Friday, September 27, 2019

The Impeachocrats

Whether it is smiling Bernie, cackling Elisabeth or angry Kamala socialism is socialism, it has never worked and it never will.

Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin
It seems every time you catch a news cast on broadcast or cable, local or national most of what you hear from the Democrats are impeachment, impeachment.
The broadcast and cable media love it because it makes it easy to fill the 24-hour news cycle, Democrats love it because it assures them of prime time spots in the news cycle, and the print media love it because they all dream of the possibility of a resurgence in print media interest from the days of the Nixon impeachment.
The frenzy increases with every new revelation about anything the Trump Administration does or the President tweets.
While impeachment is a serious business, someone did ask me the other day if the toilets in the capital building quit working would the Democrats move to impeach the person in charge of maintenance or just simply fire him/her?
Hard to say, but the Democrats are on an impeachment roll.
Frustrated by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, at almost every turn, legal and other wise, the Democrats find themselves and their leaders standing in the marbled walls of the Capital in front of any camera they can find and scream impeachment.
It is getting less and less impressive as time rolls on. I guess “the sky is falling; the sky is falling” is lost literature at this point.
One thing you can do is look at who is screaming impeachment the loudest.
The “Squad” as they are affectionately known are among the biggest proponents of impeaching everyone who disagrees with them and or their ideology.
These people are NOT looking to fix any current problems with the way our system of government is currently working they are looking to fundamentally change our form of government by subverting the concept of government by the people and replacing it with government by scream.
In the impeachment conversation, people are constantly questioning Trump’s mental status, but if you want a serious look at what confronts us look into Elisabeth Warren’s eyes as she riles against her view of our current democracy.
Our democracy is not perfect, never has been, never will be. But the basic pillars that allow you to get up every day, work at your job, raise and educate your children and enjoy life in a robust economy, and an environment free of political oppression are under attack.
Right now, they talk about coming after the wealthy to “redistribute” wealth, but what happens when they have accomplished that? The answer is they come after you next.
Whether it is smiling Bernie, cackling Elisabeth or angry Kamala socialism is socialism, it has never worked, and it never will and the only Democratic candidate who really gets that is Joe Biden.
We have a process in this country for adjusting our political land scape: it is called an election. It has served us well for over 200 years. In that time, the American people have selected their leaders some good, some not so good without the overreaching help of a band of offended politicians.
It is time for the legislative branch to stop spending their time adding up their NPR and CNN prime time minutes and get back to the people’s work.
If we think, the president is as awful as you say he is, then in just over a year we will replace him. We will replace him that is, if you Democrats can nominate someone who is not so far left he/she not only wants to take all the guns but our wealth, accomplishments and future along with it.
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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Influential Business Group Slams Hillsborough’s Fraudulent Transit Tax

