Thursday, May 23, 2019

Wheels Come Off Hillsborough Transit Planning

Tampa, Fl
Tampa Bay Beat
By: Jim Bleyer

Imagine a Champs Elysees-type corridor with light rail in the center as a hurricane evacuation route

 By Dr. Jim Davison
Hillsborough County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization has concocted an impractical transit scheme that involves tearing down 10 miles of Interstate-275 in favor of a boulevard concept, a plan ranked last by a survey of Tampa Bay citizens.
The unfathomable concept attempts to shoehorn a cumbersome light rail system onto an already congested area of Tampa and replace a roadway that is part of the U.S. interstate highway system.
The City of Tampa-centric proposal also defies the MPO’s own pronouncement that I-275, along with Interstate-4 and Interstate-75, is the most important transportation infrastructure to be protected from storm vulnerability. It is a major hurricane evacuation route for Tampa and Pinellas counties.
The concept envisions a grand corridor, a la the Champs-Elysees, with six to eight lanes of traffic, a two-way light trail system in the middle, and elaborate landscaping with sidewalks on the edges.
A light rail system would not only be useless in a hurricane but an impediment to evacuation as well.
At the MPO’s last board meeting it voted unanimously to finance a study of this grand corridor beginning immediately north of Tampa at the intersection of I-4.  The county MPO asserted the study was requested by the citizens, but it was its own advisory committee that made the request.  Most committee members oppose any improvement to I-275 and have actively campaigned against any plan from the Florida Department of Transportation.
The interstate teardown was included as one of three scenarios in the MPO’s long range transportation planning.  It was chosen last by public responses and was soundly rejected in a three-county survey and for good reason.
In addition to being a vital evacuation route, I-275  is the major regional economic engine in Tampa Bay.  The highway is expected to carry in excess of 250,000 cars per day in 2045 with more than half the vehicles entering from the northern most interchange in Hillsborough County and from Pasco County.  Those surveyed in Pasco and Pinellas ranked the boulevard as very low, as did Hillsborough residents outside of Tampa.
Despite this, the county commissioners and Tampa city officials said they did not believe the scenario ranking numbers. FDOT Secretary David Gwynn has attempted to explain the difficulties such a plan would entail and its costs, but it fell on deaf ears. This is an idea strictly engineered by the City of Tampa that adversely effects the entire region.
Driving this train are a small group of politicians, some of whom reside in the area but don’t believe the facts and a small group of citizens living in the area without any facts. They are attempting to slow or stop the improvements to this stretch of I-275.
Improvements to I-275 planned by FDOT will markedly decrease congestion, increase safety, decrease injuries and fatalities, and increase the area’s economic performance over the 25-year life of the road. The MPO has already planned a “road to nowhere” (East-West Road), but is now encouraging a small group of citizens, at the risk and expense of the entire region, to clamor for an idea that is foolhardy at best and lethal at worst.  
 Dr. Jim Davison is a conservative activist and noted expert on transit and tax matters.
 Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Beat

This post is contributed by Tampa Bay Beat. The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Bay Post Internet or the publisher.

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Subpoenoacrats – will the Democratic establishment ever grow up?

Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD 

Author: In Search of RobinSo You Want to Blog.

I have watched with both humor and growing concern as the US House of Representatives now controlled by the Democrats wrenches in a headlong convulsive rush to get Trump at all costs.

The problem is there is a real price to be paid if this obsession of investigations and subpoenas continues.
In order for a democracy to go forward there are certain things that must be accomplished regularly.  For now, the Democrats and their committees have turned the People’s House into a carnival as their leader’s lurch and gasp for air in a constant tirade against the Trump administration.
Point is Trump really doesn’t care, and Republicans are enjoying to some degree watching the Democrats make absolute fools of themselves at every turn.
Their obsession with the thought that another four years of Trump could lead to an all-out collapse of democracy as, we know it is more than a little hypocritical as their growing number of presidential candidate's race to the left and socialism.
Nothing kills off a democracy faster than socialism. So maybe what the Democrats need to do is spend a little more time listening to their own rhetoric.
If the Democrats main focus was to take back the White house, you would think they would be working toward major pieces of legislation that would actually help the American people. Instead, House and Senate Leaders are more taken by the side show and the drama and the prospect of appearing on CNN than they are by the real prospect of governing.
I have heard two viable comparisons, the first from a couple of well-versed commentators on NPR, Brooks and Shields, where they indicated their view is the Democratic leadership is playing right into Trump’s hand for the general election. This is his kind of battle, and he loves it.
The other was on one of the Sunday morning news shows when a panelist made the comment that Trump is using the old “rope a dope” technique on the Democrats. The prospect is Schumer; Pelosi and Shift will keep flailing at the air going more overboard until they wear out themselves and their audience. In the meantime accomplishing nothing legislatively they can hang their hats on.
Perfect grist for the Trump mill when he decides to use it.  
At some point, the Democrats will have to turn away from fanatical desire to get Trump at all costs and start running a campaign that can win. And that means moving toward the center.
My current guess is the Democratic Nominee will be Michelle Obama with a last-minute dramatic entrance to save the Democratic Party from itself.
I know, I know she has said and continues to say she is not interested, but as her husband’s legacy continues to be dismantled by Trump and the Dems move ever more left a saving angel may just be what the Democrats need.
E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
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Sunday, May 12, 2019

