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Roundup 11-23-2012

November 23, 2012

Insecurity Watch – Cotillion Edition

We were seriously considering taking a break for Thanksgiving.  But then the Times ran an article that called out for a discussion.  The article in question was about South Tampa “society.” We are not particularly concerned with the discussion of South Tampa society as such. Look, social scenes are what they are.  Some people like them.  Some people don’t.  We are not going to get into that.

We are more interested in a few points raised in the article that go to larger issues.  First,

Kennedy Boulevard, so named after the president’s assassination, is its northern border and invisible boundary. People boast of living the bulk of their lives SOK, or South of Kennedy, center of the social universe.

Maybe that’s why Tampa is as built as it is.  Whenever we hear the SOK comment, we feel compelled to point out that Westshore Mall, International Plaza, TIA, Raymond James, both courthouses, not to mention most of Hillsborough County, not to mention most of the United States and all of Europe (and much of Asia) is north of Kennedy.  However, even if we accept that it is “just a saying,” what exactly is it saying?

Moving on through the article, the Mayor of Tampa had a very good comment.

“The good thing is Tampa is a very different place than it was when I got here,” says Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “It is far more embracing, far more diverse and far more open because of the influx of many new people.”

If only he had just stopped there. . .

During the campaign and his administration, the Mayor repeatedly (and rightly) spoke about attracting the tech savvy, the “hip,” the creative young professionals, to Tampa. He did it at USF. And he did it elsewhere, like this:

“This election… is about transitioning from an old economy to a new economy… I know very clearly if we are going to have to keep you here, and attract our best and brightest from around the country, and if my girls are going to come home here someday to raise their family we’ve got to do things differently.”


Bike lanes: This subject generated as much discussion in the Facebook comments as anything. Buckhorn supported increasing lanes marked for cyclists, not only to make cycling in the city safer, but to distinguish Tampa as an attractive and “hip” place where young professionals would feel comfortable living near downtown and pedaling to work.


“It is exactly the kind of event we need to grow and encourage because that’s what will help attract the intellectual capital — the young people — that will fuel our next iteration as a city,” said Buckhorn, who attended the festival. “I’d like to see it every weekend. Every weekend.”

All fine sentiment.

Then in the article in question, he went in a totally different direction (channeling his inner Boss Hogg meets Thurston Howell, III):

“We were a small Southern city for a long time,” Buckhorn says. “As a result of that, all the families grew up together and knew each other and had been involved for generations.

“I picked it up pretty quickly. You trace the pedigrees,” he says. “You know who are posers and who are legitimate.”

So says the Irish guy from Illinois/DC/Pennsylvania with a dash of New Yorker. (here and here and here)

Nothing shows that is Tampa ready for the 21st century and nothing attracts those “hip” young professionals like the Mayor calling out high society “posers.”  Who would not want to move to a place where the Mayor is so concerned about high society “posers”?  We are sure there are innumerable studies that show that the main concern of “hip” young professionals is not quality of life, job market, urban environment, good transit, entertainment options, education, and strong work force, but, rather, to be accepted in “high society” and not be called out as “posers.”  (It is clear that Silicon Valley executives are incredibly concerned about whether, while they are making billions, they are attending black tie or cowboy themed events.  see “She wanted the Cattle Baron’s Ball to go black tie. But that just isn’t how things are done in South Tampa society.”)

The other point such comments highlight are the divisions in our community and the trouble we have getting things done – namely because the vast majority of voters do not live in South Tampa and, frankly, do not think South Tampa represents them and their interests.  The Mayor just reinforced every fear and stereotype in the rest of Hillsborough County and all the surrounding counties about the main city in our area. (We’re sure Old North East St. Pete loved his comments) not to mention every stereotype about Tampa throughout the country. (See this)

The reality is that the Mayor needs to go back to being this guy:

“As I think about why we have to change Tampa’s economic DNA, I think of Grace and Colleen Buckhorn, I think about these kids from Rampello, I think about the brain drain that has been leaving this community for a decade to Charlotte and Austin and to Raleigh-Durham,” he said.

