Friday, February 6, 2015

City of St. Pete and the Arts at a Crossroad

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

Thursday Wayne Atherholt presented his plan for the $200,000 for Arts funding. It met with mixed reviews from City Council.

It would appear that the Kriseman administration would rather move to a sustainability model as opposed to a subsidy approach. Several times deputy Mayor Tomalin reiterated the Administration's position of developing sustaining models which will bring customers to artists and the arts community as opposed to supporting individual artists.

City Council has complained in the past about a steady stream of requests from the arts community for money and funding. Nothing will serve to continue the stream of artists and art projects with their hand out than a continuation of subsidies.

Essentially giving public funds to artists who create art, pile it up in a corner of their studio hoping someone will wander in and buy it is just not a sustaining model. Not for the arts community and certainly not for the City.

Atherholt's plan, with some reasonable tweaking, will do much more to serve the arts community than doling out money through some arts group that will, 1) not really resolve the arts business problem and 2) will likely lead to complaining, controversy and misuse of the funds.

It will be a tough sell to switch the focus from supporting starving artists to a mechanism that will cause them to be successful business people as well as artists. There are several on City Council who are pushing to continue the subsidy approach to dealing with the arts. Some of it is genuine concern, some with an eye toward the upcoming election.

Creating a community of subsidized artists doesn't really address the concept of an arts community or an arts "destination". It just creates another group of people getting a government handout. The whole concept of "starving artists" is that they will finally get hungry enough to create something that will sell and work to sell it.

Kriseman and his team are trying to head in the right direction. City Council needs to carefully think through their approach.

If the arts as a community and a business is to thrive in St. Pete the best thing the City can do is to support the arts community and the arts business. Not give money to people to create art that has no market.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Sometimes PSTA just can’t seem to get out of it’s own way

On my way home Saturday I was driving down 83rd Avenue North. When I got to 9th Street, where there is a light, there were two PSTA buses one on each side of the light on 9th Street.
When the light changed the bus going north moved quickly across the intersection, only to realize that there was not enough room for the two buses to pass side by side.
They kind of got wedged in and neither could move.
As traffic backed up, the bus drivers surveyed the situation, blocked drivers got out to help. For a few minutes things looked a bit hopeless.
Finally with a little help from the public and some careful maneuvering both buses escaped their plight and made it down the road.
There was a small traffic jam but that cleared in just a few minutes.
In the interest of full disclosure, there is some construction at the 93rd Ave. and 9th St. intersection, which has narrowed the lanes.
There was really no harm, no foul and the wedged buses brought smiles to most faces.
The situation does beg the question of whether PSTA should be looking at smaller buses, since both of these appeared to be pretty much empty.
It does reinforce the point that these big buses are well…big. There needs to be a lot of careful planning if we ever really start considering special bus lanes.
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday February 1, 2015 PSTA a bleak future

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

This past Wednesday Brad Miller, PSTA CEO, laid out the PSTA fiscal forecast for the next few years. Things are dismal to say the least.

By fiscal year 2018, PSTA faces an almost insurmountable capital and operating budget deficit.

In many ways this is a self inflicted wound.

At this point, given the horrendous defeat the Greenlight plan took at the poles and all of the improper and inappropriate activity of PSTA leadership and its supporters to get the Greenlight plan adopted, it is hard to say that a more conservative approach might have worked.

PSTA and its Board would like the voters to believe they are responsible for the current PSTA plight and that Greenlight was defeated because voters were greedy and didn't want another tax.

I for one don't buy that for one minute.

As I have stated before, the Greenlight Ordinance was the worst tax initiative Ordinance I had every read. You can go back in my Posts and refresh your memory about the Greenlight Ordinance at GreenLight Pinellas - An Analysis of Ordinance 13- 34 .

As I sat through the Wednesday PSTA Board meeting, it was hard to feel very sympathetic for an administration and a Board that tried to put one over on the public and got their hands slapped.

Public transportation here in the bay area is in real trouble. In Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee County voters have rejected grand plans to build transit systems. I don't know how many times public transportation authorities and their Boards of directors have to get boxed about the ears before they realize a more conservative approach is more likely to work.

In his comments to the Board, Miller mentioned a more "regional" approach, that is simply political speak for we have to get these funding issues out of the reach of actual public approval. Those watching PSTA, Hart and other transit authorities must remain diligent.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn's public transit funding idea of a "local taxing district", Saintpetersblog, Janelle Irwin: Tampa Mayor’s push for special taxing district could be St. Pete transit win, is not likely to fly either since it would tax a small area and apply the tax to a county wide problem. Not the brightest idea for a guy thinking about running for Governor.

Miller proposed some ideas to smooth out the PSTA budget problems, and the whole issue of Federal and State funding remains a big unknown.

The PSTA Board has three new members and a new Chairman. On February 18, they will take up the PSTA funding issue in a budget workshop. They have a lot to chew on.

Where will PSTA go, how will it get there and where will the money come from? The PSTA Board has some tough decisions to make, and so far this Board has been lackluster at best.

Let's hope that some new blood and a new Chairman can make a difference.

E-mail Doc at: Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos