Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tax Hike Lawsuit Raises Serious Legal Issues That Must Be Resolved

What risk assessments, if any, were done by AFT?

From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit in December against numerous defendants related to All for Transportation's $16 Billion transit tax hike charter amendment challenging the language used in the charter amendment. It is case #18-CA-011749.

AFT, some county commissioners and others who supported the tax hike have called the lawsuit ridiculous, a political stunt and "nonsense".

But their rhetoric may be the "nonsense".

Time to step back and break things down, especially statutorily. Local media continues to selectively filter reporting about the tax hike, White's lawsuit or why it was filed.

Hillsborough County is a Charter County. Regarding a Charter County:
A Charter is a document that spells out the powers, duties and structures of government and the rights of citizens. It is often compared to constitutions at the local level. 
The way public officials are elected, the form of government, and the role citizens play in local government.
A local government has all powers of self-government except those that are specifically prohibited or pre-empted by the State.  
Charters are local governance documents not legislative or appropriations documents.

Florida statute 125 Part IV grants counties the power to be structured as a home rule charter county. FS 125.86enumerates the legislative responsibilities vested in county commissioners.

Remember AFT's transit tax hike is a charter amendment.

The state enables all local sales surtaxes. State statutes governs the local transportation sales surtax included in AFT's charter amendment.

FS 212.054 describes how such local sales surtaxes are administered and collected and states (emphasis mine):
The surtax, if levied, shall be computed as the applicable rate or rates authorized pursuant to s. 212.055 times the amount of taxable sales and taxable purchases representing such transactions.
FS 212.055 governs what local sales surtaxes counties are authorized to impose and their rates.
Section 1 is the Transportation Surtax and below is the statutory language for the entire section (emphasis mine):
(1) CHARTER COUNTY AND REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM SURTAX.—
(a) Each charter county that has adopted a charter, each county the government of which is consolidated with that of one or more municipalities, and each county that is within or under an interlocal agreement with a regional transportation or transit authority created under chapter 343 or chapter 349 may levy a discretionary sales surtax, subject to approval by a majority vote of the electorate of the county or by a charter amendment approved by a majority vote of the electorate of the county.
(b) The rate shall be up to 1 percent.
(c) The proposal to adopt a discretionary sales surtax as provided in this subsection and to create a trust fund within the county accounts shall be placed on the ballot in accordance with law at a time to be set at the discretion of the governing body.
(d) Proceeds from the surtax shall be applied to as many or as few of the uses enumerated below in whatever combination the county commission deems appropriate:
1. Deposited by the county in the trust fund and shall be used for the purposes of development, construction, equipment, maintenance, operation, supportive services, including a countywide bus system, on-demand transportation services, and related costs of a fixed guideway rapid transit system;
2. Remitted by the governing body of the county to an expressway, transit, or transportation authority created by law to be used, at the discretion of such authority, for the development, construction, operation, or maintenance of roads or bridges in the county, for the operation and maintenance of a bus system, for the operation and maintenance of on-demand transportation services, for the payment of principal and interest on existing bonds issued for the construction of such roads or bridges, and, upon approval by the county commission, such proceeds may be pledged for bonds issued to refinance existing bonds or new bonds issued for the construction of such roads or bridges;
3. Used by the county for the development, construction, operation, and maintenance of roads and bridges in the county; for the expansion, operation, and maintenance of bus and fixed guideway systems; for the expansion, operation, and maintenance of on-demand transportation services; and for the payment of principal and interest on bonds issued for the construction of fixed guideway rapid transit systems, bus systems, roads, or bridges; and such proceeds may be pledged by the governing body of the county for bonds issued to refinance existing bonds or new bonds issued for the construction of such fixed guideway rapid transit systems, bus systems, roads, or bridges and no more than 25 percent used for nontransit uses; and
4. Used by the county for the planning, development, construction, operation, and maintenance of roads and bridges in the county; for the planning, development, expansion, operation, and maintenance of bus and fixed guideway systems; for the planning, development, construction, operation, and maintenance of on-demand transportation services; and for the payment of principal and interest on bonds issued for the construction of fixed guideway rapid transit systems, bus systems, roads, or bridges; and such proceeds may be pledged by the governing body of the county for bonds issued to refinance existing bonds or new bonds issued for the construction of such fixed guideway rapid transit systems, bus systems, roads, or bridges. Pursuant to an interlocal agreement entered into pursuant to chapter 163, the governing body of the county may distribute proceeds from the tax to a municipality, or an expressway or transportation authority created by law to be expended for the purpose authorized by this paragraph. Any county that has entered into interlocal agreements for distribution of proceeds to one or more municipalities in the county shall revise such interlocal agreements no less than every 5 years in order to include any municipalities that have been created since the prior interlocal agreements were executed.
(e) As used in this subsection, the term “on-demand transportation services” means transportation provided between flexible points of origin and destination selected by individual users with such service being provided at a time that is agreed upon by the user and the provider of the service and that is not fixed-schedule or fixed-route in nature.
State statute language clearly addresses local sales tax in percentage rates because that is how tax rates are defined. Yet AFT's ballot language stated it was an amendment to the county charter to enact a one-cent sales surtax levied for 30 years.

