Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Another County Mess: Taxation Without Representation

The Hillsborough county commission has created another mess.

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

The Hillsborough county commission has created another mess.

They continue to waive one of their own policies that has no waiver provision provided in it. In addition, the commissioners ignored the intentions of a Charter that created an independent special taxing district.

Why? Because they or someone(s) wants control of that taxing entity. The timing is not coincidental since it relates to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART).

What the commissioners have done as a result of their recent HART Board appointments is disenfranchise HART's property taxpayers who reside in  unincorporated Hillsborough.

First, the background information.

Independent special districts have limited explicit - not implied - authority specified in its charter.

Statutes, charters and policies provide the requirements, criteria and governance for establishing Boards, Committees, Authorities, Councils or Agencies and who may get appointed to them. In the interest of fairness, proportional and equitable representation is often a requirement, especially if the Board will be providing governance and oversight of a taxing authority.

Florida Statute 163.567 enabled the creation HART by allowing a home rule Charter to establish the transit agency. HART was founded in 1980 by a local Charter approved in 1979 by the county commission of Hillsborough and the city council of Tampa.

HART's Charter defines a HART Member as "the unincorporated areas of a county or the incorporated areas of a municipality if such county or municipality has been admitted to membership the Authority.."

HART's Charter states each HART member shall appoint one Director plus one additional Director for each 150,000 persons, or major fraction thereof,resident in that member's jurisdictional limits. In addition to those Board members, the Governor of Florida shall appoint two Directors.

HART's Charter specifies they are a special taxing district and may levy an ad valorem (property) tax not to exceed one half mill ($.0005) on taxable property within the jurisdictional limits of its members. Current jurisdictional members of HART include city of Tampa, city of Temple Terrace and unincorporated Hillsborough County. Plant City is not a member of HART and Plant City residents do not pay HART's property tax.

To abide by the Charter's intent of ensuring equitable and proportional representation on the HART Board who oversees this taxing authority, Hillsborough County has a policy that appointees to the HART Board by the Hillsborough County commissioners MUST reside in unincorporated. From the county's website regarding HART Board applicants (emphasis mine):
Citizens appointed to this board must reside in the unincorporated area of Hillsborough County. 
In addition, according to Board of County Commissioners BOCC POLICY - SECTION NUMBER 0 1 . 3 0 . 0 0 . 0 0 for Appointing and/or Confirming Nominations of Citizens, Agency/Government Body Representatives, or Staff to any Board, Council, Committee and Authority (emphasis mine):
..applicants for certain boards/councils undergo background checks and/or be residents of the unincorporated area of Hillsborough County. All applicants must be residents of the state of Florida. 
In an effort to have boards/councils that include citizens who represent the entire county, the BOCC shall largely consider race, gender, and those citizens who actively participate in the community when making appointments and/or confirming nominations. Unless specifically approved by the Board of County Commissioners, no citizen may serve on more than one committee at a time
If an applicant does not meet the relevant requirements the application shall be rejected.  
Residency for appointment/confirmation applicants. The Board of County Commissioners has not established a general residency requirement for all board, council, committee, and/or authority appointments. However, citizens seeking appointments to the following boards councils, committees, or authorities shall reside in the unincorporated area of Hillsborough County.
  • Code Enforcement Board 
  • Code Enforcement Special Magistrate  
  • Cross Connection, Backflow & Back-Siphonage Control Board  
  • Enterprise Zone Development Agency 11 
  • Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission 
  • Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority  
  • Historic Resources Review Board  
  • Land Use Appeals Board  
  • Nuisance Abatement Board – at least five (5) members 
  • Tampa Sports Authority * 
  • Water Conservation Technical Advisory Committee  
*Unincorporated residency requirements for the Tampa Sports Authority only may specifically be waived by the Board of County Commissioners (see Waiver Procedure below).  
ARTICLE V. WAIVER PROCEDURE The notice of a vacant position for the Tampa Sports Authority shall include a statement informing the public that the Board of County Commissioners has the authority to waive its unincorporated residency requirement, that, notwithstanding residency status, all citizens may apply; and that all names shall be presented to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration. The Boards and Councils Coordinator shall list all names on the ballot and identify those persons who met the residency requirement and those who did not.
Note: there is only a residency waiver procedure for appointments to the Tampa Sports Authority.

