Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Feds Eyeing Public Corruption Throughout Florida

Tampa, Fl
Tampa Bay Beat
By: Jim Bleyer
August 13, 2019 - 6:24 am

 Seventh Avenue, Ybor City
 By Jim Bleyer
The guilty pleas entered last week by former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox and a confidante is not the end of public corruption investigations in Florida.
That’s the word from Lawrence Keefe, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, and sources at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith have agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities about other possible misdeeds in Tallahassee and Leon County.
A sentencing date for the pair has been set for Nov. 19.  They could receive up to 25 years in prison on fraud and income tax charges for their role in helping ride share giant Uber get a favorable ordinance in exchange for cash and accepting payments from a developer that turned out to be an FBI front company.
But Keefe declared the Maddox investigation should put all Florida public officials on notice.
“A public office is a sacred trust,” Keefe told the Tallahassee Democrat in the wake of the Maddox and Carter-Smith plea deals.
The FBI never discusses its ongoing investigations but the agency should look at Hillsborough County if it isn’t already.   
In his 2018 re-election campaign, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan solicited and accepted donations from real estate interests that stand to benefit from construction of a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays in Ybor City.
St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, considered antiquated by 2019 standards, has been the home of the Rays since they first took the field in 1998.  Despite recent success,  attendance has perennially stood at or near the bottom of the 30 major league baseball teams.

 Hagan persists in promoting Rays stadium in Ybor City.
Owner Stuart Sternberg has maintained that a new stadium will solve the team’s attendance woes and found a ready and more-then-willing ally in Hagan.  Talks between the Rays, Hillsborough County, and the City of Tampa  struck out last year when it was determined no public funding existed to finance a $850 million stadium in Ybor, even with Sternberg willing to chip in $200 million.
Ybor City as the site for a new Rays home has always been puzzling. Low and middle income families would be displaced.  One of the country’s iconic historic districts would be destroyed. And the rationale for any projected attendance increase never has been documented.
But Darryl Shaw, who acquired thousands of acres around Ybor, and Jeff Vinik, whose Water Street Tampa project is in nearby Channelside, would reap benefits from the increased traffic generated by a new ballpark.
Sternberg’s latest canard—sharing the franchise with the city of Montreal—has not being taken seriously by most observers.  St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman did not disguise his disdain for the scheme.  His initial response:
“The Rays cannot explore playing any Major League Baseball games in Montreal or anywhere else for that matter prior to 2028, without reaching a formal memorandum of understanding with the City of St. Petersburg,” Kriseman said. “Ultimately, such a decision is up to me. And I have no intention of bringing this latest idea to our city council to consider. In fact, I believe this is getting a bit silly.”
The City of St. Petersburg continues to investigate whether or not Sternberg violated the terms of his lease agreement which decrees he must get permission to discuss relocation with representatives of other geographical entities.
As for Hagan, he continues to promote Ybor City for a Rays Stadium, despite  the fanciful prospect of sharing a split season with Montreal.  Hagan and Sternberg, at least publicly, are a minority of two in that respect.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the Maddox plea deal, federal law enforcement authorities have put Florida politicians on notice that violations of that “sacred trust” will be prosecuted.

Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Beat

This post is contributed by Tampa Bay Beat. The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Bay Post Internet or the publisher.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sea Level Rise – Where the real battle will be waged? Part 3


Tampa Bay, Fl 
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
It all starts very simply. You live or have your business on the coast. At super-high tide you notice, there is some water in the street. In a year or so the same tide is now up in your yard or over the sidewalk in front of your business.
 Next year, there is some water in your garage, or you show up to open for business, there is about an inch of water on the floor. No real problem you call your insurance company to file a small claim, they pay the claim and 30 days later cancel your insurance. Try as hard as you can you cannot find an insurance carrier will now write you a policy.
 National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Note the year of the referenced report: 1992
Source: Sea Level Rise Issues And Potential Management Options For Local Governments 1992

Established in 1968 the program is administered by the Federal Insurance Administration which is component of FEMA.
Real Dangers of Sea Level  Rise - E. Eugene Webb PhD
“The program was intended to prevent or discourage unwise development but in fact, development has actually been encouraged by the availability of subsidized insurance. Rising sea level and the continuation of the NFIP will result in increased government spending of federal tax dollars to provide insurance for unwise development to a very small percentage of the population.”
Probably sooner rather than later, the Federal Flood Insurance Program will be modified to limit, if not, exempt property located in the predicted sea-level rise areas.
The simple reason is the cost will be prohibitive.