Why would AFT do that? This is the language AFT used to gather petition signatures. Semantics matter for any legal framework as well as being honest and truthful. A one-cent sales surtax does not exist in Florida statute and does not equate to a one-percent surtax. One-cent does sound less ominous than one-percent. But is AFT's language deceptive?

All the other proposed local transportation sales tax hike referendums were expressed as a percentage rate. Lawyers know this and it is reasonable to assume that any lawyers vetting AFT's tax hike referendum would have informed AFT. 
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Why didn't Mayor Kriseman enforce noise ordinance before April 11, 2017?



St. Petersburg Fl
Public Opinion by author: Robert Neff

On April 11, 2017, St. Petersburg, Mayor Kriseman followed up on a morning conversation with Police Chief Holloway. Mayor Kriseman’s 11:32 AM email had three paragraphs that discussed, (1) An order to enforce the noise ordinance and why, (2) List of bars with greatest number of complaints, and, (3) Suggestion on how to get officers to buy into enforcing so the officers did not give the Police Chief the same amount of pushback. Mayor Kriseman needs to explain why the Police have not been enforcing the noise ordinance since he became Mayor in 2014. Mayor Kriseman needs to tell us if City Council knew this? Who else in the Mayor’s Office knew? Did City Council know? Or was this a best-kept secret?

In Mayor Kriseman’s email, the Mayor stated the Police Department was not enforcing the Noise Ordinance. This explains:
Why residents have suffered from noise, been targeted by police police, had to live in fear of retribution, been told to move by bar supporters, have moved, needed to wear ear earplugs in their own home, were subject to online trolling, some paid for expensive window upgrades, why Council Members have called residents liars or a problem, why residents have received Cease and Desist Orders, and why several bars filed civil lawsuits against residents. Mayor Kriseman’s leadership has created a “hostile environment,” had a negative impact on quality of life and not protected residents in their home. 

Residents Fight for Quality of Life

During the Mayor’s leadership, the noise issue has reached its boiling point.  Residents have been fighting for a quality of life, their property values, and the right to enjoy their home.

Mayor Kriseman’s email to Police Chief Holloway is a slap in the resident’s face. The Mayor needs to explain to residents, why he has avoided resident’s pleas for help from 2013 to 2017. Why wasn’t the Noise Ordinance enforced then?

After Chief Holloway said, “Will do, sir,” what happened? What was the action and result?

Public Record Request Discovered Mayor Kriseman's NOISE email

Last week, the email was obtained through a Public Record Request for Police Chief Holloway’s email regarding noise. The City cost to produce, review and redact exempted information for 230 emails responsive to the request was $76.00 (4 hours of staff time at $19.00 per hour).

Mayor Kriseman’s conversation and email with the Chief, and the chief’s response opens a can of worms. The email can be read in its entirety at the end of the article. Here are my thoughts on the email’s three paragraphs.

Mayor Kriseman asked Chief Holloway to enforce Noise Ordinance but officers didn’t follow instructions

After April 11, 2017, the number of calls for the four establishments increased from 21 to 25. The number of calls in violation after the noise ordinance's allowable time decreased by a small margin. There are several variables to consider. Did frustrated residents stop calling? Due to close proximity of the bars, calls may be logged to another bar, or the caller’s residence. Here, you would need the police reports for the area to determine the violator. However, in 2017 only one bar, Park & Rec, was cited twice. 