Tampa, Fl
Tampa Bay Beat
By: Jim Bleyer


By Jim Bleyer
Another heavy hitter has weighed in against the specious, politically-motivated Hillsborough County transit tax.
In an amicus curiae brief to the Florida Supreme Court, Associated Industries of Florida asserted that the entire $15 billion transportation sales tax levy should be tossed.
District Court Judge Rex Barbas threw out major portions of All for Transportation’s transit tax, including its mandated spending allocations, as illegal and unlawful.  But Barbas, channelling King Solomon, let collection of the tax stand.
“The Trial Court also erred in not striking all the initiative language its ruling covered, before determining severability,” wrote AIF’s attorney Daniel Woodring.  “It is unreasonable to have a $15 billion levy with mandatory restrictions, to strike all the major restrictions as unconstitutional, and then assume the voters would still have voted the same way.”
With the filing of the 22-page brief , AIF joins the Florida House and Florida Senate as opposing the tax and requesting the court to strike the entire All for Transportation charter amendment including the tax.
The tax was on last November’s ballot and passed with 57 percent voter support.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit in December against numerous defendants related to the $15 billion transit tax hike charter amendment challenging the language used in the charter amendment.  Both White and AFT filed appeals of Barbas’ ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.
Tampa Bay Beat has learned that All For Transportation, in anticipation of the Florida Supreme Court handing it a defeat, is drafting a new amendment for the November, 2020 ballot.
AIF is in its 100th year of representing Florida businesses and has always been regarded as one of Tallahassee’s major power players.  It describes itself as upholding the “principles of prosperity and free enterprise before the three branches of state government since 1920….created to foster an economic climate in Florida conducive to the growth, development, and welfare of industry and business and the people of the state.”
Despite its moniker, All for Transportation overwhelmingly consists of a few businessmen, led by Jeff Vinik, who stand to profit from a light rail system running through downtown Tampa. The initiative was a totally paid professional campaign job assisted by some political insiders.
Ballot language was intentionally deceptive and misleading to voters who thought the massive tax collection would be earmarked for roads instead of a light rail system primarily to benefit the City of Tampa and real estate profiteers.
The effort was abetted by the Tampa Bay Times who failed to report the initiative’s misleading language and other serious problems with the referendum which made Hillsborough County the highest sales tax collector in Florida.
Vinik and some of those same profiteers bailed the Times out of bankruptcy in 2017.  Public records show the Times is at minimum $132 million in debt with liens against its pension fund. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal agency, can back up the pensions to the tune of 80 percent.
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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Commissioners Pursue Ordinance To Shut Down Funding of New Roads To Fund Rail

AFT misled voters last year when they sold their rail tax as a road tax to fix roads and reduce congestion.

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

Some Hillsborough County commissioners want to implement the "will of All for Transportation" by reinstating the All for Transportation (AFT) spending mandates thrown out by a judge,

The four county commissioners pursuing this action are those who supported the $16 Billion onerous and burdensome AFT transit tax - Les Miller, Pat Kemp, Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith.

These four commissioners want to rush action to reinstate AFT's pre-determined spending allocations and funding prohibitions thru a county ordinance. They know all the legal issues have not been resolved.

But they scheduled a public hearing anyway for their proposed ordinance
 at tomorrow's September 18, 2019 BOCC meeting at 10am.

These commissioners want to implement the "will of All for Transportation" which is to shut down funding for new road capacity and road widening NEEDS to fund costly rail project WANTS in Tampa.

AFT confirmed in a recent tweet their pre-defined "cafeteria" of spending allocations do NOT include funding for road widening or new roads. As we warned last year, AFT is a rail tax.

AFT Tweets their transit tax funds rail not roads
AFT misled voters last year when they sold their rail tax as a road tax to fix roads and reduce congestion.

There is no legal requirement for the county to reinstate any of AFT's spending mandates, percentages or allocations.

Don't be fooled by political rhetoric from AFT or anyone else, and parroted by local media, claiming the county commissioners must reinstate AFT's spending mandates because of the "will of the people".

That is a false claim according to the Circuit Court judge who threw out AFT's spending allocations.

The Circuit Court judge who threw out all of AFT's spending mandates as illegal and unlawful left the tax itself standing. But he basically ruled the "will of the voters" was they only voted for a transportation tax and NOT AFT's spending allocations.

If a lower court judge ruled voters did not vote for AFT's spending allocations, why would any county commissioner want to reinstate them?

The county commissioners had nothing to do with creating AFT's spending mandates - no governing entity was involved. The fact is AFT crafted their legally flawed transit tax in the dark behind closed doors with a select few influential and wealthy power brokers.

And AFT never had their massive transit tax legally vetted.

As a result of AFT's negligence and/or incompetence, AFT subjected voters to a legally flawed transit tax referendum and created a big legal mess. The legal issues, now at the FL Supreme Court, have yet to be completely resolved.

AFT is a political committee initiated by transit activists who created made up their spending mandates based on their political ideology - not transportation expertise. No transportation experts or transportation engineers or governing entities were involved and AFT excluded the public from any opportunity to weigh in.

AFT has never informed the public how they calculated "their" pre-determined spending allocations.