St. Pete Housing Authority in Turmoil Again

Mayor Kriseman has set out to make some serious changes to improve the lives of those living in the Housing Authority properties.

Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
It just seems like the St. Pete Housing Authority cannot get its act together. In the latest episode, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is calling for the removal of three of the Housing Authority Board Members, including the board Chairman Harry Harvey, and board members Delphinia Davis and Ann Sheman White.
Mayor Kriseman recently decided not to reappoint Board Members Jo Ann Nesbitt and Basha P. Jordan Jr.
For good insight into the St. Pete Housing Authority and its issue's check out, this article and the links it contains from Tampa Bay Times by Christopher O’Donnell   Mayor Rick Kriseman, St. Pete Housing Authority on legal collision course. Note the Times no has a pay wall so unless you subscribe you may not be able to see the whole article.
You can also check out a Post in Florida Politics by Janelle Irwin: Embattled St. Petersburg Housing Authority sues Rick Kriseman over potential board member removal. No Pay Wall here.
The St. Pete Housing Authority has a long and often troubled history. To his credit, Mayor Kriseman has and continues to replace Board Members who’s self-serving interests frequently out weigh the mission of the housing authority.
These latest legal moves by the Authority Board are more of an effort to protect turf than to serve their constituents.
For example, see Christopher O’Donnell Tampa Bay Times article: St. Petersburg housing agency board approved pay raise for CEO without reviewing his evaluation.
The final word on the removal of board members Delphinia Davis and Ann Sherman White will come at the City Council meeting on May 16 barring some last-minute political maneuvering.
In the past City Council and previous administrations have spent too much time worrying about the ethnic make-up of the housing authority and not enough time focusing on the ability, willingness to participate and the capability of those being elected for Board and leadership positions.
This is a difficult set of problems but Mayor Kriseman has set out to make some serious changes to improve the lives of those living in the Housing Authority properties. He deserves the support of City Council.
E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
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Friday, May 10, 2019

$300 Million+ Class Action Suit Filed against Beleaguered Vinik

Tampa, Fl
Tampa Bay Beat
By: Jim Bleyer

Gush of text messages promoting Lightning could prove costly to Jeff Vinik.

By Jim Bleyer
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment that could conservatively could cost the Jeff Vinik-led company $300 million.
The legal action alleges TBSE, owner of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Litigation is being brought by the Miami law firm of Carey Rodriguez Milian Gonya on behalf of lead plaintiff Bryan Hanley and other “persons similarly situated.”  That number could easily exceed 10,000.
Basically, anyone targeted with text messages from the Tampa Bay Lightning marketing department may choose to join the class action.  The texts included promotions for upcoming Lightning games at downtown Tampa’s Amalie Arena as well as discount ticket packages.
Hanley is asking for $1,500 for each text message that he received promoting the Lightning.  The number of text messages is unspecified but exceeds 20 based on my experience with texts sent from the Lightning marketing arm.
Hanley alleges Vinik’s TBSE transmitted advertising and telemarketing text messages to cellular telephones throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Specific total damages are not mentioned in Hanley vs. TBSE 
but the math is simple: $1,500 for each text, 20 texts, 10,000 victims=$300 million.  Forbes Inc. at the end of 2018 valued the Lightning at $450 million.  Besides taking a financial hit, Vinik and the Lightning’s serial harassment becomes a public relations albatross as well. 
Class action lawsuits rarely culminate with such stratospheric settlements.   The attorneys invariably are well compensated but the sea of claimants have been known to receive pathetic amounts of compensation such as coupons or paltry two-digit sums.
That will not be the case in the litigation against TBSE, according to Ruben Conitzer, lead attorney for Carey Rodriguez.
In speaking with Tampa Bay Beat, Conitzer wouldn’t speculate on the amount of a settlement or court award but asserted this would not be one of those class actions that would translate to little or nothing for the aggrieved parties.
Conitzer revealed that Vinik’s legal team is trying to have the Telephone Consumer Protection Acyl declared unconstitutional.
”The tactic has been attempted in  other jurisdictions to no avail,” he said.

