Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Dealing With Guns


 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Reform Needed ASAP As Road Diets Being Imposed in Florida With NO Public Hearings


 Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay

Posted by: Sharon Calvert


34th Street S in St. Petersburg is a State owned road (US 19) state taxpayers have paid for. St. Petersburg does NOT own that road. Five new apartment complexes with almost a 1000 new apartment units are about to open on 34th Street S. Redevelopment is already occurring. Not only is dense apartment growth and more redevelopment coming to 34th Street S, Road Diets are on the way too.

PSTA, Forward Pinellas MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) are imposing Road Diets on 34th Street S from 22nd Avenue S to 54th Avenue S. They are removing general vehicle lanes of traffic that over 98% of us use everyday for bus only lanes when less than 2% use transit. The corridor where the lanes are being removed have connections to I-275 North and South at both ends and within the corridor. 

Forward Pinellas hosted ONE "Open House" meeting in April 2019 to inform the public of the "proposed" lane removals on 34th Street S. I attended that meeting. When citizens started publicly speaking in front of all the citizens gathered, often with negative comments about the lane removal, they were shut down by Whit Blanton of Forward Pinellas. Blanton, visibly irritated that citizens started speaking in front of each other, shut down all public commenting and told the citizens gathered they had to go speak with the bureaucrats he had placed at stations in the room. That meeting was a dog and pony show farce. No other public meeting was ever held about the lane removals.

A push survey was handed out to the 64 attendees at the April 2019 meeting that, of course, limited how one could answer. 61 people completed the survey and it is in the written comments where people could actually voice their opinions. Below are a few of the written comments:

  • Do not take a lane of general purpose vehicle traffic out when traffic is increasing & transit is decreasing, taking a lane of vehicle traffic out will create congestion.
  • Those of us that live in the area do not want 34th St. S to turn into 9th St. N where they took out important car lanes & it's impossible to get through the lights 
  • Do not make 99% of people traveling miserable
  • Space is ample currently...add trees and don't waste $ on shrinking the road.

There was not one written comment in the survey that supported removing vehicle lanes on 34th Street S. for transit. No wonder PSTA/Forward Pinellas/FDOT never held another public meeting about the lane removals. Suddenly the Road Diet on 34th Street S is a done deal as PSTA/Forward Pinellas/FDOT rams it thru as a "repaving" project scheduled for April 2022.   

This corridor is currently considered more suburban today. However, the lane elimination Road Diet request from Forward Pinellas MPO reflects the MPO/St. Petersburg want to transition this corridor to be urban or even an urban center. We seriously doubt the vast majority who use State owned 34th Street S regularly knew this. While St. Petersburg keeps pushing dense growth and haven't fixed their sewage and other infrastructure problems, they will gladly - at your expense - remove State owned infrastructure - you already paid for.    

Forward Pinellas MPO 34th Street S

Road Diet request 

The use of Road Diets entered into the transportation policies of FDOT in 2014 under the guise of "Complete Streets". FDOT's Road Diet approval process was called "Lane Elimination". This process has gotten pushback from citizens, businesses and even elected officials who oppose it. In 2019 FDOT's "Lane Elimination" process was presented with massive opposition to Road Diets. It appears FDOT changed the name of their Road Diet process to "Lane Repurposing" but it means the same thing - Road Diets. 



Ironically, FDOT admitted last year that transit ridership began declining in 2014, the same year FDOT began imposing Road Diets for transit. FDOT now admits there are numerous factors for transit ridership decline, including telecommuting, online commerce, online education, use of online communications (like Zoom), and other innovation and technologies providing alternatives to traditional transit. 

FDOT admits what a recent study from our local transit expert Steve Polzin at CUTR concluded - that transit is "unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 conditions." Transit ridership was dismal in Tampa Bay and Florida before the pandemic so why is FDOT removing vehicle lanes for transit that fewer and fewer people are using?

Road Diets, often not popular with the vast majority who use vehicles on our roads, get imposed with little transparency and by misleading the public about these projects. In Forward Pinellas MPO's transportation plan, the project that imposes Road Diets on 34th Street S is described as an upgrade to a repaving project to "construct a wide sidewalk on the west side of the roadway". 


Forward Pinellas MPO's description of' Road Diet
project on 34th Street S

According to this report, St. Petersburg rammed the 9th Street N Road Diet also through a "repaving" project. 

PSTA/City of St. Petersburg has started removing vehicle traffic lanes on 1st Avenue N and S for PSTA's Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) aka "SunRunner". General vehicle lanes and parking are being removed for a bus only lane for the BRT. PSTA or St. Petersburg never held one public hearing about removing transportation infrastructure already paid for. Like 9th Street, most people are only finding out now what PSTA and St. Petersburg are doing to their roads and parking.