Because according to the Deposition of AFT's Chair Tyler Hudson in April, he was asked (at about page 42) numerous questions about how AFT calculated their spending percentages. Hudson/AFT and his lawyers responded that information is
"protected by the First Amendment, it's political speech, free speech, it's not relevant and the line of questioning will have a standing objection to not response to those—that line of questioning."
AFT admits "their" spending mandates are political and part of their political strategy. Thus, they refuse to publicly provide important information critical for decision making about a 30 year $16 Billion transit tax.

And worse AFT tried to hide their political strategy and motivations by excluding any reference to their spending mandates in their ballot summary language - the only information every voter is guaranteed the opportunity to read before voting.

Operating with such secrecy and deception about a $16 Billion transit tax is appalling.

County commissioners should always embrace governing in the Sunshine, not rewarding those who govern in the dark and mislead voters.

The four Democrat commissioners pushing the ordinance have the majority votes to pass the ordinance on Wednesday.

All three countywide commissioners (Kemp, Overman, Smith) want to reinstate AFT's specific prohibitions of using the tax proceeds to fund much needed new road capacity in unincorporated Hillsborough.
AFT prohibits and limits funding of new road capacity
That is totally unfair to the residents in unincorporated Hillsborough who will pay 74% of all the tax proceeds and get no congestion relief.

At a workshop in April the commissioners were warned by county staff - after spending $1.4 Billion of AFT tax proceeds over the first 10 years of the tax as AFT mandates will cause a massive funding gap for road widening needs.
AFT's spending allocations over 1st 10 years creates
massive funding gap for road widening/new roads
Therefore, the four county commissioners pursuing reinstating AFT's unfair and unbalanced spending allocations cannot claim ignorance. These commissioners know that implementing the "will of All for Transportation" will create congestion chaos and gridlock.

Other than kowtowing to the All for Transportation political committee and their wealthy special interests donors, there appears to be no positive upside for these county commissioners to reinstate AFT's unfair and unbalanced spending allocations.

The downside is obvious.

And taking such actions while all the legal issues have not been resolved is foolish and could cause more legal problems. Putting taxpayers at more risk is unacceptable.

This ordinance is bad policy that rewards those who misled voters, subjected voters to a legally flawed massive transit tax and created a big legal mess.

To voice your opposition, contact the county commissioners or show up at the public hearing tomorrow. Tell them you oppose the ordinance to reinstate AFT's unfair and unbalanced spending allocations when there is no legal requirement to do so and the commissioners need to allow the judicial process to completely resolve all the AFT legal issues.

The county commissioners can be held accountable for their actions.

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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Are Seawalls the real answer to Florida’s Sea-Level Rise problem?


As many states struggle with the looming impact of sea-level rise, Florida stands out as the state with the biggest problem.

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

Sea-level rise will be a major issue in the Tampa Bay region, with reports estimating the impact in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties could reach over $5 billion in the coming years.

Here is more information on the coming sea-level rise problem from the Tampa Bay Times by Kirby Wilson: Florida could face $76 billion in climate change costs by 2040, report says.
The Tampa Bay Times article focuses on seawalls and only makes a casual reference to the possibility the seawalls may not be the total answer.

The real questions to ask at this point is this large scale highly costly public works effort at holding back the sea:
1. Will they really work?
2. What is the ongoing cost and maintenance?
3. Can they ever be constructed high enough to protect from storm surge and remain in tack?
4. Who stands to profit from these massive public works projects?

Here is some additional information.

Reports and studies like the one in the Tampa Bay Times article are being floated about by the rapidly growing Sea-Level rise industry that will bring massive construction  projects to local, county, state and federal governments and agencies in an attempt to create what could likely challenge the interstate highway system in size, level of effort and cost.

Public works projects such as seawalls of the size and scope necessary to mitigate the projected sea level impact may not be effective.

An article from Yale Coastal Connections by Jan Ellen Spiegel:
As Sea Levels Rise, How Best to Protect Coasts details some of the concerns and impacts of man made solid coastal barriers.

As sea-level rise begins to attack the affluent seaside neighborhoods, coastal high-rise developments and coastal communities, the cry will be to save this private property from the rising water. These pleas will be delivered to all levels of government and the pressure to make the attempt to hold back the inevitable will be immense.

