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Roundup 1-13-2012

January 13, 2012

HART & PSTA Boards Oppose Even Looking At Consolidation 

As we have noted in the past, the idea of examining potential benefits of consolidating HART and PSTA has been floated by some local politicians.  We think it is a good idea to examine whether the idea has merit.  However, apparently, the HART and PSTA boards oppose consolidation even before anyone has really examined the issue in depth.

From the beginning, transit authorities in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have been separate organizations, and both groups made it clear Monday they want to keep it that way.

Meeting in a rare joint session, leaders of both authorities opposed consolidating the two agencies as called for in a Florida Senate bill filed earlier Monday.

* * *

They each voted Monday to send separate messages to Tallahassee indicating they oppose consolidation, but would continue to work together on joint fuel and bus procurement and look for further collaborative efforts to save money.

Clearly, they are trying to stop even any discussion of the issue. What is the reasoning for this opposition?

HART board member Karen Jaroch strongly opposed a merger. She warned of a Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority “hostile takeover” of the authority of the two county transit systems.

Steven Polzin, a HART board member and University of South Florida transportation professor, listed 16 factors that could mean consolidation wouldn’t create substantial cost-savings or other advantages.

Those factors included the contention there likely would be little benefit from reduction of staff since the majority of employees are drivers, mechanics and others who directly provide service.

We’ll address the last point first.  All the points raised by our resident expert may have merit. . . or they may not.  We are not sure the drivers and mechanics care whether they work for HART, PSTA or a regional agency.  How much savings would come from administrative reductions and, maybe the rub, merging the boards? We don’t know. That is why the issue should be examined by a third party.  We do not think the issue should be (or properly can be) prejudged.

As for the “hostile takeover” comment, that is frankly bizarre – the people (not the boards) own the agencies whether they are separate or merged.  Also odd is this:

But members of both boards indicated they were aware of the role that state and local politics would have in future consideration of the issue. They also understood the issue was unlikely to disappear, given the focus the governor and Legislature have placed on the Florida budget.

So merging the agencies might eliminate waste and be economically beneficial – smaller government, but the boards, including the tea-party activist who views it as a “hostile takeover,” oppose it.  Why should they care about the Florida (people’s) budget?

Like we said, we do not have a position on whether the agencies should be merged, but we think it should be looked at closely for economic and practical, regional issues.

Opposition to simply examining whether the agencies can be more efficient smacks of protecting their position rather than serving the public. Remember, as Tampa 9.12 (the board members Tea Party Group lists as principle #9 “The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.” http://www.meetup.com/tampa912/about/ That includes the agency boards.

How to Pass A Referendum

Speaking of HART, we have discussed a numerous occasions the failure of the Hillsborough transit referendum and the rapid abandonment of rail by local leaders, rather than trying to think creatively – as most other cities have done after their first (few) referendum(s) failed.

Well, we thought we might help those who do not want to do the work.  We found a couple of studies about winning a referendum.  The more interesting of the two is written by Paul Weyrich and William Lind and called Winning Transit Referenda: Some Conservative Advice.  It is a fascinating read that lists common mistakes and what you should do instead, like this:

and this:

You must make the exact alignment of the line and the station locations clear from the outset, even if your city already has rail transit. Don’t say “trust us experts” to the voters; they won’t. They demand to know exactly what their money will be spent for. (ed. Emphasis added)

* * *

Remember, you need to do all these things, not just some of them, up front. If you leave them until late in your campaign, or worse, overlook them entirely, you will reduce your chances of winning.

We wish someone had read this before the referendum.  In any event, it is worth a read now.

The other report is more general and can be found here.  Check it out.

TIA

Thursday, the Hillsborough Aviation Authority Board agreed two to do two things: give the Director a raise and expand airside F.  We have mixed feelings about giving the Director a raise.  We are sympathetic to most of the points on both sides of the issue so we will not say anything about it.  As for expanding Airside F, we are very pleased.

PIE

In more airport news – this time the St. Pete/Clearwater airport:

Last year, St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport recorded its highest number of passengers in seven years. Traffic increased to 833,068 passengers, 7 percent more than in 2010.

It was the airport’s busiest year since its record 1.3 million passengers in 2004.

Well done.

Daily Show Smack, Part II

Last week, we noted the insult the Daily Show gave Tampa.  We noted that people might overreact.  Well, the reaction wasn’t too crazy, but there was a completely unwarranted reference to the insult.  Tampa and Hillsborough County elected officials are concerned that Bayshore is not smooth enough or properly monochromatic for presentation at the Republican Convention this summer.

“The most likely scenario is that every major national news broadcast is going to be broadcast from Bayshore Boulevard during the last week of August,” he says.

But after months of various road projects to improve parts of Bayshore and the Platt Street bridge, Cohen calls the boulevard “a patchwork quilt of all different levels, colors and various grades,” with weeds poking through gaps in the pavement.

* * *

North of Rome Avenue, the boulevard is paved with concrete slabs that can give drivers an annoying bump-bump, bump-bump at the seams. South of Rome, the road surface is asphalt, but it has been put down at different times, and it shows.