PSTA/FDOT is also removing valuable lanes of traffic on congested Pasadena Avenue in S Pasadena - right before the Corey Causeway drawbridge for PSTA's costly BRT. When PSTA proposed the project years ago, PSTA never meet with S Pasadena or  held any public meetings in S Pasadena for citizens to provide their input and remember Pasadena Avenue is a State owned road.

In 2019, numerous S Pasadena condo associations and the S Pasadena city council passed formal Resolutions opposing the transit project and opposing removing vehicle lanes. When S Pasadena requested a public hearing be held in S Pasadena to allow their citizens to publicly comment about removing traffic lanes in their city, PSTA and FDOT refused to do so. Instead on September 11, 2019, the 11th hour in PSTA's Road Diet approval process, PSTA held a dog and pony show in S Pasadena where there was overwhelming opposition to the lane removals and PSTA's BRT project. That meeting was a farce too because by October 4, 2019, the Road Diet was a done deal.

Pasadena Avenue is also a State owned road (SR693). FDOT knew the city of S Pasadena and their residents opposed the transit project and Road Diets. FDOT was handed all the Resolutions passed by the surrounding condo associations and the S Pasadena city council opposing the lane removals and PSTA's costly BRT project. FDOT was handed all the written comments from citizens who overwhelmingly opposed the project. It was all ignored.

The local FDOT District 7 rubber stamps their approval of all these Road Diets and sends them up to FDOT in Tallahassee. We are told FDOT Central Office in Tallahassee know about all the opposition to the Road Diets but they rubber stamped their approval anyway.  

Traffic acts like water - it seeps where it can. Road Diets moves traffic to other neighborhood arterial roads not meant to hold such capacity making them more dangerous. 

As 1000 people a day are moving to Florida with most bringing their vehicles, why is FDOT allowing the removal of vehicle lanes on State owned roads? Why are these Road Diets being imposed without any public hearings for citizens to publicly comment and weigh in on the Road Diets? 

PSTA holds public hearings for proposed route cuts, route changes and fare changes for the less than 2% that use transit. PSTA holds no public hearings when they propose Road Diets for the 98% using vehicles on our roads everyday. PSTA has an appeal process regarding Board decisions made after their public hearing. There is no appeal process to challenge the Road Diets FDOT is approving. This is wrong, unfair and inequitable.

  

There is a governance problem in Florida regarding Road Diets that needs to be fixed. If FDOT will not reform their Road Diet approval process, then State legislators and/or the Governor needs to step in to require timely public hearings are held before Road Diets are approved.  

Road Diets should not be imposed in Florida without at least one public hearing.

Posted by Sharon Calvert at 10:05 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


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sea-Level Rise A Fact, A Political Foot Ball, a Growing Business



Tampa Bay, Fl

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

Here is an article I posted in July of 2019 regarding climate change and sea level rise.

 Once again, the issue of sea level rise is becoming a major area all along Florida’s coast.

 As the public begins to experience low lying area flooding on an increasingly severe level, the issue of climate change and sea level rise becomes very personal.

 All along Florida’s southern East Coast an up the West Coast many communities have overdeveloped low lying coastal areas that are beginning to show the signs of low level flooding during high title seasons.

 As we point out in this article, the first place the owners of these low-lying properties are going to look for a resolution is there local government.

 What will local governments do?

This is the first in a random series of Posts that look at the issues of climate change and especially sea-level rise.

There is no doubt in my mind that climate change is real, that the earth is warming, that sea levels are rising and that the next three decades could reveal catastrophic results in Florida from the impact of these factors.

Everywhere you look Climate change, and sea-level rise are issues being trumpeted by many, for example: The Union of Concerned Scientists: Under Water: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate(2018).

Quoting from the UCSS Report: “States with the most homes at risk by the end of the century are Florida, with about 1 million homes (more than 10% of the state's current residential properties); New Jersey, with 250,000 homes; and New York with 143,000 homes."

This is just one of the growing numbers of scientifically based reports that indicate that more than any state, Florida may be more at risk for major coastal property loss if the climatic change and sea level predictions are even close to being accurate.

Here is a link to a number of Florida sea level change maps: Florida Sea Level changes maps.

Recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made a substantial increase to the budget line item that studies sea level impacts, but the question is what can we do now to begin to prepare for this almost certain change?



At the moment, development in the most likely affected areas is continuing at a feverish pace. More homes, towns are cities are being developed directly in the path what appears to be an impending disaster.

As the water level rises in these areas near the coast, residents will look to local and state government for an answer. Never mind the fact that making the decision to move to one these areas were of their own making.

