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.
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?
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.
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:
- Don’t get mislead by favorable initial polls.
- Work from the start to build deep support, not just broad support (we will talk more about how to do that).
- Answer every attack, every charge. Do so immediately and forcefully. No charge is “too absurd” to need a fast answer; remember, you know about transit but most people do not. Use the same media your critics use, e.g., answer radio ads with radio ads. If voters see and hear you answering the attacks, they will often go with you. The public as a whole is very fair. When they first hear a charge, they don’t believe it. They wait to hear the reply. If the reply makes sense, they dismiss the charge. But an unanswered attack is a valid attack. An attack they think is valid raises genuine doubts, and if they have doubts, they vote “no.”
- You need to explain what Light Rail or commuter rail is to people who have no idea what the terms mean. Does “Light Rail” mean you can pick the tracks up and move them around? Many, perhaps most voters may never have ridden a train of any kind in their lives. (Note: People do seem to know what “streetcars” are, even if they have never seen or ridden one. And, they have a favorable opinion of them. That is why streetcars are a good way to start to introduce rail transit into an area that has none.)
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)
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.
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.
In more airport news – this time the St. Pete/Clearwater airport:
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.
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:
(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:
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)
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.
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.
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:
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.”