Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Ditches of Manatee County


Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

On many of the streets and roadways we drive by, and on, here in Manatee County, they are your constant companion. Look to the right, look to the left, and there they are: open clogged, algae filled, and full of mosquito breeding standing water drainage ditches.

Open ditches here in Manatee County do make for an interesting drive, you never know what you're going to see floating in one of those open trenches.

For a general definition of drainage ditch check out  Center for Environmental Excellence: “Vegetated ditches are ditches with vegetation to reduce water velocities, and erosion control grass mixtures are typically used to vegetate ditches. Vegetated ditches help improve the quality of storm water that runs off a highway by slowing water velocities and trapping sediment, metals, nutrients, petroleum products, pesticides, bacteria and other contaminants.”

The existence of open drainage ditches and culverts can be traced back to as far as 2500 BC. Take a look at this article from Grey Water Action by Joaquin I. Uy Cesspools and Cholera: The Development of the Modern Sewer.

It seems here in Manatee County that the open roadside ditch is the County's answer to storm water and water runoff management, especially in Eastern Manatee County as development runs rampant.

Some developers front their developments with buried culverts while others are allowed to merely create a road access with an overpass/culvert over the open drainage ditch.

Also, take note of this: if you look carefully at the site plan of your current or proposed new home in a development here in Manatee County, you will notice something on the site plan called drainage easement. This drainage easement is essentially a somewhat shallow open drainage ditch as defined above to lead rainwater and storm water out of the home sites of a development often draining into a retention pond which ultimately empties into a roadside drainage ditch.

We built our new home here in Manatee County in 2018 and 2019, and one of the things that I have noticed is that within 3 miles of my new home, two new homes have been constructed both with septic tank systems. Both homes are located on roads with open drainage ditches, and the septic systems are within a few yards of the open drainage ditch.

Why Manatee County is still allowing septic systems to be used in new homes needs a review.

Maintenance on these Manatee County open ditches seem to be a bit sporadic. At least in my area of Manatee County along Gillette Road and Experimental Farm Road, open ditch maintenance rarely occurs.

To report infrastructure and maintenance issues such as a drainage ditch that is full of standing water, clogged, overgrown, or blocked call Manatee County Public Works at (941) 708-7497, or report the issue online.

Don't stand around waiting for a rapid response, you'll go on what is a fairly long list and the County will get to it someday.

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Friday, March 26, 2021

What was Hills. County’s responsibility in unlawful multibillion sales tax?

 Tampa, Fl     

From: Tampa Bay Guardian   

Edited by: Tom Rask          

Posted by TBG2016 on MARCH 21, 2021

What is a county’s responsibility when a citizen initiative puts a tax increase on the ballot? Hillsborough County may be in the process of finding out the answer to that question. Last week saw a flurry of activity in the matter of the 1% sales tax hike, largely to fund transit. The Florida Supreme Court struck down the tax as unconstitutional on February 25th, over two years since it went in to effect.  

”Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White was the prevailing party in that case. On Wednesday, the county filed this motion asking the circuit court to “convene a case management conference to hear input form the Clerk, DOR [Florida Department of Revenue] and other affected parties to address a refund process.

Attorney Chris Altenbernd, representing Stacy White, filed this response the next day saying that the county’s “motion should be denied as procedurally unauthorized” and that the county “is seeking to hijack this case to become the plaintiff in an action for declaratory relief.”

Altenbernd wrote 1,400 legal opinions during the 27 years that he was a Florida appeals judge.

In its motion, the county also claimed that the case management conference would include government agencies “and other affected parties.” But Altenbernd responded that “not a single person who paid the tax is a party to this proceeding except for Mr. White….He is not willing to be, and cannot properly be, a class representative for the people who paid this tax.”

Which brings us to the other legal action last week. This class action lawsuit was filed in Leon County against DOR and the county on Tuesday seeking “a permanent injunction against further administration, collection, and enforcement of the Surtax” on the grounds of its unconstitutionality.

All this legal wrangling will certainly cost the taxpayers of Hillsborough County a lot of money, but it also raises the question: what legal responsibilities did Hillsborough County’s have in this citizen ballot initiative? Note that the tax referendum was placed on the ballot through citizen initiative, not county commission action.

Simply put, the county has a fiduciary duty to citizens to only take lawful action, to take no action in support of unlawful action, and to protect taxpayers from any unlawful actions. All For Transportation (AFT), the campaign in favor of the tax backed by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, publicly represented that it had obtained independent legal opinions that their tax was constitutional. But that turned out be a lie.

In the discovery phase of White’s lawsuit, AFT was unable to produce any such written opinion from any independent lawyer or scholar. Since the county was a party to the lawsuit, they therefore knew at that point that AFT had lied about that aspect.

Even if AFT hadn’t lied, once White’s lawsuit was filed, a prudent county would have obtained its own independent legal opinion as to the lawfulness of the tax. We have made a public records request of the county for any such independent legal opinions.

“The County apparently relied upon that assurance [from AFT] to levy the tax rather than to ask this Court to delay its collection,” Altenbernd wrote in his motion. “If anything, the County should seek to obtain reimbursement from these entities for the expenses that they have caused the County in this matter.”

Whether the county would ask reimbursement from AFT  for the expenses it has incurred in this AFT-created mess is unclear.  We will ask the county commissioners and report back to you, just as we will let you know if the county obtained its own legal opinion on this tax.

As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish articles.

READ THIS POST AT: Tampa Bay Guardian

This post is contributed by the Tampa Bay Guardian. The views expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet or any publications, blogs or social media pages where it may appear.

Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Guardian

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Is Florida Ready for the Children?

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

 In president Biden’s headlong rush to undo everything Trump, his decision to lift the border controls may turn out to be one of the worst decisions he made in his first 100 days.

There's no doubt, that the unaccompanied minor immigration problem began to get worse near the end of the Trump administration, but the problem was largely contained on the Mexico side of the border.

For some insight check out this article from the Council on Foreign Relations 100 Written By Claire Felter, Danielle Renwick, and Amelia Cheatham: The U.S. Immigration Debate.

From OCHA The United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs by Adam Isacson, Maureen Meyer, Stephanie Brewer, and Elyssa Pachico: Putting the U.S.-Mexico ‘border crisis’ narrative into context quoting: “It is quite possible that 2021 will be a record-breaking year for unaccompanied children crossing the border. The Biden administration had previously predicted that up to 117,000 unaccompanied migrant children could cross the border in the 2021 fiscal year (breaking the previous record of 76,020 children in 2019).”

Given Florida’s growing Hispanic population, no doubt a significant number of these unaccompanied minors will be placed with friends and family in Florida along with Florida foster homes.

So far, Governor DeSantis has not had a great deal to say about the pending problem at the border, but there will no doubt be a significant uptick in the number of undocumented children in Florida and Governor DeSantis may not be able to count on the Biden administration for much support in dealing with the problem.

2019 Data from The Florida Department of Children and Families:

From  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA), Content last reviewed March 17, 2021: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Unaccompanied Children

There could be a significant budget impact at the State, County level, and School Board level as these children enter the health care and the educational systems of the State.

There will be opportunities for faith-based organizations as well as social service agencies to step in and lend a helping hand regarding the care and integration of these undocumented minors into local communities.

The flow of these undocumented immigrants, regardless of what the Biden administration tries to do, is now going to grow because it seems to me unlikely that President Biden will be unwilling to implement anything that begins to look like the Trump border restrictions.

Instead of a lot of finger pointing, yelling, screaming and political rhetoric it's time for all of us to take a look at this problem and see what if anything we can contribute to its impact on Florida and our local communities.

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Friday, March 19, 2021

The Bawling Bar Owners


WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

For some insight check out this FOX 13 News piece by Dan Matics: ‘We are exhausted’: St. Pete bars, restaurants against mayor's two strikes and you’re out proposal.

Mayor Kriseman told Fox News he is asking City Council to change things from fines to pulling the establishment's ability to operate after midnight if a business or bar has two violations.

10 Tampa Bay Hews Author: Candice Aviles: St Petersburg city council votes no on 'two strikes' and you’re out proposal

St Pete Catalyst by Margie Manning: City Council nixes effort to crack down on Covid code violations

From the Catalyst article “Council members Foster and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman cast the only two votes for the plan, while Council members Montanari, Blackmon, Gina Driscoll, Darden Rice and Brandi Gabbard voted against it. Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders was absent.”

How much of a role did politics play?

From the St. Pete Campaign Finance Portal

Running for Re-election:
Brandi Gabbard
Gina Dirscoll

Thinking About Running for St. Pete Mayor:
Ed Montanari
Robert Blackman

Running for St. Pete Mayor:
Darden Rice

 In addition, the bar business in general is a good friend at campaign time to the politicians who lean their way.

Mayor Kriseman’s plan was loaded with potential legal issues that could have found the city caught up in a continuing stream of legal battles with the bar and hospitality people.

Not a good way to invest your time or resources given everything else that is going on.

You do have to give the Mayor some high marks for stepping into the breach of an argument like this and taking an aggressive stand.

One can only hope that the bar businesses in Saint Pete will get the message and act responsibly.