Since 2012, based on population, there are thirteen HART Board members, appointed as follows:
  • City of Temple Terrace - 1
  • City of Tampa - 3
  • Unincorporated Hillsborough - 7
  • Gubernatorial - 2
Now let's review the unincorporated Hillsborough appointments made by the county commissioners since 2012.

The make up of the 7 HART Board members representing unincorporated in 2012 included 3 electeds, Beckner (lived in unincorporated), Murman and Sharpe (both lived in city of Tampa), and 4 citizen appointees Wallace Bowers, Karen Jaroch, Ann Madden and Steve Polzin who all lived in unincorporated Hillsborough.

Then along came the county's Policy Leadership Group (PLG) transportation initiative in 2014 led by the unelected County Mayor Mike Merrill.

Everything that is done down at County Center is in context....

About the same time that Ann Madden resigned from HART on June 16, 2014, Merrill was proposing a hostile takeover of HART by all electeds and creating some transportation super agency - see our post here.
The commissioners never sought a citizen appointee to replace Madden, who lived in unincorporated and resigned June 16, 2014.

Instead they sneakily used a July 31, 2014 Budget Workshop meeting, where public comment is not normally allowed and actions are not supposed to be taken, to appoint Madden's replacement on HART. That agenda item was added at the last minute to a meeting that had been publicly noticed as a Workshop.

This action occurred coincidentally right before the county handed Parsons Brinckerhoff their crony contract to launch the Go Hillsborough tax hike campaign.

The Eye reported about the county commissioners shenanigans on July 31, 2014 in this post Sneaking in Les:
There was an interesting non-budget item added to the Budget Reconciliation agenda, not on the original agenda, created by Commission Chair Mark Sharpe or County Administrator Mike Merrill, to fill an open seat on the HART Board. A BOCC citizen appointee to the HART Board, Anne Madden, resigned on June 16, and the Board needed to approve a new appointee. 
They have 20 days to fill vacancies accord to the law
There have been 2 BOCC meetings since Maddens' resignation. 
45 days is my count. Reading through the statute above, can the Commission even make a legal appointment now? 
Yet they waited for a Budget Reconciliation workshop to take up filling a HART Board vacancy? 
They did not follow the law.
And they even knew they weren't following the rules because the workshop agenda noted they were supposed to have filled the vacancy within 20 days of the resignation.
July 31, 2014 Budget Workshop improperly used for
HART Board appointment (click to enlarge)
In perfect orchestration at that workshop, Sandy Murman nominated Les Miller and Kevin Beckner seconded her nomination. The commissioners voted 5-1 to appoint Miller, who lives in the city of Tampa, to replace Madden, who lived in unincorporated south county. Higginbotham was absent and Crist voted no.

Appointing Commissioner Miller to the HART Board changed the balance of the HART board. It tilted it toward more county electeds and more Board members who live in the city of Tampa. 

As of 8/1/2014, the 7 HART Board members representing unincorporated consisted of 4 electeds (Beckner, Miller, Murman, Sharpe) with only Beckner living in unincorporated Hillsborough and 3 citizens (Jaroch, Polzin, Bowers) who all lived in unincorporated. 

What happened next?

The three citizen appointees terms were expiring in November 2014. In October 2014, 17 applicants had submitted applications for a county appointment to HART Board. All three citizen appointees (Bowers, Jaroch, Polzin) applied to be reappointed. Steve Polzin is our local transit expert who works at CUTR, our own transportation think tank at USF.

Having a transit expert on HART Board makes total common sense. And Polzin lives in unincorporated Lutz, satisfying the residency requirement.

Apparently not to the county commissioners. There were some political games to play. This appointment was occurring during the PLG transportation effort when Parsons Brinckerhoff had just been awarded their crony contract to kick off Go Hillsborough.

