Wednesday, July 17, 2019

AFT's "Bad Tax" Con Was Planned To Surprise Public and Prevent Public Scrutiny

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

As a recent Circuit Court ruling confirmed, All for Transportation (AFT) put an illegal and unlawful transit tax charter amendment referendum on the ballot in Hillsborough County last year.

If such a big mess was about an issue local media did not agree with, we would see daily headlines shouting out those who were involved with it. But local media refuses to do that with AFT and prefers to filter out information about those who pushed an illegal transit tax onto unsuspecting voters in 2018.

The public deserves to know more.

An informed electorate can decide for themselves who they want to trust (or not). An informed public can help prevent such mess from happening again. 

As US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis stated in 1913, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant".

Thus we begin the Eye's "Sunlight" series to bring Sunshine into the public arena about the All for Transportation transit tax and those who were involved.

The AFT illegally flawed transit tax could be one of the most dishonest scams ever perpetrated on Hillsborough County voters.

How did it happen?
·                     By crafting a massive $16 Billion transit tax in the dark 
·                     By launching a last minute transit tax "surprise" petition initiative on unsuspecting voters, taxpayers and anyone AFT considered their opposition
·                     By preventing public debate and public scrutiny
·                     By using millions of dollars from wealthy special interests on a deceptive marketing campaign 
·                     By using pro transit tax media accomplices to cheerlead support, drown out opposition and filter out and ignore serious issues raised about the tax
·                     By masquerading their transit tax that benefits the city of Tampa behind a facade that it was a tax to fix roads and reduce traffic congestion in Hillsborough County
AFT may be the Theranos fraud of Hillsborough County (read the book "Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup" written by the WSJ investigative reporter John Carreyrou who broke the Theranos story of deceit and fraud).

Perhaps All For Transportation should be known as the "Bad Tax" con that AFT perpetrated on the voters of Hillsborough County.

AFT rammed a 30 year $16 Billion transit tax onto the ballot by exploiting a very shortened petition initiative and short campaign cycle. They used millions of dollars from wealthy special interests donors to do it.

Remember, AFT refused to debate NoTaxForTracks, who was AFT's formal opposition, or anyone who opposed their transit tax last year. AFT refused to go head to head with anyone from the other side.

Public debate and public scrutiny during the campaign would have highlighted AFT's legal issues that Commissioner Stacy White, NoTaxForTracks and others raised last year. It would have been much harder for local media to avoid those issues if they were brought up publicly in a debate.

AFT could not afford to risk such scrutiny. The pro transit tax local media willingly complied by ignoring the issues and never reporting about them.

AFT was like a "fake news" story - fraudulent.

AFT falsely claimed they were "grassroots". AFT used millennials as their public face and window dressing to front the older wealthy special interests donors who funded them. AFT was emboldened to make exaggerated claims with no evidence to back them up by shielding their illegal transit tax from all public scrutiny.

Reality is AFT was crafted, in the dark and with no transparency, through political insiders, influential power players, and wealthy special interests donors who stood to benefit from the transit tax.

How did it all begin?

The All for Transportation "Bad Tax" charter amendment was written by transit advocates, including Kevin Thurman and Brian Willis, who were previously associated with the now defunct local transit advocacy group Connect Tampa Bay (CTB).

CTB had previously publicly announced their proposed one cent rail/transit tax hike proposal in 2014 they named "Go Hillsborough".

Ironically, "Go Hillsborough" later became the name that a local crony PR firm, who was paid gobs of taxpayer dollars, branded Hillsborough County's 2016 "Go Hillsborough" tax hike debacle. We have no idea whether CTB was paid by that PR firm to use plagiarize that name but there appears to be some connection.

Connect Tampa Bay was abruptly dissolved in April 2016 after it was reported by the Tampa Bay Guardian that Connect Tampa Bay never filed any federally required tax returns.

When "Go Hillsborough" failed to get on the ballot in 2016, Thurman stated that crafting a citizen led referendum was the only way to move "transit" forward in Hillsborough County.

In this April 2016 article, the Times reported Thurman was "keeping open the option to amend the county charter by petition" and that if a progressive business community would fund it, he would do it.

Transit advocate Thurman began crafting how to put a petition initiated transit tax on the ballot.

Kevin Thurman, community organizer
From public records received, it appears Thurman began shopping his "how to get a transit tax on the ballot in 2018" political strategy to select inside power players in 2017. 