But then hope rarely springs eternal.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Rebate Unlawful Transit Tax Dollars, Fix Our Roads First and Do Not Trust AFT

 Tampa, Fl   

From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

The All for Transportation (AFT) unlawful and egregious 2018 rail tax was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court. 

Sharon Calvert, co-founder of this blog and No Tax For Tracks, was a guest on Saturday's AM860 BrookeTalksAmerica podcast to talk about the illegal AFT transit tax and where to go from here. Take about 15 minutes to listen as Calvert emphasized the paradigm shifts away from traditional transit and costly rail, the need to fix our roads first and stop another wasteful AFT 2.0 rail tax boondoggle.

AFT's 30 year $16 Billion spending plan was not developed by transportation engineers, planners and financial professionals. It was created by transit activists outside Sunshine with no transparency and with no public input. 

AFT colluded in the dark in 2018 with influential power players and wealthy special interests who funded their unlawful transit tax hike effort. An astroturfed AFT spent at least $4 million of special interests money deceiving the public their rail tax would reduce congestion and fix roads. 

Now AFT is demanding Hillsborough County commissioners put AFT rail tax 2.0 on the 2022 ballot. 

But it was AFT and their crony special interests donor base who created a big, costly mess.

AFT caused $502 million to illegally be taken out of the pockets of taxpayers. Those unlawfully taken dollars must be rebated asap back to the people of Hillsborough County.

AFT forced taxpayers to unnecessarily spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on legal costs.

AFT failed to legally vet their $16 Billion rail tax hike and misled the voting public.

Failure, especially an epic failure to abide by state law, should never be rewarded.

AFT cannot be trusted to have the best interests of all residents in Hillsborough County.

AFT has a right to their opinion but that is it. Others with differing opinions and alternative plans and proposals must have the opportunity to provide input in a transparent process. 

Debate on the local transportation issue must be in the Sunshine, open, transparent and robust.

Transportation plans going forward in Hillsborough County must consider the following:


 Hillsborough County commissioners must rebuild trust after the damage AFT caused in the county. Watch them very closely.

Six of the Hillsborough County commission seats (all but Pat Kemp's countywide seat) are up for re-election in 2022.

Posted by Sharon Calvert at 8:34 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


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

My COVID-19 Vaccination - Shot One


WEST COAST        
Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

 I registered for my covid vaccination first shot, on February 23rd at about 4:00 PM as you can see from this copy of the email notice I received.

The registration process and the website were easy and straightforward. The site responded immediately and there was no problem filling out the information and when I clicked finished it quickly returned a form submitted notice.

Form name

CURRENT Manatee County COVID-19 Vaccine Standby Pool (65+) - 2/2/21

Date submitted

Feb 23, 2021, 04:04PM EST.

On March 5th, as I was driving over to the East Coast, I received a phone call from Manatee County Health indicating they had sent my appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination and it was ready for confirmation.

Since I was driving at the time, I had to wait until my next stop to check the message. When I check there was even more detail in the text message and a link to click to confirm the appointment. I clicked on the link, typed in the required number and hit send within just a few moments I received a confirmation shown below.


I headed down to Tom Bennett park about 20 minutes before my scheduled appointment time and much to my surprise as I turned into the Park there was no line, I drove up to the 1st check in tent and I was the second car back. There are about 3 check-in tent stops on your way to get the covid vaccination shot, and each one performs a record verification and recordkeeping check.

The entire process to get to the point of vaccination took just a little over 5 minutes. Everybody was cordial, helpful and genuinely interested and doing the tough job of making sure people get vaccinated.

I pulled up to the actual vaccination site and was greeted by a very pleasant nurse who informed me about the shot and the nature of the injection. I had a couple of questions which she answered very clearly and distinctly. I received my vaccination and moved onto the holding area.

The holding area is merely about four or five lanes of cars. They have you park in one lane and wait there for about 7 to 12 minutes while they make sure that there are no adverse reactions to the vaccine. It is all handled very well and there are a number of people circulating through the parked cars checking on you to make sure everything is OK.

Once you get through with the holding lane. They give you a vaccine ID card you are waved on and off you go.

So here is a rundown of my reaction to the first shot of the COVID-19 virus.

On March 5th, following the vaccination my left arm where the vaccine was given was slightly tender to the touch no other issues. The night of March 5th I slept well but deliberately did not sleep on the left arm.

On March 6th, the left arm near the injection site was slightly more tender but there was no difficulty or discomfort in moving or using the arm to lift or pull. The night of March 6 I had some very mild discomfort with the arm during the night.

