IIFA – The Review
So the IIFA awards event has come and gone. You may have noticed that we have not said much about it. That is namely because there is a general consensus that the IIFA was a good thing to host and, especially as most of the money used for it was private, there are not many issues.
So how did it go? It seems to have gone fine. Those involved seemed to enjoy it. Traffic was not bad. Great.
As for economic impact, obviously, there was some. How much? That is not clear. Past IIFA hosts have seen 24,000 hotel room nights from the event. It seems that in Tampa the awards took up somewhere between 10-12,000 room nights (at least in Hillsborough County). Oh well.
The crowd at the actual main show was somewhere between 25-30,000. And, let’s be honest, no one really knows how much economic impact there really was (is it $30 million, $15 million, somewhere in between?) Not a Super Bowl (not anywhere close, really), but that’s ok. It is an awards show for a foreign film industry, after all.
One thing that is a little weird is this:
IIFA claims the show will eventually reach an estimated 800 million viewers in 110 countries. Some markets are remote, many without systems of measuring viewership, so those numbers will be difficult to confirm.
Well, at least people will know we exist eventually.
While the short term impact was probably quite small but ok, we have no idea what the long term impact, if any, will be. We agree with the Mayor:
Exactly. We are all for events. They are all nice and good and serve as a small advertisement, which is fine. (And if we are given a similar opportunity, we would also support doing it, especially if private money was paying for most of it.)
The real problem with these events is that they are oversold by local officials (for instance, this event will not provide worldwide exposure, really. It had a very specific target audience). Moreover, building an international brand requires having substance, not just shows, which requires proper transportation infrastructure, proper planning, a proper educational system, and a diverse economy with a well-educated, innovative workforce. These are still all issues left unaddressed by the show (though, once again, we are not opposed to the event).
Just like after the RNC, now we are back where we were with all the unsolved issues that we had before we got the IIFA awards (and actually before we got the RNC). Maybe someday there will be some business that comes from the IIFA, but, right now, nothing has changed.
Transportation – The Bridge
So let’s look at some of the issues still unaddressed. First, the Business Journal had an item clarifying what FDOT meant by the new Howard Frankland being “light rail ready” back in October. Apparently, according to the Business Journal, it did not mean much:
But here’s the reality: In order to include light rail, the bridge would have to be widened; a causeway leading up to it would need to be built; the electrical component and other infrastructure would have to be added.
First, it will be done in 2024?
Second, so they will spend $25 million to make the new bridge “ready” for the $1 billion investment? (The Governor wants to give Miami at least $50 million to add an “artistic element to a downtown exit leading to a bridge. See “Transportation – Meanwhile In the Rest of Florida” We only get $25 million for an actual, functional element?) Of course, this is no surprise given how the State’s transportation policy seems to be shaping up:
Florida House members on Thursday unanimously passed a vision of the state’s transportation future that calls for more toll roads. It would encourage more cellphone towers on state property to raise money to build roads in these days of declining gas-tax revenue. It also would allow businesses to put up signs on state nature and recreational trails to help pay for their maintenance.
But that’s not all HB 7175 would do. It also dissolves the state’s rail commission created in 2009 and rendered moot by Gov. Scott’s refusal of billions in federal dollars that would have built a high-speed link between Tampa and Orlando.
But the bill does call for relief for air travelers, authorizing the Florida Department of Transportation to finance “strategic airport investment projects” with private partners that promote international trade.
The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, puts a heavy emphasis on private money. It authorizes the DOT to help pay for future road projects by using money from leases with wireless companies that want towers near state roads.
Well, we know the State government tends to be road happy, so more money to road decorations than preparation for transit is not surprising. At least here (and we need more road money, but we have other needs too), the failure to spend now will just cost much more later. Welcome to Tampa.
And then the Senate Transportation Committee Chairman:
“While it is true that I do not support raising the sales tax in Pinellas to the highest level in the state to pay for 19th century transportation options, this really isn’t about my opinion of the Greenlight Pinellas light rail plan,” Brandes said.
“As far as transportation options, as the Chairman of Senate Transportation I am on the record in support of bus rapid transit and other dynamic options to enhance our transportation network,” Brandes said.