Whereas, the total noise and non-noise (including crime) calls for each bar is:

Examining Mayor's April 11,  2017 email — Paragraph 1

Chief, just to follow up on our conversation this morning, while there is a revised noise ordinance in the works, I need your officers to begin enforcing the existing ordinance now.  Specifically, if they were to engage in an intense operation over the period of a few weeks, and announce that this operation would be forthcoming, it could have a deterrent effect going forward and would go a long way to making the public feel like the City was engaged in this issue.


  • Why did Mayor Kriseman, need your officers to begin enforcing the existing ordinance now?
  • The Police Chief replied to the Mayor, “Will do, sir.” Did the Police Chief follow Mayor Kriseman’s orders? Did the Police Chief Officers disobey the Chief’s order? 
  • How was the enforcement measured?  
  • Mayor Kriseman wants the police to engage in an intense operation? How does this work? Were the bars asked to turn down the music? Will warnings be issued and tracked? Will bars be cited? Will the police use the Wolf pack methodology similar to DUIs, and speed traps I have seen at the Pinellas Bayway?
  • Enforcing for two weeks would not go a long was to make the public feel like the City engaged in the noise issue. The Police have targeted residents and been openly hostile. Many of us stopped calling the police. Would they let us know about the Wolf pack? Will residents be told, so those who stopped calling may resume calling the Police?
  • Why enforce the noise ordinance for two weeks? What happens after that? 
  • The bars are a high-profile target. Why ignore the rest of the City residents who are distributed by noise from homes and apartments? Selective enforcement will not “go a long way to making the public feel like the City was engaged in this issue.”


Examining Mayor's April 11,  2017 email — Paragraph 2

Some of the locations where we are receiving the greatest number of complaints are Tryst, Caddy’s, the Landings at Janis, and the Flamingo on 34th Street.
Mayor Kriseman needs to provide, What metric is the City using to measure the enforcement’s impact?

Mayor Kriseman acknowledges some bars had more complaints. In 2016 and 2017, I obtained City call logs and conducted data trend analysis on the noise calls, police reporting, and citations, and learned how the City and police operated. The results were provided to the Mayor, City Council, and discussed with the noise ordinance revision team. The City was unaware how many calls there were, the issue was citywide, and citations to bar were minute.

The Mayor does not seem to understand the noise issue. This issue is citywide, not just downtown! Residents call the police more times on homes and apartments than bars. The number of repeat calls to apartments, condominiums, and homes is nearly double bars. Yet, the Mayor wants to target four bars? The Mayor and Police Chief do not have a grasp on the City’s noise issue.


Examining Mayor's April 11,  2017 email — Paragraph 3

If you can get your officers to buy into the fact that their actions in enforcing this ordinance (just like the vehicles parking in the street or on lawns) impacts quality of life and fits in with the broken window theory, they’ll do a better job with enforcement and not give you the same amount of pushback. 
I agree with the Mayor's use of the broken window theory. My analysis of the city call logs corroborates that there is a higher crime rate when there are noise calls at bars.

This shows the ratio of non-noise calls to noise calls.
  • As a resident who has been labeled a reoccurring complainant, I want to assure Mayor Kriseman that I do not share his statement correlating noise to a vehicles parking in the street or on lawns.
  • Why are Officers pushing back from enforcing the noise? The noise ordinance states, 
  • Plainly audible means any sound produced by a source, which can be heard by any reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities using his or her unaided hearing faculties. Measurement standards shall be the auditory senses. Words or phrases need not be discernible and low frequency sound reverberations are included.
  • Plainly audible is subjective to the police officer’s hearing. Police do not understand the medical impact of audible noise and bass on adult and kids health. The officers have received no training. Even when I stood with officers to listen to the noise, the officers have heard the noise or bass. Other officers have stood with other residents, and heard the walls shaking but did not issue a citation. 
  • When senior citizens have stood with me and heard the audible noise and bass, the responding officer did not.
  • Why will the police ask the bar to turn down the noise, but  immediately cite an individual booming loud music from a car? 

Mayor and Police Chief fear office pushback

Mayor Kriseman and Police Chief Holloway fear pushback from the officers? I interpret this to be, the Mayor and Police Chief are not providing officers with the tools and training to enforce the noise ordinance. Who is in charge of the City?

There is no doubt the City has created a hostile environment for residents. Both the Mayor and City Council are more worried about businesses, and the downtown vibe, than resident’s quality of life. Residents have worked with the police but the noise continues. Police have targeted residents for calling the police.