More travails for Vinik
There are other options for recipients of the illegal texts. Victims could opt out of the class action and file suit separately.  An award or settlement could be $30,000 or more but attorney’s fees would eat up much of that.  I asked Conitzer an aggrieved party could also be a lead plaintiff along with Hanley in the class action and he replied affirmatively.
2019 has been a rough year for Vinik:
—His $3 billion Water Street Tampa development chugs on but way behind schedule.  The project is collateralized to creditor Cascades Investments.
—The Vinik-instigated one percent sales tax for transit is tied up in the courts on several counts of unconstitutionality.  The tax is integral for building a Tampa light rail system that would run through Water Street.
—A retired hedge fund manager, Vinik tried and so far has failed to raise $3 billion (coincidence?) for a newly-formed hedge fund with himself at the helm.
—The Lightning, prohibitive favorites to win the NHL’s Stanley Cup, were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the lowest-seeded team in the Eastern Conference. The team’s post-season collapse was stunning and historic.
—-Vinik has failed to register TBSE, a Delaware corporation, as a “foreign agent” though doing business in Florida for nine years.  Fines are due the State of Florida and registration is imperative.
—-Vinik’s fiduciary relationship with the Tampa Bay Times, the area’s only daily, has become more sinister. Bloomberg’s company profile of Vinik’s Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment LLC lists  its address as the Times building at 490 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. TBSE’s  line of business “includes publishing newspapers” but nothing else, according to Bloomberg.
Now, there is this class action suit that, if taken to the limit, could wreck or, at best, pare Vinik’s interest in the Lightning.
 (Tom Rask, publisher of the Tampa Bay Guardian, contributed to this article)
 Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Beat

This post is contributed by Tampa Bay Beat. The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Bay Post Internet or the publisher.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

All for Transportation's Pervasive Dishonesty

Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay 
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

All for Transportation (AFT) has been dishonest from the start. They tried to create a false narrative last June that their tax hike ballot initiative was a "grassroots" initiative launched by everyday citizens.

That was quickly debunked.

Five special interests donors, including Jeff Vinik, Frank Morsani, Vinik's Water Street construction company Coastal Construction, Tampa Bay Partnership and Sykes Enterprises donated $150K each to get AFT's tax hike on the ballot.

The AFT tax hike initiative was a totally paid professional campaign job assisted by some political insiders (more to come on that subject).

AFT paid $625K to outside professionals at 
Revolution Field Strategies, a Washington DC K Street company to professionally run their petition effort.

AFT paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to PR firms, communications firms, advertising firms, media placement firms, for direct mail services, phone banking, text messaging, media consulting, etc.

AFT did not use grassroots volunteers. AFT paid GRSG Company, a professional canvassing company out of Minneapolis, MN over $87K for paid canvassers.

AFT spent $4 million on a marketing campaign funded almost entirely by special interests. AFT's campaign filings reflect about $2.5 million was donated from 10 donors in a county with a population of 1.4 million. Jeff Vinik and his associated entities alone contributed almost a million dollars to AFT's coffers.

From AFT's 
misleading ballot language to AFT making exaggerated claims for which they provide no evidence to back up their claims, to AFT refusing to call their referendum a tax hike and not properly informing voters their ballot initiative is a 30 year $16 Billion tax hike to AFT's deceptive mailers claiming their tax hike was going to improve roads when AFT provided no funding for new road capacity, AFT has been dishonest and deceptive.

AFT's website appears to have disappeared. What are they hiding?

All for Transportation's Facebook
 page is still up. They continue to post on Facebook including this misleading post in March that is very dishonest and so far from the truth.

All for Transportation dishonest Facebook post
insinuates lawsuit dismissed, case closed
Commissioner White's lawsuit was not filed against All For Transportation (AFT). AFT is a political committee who got their 30 year $16 Billion sales tax charter amendment on the ballot and then ran a $4 million political campaign to get it passed.