Sea Level Rise Strategies for local Government
E.Eugene Webb PhD
As much as we might like to think the Federal Government, and perhaps the State Government will bail out all of us who live near the coast, the fact is they cannot and will not. While the politicians use climate change and sea-level rise to scare people and denigrate their political competition to get votes they have no big scale solution because there simply isn’t one.
Sea-level rise is ultimately a local issue affecting thousands of communities and millions of people. When the streets begin to flood at high tide, and what once was a marsh is now a bay with gradually rising water, when wastewater treatment plants conveniently located next to water ways are inundated the battle will be lost.
There is a no more formidable enemy than the ocean history has shown us that fact.
The questions are:
  • Will cities and counties change the building and development codes to stop building in sea level endangered areas?
  • Will cities and counties commit resources to buy back lands endangered by the sea-level rise?
  • Is there enough political courage to take on big developers?
  • When will the property insurers stop insuring property in predicted sea level flood zones?
  • Will the Federal Government insure these properties and protect the owners?
  • Who will actually pay the final tab for the sea-level rise – the property owners or all of us?
  • In the final analysis, as the sea level rises and people begin to find themselves with property, homes and business that they cannot get insured, occupy or sell what will they do?
  • Turn to the politicians? Their solution is hiring another consultant.
  • Turn to the insurance companies? They will have long ago lobbied in laws to protect themselves.
  • Turn to the scientist for a fix? They will simply say, “We warned for over a decade.”
  • So, what can you do?
For now, becoming aware of where your property is located in the sea-level flooding data is a good start. If you are already noticing what look like menacing high tides, it may be time to think about relocating.

Sea-level rise is not about “if” is about “when." You need to take the steps to protect your investment in your business and home now.
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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Raise Gas Tax to Spend Less on Transportation

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

Historically, ad valorem property tax revenues always funded transportation and road projects in Hillsborough County. However, when the recession hit in 2008, all property taxes that was funding transportation was diverted to other items and areas to balance the budget.

As the local economy recovered, those revenues were not re-diverted back to fund transportation and roads.

That finally changed in September 2016 when that Hillsborough County Commission approved a 10 year transportation funding policy.

BOCC Board Policy purpose was "to establish a fiscal policy of the Board of County Commissioners (“BOCC”) that transportation is one of Hillsborough County’s top priorities and that the proposed annual tentative budget for each fiscal year through FY 26 will reflect increases in funding for transportation uses".

The intent of the policy was to use the growth of existing revenues, including the growth of ad valorem property and sales tax revenues, to fund transportation and much needed new road capacity projects in Hillsborough County. The policy specifically excluded mobility fees and any new gas tax fee if implemented after the policy was in place. Those additional transportation revenue sources were intended to SUPPLEMENT the revenues included in the 10 year transportation funding policy.

BOCC 10 year transportation funding policy - mobility fees
& any new gas taxes were to SUPPLEMENT transportation funding
The $812 million transportation funding plan is still in place but we posted here about the attempt to get rid of that funding plan - even as all the legal issues with the All for Transportation $16 Billion transit tax are not yet resolved.

The attempt to officially begin tearing apart the $812 million funding plan starts at tomorrow's BOCC meeting. On the BOCC meeting agenda is item B-2 Revision to BOCC Transportation Funding Policy
Approve by supermajority vote the proposed revision to BOCC Policy Section Number regarding transportation funding to provide that the Five Cents Local Option Fuel Tax, if levied by the BOCC, is an eligible funding source under the policy.
What this change does is raise the gas tax on Hillsborough County residents without providing any additionaltransportation funding - that the BOCC stated was a top priority of the county.

It takes a super majority to implement any change to the 10 year transportation funding policy. It will take at least 5 commissioners to vote for the change.

And any commissioner who votes for this change is voting to raise taxes and spend less on transportation.
Posted by Sharon Calvert at 3:05 PM 

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