Bar noise has caused medical issues and has caused residents battling cancer or other medical conditions to suffer. I have recommended the City provide a nationally recognized medical expert on noise to present and educate the City, Council and police officers. To date, have been told that will not have. What are they afraid to hear from an expert?

City Council has a dilemma on its hands

To revise the noise ordinance, the City presented three options to City Council . Option 3 includes a decibel stand, and looked like this was going to be selected. But something changed. The City Council did not select Option 3 and went with Option 1, which maintains the “plainly audible” standard. Where the City Council was in a position to help residents and offer police a means to measure noise other than the ear, the council has punted.

City Council wants to warn the bar before police issue a fine, but the police have no warning and tracking system in place to support Option 1. There is no tracking and reporting process in place to track how many repeat calls a bar has, a heat map to show problem areas, and how many different officers have asked the bar to turn down the noise, or issued warnings and citations.

In addition, the noise ordinance's distances are not changed in the Option 1. So a person who lives too close to the bar cannot file a complaint. Such is the case for a person who called five times on the the Landing at Jannus' noise because the walls were vibrating. 

The police confirmed this, but after several calls, police reviewed the noise ordinance, and found there was no citation. The residence did not meet the minimum distance away from the source. Option 3's decibel standard has no minimum standard. If the noise made the walls shake, there is a very high probability this would exceed the noise ordinance's decibel standard and be cause for a citation. 

Both residents and police need a decibel standard to scientifically measure the noise and bass.

Last Two and Four Years

I first contacted the Mayor Kriseman and city Council in 2014 to report the issue with the Flamingo Resort’s noise. Mayor never responded. I had  called the police to report noise and was working with our Community Service Officer and then Acting Assistant Police Chief Kovacsev. There was no relief.

In March 2016, the Edge Partners d/b/a filed a lawsuit, which the Judge dismissed almost seven months later dismissed. Then Flamingo Resort amended the complaint twice. The lawsuit lasted approximately one year and eight months. The cost was significant. I spent my night and day, researching the noise data, being targeted by the community, trolled online, fearful for safety, labeled a re-occurring complainant, dealing with openly hostile police, and defending myself in court and in the City. The Mayor’s email to the Police Chief would have been a very strong part of my defense.

Seriously, who knew Mayor Kriseman was not enforcing the City Noise Ordinance. He knew I had been sued and did nothing. Yet, his police officers injected themselves into the lawsuit on multiple occasions.

When I emailed him Mayor Kriseman to do something about the noise in our neighborhood, I was not the only caller. Mayor Kriseman created this climate; yet, he threw residents to bars!


Several residents reach out to Sheriff Gualteiri

On March 17, 2017, I had reached out to Sheriff Gualtieri’s email asking him to help residents, because St. Petersburg Police was not enforcing repeat calls in the City.  The subject was, "Request investigation into St. Petersburg Mayor Kriseman and Police's failure to enforce Noise Ordinance." Sheriff Gualtieri declined, "The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is not getting involved in this." 

I am not the only frustrated resident who reached out to Sheriff Gualtieri. On March 24, 2017, another resident had reached out to the Sheriff for help with a boom car problem. The resident stated, 
I have contacted the SPPD numerous times about these two issues because it is a city ordinance violation, but it doesn't seem like they have put any effort into it. I even saw Chief Holloway at the supermarket one day and talked to him about it, but he didn't seem to take it too seriously.

Mayor Kriseman was correct in his concern that the police officers would push back.

In the the Sheriff's reply, Sheriff Gualtieri copied Chief Holloway. I had included a May 30, 2014 email from Jack Dougherty, Flamingo Resort owner and Board President Skyway Marina District, to City Council Member Steve Kornell. 

While Sheriff Gualtieri sent the email at 6:35 PM, at 7:10 PM, Chief Holloway sent the email to Police Legal Advisor, Sasha Lohn-McDermott. 

Chief Holloway now knew Council Member Kornell, one of his Community Service Officers, Officer Kelly, and Jack Dougherty, Flamingo Resort owner and President of the Skyway Marina District, had developed a strategy to deal with me in 2014?  



Is this the example that crossed his Mayor Krisemen, when he told Police Chief Holloway in the email, that he was worried about police officers  pushing back? If was not this example, I have more examples from my experiences, other resident's negative experiences, emails to the Police Chief where residents are worried about his officer's behavior, and more.