Ali Glisson, Vinik VP
Thurman had access to power players through his wife Ali Glisson. Glisson, formerly Mayor Buckhorn's spokesperson, was hired by Jeff Vinik in 2015. Glisson is currently Vinik's VP, Marketing and Communications for his real estate development company.

Vinik became AFT's largest donor who sunk over $800K into AFT's coffers according to AFT campaign filing reports.

Thurman's 62 page presentation outlines his political strategy for using a very shortened citizen petition cycle to put a transit tax hike referendum on the ballot in 2018. He proclaims that putting a transit tax in 2018 was a "once in a lifetime opportunity". Thurman sold his narrative the voting demographics were on their side in 2018

Thurman subsequently reduced his 62 page document to a 42 page transit tax proposal he called "The People's Plan".

The intent of the "People's Plan" was to fund costly rail and transit projects through a sales tax hike. Roads were nowhere to be found.

Not one road project is mentioned in the "Peoples Plan". "Roads" are only mentioned in the context they must somehow be used (like in a marketing campaign) to gain support for his proposed transit tax.

On page 38 of his "People's Plan", Thurman states his strategy - a last minute petition effort will "surprise" the opposition. 

Thurman was shopping a transit tax political strategy not a transportation plan because he is not a transportation expert.

According to LinkedIn, Thurman has a degree in film and communications and most of his work experience is PR and community organizing for political campaigns.

By scheming in the dark with influential power players, Thurman prevented public scrutiny of the illegal mess that was being crafted.

Obviously, the scheming failed to include ensuring AFT's transit tax charter amendment was legal and lawful. We don't know if that is a result of AFT's incompetence, sloppiness or they thought they could get away with what they were doing without any legal scrutiny.

Thurman's CTB transit advocate sidekick Brian Willis, who helped write AFT's illegal transit tax charter amendment and became one of AFT's public spokespersons, is a real estate and business attorney.

Bria Wills, Real Estate Attorney

Willis told 
Florida Politics last December after Commissioner White filed his lawsuit:

“We don’t think he has a case,” said Tampa attorney and All For Transportation volunteer Brian Willis. “I’m a lawyer. We’ve had attorneys at Holland & Knight vet this. Constitutional law professors. Nobody had any issues with it."
But according to AFT Chair Tyler Hudson's Deposition (more to come about it) that was taken on April 1, 2019, AFT did not have any constitutional lawyers or any lawyers render an opinion about their proposed transit tax.

Tyler Hudson is also a real estate attorney who previously worked for Holland and Knight.
Tyler Hudson, Real Estate Attorney

When questioned under oath about Brian Willis statement that lawyers vetted the AFT transit tax, Hudson admitted Holland and Knight had nothing to do with the AFT transit tax. Hudson also stated under oath that AFT did not solicit any formal written legal opinion about it.

Basically Willis lied. If Willis would lie about Holland and Knight and constitutional lawyers vetting AFT's transit tax, what else was he and others associated with AFT lying about?

Circuit Court Judge Rex Barbas has now confirmed AFT's haphazardly written transit tax is unlawful. He threw out all of AFT's illegal and unlawful pre-determined spending mandates, constraints, prohibitions and unlawful Independent Oversight Committee authority as unconstitutional.

Over 80 years ago, Justice Brandeis was thinking about 'people who shield wrongdoers and pass them off (or at least allow them to pass themselves off) as honest men' when he proposed his Sunlight remedy. Brandeis call the private the citizen the most important political office.

The arena of public opinion may be the only place to hold people accountable for AFT's "Bad Tax" con.
Next up in our "Sunlight" series on the AFT "Bad Tax":  Thurman shops his proposed transit tax to power players at Tampa International Airport.

Posted by Sharon Calvert at 8:47 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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Flesh-Eating Bacteria, Algae Blooms, Dangerous Water and Beaches – Welcome to the New Florida

Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.