AFT decided to insert themselves into White's lawsuit by hiring 
high priced lawyers to intervene in the lawsuit.

More egregious, AFT insinuates the judge totally dismissed the case - on its merits. That insinuation is misleading, totally false and so dishonest. Judge Rex Barbas ruled in March that Commissioner White could not file the lawsuit as a county commissioner and gave him 10 days to refile.

And White did. He filed an Amended Complaint as we posted 

Read the comments of the AFT supporters who believed AFT's dishonest claim White's lawsuit was over and done.

Bob Rohrlack, President and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, posted this comment about AFT's dishonest claim.

It appears Rohrlack drank AFT's kool-aid without checking out the actual ruling. That does not reflect well on the Chamber.

All for Transportation's Twitter account @AllforTransport is also still up and they tweeted the same dishonest information about the lawsuit dismissal that they posted on their Facebook page.

AFT dishonest Tweet
If AFT will be so dishonest about a judge's ruling, they will be dishonest about anything.

And AFT's dishonesty is pervasive because they continue to be dishonest.

Those who decided to closely associate with AFT's deceptiveness and dishonesty because the end justifies the means have no one to blame but themselves for the big mess AFT has created.

They chose to ignore potential serious legal issues that were raised before the election and now must be formally resolved in a court of law.

And what is shameful is AFT's pervasive dishonesty must have the blessing of their biggest donors.

Posted by Sharon Calvert at 1:35 PM 

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from:
 Eye On Tampa Bay

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Police targeted vehicles for noise, not bars in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion
By author: Robert Neff

From 2013-15, City of St. Petersburg, Florida noise citation analysis shows police targeted vehicles, not bars. Throughout the City of St. Petersburg, resident complaints about the bar noise to Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and resident calls to the police were brushed aside.

Police are a resident’s first line of defense to protect them from unwanted noise. Unfortunately, the police have the discretion to pick and choose where they direct patrols and to whom they issue tickets. The Mayor Kriseman, City Council and police have proven over and over, they cannot be trusted to protect resident’s rights when it comes to unwanted noise.

From 2013-2015, the downtown and neighborhood noise complaints for bars and vehicles were well document, however, the bars were ignored while police had 29 directed patrols in South St. Petersburg for Childs Park, Obama Express, and other locations.

Police are free to use their discretion to target or overlook community reported noise for businesses, residences, and vehicles. However, police have exercised their discretion to target vehicles with loud music and not target bars with repeated complaints. 

Research also shows the police are not consistent and accurate in annotating the noise ordinance section and paragraph. Instead, the top level noise ordinance's section number tended to be used verses the section and paragraph, where the paragraph defines vehicle, bar or residence. 

On July 21, 2014, Mayor Kriseman selected Police Chief Holloway to lead the St. Petersburg Police Force. The next year, there was a decrease in directed patrols targeting vehicle noise in south St. Petersburg. In 2016, one bar was cited four times for noise. The bars seemed to getting a free pass even when the were repeat noise complaints.

During Chief Holloway’s tenure the noise citation rate decreased from 1.3% to 0.6% and continued to drop each year. Data suggests Police Chief Holloway was not concerned with the noise calls, nor was he concerned with the Mayor’s “Broken Window” that states stop the small crime and larger crime will be reduced. This is especially true for the many bars that had 4 to 7 times as many calls for crime than noise calls.

Noise citations are included in the Uniform Code Report (UCR) that is given to the FBI. On the Police Arrest Report, police use report code 90z.  However, Noise is considered Disorderly Conduct. This is report code  90C, Crime Against Society, where the definition is any behavior that tends to disturb the public peace or decorum, scandalize the community, or shock the public sense of morality. However, Police Chief Holloway posts Noise Nuisance under, All Other Offenses - 90Z, Crimes Against persons, Property and Society.

Under Police Chief Holloway, not only have citations decreased, but police are not issuing citations for repeat calls. Instead the police are asking the bar to repeatedly turn down the music. By declaring the music is not plainly audible, a citation is not issued, and there is no Arrest Report. Thus, there is no citation to trigger an addition to 90z category in the Police Code Report that is given to the FBI. Thus crime numbers for 90z category are kept low.

As previously reported, the crime calls for noise are kept low because police operators are allowed to assign calls to another event. There is no consistency in this approach. While this was established for traffic calls, this is used for noise calls. Thus calls are under reported. Therefore, if you want to ensure your call is not assigned to another event, ask the police operator for an event number for your call to report noise.  