The new City Council has old credibility problem

In May 2014, when City Council Member Kornell's constituent contact him about the noise at the Flamingo Resort, Kornell worked with the Police and Flamingo Resort owner/Board President Skyway Marina District to to develop a strategy to deal with him. During Kornell's reelection, Kornell accepted $1250 in campaign donations from the Flamingo Resort. 

Fast forward to 2019, Kornell is the Council Vice Chair and Public Services and Infrastructure Committee (PS&I) Chair. PS&I is responsible for the recommending the noise ordinance revision to City Council. 

Kornell has joked about the noise. In one meeting, he stated that the music industry was worth millions. In another meeting he stated this was worth billions and billions of dollars. 


Kornell has allowed two attorneys representing the Jannus block and another representing downtown residents to speak. The attorneys represent clients but they have not lived in the noise and suffered. I emailed a request to Kornell to speak, but Kornell denied all requests at the last meeting. 

Now City Council has a credibility problem. This is compounded by the fact they some how moved away from the Option 3's decibel standard, which would have helped residents, to Option 1, which helps the bars. 

Another Twist? Neff's March 16, 2017 Public Presentation on Noise Data

On March 16, 2017, I spoke at City Council Open Forum on the noise issue. I presented my data and trend analysis and the City noise issue. 

That morning, I sent this to the Clerk of Courts to load onto the overhead projector. The Clerk sent the email to City Administrator Cornwall, who circulated the presentation to Chief Holloway, Assistant Chief Williams, City Attorney Kovilaritch, City Advisor Winn, City's Goodwin, and Mayor's Chief of Policy & Public Engagement Kevin King with the the comment, 
As an FYI, Mr. Neff intends to speak at Open Forum today wity an extensive slide show involving PD stats on calls for service, and the noise ordinance.  
The emails show Chief Holloway sharing Cornwall's presentation with his Assistant Chiefs. He asked for Assistant Chief Williams to call him and Assistant Chief Kovacsev to attend the presentation.  

Transparency and more questions

It’s time for Mayor Kriseman to try a little transparency. Why did the Mayor hide the fact that the City was not enforcing the noise ordinance?  

Mayor Kriseman should have been proactive and seized the moment. Instead, he was reactive and zipped his lips, buried his head in the sand. 

Here is another question, Why did Mayor Kriseman suddenly decided to ask Police Chief Holloway to enforce the noise ordinance? Did anyone on City Council know?

Mayor Kriseman's April 11, 2017 email   

In the email, Alan DeLisle is copied. He is the City Development Administrator.
From: Chief Holloway
Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
To: Richard Kriseman 
Cc: Alan DeLisle

Subject: Re: Noise
Will do, sir


Sent from my iPhone

On Apr 11, 2017, at 11:32 AM, Richard Kriseman wrote:
Chief, just to follow up on our conversation this morning, while there is a revised noise ordinance in the works, I need your officers to begin enforcing the existing ordinance now.  Specifically, if they were to engage in an intense operation over the period of a few weeks, and announce that this operation would be forthcoming, it could have a deterrent effect going forward and would go a long way to making the public feel like the City was engaged in this issue.

Some of the locations where we are receiving the greatest number of complaints are Tryst, Caddy’s, the Landings at Janis, and the Flamingo on 34th Street.

If you can get your officers to buy into the fact that their actions in enforcing this ordinance (just like the vehicles parking in the street or on lawns) impacts quality of life and fits in with the broken window theory, they’ll do a better job with enforcement and not give you the same amount of pushback.

Thanks

Rick Kriseman, Mayor
City of St. Petersburg
P.O. Box 2842
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
(o) (727) 893-7201, (fax) (727) 892-5365
mayor@stpete.org
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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Monday, January 14, 2019

Newly Elected County Commissioner's "I Said I Would" Turns into "No I Won't"


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

County Commissioner Kimberly Overman
As a county commission candidate, Kimberly Overman supported the All for Transportation 30 year $16 Billion sales tax hike referendum. Commissioner White filed a lawsuit contending the charter amendment language was misleading and violated state statute.

As a newly elected commissioner, she stated in a December 4 Tampa Bay Times article about Commissioner White's lawsuit:
County Commissioner Kimberly Overman said the referendum language was vetted closely...“This is a waste of taxpayers’ money and that’s a shame,” Overman said.
Overman made her public claim about the referendum language being vetted as if it was a fact not her opinion.

Facts can be proven. There's been multiple attempts asking for Overman to prove her claim.