 Already we are hearing talk of building levees and other systems to protect these currently low-lying areas, but one only has to look across the Gulf to New Orleans to see the futility of trying to hold back the effects of sea and wind.

The politicians who deny Climate Change are chastised as being unrealistic, while those embracing the concept of climate change and rising sea levels offer no serious solutions to the problem. They want carbon taxes, and fines on contributors to the climate-change  problem but offer few if any real applications for those additional dollars.

The real solution to the massive impact may lie more at the state and local levels with their ability to control and limit growth in highly vulnerable areas.

At some point, the property insurance industry will begin to assess this risk as it relates to the vulnerability of coastal properties and begin adjusting rates accordingly. While this may slow growth, it will not solve the problem.

Elected Officials will have to make the decision to protect lives and mitigate losses realizing certain areas are no long suitable for development or redevelopment and act accordingly. 

The hue and cry from all sides will be all but unbearable.

The Bay Area finds itself in cross hairs of the discussions and the reality of a sea-level rise.

The real question may not be what will the politicians do but what will you do?

Will you sit it out and wait until your property asset value is virtually gone and the water is lapping at your door, or will you quietly take your equity and move to a place where the likelihood of that equity floating away is significantly less?

If you’re looking for someone to solve the climate-change  problem as it relates to you, you might want to look in the mirror.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
See Doc's Photo Gallery at 
Bay Post Photos.  

 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Election Time is Coming – Will You Vote?

 



FLORIDA  
WEST COAST        

Opinion by:  
E. Eugene Webb PhD 

In southern West Coast Florida counties, there will be some cities conducting primary elections for mayors and other local officials.

These elections often don't draw much interest from the voting public, but there's an old adage in politics that says. “The government that affects you the most is your local government.”

Below is a table showing seven southern Florida West Coast counties and the breakdown of registered voters along with the links to the supervisor of elections website.

If you live in one of these counties and would like some general information about upcoming elections, voter registration, mail in ballots, and absentee ballots, this link is the source for Election information in your County.

 

COUNTY

REGISTERED VOTERS

WEB SITE LINK

Republicans

Democrats

Others

Pasco

158,671

116,820

120,364

https://www.pascovotes.gov/

Pinellas

246,386

249,990

207,100

https://www.votepinellas.com/

Hillsborough

287,857

357,863

277,262

https://www.votehillsborough.org/Home/id/39

Manatee

120,517

  83,647

  74,283

https://www.votemanatee.com/

Sarasota

148,746

101,114

  95,143

https://www.sarasotavotes.gov/

Lee

216,814

135,184

155,554

https://www.lee.vote/

Collier

121,159

  57,267

  60,350

https://www.colliervotes.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 Source: County Supervisor of Elections Active Registered Voters as of 6/23/21    

For general election information and how elections are conducted on a statewide basis you can check out the Florida Division of Elections. The Florida Division of Elections facilitates coordination and interpretation of election laws and establishes uniform standards to ensure fair and accurate elections in Florida.

For the best up-to-date information on local, state, and federal elections visit https://floridapolitics.com/.

In both upcoming election cycles 2021, and 2022 we are likely to see a growing number of new faces entering the political arena from a broad spectrum of political views and ideas. If recent trends are any indicator, we could see large numbers of candidates in races for Mayors, City Commission members, County Commission members, State House and Senate representative seats as well as U.S. Congressional races, which will take place in 2022.

Incumbency has always been a powerful benefit in this second, third and fourth tier elected posts in our state, federal, and local governing bodies.

I think we're going to see a change in that this year. In many cases, incumbency may be as big a detriment as it has been an asset in the past. And therefore, I would certainly encourage you as a voter, to take a strong look at the candidates who may be running for your local mayor, or your local county commission seat, or your Florida State House or Senate seat. The person that's been serving there for the last little bit may not necessarily be the best person to represent your interests going forward.

Our society is changing at a dramatic rate. In fact, somebody a lot smarter than me once said, “In government change is not really the issue it's the rate of change that's the problem.”

In the past, government has been afforded the privilege of being somewhat sleepy based and having ample time to make decisions that affect people's everyday lives.

The public is growing weary of that approach to governing, and this new crop of political candidates at least proposes to change that.

It's unclear if they'll be able to do so, but one thing is for certain, voting for the people that have been there in the past will only assure that what's been going on in the past will continue.

In most political circumstances, a new face may well be better able to provide new solutions to even some of the oldest problems.

You, like many others, may tend to just pass on this election.

I would encourage you to please not do that. Every one of these offices is important. Every one of them elected will cast votes in your community, in your county, in your state that will somehow affect you. If you want to have your say represented, then pick a candidate who represents you and vote for them.

E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.

See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.  

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