On March 7th, the left arm around the injection site had gotten just a bit more tender to the touch but still no difficulty using the arm whatsoever. Late in the day on the 7th I developed some mild sniffles, but given the current pollen count it is quite likely they were not attributable to the virus vaccination.

On March 8th, as I write this, my left arm near the injection site is completely back to normal with no discomfort whatsoever.

I hope this will be of some help to you as you consider whether or not you want to get the vaccination. I also fully realized that not everybody will react the same way to the vaccination. In my case there were genuinely no adverse effects.

The availability of the vaccine to various groups and age ranges is changing quickly. While it may be a little confusing to you if you listen to the news reports, there are several sites that you can go to check on availability.

The commercial sites such as Publix CVS, Walgreens, and maybe your local primary care provider are beginning to get doses of the vaccine. If you check on these websites and find them full or not taking reservations, please check back if that is the source you want to use and keep in mind, they are limited by two factors; the number of doses of vaccine they receive, and their physical ability to accommodate customers wishing to be vaccinated.

If you register through the Manatee County site, you get a registration for the first shot and you get a registration for your second shot scheduled at the same time.

You will notice on the form above there will be a link that says print and complete your vaccine consent Form before you arrive. It is not an overly complicated form and only takes a few minutes to complete.

You will also need and official ID, and you should have your Health Insurance card(s) especially if you are using one of the retail sites (Walgreens, CVC, Publix).

When you arrive for your appointment, they will take your temperature and the form from you and file it. You will need the same form filled out for your second appointment.

So, when you print the form my suggestion is you print 2 copies so that you will have the second one to take with you for your second shot.

If you need assistance, please contact (941) 742-4300 or 311.

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Friday, March 5, 2021

Manatee County Commission off the Rails

WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

Just about the time you think things on the Manatee County Commission cannot get any dumber or more convoluted - they do.

Let's follow the sequence of events.

Even before then-current County Administrator Cheri Coryea had worked out a termination agreement, the County Attorney was negotiating for her temporary replacement with former Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines to take an interim position as Manatee County Administrator.

After some soul-searching and more than likely some counseling from friends and political allies, former Commissioner Hines decided to step down from his interest in the interim position.

Sometimes the political tea leaves are just easy to read.

The County commissioners then voted to install deputy County Administrator Karen Stewart as the interim County administrator, but she only agreed to take the job for a month the thinking being she does not want to put herself in a position where she can be fired by the County Commission.

So much for staff trust and confidence in the Manatee County Commission.

The Bradenton Times: County Commission Drags Feet on Interim Administrator

In what must be viewed as only mildly short of insane, the County Commission is now considering Manatee County School Board Member Scott Hopes, who was appointed to the school Board by Governor Rick Scott, and Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance CEO, Dom Dimaio, to serve as interim County administrator until a search for the new County administrator can be completed.

Hopes, while he may be a good administrator, or he may not, is a political appointee of and that comes with a lot of expectations from the governor.

Dimaio, as CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance (Note that is Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, probably spends a significant amount of his time trying to figure out how to beat the County at its own game. His approach to the County Administrator's job would certainly be interesting.

All of this is anticipated to take about a year.

Given the Manatee County Commission's previous approach to making these decisions, it will be a wasted year as whoever they picked from the School Board or from the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance will probably end up as the County Administrator.

In the meantime, Manatee County Commission chairperson Vanessa Baugh’s problems continue to multiply. She's now the subject of an Ethics Commission complaint. See The Sunshine Gazette article By Joe Hendricks Baugh named in vaccine-related ethics complaint

Not too surprisingly the Manatee County Commission approval rating has tanked. See the Bradenton Times: BOCC Approval Rating Plummets  “Out of 450 respondents, 95 percent (428) said they did not (approve), while only 5 percent (22) said that they did.”

All of this might just be so much humorous political theater if it were not for the fact that Manatee County is up to its open drainage ditches and narrow roads in big trouble.

See my Post Manatee County Slowly Killing the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs

While the former Manatee County Administrator spent most of her time playing feel good politics and hanging her staff out to dry for any mistakes, the Chairperson of the County Commission was courting political favors from the governor's office to the management office out at Lakewood Ranch while serving her own personal and political needs.

Who knows what else is going on?

Let's hope the Ethics Commission does its job.

Given the mess here in Manatee County, it is going to be difficult for the County Commission to hire a competent county or municipal administrator. Most of the people in this profession can smell a mess like Manatee County from a mile away.

I would doubt that Manatee County Commission has the courage to buck SMR and the other big developers or the willingness to pay what will be necessary to get a competent administrator to take the position, and that they would be willing to back him or her once they got here.

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