Tom Rask, owner and editor of the Tampa Bay Guardian, attended the December 5, 2018 Hillsborough BOCC meeting and made a public comment. From the meeting transcript his comment included:
I WOULD ASK THIS BODY TO ASK HARD QUESTIONS OF AFT, ALL FOR TRANSPORTATION. 
THEY HAD A $4 MILLION BUDGET, AND IT APPEARS THEY DID NOT SPEND A SINGLE DIME ON LEGAL OPINION. 
MR. WILLIS, WHO IS IN THE AUDIENCE HERE, TOLD FLORIDA POLITICS YESTERDAY THAT THE REFERENDUM, THIS THING WAS VETTED BY HOLLAND & KNIGHT, YET THEY DON'T SHOW ANY CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES, ANY PAYMENTS BEING MADE TO HOLLAND & KNIGHT.
I CAN ONLY SEE A CONTRIBUTION FROM HOLLAND & KNIGHT.
IT IS A CASH CONTRIBUTION. IT'S NOT AN IN‑KIND CONTRIBUTION.
SO ASK THEM FOR THE LEGAL OPINION. 
WHAT LEGAL OPINION OR OPINIONS DO ‑‑ DID THEY GET BEFORE THEY PUT THIS ON THE BALLOT?
AND MS., COMMISSIONER OVERMAN WAS QUOTED IN THE TIMES YESTERDAY SAYING THAT THIS REFERENDUM LANGUAGE WAS CLOSELY VETTED.
SO THEREFORE, I'D LIKE TO MAKE A PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST TO THE COUNTY HERE AND NOW FOR WHATEVER RECORDS COMMISSIONER OVERMAN HAS TO SUPPORT THAT POSITION BECAUSE AS COMMISSIONERS, OBVIOUSLY YOU CAN'T JUST RELY ON THE ASSERTIONS AND THE CONCLUSION FROM ALL FOR TRANSPORTATION.
I SENT YOU EXCEPT MS. SMITH BUT I WILL GET IT TO COMMISSIONER SMITH, I SENT PROOF YESTERDAY THAT ALL FOR TRANSPORTATION WAS AWARE OF THIS VERY ISSUE THAT COMMISSIONER WHITE HAS SUED OVER BACK ON JULY 5th. POSSIBLY EARLIER. 
SO IF THEY WERE AWARE OF IT HAVING SPENT ALL THIS MONEY ON PETITION GATHERING, WHY DIDN'T THEY BACK OFF AND MAYBE PUT IT ON A LATER REFERENDUM? 
DID THEY EXPLORE THE ISSUE? 
WAS THERE ANY VALIDITY TO THIS ISSUE? 
Tampa Bay Guardian recently posted this:
Overman’s claim was essentially the same as the one made by All For Transportation (AFT) a day earlier, when AFT spokesman told 10 News that their measure was “thoroughly vetted.” AFT is the group that spent $4 million on the citizen initiative to place the tax hike referendum on the ballot.
However, a public records request to Overman for any records to support her “vetted closely” claim turned up no records. In other words, Overman has no evidence to back up her claim and thus made no effort to independently verify AFT’s claim which she parroted. 
Despite repeated requests from multiple media outlets, AFT itself has failed to produce evidence of any legal review of its tax hike effort prior to placing it on the ballot. 
After Overman made her claim on December 4th, I also requested Overman backup her comments with evidence that the charter amendment was "vetted closely". I sent my inquiry directly to Overman that included asking her who legally vetted the referendum language, when did the vetting occur, what was her role in the vetting, were any potential conflicts addressed and who has statutory authority to allocate the sales surtax proceeds. I also asked for any documentation or communication she had related to the vetting process she clearly stated she knew about.
Overman immediately forwarded my questions, sent directly to her because they were related to what she publicly stated, to the County Attorney's office on December 7th. The County Attorney's office turned around and sent my questions back to Overman for "her" response.

On December 28th, three weeks later, the County Attorney's office sent me a reply that Overman could provide no response and no documentation to back up her claim that the All for Transportation tax hike charter amendment had been "vetted closely" by anyone.

If Overman's claim is factual, it could be proved.  If there is no legal issue that needs addressing, then Overman must know who has statutory authority to appropriate the sales surtax proceeds. However, she refused to answer any questions or provide any evidence that the tax hike charter amendment language was legally vetted.

There is irony in Overman's non response.