But, apparently, it is ok for the State to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on SunRail AND take on the insurance liability for SunRail and TriRail, but not the streetcar, of course. (On the other hand, on SunRail, Orlando did not have its own legislators fighting hard against the effort.)
This all takes us back to the question of whether rail is bad or just rail in the Tampa Bay area. (And what about that $50 million Miami “artistic element.” Is that a good use of taxpayer money too? Why doesn’t Miami have to pay for that?)
Then there is this:
Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign has spent heavily in the market, which touches 12 counties. By the end of April, Let’s Get to Work, a committee aligned with Scott, will have poured $1.9 million into the Tampa market, according to publicly available media-buy data.
The numbers also underscore the importance of Central Florida more generally. Second on the list is Orlando, where Scott’s campaign has made $1.3 million. Those are the only two markets where Scott has spent more than $1 million.
The two markets have larger populations than the more densely populated Miami and West Palm Beach media markets. In 2012 presidential race, 3.6 million people voted in the Tampa and Orlando markets, a number that was 2.5 million in the south Florida markets.
So that helps explain state money on SunRail, but it does not explain why we still cannot get what we need. (You may say there is a lot of road construction going on here, but we are years behind and there is also a whole lot of road construction in Orlando and Miami, which both seem to have no trouble getting rail money).
While spending time on and at IIFA is fine, it would be good if local officials spent more time pushing, very hard, for proper infrastructure spending. The Howard Frankland Bridge has to be one of the most important infrastructure projects in the area. (Maybe we should call being rail ready an “artistic element” and we would get the funding.) Getting it built, making it rail/transit ready should be a priority, and all the lanes should be free – like they are now.
Why can’t we leverage our electoral power into more support? That requires unified action by political officials in the Tampa Bay area, which is really why it doesn’t happen.
Transportation – Greenlight, Accountability, and Integrity
The opposition to Greenlight Pinellas says it involves the issue of raising taxes and responsibility in spending. We are all for such responsibility. This week, the Times had an interesting report that makes us wonder if it is responsible spending that is the issue or just an ideological opposition to rail.
A bill that would have repealed PSTA’s authority to levy a property tax if the Greenlight referendum passes was passed two years ago, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it. Scott said the issue should be addressed at the local level. Opponents of the sales tax hike feared the bill would make it easier to pass the referendum.
Well, now that is odd. PSTA sought to protect taxpayers and it was killed because opponents of Greenlight knew it was a good idea. So, who is protecting the taxpayer? And who is opposed to excessive taxation and spending? Remember, the opponents go by the name “No Tax for Tracks” – it is all about rail here, to which they have an ideological opposition. It is not about responsible government or protecting the taxpayer. (And note that the Governor, gave the OK to SunRail)
Anyway, it seems like PSTA is determined to put the protections in place anyway.
County and PSTA officials are hammering out a pact that aims to put as much teeth into that promise as possible. It includes safeguards designed to ensure the one-cent tax money will only be used to expand bus service and build a 24-mile light rail line between St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The project is expected to cost $2.2 billion to build and $130 million annually to operate.
“The county doesn’t want to micromanage it,” said attorney Steve Miller, a consultant hired to represent the county in talks with PSTA. “However, if things go sideways or don’t go quite as planned, the county would have the ability to insert itself.”
Good for Pinellas working to be responsible, even if the opponents of the Greenlight plan are not. Hillsborough could learn something, again.
Transportation – Enter Megabus
This week it was announced that there will be new bus service between Tampa and Orlando.
Ok, stop right there. It would be nice if at least the media would understand the difference between rail technologies. Light rail is local rail transit. It is not intercity rail, like All Aboard Florida. (As far as we know, no one has a vision of light rail between Tampa and Orlando, and confusing the two is not helpful to having this area making an informed decision about its transportation future).
Now that we have cleared that up, back to the bus:
Megabus, a city-to-city express bus service company, is expected to announce today that it’s launching service out of downtown Tampa, shuttling passengers to and from Miami and Orlando. Its 81-seat, double-decker buses will run six daily arrivals and departures from the Marion Transit Center at 1211 N Marion St.