Find all 17 HART Board applications here. A note below was included in the board packet of HART Board applicants stating that the BOCC can simply waive the residency requirement with their vote, without any discussion or a motion passed to do so.

The commissioner's own BOCC policy provides for a residency waiver only for Tampa Sports Authority appointments. When did the commissioners approve changing their policy to waive residency requirements for HART appointments? Or does Mike Merrill and the commissioners just make stuff up to fit an agenda?

According to the transcript of the October 15 BOCC meeting, there was no motion or discussion to waive their own policy. The commissioners just voted.
They reappointed Jaroch and Bowers, who lived in unincorporated and appointed Mickey Jacobs, who lives on Harbour Island in the city of Tampa.

Jacobs is an architect who is a member of the Downtown Partnership and Tampa Chamber. According to this October 16, 2014 Times article 
Jacob's experience as an architect made him a favorable option because of his focus on economic development, a key issue for the area.
The county commissioners tossed Steve Polzin off HART who was the only transit expert on the transit authority board for someone who's focus is economic development.

By October 2014 the HART Board tilted more towards members who lived in the city of Tampa. Only 3 of the 7 county appointed HART Board members lived in unincorporated.

Subsequently Commissioner Sharpe was term limited and Stacy White elected in November 2014. White, who lives in unincorporated, replaced Sharpe on HART Board.

Then in November 2016 Beckner was term limited and Pat Kemp was elected. Kemp who lives in the city of Tampa replaced Beckner (who lived in unincorporated) on HART.

What happened next?

The three citizen appointees terms were expiring in November 2017. Two of the three county citizen appointees, Jaroch and Bowers who both live in unincorporated, reapplied and Mickey Jacobs, who lived in the city of Tampa, did not reapply.

The county received only 7 applications which can be found here. Again there is a note in the Board packet that the commissioners can simply waive their own residency requirement. 
Note to commissioners regarding residency requirement
for HART Board appointees
The commissioners actions were perfectly orchestrated again at the October 18, 2017 BOCC meeting. When the appointee agenda item came up, Commissioner Miller immediately made a motion to waive the residency requirement and Commissioner Murman seconded the motion. The motion passed 7-0. 

This go round the commissioners formally passed a motion instead of just voting as they did in 2014. But there was no discussion about the motion - it just passed unanimously 7-0.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

It is extremely important that you vote today

Your vote could actually be the one that picks St. Pete’s next Mayor.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog

Reposted from 10/12/17 with updates

Baker VS Kriseman – St. Pete Mayors Race
The St. Petersburg Mayoral race is so close no one is releasing polling data, the candidates are in a desperate scramble and the knowledgeable politicos believe that the race is so close it will be decided by those who vote Tuesday November 7, 2017

There were 265,191 Ballots mailed in Pinellas County 119,883 have been returned (45.21%) and 1823 people have taken advantage of early voting.

Experience tells us primary voting is a good indicator of general election voting and with each mayoral candidate getting about 48% of the votes, Kriseman won by just 69 votes, so that leaves about 4% of the vote to decide the outcome.

It is extremely important that you go to the poles and vote on Tuesday

I have been focused on the St. Petersburg Mayoral race because I think St. Pete is at a major crossroad, and the Kriseman administration’s approach is seriously lacking.

Having worked with both candidates during my 28 years with the City of St. Petersburg Rick Baker is the best choice. You get honesty, integrity and a local focus.

Scroll on down this Blog site and you will get a host of information.

I have, however, received a number of questions about the St. Pete City Council races, so here is my over view of the District candidates.

District 2
The candidates are Barclay Harless a banker and Brandi Gabbard a relator with deep ties to her profession. I have struggled with this one. I have always been reluctant to support candidates with a long career and connections to the real estate profession. The problem is with years of “real estate” experience, they tend to view everything through the eye of property values, buyers and sellers.

If you read the Catlin Johnston review below you will note most of Gabbard’s answers reach back to property values and development.

To work for St. Petersburg, Gabbard will need to leave her realtor’s hat in the City Council staging room and take a bigger view than property values.