Overman used time at the December 5th BOCC meeting for her own public comment. After she patted herself on the back for winning her election, she presented to the other county commissioners a bracelet that says "Because I said I would". Overman stated (emphasis mine):
I ENCOURAGE YOU ALL TO WEAR THIS DAILY AS AN ACCOUNTABILITY REMINDER, ESPECIALLY AS IT RELATES TO THE GREAT RESPONSIBILITY WE HAVE SITTING ON THIS DAIS.
Accountability begins with being truthful, being transparent, being accountable for what you say or do and providing a timely response to Public Records Requests.  

As the Tampa Bay Guardian reported, it took a threat by Mr. Rask on December 22nd that he would sue the county to compel the public records to finally get a response from the county on December 28th, the same day we received our response.

In an email Mr. Rask sent to all the Hillsborough County commissioners regarding Overman's claim and her lack of responsiveness, Rask informed the commissioners:
It turns out that commissioner Overman had nothing to back up her claim - it was just hot air. 
The fact that Overman did not seek to verify this claim by a Vinik-funded group is appalling. Will she be so trusting when Vinik has business before the commission?
Proper governance must include protecting taxpayers, voters and citizens from any deceit, abuse or unlawful actions.

On Kimberly Overman's website for her county commission campaign, she complains "Citizens are tired of being shut out of the process". She states she wants policy proposals using public input, and full transparency at all times.

Yet Overman supported a 30 year $16 Billion tax hike policy proposal funded by wealthy special interests that had no transparency and no public input. 

Overman supported the massive $16 Billion tax hike initiative with ZERO citizen input. She supported a massive tax hike that shut out all citizen engagement, shut down any opportunity for diverse stakeholders to provide input, shut down the ability for any compromise, shut down the ability to consider any alternative funding solutions including one already presented to the BOCC that does not require a massive tax hike, shut down all debate and abusively used local media to push the pro tax hike agenda. 

Overman may have just begun her 4 year term as a county commissioner but she has already diminished her credibility. She refused to heed her own advice about accountability and transparency.

In less than a month, Overman's "I Said I Would" already turned into "No I Won't".
Posted by Sharon Calvert at 8:32 AM 

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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Friday, January 11, 2019

The Medical Up Sell


Have you ever found yourself being sold more medical services than you planned on?

Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
Have you had the experience of going to a dentist, eye doctor, chiropractor or other medical provider and been given a reasonable looking estimate of the cost of the procedure you need or are interested in only to have that cost rise dramatically as the process begins?
There are a lot of names for this type of business practice: bait and switch, entice and transfer, trade up, up sell, move up more; or as I like to call it “lie and cheat.”
Now, there are certainly times that a medical, dental or eye procedure may require additional services, but what I am talking about is a deliberate attempt to lure you in and get you in a position where you have little option but continue with escalating costs.
My wife and I have recently experienced this process, me with a dentist and her with a Lasik process.
In my case, a large dental practice with multiple locations in the bay area that I had been using for years recommended I have an implant where a tooth had been removed.
I agreed and was referred to their traveling oral surgeon.
What started out as an estimate of about $1000.00 for the implant quickly ballooned into a nearly $6000.00 process of deep cleaning, periodontal process, oral gum surgery, tooth extraction (the tooth was on the other side of my mouth) and finally an implant.
Fortunately, they provided estimates prior to any work being performed and I have called a halt to the process.
In my wife’s case one of the larger Lasik/eye centers you see advertised in the Bay area examined my wife, who already knew she needed eye surgery but was looking for services closer to our new home.
Following the examination, she was taken to a “scheduling room”, where a non-medical professional recommended a more expensive lens and other services that “your insurance will not cover.” The cost rose to levels considerably higher than her original Lasik procedure in her other eye. She has decided to go back to her original provider even though the drive will be much longer.
The point of all of this is simply when you walk into a specialty medical facility that looks like a cross between a medieval castle and a new car dealership remember someone has to pay for all of that and that someone is you. The primary reason they don’t accept your medical insurance is that if they do in many cases the insurance provider sets the procedure rates and that limits revenue.
It used to be you could trust your doctor to be fair and honest, and I believe that is still true in many cases. But large practices are often owned by medical businesses and run by non-medical professionals. Their objectives are revenue and return on investment.
So, if you find yourself in a closing room as opposed to an examination room being hustled for expensive procedures and add ons, especially those “your insurance” doesn’t cover, it may be time for you to do some shopping around.
These days caveat emptor (buyer beware) is just as applicable in the medical clinic, vision center or dental practice as it is at the car dealership.
These days you are more of a customer than a patient.
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Monday, January 7, 2019

Rays in Crosshairs of Brash Vegas, Restrained Portland


                                         

          Tampa Bay Beat 
           By Jim Bleyer




Rio All Suites and Casino could be site of new 
Rays stadium in Sin City

The abject failure of Hillsborough County to provide a sensible location and realistic financing for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium has emboldened two western cities that yearn for Major League Baseball.