For example, Officer Brandow responded to a call with five ladies present. While we could all hear the noise, he could not. He stated, the City would not issue a citation to a bar because they did not want to put them out of business. Interesting to hear that a bar has a business model that is dependent on noise and the City is helping the bar mitigate the risk!

My research has also shown different levels of coordination between the Mayor, Mayor’s Office, City Attorney’s Office, Police Legal, Police Chief, Police officers, and Council Member Kornell to target resident(s), who complain about the noise.

Council Member Kornell is Council Chair for the Public Services & Infrastructure (PS&I) Committee. PS&I Is responsible the noise ordinance revision. He had used his position as Chair to joke about the noise, and state the music industry is worth million and millions. In another meeting, he stated the music industry is worth billions and billions of dollars.

In May 2014, I contacted Council Member Kornell and Mayor Kriseman concerning the noise at the Flamingo Resort. Instead of my Council Member Kornell contacting me, he had a series of emails and conversations with the Police Community Service Officer Kelly, and Jack Dougherty, who is both Flamingo Resort and Board President for the Skyway Marina District, to develop a strategy to deal with me. Unfortunately, they did not share this with me. I found this email series in the second Public Record Request. The first Public Record Request for Konrell's emails omitted this email series. It was discovered after the Judge had dismissed the Flamingo Resort's initial lawsuit. 

The city has still failed to identify and address the police’s refusal to cite a bar. 

In addition to not finding the noise to be plainly audible (even when senior residents can hear it), there is a more serious issue. Mayor Kriseman’s email to Police Chief Holloway revealed the police are not enforcing the noise issue. In the April 11, 2017 email, Mayor Kriseman asked Police Chief Holloway to enforce the noise ordinance for two weeks.

The downtown and outside downtown bar noise is well documented, yet, the bars were not targeted. The police have emails, where residents other than me contacted the Police Chief Holloway. One resident had over twenty calls. One resident was so frustrated he contacted the Pinellas Sheriff. In a March 25, 2016 email from Assistant Chief Williams to Police Chief Holloway, A/C Williams stated, " appears he is LEO shopping." 

The City of St. Petersburg spent over two years researching and presenting on the noise ordinance...

The City of St. Petersburg spent over two years researching and presenting on the noise ordinance to the public and PS&I, yet, the City failed to hire a medical expert to provide a report on the noise’s negative impact on adult and kid’s health.

The City of St. Petersburg also failed to create a live test for council members to help them understand what it feels like to live near a bar or noise source. 

The City of St. Petersburg also failed to identify why police are not issuing citations.

In 2014, residents at my condominium first encountered noise from the Flamingo Resort. Nearby residents had noise complaints since 2009. Police reports show residents had walls shaking or windows vibrating. But from 2009-2017, there were over 180 calls to the police and no citations.

When bars were cited, the same bars seemed to be targeted.  Some bars avoided being cited. From 2013-2015, there were 59 calls to report noise at the Flamingo Resort. The 2015 Skyway Marina District’s meeting minutes for the Improvement Team mentioned noise issues at Atwater BBQ but not the calls to the Flamingo Resort.

During this time, the Flamingo Resort had approximately 329 calls for crime and non-crime with 15 arrests, which were not mentioned in the Skyway Marina Newsletter nor in the Skyway Marina District Improvement Team meeting notes. The crime and arrests reinforces the Mayor’s “Broken Window” theory. 

Meanwhile City Council Member Kornell’s was supporting Flamingo Resort via the email strategy. Kornell also accepted Flamingo Resort’s donations to his reelection campaign. 

In December 2015, Mayor Kriseman attended a Democratic event at the Flamingo Resort.

In May, 2019 the City Council is expected to pass the ill-conceived proposed noise ordinance. This clearly states the proposed noise ordinance supports businesses. This proposed noise ordinance  does not change the noise distances for businesses and nearby residences. By ignoring the decibel meter standard, the the city relies on time and distance, which states residents can be too close to music for the police to issue a citation. 

Unfortunately, sound does not discriminate and residents are at the mercy of a noise ordinance designed to support businesses. Incident Report 2017010636 is a clear example how the noise ordinance protects businesses. Police deemed this resident to be "too close" to the nearby The Landing at Jannus and did not issue a noise citation. 
Thursday, March 02, 2017 at 11:02 PM. 

The opinions here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bay Post Internet or the Blog Publishers where it appears.

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