Ok, Bayshore should look nice for the convention, but worrying about the color of the pavement or some bumps (which are apparently the result of part of Bayshore being actually a bridge built over an old creek), seems like a waste of time.  That is especially true given all the other needs in the city. There are a number of streets that could be cleaned up a whole lot more (Dale Mabry, Kennedy, Florida, and, of course, Busch between Busch Gardens and I-275). Even more importantly, the City could use proper planning and codes to ensure buildings within the city are actually urban, not suburban or exurban, like this proposed for Bay to Bay:

From the Tribune - click on picture for article

 

(Why is the parking lot on the street?  There is a very successful complex with Starbucks down the street that comes up to the sidewalk with parking in the back helping to make Bay to Bay a little urban-ish oasis in Tampa.  This should be the same. Why doesn’t the City code require that in all new Bay to Bay buildings, as opposed to the double-wide with pavers across the street from Starbucks? – and, no, inertia is not an acceptable excuse.)

In any event, because we haven’t mentioned it yet, the overreaction came from a City councilman:

The city should do something, Cohen says. He noted that this week a correspondent talking about the convention on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show called Tampa “a s- – – hole.”

“With a little more attention,” he says, “we could go a long way toward not having anyone ever saying anything like that about Tampa.”

Why, yes, it is true, attention to the items we mentioned above would make Tampa a much better place.  Worrying about the color of Bayshore’s pavement will not (really, don’t you think tourists are going to be looking at the views, not the color of the pavement?)

And a final thought – we seriously doubt the Daily Show will be dissuaded from making jokes about Tampa because the color of Bayshore is uniform. (It is worth noting that Daily Show correspondent Asif Mandvi went to high school in Tampa and graduated from USF.  We don’t think Bayshore’s color will confuse him)

Cuba

In another follow-up, we wrote about Cuba and Tampa in last week’s Roundup. We quoted a Miami congresswoman who seemed to indicate that efforts in Tampa were very bad.

We thought it might be worthwhile to point out that the dynamics of the Cuba discussion are different than decades ago and different than is often portrayed in the media, particularly from Miami politicians speaking in the media.  For instance there was a Christian Science Monitor article about a poll of Cuban Americans  from October that found the following:

Overall, a majority of respondents say they support maintaining the embargo (56 percent), and only 39 percent are ready to expand trade and investment in Cuba beyond current levels. At the same time, a majority (57 percent) favors lifting all restrictions on travel, 60 percent oppose restrictions on family travel, and 57 percent even support re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Oh, and a whopping 80 percent of respondents believe that the embargo has “not worked very well” or “not worked at all.” Yes, you read that right.

What a mixed picture, right?

But it’s not so mixed if you start to look at specific categories, like the responses of 18-44 year-olds or of after-94’ers (those who arrived to the US after 1994). Those categories lead the pack on supporting engagement via diplomacy (70+ percent support), travel (75+ percent support), food and medicine sales (75+ percent), private investment, you name it. But what’s more important is where they fall behind – in citizenship and voter registration. Two-thirds of the after-1994 group are either non-citizens or non-registered citizens.

So, while 76 percent of the after-1994 group opposes a law that would limit family travel to the island to once every three years (a return to the Bush administration regulations, as proposed by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart this summer), the lawmaker who proposed these restrictions only has to worry about the 54 percent of the registered voters who say they oppose the changes. Across the board, the decided engagement tilt of the younger and more recent cohorts of Cuban Americans is tempered by slightly conservative tilt among registered-citizen Cuban Americans.

Times are changing, and the Tampa Bay area needs to be prepared to take advantage of it.

USF Poly

Finally, in the ever-changing story of USF Poly, the state senator advocating USF Poly’s independence had put in a request for all manner of information from various state universities:

University officials across the state gave up their vacations, worked overtime and generally threw themselves into fulfilling a massive data request from state Sen. JD Alexander last month.

He needed the information fast he said because his Senate Budget Committee wanted time to analyze it before a Jan. 13 meeting.

The answers, delivered on time last week, covered 5,000 pages.

And Alexander’s reponse: “Nevermind.”

The meeting set for Friday the 13th has been cancelled.

Umm. Ok. That was a good use of state employees’ time and money.  We have discussed the USF Poly issue before.  There are a lot of angles to it, but this kind of activity is a disservice to the citizens of the state, regardless of whether one wants an independent school or a branch campus.  The senator should remember that the voters are saying “The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom permalink
    January 13, 2012 3:10 PM

    Not sure you were very fair to the consolidation issue of HART/PSTA. The HART/PSTA boards are not opposed to consolidation.

    The boards are opposed to:

    *Language presuming that 3 things would be the end result from their mandated meetings: consolidation of functions, reorganization, or organizational merger.

    *Both boards also have very tight budgets and believe that if the state wants them to look into the possibility of merging (again, which they are not opposed to) the state should have to pay the $100,000 to study it. It’s kind of crappy to force an organization into something and then force them to pay to look into it as well.

    *Under the proposed bill, HART and PSTA Boards would be mandated to meet every 45 days, which is not practical.

    Great read on the failed referendum though!

  2. Joe Nunya permalink
    January 18, 2012 1:59 PM

    Karen Jaroch has no place being in a position of leadership of anything.

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