Both Portland and Las Vegas are rumored to be hastening plans for building state-of-the-art stadiums, even without the awarding of a franchise or commitment for one.  Their tactics mirror the personality of each city: Vegas hasn’t disguised its glee at the Rays’ plight; Portland, publicly at least, is playing its cards close to the vest.
The two cities have reportedly expedited their timetables for stadium construction.
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg asserted last month at Major League Baseball’s winter meetings—held in Las Vegas—that the ephemeral plans for a new stadium in Ybor City, are dead.  Not only was the proposal more flawed than diamonds sold on E-bay, Sternberg was reportedly spooked by associating himself with self-enriching land barons connected to county government cronies.
The Rays owner, a New York resident with no real ties to Tampa Bay, then issued this outlandish statement:
“We’ll continue to look in Tampa Bay and we’ll put our efforts to that,” Sternberg said at a news conference during the winter meetings. “One way or another, we need to figure out where the team is going to be in 2028, if not sooner. Ideally sooner. But absolutely by 2028.”
Don’t buy it.  He knows he will find the best deal elsewhere from cities starving for a MLB franchise that won’t be as attendance-challenged as at Tropicana Field, or very likely, any Tampa Bay location.
For decades, the four major professional sports leagues have shunned Vegas, the world’s number one gambling mecca.  That longtime barrier has fallen with a gigantic thud.
The city is home to the second-year NHL Las Vegas Golden Knights and, along with the state of Nevada, is building a $1.5 billion stadium for the relocation of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders in two years.  The NBA’s Phoenix Suns, unhappy with ancient American Airlines Arena, are leveraging a move to Las Vegas to gain a new facility in the Valley of the Sun.  In November, Major League Baseball named MGM Resorts as its first official gambling partner.
The convergence of events is stunning.
There is rampant speculation that the Vegas stadium will be built on the site of the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, owned by Caesars Entertainment, on Flamingo Boulevard.  This would have been heart breaking a dozen or so years ago but the property has been on a downhill slide.  At least I’ll always have the memory of assisting Teller with a card trick.
What makes the rumors so believable is that Sin City would be hard pressed to find a better location.  In my mind, it is perfect.
The Rio sits on more than 100 acres and is 1.2 miles from Las Vegas Boulevard—The Strip.  Close enough but not too close to bottleneck the main drag any more than it is now.  Tropicana Field, home of the Rays for the time being, sits on 85 acres.
Six-lane Flamingo Road can handle the traffic and it is traversed by Interstate-15.  The cross streets surrounding the Rio are more than adequate.  The hotel runs a shuttle to the strip, similar to the one operated between Tropicana Field-downtown St. Pete. That’s easily replicated if the Rio site becomes home to the Las  Vegas Rays.  City buses also serve the property.
Intersate-15 is .6 miles from the projected stadium site.  Vegas insiders are betting that demolition of the Rio is impending.  Land in proximity to the property is being snapped up by speculators.
Portland has pined for major league baseball for years but, unlike the city 762 miles to the southeast, it’s angling for the Rays with more humility.
John Canzano of the Oregonian, following the Ybor City debacle, wrote that Portland’s movers and shakers should  “operate with caution and humility, and great care.” That’s the Portland way.
Spearheading Portland’s effort to land a MLB franchise is a group known as the Portland Diamond Project. The PDP  has garnered land rights, political support, and allegedly, the blessing of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
”Tampa fell flat on its face,” Canzano wrote, “it didn’t just blink, it shut its eyes.” He added that Portland is, by far, he best city for relocation.  Homer.
The scribe is already concocting nicknames for the team. “Rays” would belie Portland’s reputation for wet weather.  His suggestions: Mavericks, Pioneers, Steelhead. Meh!
The loser in the Rays derby can afford to be patient.  The Oakland Athletics  are nursing stadium and attendance woes with no solutions on the horizon.

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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