriseman's expensive office of the Mayor.

In my conversations with Kriseman during the Mayoral campaign regarding King, he was always defensive of King and highly complementary.

My first encounter with King after Kriseman's election did not go all that well, Bay Post Internet A Not So Casual Conversation with Kevin King.

King is camera shy, has a very short temper, is easily provoked and often talks before thinking. He is neither liked nor trusted by City staff.

As far as baseball goes the Rays have enough loud-mouthed egos on the field, I doubt they will be too receptive to one on the negotiating team.

Kriseman wants to keep King around, well fed, and watered until his reelection campaign but he needs to listen to the drumbeats from other elected officials and maybe ask a few questions.

King has never been an asset and his liability rating is rising quickly.

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, May 6, 2016

Trump and the fragmenting Republican Party

It turns out that all of this #stop Trump activity is as much more about maintaining the Party status quo than it is about serving the people.


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

An interesting high-stakes poker game is under way in the Republican Party. As Donald Trump becomes the “presumptive” nominee the Republican Party establishment is playing a one up game with Trump.

The news cycle has been all about unifying the party. That is a political code for if you do it the Party way we can all get along.

Locally, the Pinellas County Republican committee is following the party line and sitting on sidelines waiting for the big boys to tell them what to do.

What is the Republican leadership afraid of?

The concern is should Trump actually win in November most of the high-paid  party big shots will find their jobs in jeopardy.

It turns out that all of this #stop Trump activity is as much about maintaining the Party status quo than it is about serving the people.

Where does all of this leave you if you like Trump but feel a sense of loyalty to the Republican Party?

What about all of those Republican icons like the Bushes, Romney, McCain and others boycotting the Republican National convention? I don’t know about you, but I am not going to miss them, and they will not influence my vote no matter what they do or don’t do.

Patience is the order of the day.

As much as people like Paul Ryan want to beat the anti-Trump drum, they are all realists. There may be a few diehards that will dismiss Trump to the end but the more pragmatic Republican leaders will find a way to work out a compromise.

It is easy to get caught up in all the craziness. For now, I am going to start paying more attention to the down ballot races so when my mail in ballot shows up I’ll be able to make informed decisions.

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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