If you live in the Tampa Sarasota area no doubt, you have experienced the effects of the recent algae and red tide blooms. Almost everyone you talk to seem to feel this is the worst outbreak ever. If you’re curious about the science and the impact, here are a few good links.
From the SURFRIDER Foundation Blue Water Task Force, by Mara Dias: Florida’s Toxic Algae Crisis
Governor DeSantis has taken some big steps to put in place the State-level  infrastructure to address the water-quality  issues.
Check out Tom Hayden, Fort Myers News-Press / USA TODAY NETWORK- Florida: Editorial: Gov. Ron DeSantis' water quality order a must for Florida.
The Governor attempted to stay out of the climate-change  political debate in addressing the water and air quality issues, but it didn’t take long for the climate change fanatics to begin criticizing the governor’s efforts. It would be beneficial if we could keep some of the climate-change  hysteria out of the efforts to address a major crisis in our state.
Climate change plays a role, but not necessarily THE role in the problem.
For now, the question at a practical level is what’s next. The State can set the tone, provide funding and leadership but if local county and municipal jurisdictions don’t step up and cooperate with the state’s efforts all could be for naught.
The sudden expansion of flesh-eating bacteria cases, including both salt and fresh water raises major health and economic/tourism concerns.
Here are some serious questions:
  • These bacteria, algae and blooms are a serious health risk. How do they affect you?
  •  Is it safe to swim in Florida coastal waters?
  •  Will you take your children or grand children to the beach?
  •  What will be the short-run  impact on tourism?
  •  If you have respiratory issues will you be able to stay in the bay area or must you move?
  •  If you are a winter visitor will you come to Florida this fall?
  •  If you are looking to retire and the Bay area has been high on your list will you reconsider?

Even with all the resources Governor DeSanctis has committed and a continuing state funding commitment this is not a short-term issue. We could be in for several years of this problem.
The economic impact could be severe and a hit on property values, especially near the ocean, intercoastal waterway  and rivers is a distinct possibility.
With all the information out there, it is time to take some precautions about how you interact with the environment.
Pay extra attention to the beach and swim warnings, stay out of rivers, ponds, standing and flood waters. If you have serious respiratory issues, a call or visit to your doctor might be in order to get some advice.
E-mail Doc at mail to: or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Impeachment Fanatics– will the Democratic Political Establishment Ever Grow up?

Updated material posted earlier.
I have watched with both humor and growing concern as the US House of Representatives now controlled by the Democrats wrenches in a headlong convulsive rush to get Trump at all costs.
The problem is there is a real price to be paid if this obsession of investigations and subpoenas continues.
In order for a democracy to go forward there are certain things that must be accomplished regularly.  For now, the Democrats and their committees have turned the People’s House into a carnival as their leader’s lurch and gasp for air in a constant tirade against the Trump administration.
Point is Trump really doesn’t care, and Republicans are enjoying to some degree watching the Democrats make absolute fools of themselves at every turn.
Their obsession with the thought that another four years of Trump could lead to an all-out collapse of democracy as, we know it is more than a little hypocritical as their growing number of presidential candidate's race to the left and socialism.
Nothing kills off a democracy faster than socialism. So maybe what the Democrats need to do is spend a little more time listening to their own rhetoric.
If the Democrats main focus was to take back the Whitehouse, you would think they would be working toward major pieces of legislation that would actually help the American people. Instead, House and Senate Leaders are more taken by the side show and the drama and the prospect of appearing on CNN than they are by the real prospect of governing.
I have heard two viable comparisons, the first from a couple of well-versed commentators on NPR, Brooks and Shields, where they indicated their view is the Democratic leadership is playing right into Trump’s hand for the general election. This is his kind of battle, and he loves it.
The other was on one of the Sunday morning news shows when a panelist made the comment that Trump is using the old “rope a dope” technique on the Democrats. The prospect is Schumer; Pelosi and Shift will keep flailing at the air going more overboard until they wear out themselves and their audience. In the meantime, accomplishing nothing legislatively they can hang their hats on.
Perfect grist for the Trump mill when he decides to use it.  
At some point, the Democrats will have to turn away from fanatical desire to get Trump at all costs and start running a campaign that can win. And that means moving toward the center.
My current guess is the Democratic Nominee will be Michelle Obama with a last-minute dramatic entrance to save the Democratic Party from itself.
For now Michelle Obama has refused to comment on the Biden Kamala Harris dust up in the debates. Check out This article from The Hill by Rebecca Klar: Michelle Obama mum on Biden-Harris 'dust-up,' withholding endorsement
I know, I know she has said and continues to say she is not interested, but as her husband’s legacy continues to be dismantled by Trump and the Dems move ever more left a saving angel may just be what the Democrats need.
For now, having someone else taking Bidden to task and tarnishing his image is probably not that disturbing Michelle or Barack.
E-mail Doc at mail to: 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 
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