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Roundup 11-18-2011

November 18, 2011

Cuba Port Trade

This week saw a little confab at the Port of Tampa regarding trade with Cuba.  From the Tribune article we learned the following:

“We certainly see opportunities in Cuba,” Tampa port director Richard Wainio said, emphasizing that largely depends on the lifting of the U.S. trade embargo that restricts U.S. shipments to Cuba, only 3 percent of which are handled by Florida ports.

So only 3% of all trade between the US and Cuba goes through Florida.  Pretty much none goes through Tampa.  What is the port going to do about that woefully poor number?

Tampa is likely to serve ships that call on Cuba and additional ports in Latin America and Gulf Coast ports such as Houston and Mobile, Wainio said.

“Likely to serve” is not the same as “we are actively looking to get service.”  So, again, what are you going to do about it?

Tampa’s port also is likely to serve ships that will use Cuba as a hub for “trans-shipments”, from new or improved Cuban ports envisioned to serve as cargo hubs for international trade.

In short, the answer to the question of “what are you going to do” is: nothing.  In fact, it seems the plan is to let Cuba be the main station of Caribbean/Gulf and Tampa be the bit player stop on the long loop around the Gulf.  More problematic is that the “trans-shipments” involve container cargo and, this report seems to confirm that, while other US ports are working to develop their container business to serve the Panama Canal, inaction is the plan for future container service to the Port.

The article is headlined “Tampa port’s role in trade with Cuba hangs on U.S. stance” but the reality is that the Port’s role hangs on the Port’s stance, and that seems to be entirely passive, while Alabama, Texas and other states get the benefit of our inaction.

More Port

It appears the port’s board is also content with inaction and being a bit player.  Why?  Because they decided to give the director a 7% raise.

Tampasphere does not care if the director gets a raise if he is doing his job, but, as we have said over and over, where is the plan and vision for getting the port to be a more significant engine for the economy?  He can do much better.

Streetcar

At least the port board restored $100,000/year funding to the streetcar.  That is a helpful development.

We also learned from the Tribune the following:

Opponents over the years lambasted the streetcar system for ridership that averages a little more than 30 passengers an hour, or about 400,000 a year. However, the system recovers more of its operating costs — about 30 percent — from fares than does HART’s bus system.

Let’s go over that again.  The streetcar covers more of its operating expenses than the buses.  Sure there are more buses, but then again, people do not build developments and neighborhoods around bus stops.  Why didn’t we hear than during the transportation referendum campaign or any other time before now?

USF Poly

The USF Poly saga goes on.  There is much that could be said, but we want to see things play out a little more.

However, one thing that can be said is that the State Senator who is the champion of making USF Poly independent appears to be a man of his word.  The Times reports that he told the youngest member of the state university system Board of Governors the following:

One of them: What if this doesn’t go through?

Alexander would later tell reporters that he never referenced any kind of “quid pro quo” and that he’s sure the people of Florida will see an independent polytechnic through even after he’s out of power.

But according to Long, the senator answered like this:

Years ago, Alexander, who controls the state budget, wanted to bring a heart-health program to a hospital in his home district, but it was derailed by someone from a university in another area. After that, he said, the school that fought against him lost tens of millions of dollars.

That’s politics, Long said the senator told him.

This week we learned that the state senator is now asking for USF to be investigated.  At least he was honest to the Board of Governors member.

Of course, politics is a massive, multiplayer game. Two other state senators are calling for USF Poly to be audited and/or for its chancellor to step down.

One other question, why is USF paying $500,000 for a video and hiring Santiago Calatrava to design a branch campus?  What bout the main campus and the tens of thousands of people who go there?

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