In the not too distant future, the Federal Flood Insurance program must begin to remove these projected flooding areas from coverage, or it will quickly go bankrupt. Private insurance carriers too will need to make changes to protect themselves from a known property loss risk.

As the sea-level rise process continues, the lack of insurance coverage and rapidly dropping property values will make selling and financing properties in sea-level rise areas all but impossible.

Governments at all levels must be aware of the consequences of investing in sea walls or other physical barriers to protect specific pieces of private property.

The time has come to restrict flood prone area development and redevelopment, to begin to set aside funds to acquire low level lying property and convert it to green space to mitigate the financial impact of the sea-level rise.

The financial impacts of climate change and sea-level rise in Florida are significant as indicated in the article referenced above.

It is time to apply some common sense before we begin building seawalls.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

AFT Spokesperson/Vinik Employee Christina Barker Cited in FL Senate Brief

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

As reported, a Circuit Court Judge threw out major portions of All for Transportation's transit tax, including their mandated spending allocations, as illegal and unlawful. The judge, who is elected and will probably run again, split the baby and left the tax itself still standing.

Numerous appeals have been filed to the Florida Supreme Court. The appeals include those filed by All for Transportation according to this Times article.

Since the legal appeals were filed, the Florida House and Florida Senate have filed amicus curiae briefs with the Florida Supreme Court requesting the Court to strike the entire All for Transportation charter amendment including the tax.

The Florida House and Senate amicus curiae briefs can be found here
 and here

The Senate brief states they are joining the brief filed by the House and also states (we included link to Times article referenced):
On September 4, 2019 the Tampa Bay Times published an article that was entitled Hillsborough's transportation tax has a new opponent: the Florida House.  
The article included the following quote from the organizer for All for Transportation, Christina Barker, the sponsor of the referendum at issue in this case: “Hillsborough County voters exercised a right that the Florida Legislature gave them. The fact that this is being walked back now is incredibly disappointing.”

The Senate wishes to appear in this case as an additional amicus curiae and join in the House brief in order to clarify that both Chambers of the Legislature support the House’s position stated therein. The Legislature is united in seeking a proper interpretation and enforcement of section 212.055, Florida Statutes, and in opposing an expansion of the severability doctrine to include local exercises of legislatively delegated non-ad valorem taxation authority.

The Senate agrees with and supports the House position, which respects and protects the voters. Unlawful referendums that do not follow the clear procedures laid out by statute should not be judicially repaired by the trial court. The result reached by the trial court ignores the premise upon which voters may have supported the referendum, namely how the transportation tax would be administered.

So who is Christina Barker who was specifically cited in the amicus curiae brief filed by the Florida Senate? 

Let's find out as we continue our Sunlight series about those associated with All for Transportation (AFT) and their legally flawed $16 Billion transit tax.

We previously posted here and here how transit advocate Kevin Thurman crafted and shopped a transit tax strategy to inside power players, including those at Tampa International Airport.
Christina Barker
In a text message from Kevin Thurman to Janet Scherberger (Joe Lopano's VP of Communications at Tampa International Airport) dated April 18, 2018, Thurman told Janet Scherberger :

"Between you and me: Christina Barker has been involved from day one."

According to Barker's LinkedIn, she previously worked for transit lobbyist organization Tampa Bay Partnership. Tampa Bay Partnership donated $250K to All for Transportation, including $150K of initial seed money to support AFT's tax hike petition drive. 

The Tampa Bay Partnership has been the largest supporter of rail tax hikes in Tampa Bay.

Barker, a transit advocate, was the Finance Director for the failed Greenlight Pinellas rail tax boondoggle in 2014 while she worked for the Tampa Bay Partnership. 

In December 2014 after Greenlight Pinellas had failed, Barker went to work for Mayor Buckhorn in a position titled "Special Assistant to the Mayor ". We do not know what that job was actually for because Barker's LinkedIn provides nothing about what her accomplishments were or what she did during her time as "Special Assistant to the Mayor".

Barker was working for Mayor Buckhorn at the same time Ali Glisson was Buckhorn's Public Affairs Director. Glisson went to work for Jeff Vinik's Strategic Property Partners in 2015. As we posted here, Glisson is married to transit advocate Kevin Thurman who started the AFT transit tax citizen petition initiative.