“To give these kids at Rampello and my two daughters a chance for a different Tampa, we have to change the way we do business, and this starts with transforming the culture at City Hall,” he said.

Worrying about high society “posers” is not changing the DNA.

Rays – Stadium Financing

In sharp contrast to St. Pete’s Mayor, this week a task force of business leaders actually did something useful regarding the Rays stadium issue.

Word from Tampa Bay’s business leaders is in: The area can afford a new baseball stadium. That is, as long as one makes rosy assumptions about construction costs and the public’s willingness to spend tax money.

A $500 million, roofed stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays could be financed without “imposing new taxes on local residents,” announced a joint chamber of commerce study group from both sides of the bay on Monday.

* * *

The Rays could be expected to pay 20 to 40 percent of the cost, the chamber group said. A 30 percent share would be $150 million.

Who were leaders?

The caucus was formed by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. They consulted with the Rays, and public officials in both counties.

In other words, it was a regional group.  Imagine that.  Hopefully, they will push the Mayor of St. Pete.

Of course, while there is potential funding, there is a practical deadline to action:

The money is becoming available in the next few years as Trop debt and other obligations are satisfied. Those revenue sources include tourist development taxes and infrastructure building funds such as Penny for Pinellas and the Community Investment Tax in Hillsborough.

But leveraging those sources must be weighed against using the money for other public needs, and the decision needs to be made quickly, the Bay Area Financing Caucus says.

“If a stadium-financing plan is not in place by Oct. 1, 2018, those revenue sources may be reallocated to other projects, which would make financing a stadium beyond 2018 increasingly difficult,” the caucus said in an executive summary of its report.

In other words, it is possible to finance this thing.  Now, St. Pete needs to stop screwing around.

The report is very interesting and can be found here.

HART – Metro Rapid

HART released an image of its super fancy Metro Rapid bus:

From HART’s Twitter – click on picture for tweet

Which is vastly different from a normal buses?

From HART – click on picture for website


From HART – click on picture for webpage

Time to get excited.

(Apparently HART is not that excited because, despite the Board’s complete lack of interest in rail, the background of their media page is here)


The Times had an editorial regarding the studying of a HART/PSTA merger. There was not much with which we would disagree.

Of course, the two agencies could collaborate in a host of ways short of consolidating. And a merger raises political and legal hurdles, too, requiring approval by the Legislature, the agencies and local voters. But the debate should not revolve around what the employee unions want or what an administrative hassle a merger would be. The structure is not as important as the ideal approach for improving transit long term.

The bay area already takes a regional view in managing its highways, water resources, job development efforts and other assets that provide this area’s quality of life. The two transit agencies need to look at what works best for customers and taxpayers — not for managers and boards that are protecting their own turf. The consultants should focus the benefits and drawbacks in the coming weeks, and the two transit agencies should welcome a full and honest discussion of how to move ahead.

Exactly. (Although with the caveat that the area only half-heartedly attempts to be regional in those things. It is often not so successful.)

Watching Us Be Passed By

Speaking of transit, we just thought we’d note that another Texas city is moving forward on rail (in addition to Dallas, Houston and Austin).  San Antonio is moving its project forward. here and here. It is amazing that Texas is such an oppressive, socialist state.

Economic Development – Some Holiday reading

The NYTimes had a couple of interesting articles this week.  One was a Thomas Friedman column about how Chattanooga is developing a high tech industry. The other is how Iowa and other Midwestern states are working to create the “silicon prairie.”

These are real economic development efforts.  We need to learn.

List of the Week

Our list of the week is really an online survey by Travel & Leisure for America’s Favorite City. You can see the choices here.

Of course, the Tampa Bay – including South Tampa – is not even a candidate.

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