My reluctant nod on this one is Gabbard, but you may want to take a close look at Harless since I think he comes to the table with fewer preconceived biases.

District 4
The candidates in District 4 are Jerick Johnston and Darden Rice.

Darden Rice will win this race going away but there are a couple of things to consider.

Darden is a consummate self-promoter, and her emphasis on grand-scale issues like transportation and campaign finance reform don’t always serve St. Pete well. She is also a professional politician.

You can rest assured that within a month of being sworn-in Rice will have already selected her next political office and will start campaigning for it immediately.

Rice’s political fundraising acumen has not escaped fellow Democrats, so she will get a lot of ongoing party support and the demands that come with it.

Jerick is a young political neophyte, and he deserves some credit and a few votes for his willingness to step into a race where about all he can hope to accomplish is to get some experience. A loss to Darden Rice will not be a big political resume killer, and I think we can hopefully expect to see more from Mr. Johnston.

You can get more details from Divya Kumar, Times Staff Writer; Know Your City Council Candidates: Jerick Johnston vs. Darden Rice District 4.

My nod goes to Rice, but if you would like to send a message to our local Democrat Diva, you might just cast a vote for Johnston.

If Johnston does a bit better than expected, it might just give Darden a pause for thought.

District 6
The worst thing about this race is the District itself. Gerrymandered to the nth degree this District presents many major problems. In my view, none of the constituents in this District are going to get fair representation.

No matter who wins this race, the people living south of Central Avenue have a serious bone to pick with the process.

The Candidates are Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll.

The real choice is between a cowboy and a mild-mannered neighborhood activist.

In my 28 years with the City, we had a couple of cowboys and cowgirl or two on City Council. They are fun to watch and provide some often-needed comedy relief. They are seldom effective, frequently disruptive and on rare occasions contribute a gem of common sense or wisdom.

On the other hand, the neighborhood associations and their leadership have contributed a number of highly effective City Council members who have been especially useful under the strong mayor form of governance.

You can get some additional information from Waveney Ann Moore, Times Staff Writer; Know Your City Council Candidates: Justin Bean vs. Gina Driscoll, District 6.

No messages to be sent here.

My nod here goes to Driscoll, because if a) Kriseman wins there will need to be some strong voices on City Council to reign in what is destined to be a runaway political nightmare; and b) if Baker wins there will be a strong effort to rebuild neighborhood association leadership, and they will need a strong advocate on City Council alongside Amy Foster, Lisa Wheeler-Brown.

It is extremely important that you vote in these races. They are all voted on citywide. This Mayor’s race could easily be decided by a hand full of votes. Don’t wake up Wednesday morning only to find your mayoral candidate got defeated by a couple of votes and you might have made the difference.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Be sure to follow me on Pintrest (Doc Webb),  Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.

See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos.

Disclosures: Contributor to Rick Baker for Mayor Campaign 

Please comment below.

Monday, November 6, 2017


A vote for Kriseman gets you four more years of this.

St. Petersburg, Fl  
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog

Here is chronological list of my posts regarding the Rick Kriseman administration. It is probably a bit much to read all of these Posts, but pick out a few that interest you and read them.

What you will see here is not what St. Petersburg is all about when it comes to governance.

The sign says it all: 

Kriseman appoints Kevin King as his Chief of Staff Establishes the “Office of the MayorSunday December 22, 2013 Kriseman and King - Will it work?

Transparency of the new Kriseman Administration Fades early:

Kriseman’s first 100 days: Kriseman First 100 Days - 5 Questions

Kriseman begins to ignore the public input on the new Pier:

Kriseman and the Downtown Water Front Park:
Kriseman the politician:

Kriseman on Waste Water:
Kriseman and St. Pete’s failing Schools:

Kriseman bans Donald Trump:

Kriseman on free speech:

A vote for Kriseman gets you four more years of this.

E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Be sure to follow me on Pintrest (Doc Webb),  Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.

See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
Disclosures: Contributor to Rick Baker for Mayor Campaign 
Please comment below.