The April text message referenced above confirms Barker was helping Thurman create the All for Transportation transit tax hike charter amendment at the same time she was working for Mayor Buckhorn.

We can reasonably assume the "Special Assistant to the Mayor" kept Mayor Buckhorn, a long time rail tax advocate, fully informed of the transit tax being orchestrated behind closed doors.

Barker was conveniently hired by Jeff Vinik on June 1, 2018, just 2 weeks before All for Transportation launched their transit tax hike petition drive on June 14th. Barker went from "Special Assistant to the Mayor, to a vice president of community partnerships and policy for the Vinik Family Office.

The Vinik Family Office is a member of the Tampa Bay Partnership. About 20 donors directly associated with Vinik and the Tampa Bay Partnership donated at least 60% of the $4 million that was donated to AFT.

Vinik also seeded AFT $150K to support the petition drive and became AFT's largest donor, donating over $800K from his various legal entities to the AFT PAC.

And Barker became an AFT public spokesperson.

With a masters degree in political campaigning, Barker became Vinik's personal campaign director and community organizer for the AFT transit tax he was heavily funding. Often a person who donates big money to a campaign gets a big say in the campaign.

Barker was invited to participate on a "transportation" panel hosted by the Tampa Bay Business Journal a week before the election. Barker, who is not a transportation expert, admitted:
Our story is one of a few people who got together. We were writing a charter
amendment over drinks. We shopped that charter amendment around.
There is great risk with writing a $16 Billion transit tax and 30 years of spending mandates by a few people over drinks…. and never legally vetting it.

Commissioner Stacy White filed his initial lawsuit on December 4, 2018 challenging the legality of the AFT's transit tax charter amendment referendum. White's lawsuit was not filed against All for Transportation but against the county who placed the flawed transit tax on the ballot and other governmental entities receiving and distributing the tax proceeds.

On December 11, 2018, a week after Commissioner Stacy White filed his lawsuit challenging the AFT transit tax, Barker was added as an Officer of AFT's affiliated nonprofit Keep Hillsborough Moving, Inc.

With Barker as an Officer of Keep Hillsborough Moving, Vinik has a direct connection into running All for Transportation with no transparency. Nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors and expenditures.

The last disclosed donation made to AFT according to AFT's campaign filings (found on the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections website) was on December 18, 2018. That was a donation of $85K from Jeff Vinik's private investment firm American Investment Holdings.

The very next day on December 19, 2018, and a week after Barker became an Officer of Keep Hillsborough Moving, Inc., AFT hired high priced big gun lawyers to intervene in White's lawsuit.

With AFT's disregard for transparency, to date they have never disclosed who is paying their expensive legal services and appeals.

Through a Public Records Request, we found that Barker applied for in February, while the AFT transit tax is in litigation, a gubernatorial appointment by a Republican Governor to the regional transit agency TBARTA.

That is almost surreal since Barker recently posted some highly partisan tweets, a post from the Progressive transit advocacy blog Streetsblog that has numerous inaccuracies and conspiratorially blames the Koch Brothers…..and tweets the Times article accusing Florida House of being "Republican meddlers"... 
Tweet from Streetsblog Barker retweeted
(click to enlarge)

Just last year the state legislature passed HB1393, an 89 page bill that gave Barker's employer, Jeff Vinik enormous powers in his Water Street Independent Special District. Those powers included eminent domain and powers to impose taxes, fees and assessments.

Do Barker's public accusations against the Florida legislature reflect well on her employer?

The State Legislature has the responsibility for creating the laws, setting the rules and defining the procedures of county charters and the levying of any local sales tax. The State has a vested interest that those laws, rules and procedures are followed.

Local governments do not have any powers inconsistent with State law or the Constitution.

It is not "meddling" for those who create the laws to ensure those laws are followed.

One day the shoe may be on the other foot on an issue that Barker opposes.

And we bet she will want the rule of law to prevail.

Posted by Sharon Calvert at 3:30 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