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Roundup 11-10-2011

November 10, 2011

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day.  We originally thought we would honor veterans by driving by the World Trade Center steel on Bayshore at 35 (or like everyone else 40) mph.   But, on second thought, we will find a more fitting way – maybe by contemplating the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform while sitting in MacDill Park – or even going to the memorial on Kennedy as Memorial (SR 60).

In any event, the Roundup comes a day early.

Ah, the Port

We learned this week that some on the Port board are considering giving a raise to the Port Director.

The Tampa Port Authority board on Tuesday is scheduled to consider a raise for Port of Tampa director Richard Wainio from $251,118 to $268,500, port counsel Charles Klug said.

As apparent justification for the proposed increase:

Tampa’s port provided the following examples of director’s salaries at other ports in 2010 and 2011: Houston, $359,300; Georgia (Savannah) $320,000; Jacksonville, $320,000; South Carolina (Charleston) $300,000; Miami, $262,351; Baltimore, $252,136.; and Gulfport, Miss., $240,750.

What we note is that most of the listed ports are either bigger  or have a more developed container business  (page 12 of the linked pdf – We don’t see Tampa on the list, but we see all the listed ports but Gulfport ) business than Tampa.  Moreover, without putting all the links, most of them seem to have an articulated vision and plan.

Just recently, TIA’s director passed on a raise even though he is moving forward with a vision and a plan.  We understand that decision.  Giving the Port Director more without knowing his vision and plan seems premature.

More on the Port: Cuba

Speaking of the port’s vision (or lack thereof), there are calls by the managing director of the World Trade Center of Tampa Bay for the Port to prepare for Cuba trade :

“Being prepared for the next level of interaction should be a principal objective which is not only achievable but needed to prepare Tampa for the changes,” Michelini wrote.

Somewhat predictably, the reaction from the port was less than enthusiastic:

“U. S. trade with Cuba depends on a number of factors,” John Thorington, the port’s senior director of communications and board coordination said in an email to the Tribune.

“Current U.S. trade policy only allows for the shipment of certain agricultural and medical products to Cuba. Most of this trade is related to agriculture and is sourced from the U.S. Midwest.

“As trade policy is modified, however, the Port of Tampa is very well positioned to accommodate an expansion of maritime business with Cuba given our geographic location, historic ties and the fact that we have modern cargo and cruise terminal facilities in place ready to serve this trade.”

Now, present Cuba trade may be more focused to the Midwest, but where is the plan for attracting business to Tampa from other gulf ports? (Corpus Christi doesn’t seem much better positioned than Tampa and they are working hard for the trade. see here and here)  Where is the vision and the effort to take advantage of our location and our connection to Cuba?

And given Port’s present inaction and seeming unwillingness to build the foundation for the business, why does the port think that is will be able to take business from other ports with established connections to Cuba when “trade policy is modified?”  If you sit on the sidelines now, you will be left on the bench later.  Maybe Port Manatee can take up the World Trade Center’s mission.

Where the Kids Are

Robert Trigaux has a piece in the Times  about the flow of young talent to certain metros – notably not in Florida:

At the Brookings think tank, demographics expert Bill Frey blogs that while young people are moving less than before, “It is interesting to see where those who did move went.” He rattles off Denver; Houston; Dallas; Seattle; Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Portland, Ore. Says Frey: “All seven are places where young people can feel connected and have attachments to colleges or universities among highly educated residents.”

When the U.S. economy improves, Frey predicts, the modest flow of young adults to these cities may soar. If so, we better get cooler quickly.

The trick is that young adults are looking for more than camaraderie and fun stuff to do. Most want decent-paying jobs to help cover student loans, and real career tracks. They want housing markets that won’t drop them into mortgage quicksand.

We have heard this before – probably because it is true.  Without getting into too much detail, Tampasphere feels compelled to point out that all the metros listed above have rail systems and have urban districts to hang out other than the mall (Bay Street is nice and all, but . . .) that are not subject to multiple shootings on a regular basis.  Oh, yea, they also are known for being something other than the mecca of call centers.

Speaking of Transit (and Vision)

In the Tribune, we see that the Director of TIA is once again advocating a forward looking vision (is the port listening).

Tampa International Airport should create a plan for a centrally located transportation center to serve as a bus transfer site and eventually a bus rapid transit, rail transportation and taxi hub, chief executive Joe Lopano said today.

Lopano told HART’s board that an airport transportation center with a tram link to the main terminal would not be duplicative of long-range plans for a transportation hub in the West Shore Business District.

We find this obvious but, as with so many seemingly obvious things, it seems to have been ignored for quite a while.  Most major airports are well connected to their cities transit systems. (Atlanta, Newark, Logan, JFK, Philadelphia, Reagan NationalSan Francisco, O’Hare and Midway, Minneapolis, Seattle , St. Louis, Dulles is on the way, Phoenix is on the way, and on)  TIA is in the middle of the area.  It should be well connected by a system that fits into its visionary transportation system.

We are also glad to see that HART and TIA agreed about the previously reported issue of paying for the now defunct old plan for a transit center:

The HART board voted today to split with the aviation authority the $82,000 in HART planning money from county ad valorem property taxes spent on the aborted Spruce/O’Brien site. The aviation authority also will reimburse $3,070 HART has paid for a least at the site.

Working together for the greater good, just like we advocated.

This Sounds Familiar

The Times ran an editorial regarding transit.  Here’s the basic gist:

But the referendum cracked the ice in introducing the region to the concept of a modern transportation system. The measure passed in the city of Tampa, and it drew strong support in many conservative suburbs, where residents face costly and time-consuming commutes to work. Polls afterward showed that even opponents wanted a better plan brought back to the table. The effort also brought together political and business leaders on both sides of Tampa Bay.

* * *

Roads, buses and rail all have a role in making this region more competitive. Last year’s vote was a setback, but it cannot be the final word.

That gist sounds pretty familiar.  Has the Times been reading Tampasphere?

This Sounds Familiar (sort of)

Then the Times followed up with an opinion piece by the leader of Moving Hillsborough Forward.  We agree with a lot of it – which also sounds familiar, such as this:

Most notably, the Central Florida area SunRail system is moving forward. Not only will their region soon have rail service, but the first Transit Oriented Development project was announced — a $200 million mixed-use project in the heart of downtown Orlando. The number of jobs created in the next three years are projected at 8,000, and over the next 30 years at more than 200,000; importantly, this includes jobs created from sustained development around the stations. This puts our region at a distinct competitive disadvantage with Orlando. This also shows how a transit system can be a powerful economic engine.

It would have been nice, though, if there was a little discussion of why the Hillsborough referendum failed and the problems inherent in the “plan” put forward.  Without learning from an honest assessment of past mistakes, future efforts will also flounder.

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