Fine with us. If a private company wants to try bus service, we have no objection. Frankly, we hope it is successful. Most major areas have various transportation options. Moreover, since this area cannot get its act together as a region, it is unlikely that there will be intercity rail any time soon.
The biggest problem with the Megabus is how to get around after you get to Tampa. You could take HART, but how long will it take you to get where you want to be? You use Zipcar, except you can’t. You could try Uber or Lyft, but the PTC is working to kill those. You could take a cab.
Once again, the real issue is that there are not many transportation options in this area, which makes connecting to other cities through anything other than cars (rented or owned) not particularly useful. Transportation needs to be an integrated system, something that still does not exist here. (Though at least Pinellas is trying.)
Economy – The Left Behind Series
Transportation is one issue that still remains. Another is our low wage economy, which we have been discussing for a while. So we were gratified that the issue was highlighted in a Times column this week (and last week’s Bass Pro Shops groundbreaking):
So where are all those better paying jobs? We covet them in Tampa Bay but can’t seem to get enough to stay competitive, leaving more and more area workers lacking the same opportunities they had prior to the recession.
We may covet them, but our officials, despite the rhetoric, adopt policies that do precious little to actually attract them. Anyway,
Among 334 larger counties in the nation, Pinellas County registered the biggest annual decline in weekly wages — down 4.3 percent to $802 — from September 2012 to September 2013. So says the Bureau of Labor Statistics about its most recently available numbers.
Among larger metropolitan areas nationwide, Tampa Bay ranks among the 10 with the lowest average increase in wages and salaries from 2009 to 2012. In 2009, Tampa Bay wages averaged $40,590. By 2012, they averaged $42,230, an increase of just $1,640, say BLS data.
Granted, this is hardly the economic news you would hope to hear. Our unemployment rate is pretty low. We just wrapped up the fun weekend with Bollywood. We keep hearing bits of news of more companies expanding here with better than average wages.
Not only are we growing slowly, we started low in the first place. Most of that is a result of longstanding policies favoring real estate development, sprawl, call centers, and other low wage jobs. And the vicious cycle extends to brain drain, because why should people stay when they can get amenities not available here and also get paid more (often much more) by going somewhere else?
It is not enough to say you want higher paying jobs. You actually have to create an environment that creates and/or attracts them. This area has done a few things in that vein, but not enough and fewer than other areas with which we compete. (And we keep doing things that harm that effort, like focusing on sprawling development as the main economic driver; failing to build a comprehensive, integrated infrastructure; failing to change how we build our area except for in small, isolated areas; and failing to create an overall environment that favors real achievement and proper economic development over the traditional Florida land rush mentality.)
The status quo is not acceptable. That is the bottom line.
— A Side Note
This week we also learned:
Express Scripts, the nation’s biggest pharmacy benefit manager, is planning to cut hundreds of jobs across the country. But the 390 employees the company plans to fire from its Tampa operation constitute the largest layoff in Tampa Bay in 2014.
That’s more than half of the company’s 720-person workforce at 5701 E Hillsborough Ave. The layoffs include nearly 150 high-paying pharmacist positions. The company said it told those employees about the cuts Tuesday and filed the required layoff notice with the state.
The cuts are due to losing an account, and those things happen. Nevertheless, it is not good news. (Nor is this news about defense spending. ) Just another reason to work to diversify the economy.
In A Park Down by The River – Cont., Some More
The City is going to hold a public meeting on Julian Lane Riverfront Park:
What is the purpose of the meeting?
Good enough, but the Mayor already has a plan.
Buckhorn has called for redesigning the 37-year-old park with an eye toward removing the earthen mounds originally created by architect Richard Dattner and realigning Laurel Street to get more use from land sitting between the street and Interstate 275.
Frankly, we have no problem with most of that, though at least the big mound/vertical element should be retained in some form because vertical elements are almost nonexistent in this area. (See “In Another Park Down By The River” and “In a Park Down By the River – Cont”)
Clearly, from the layout of the park right now, there is no view of the river:
But it is not because of the vertical element – it is because of the trees, tennis courts, buildings, and poor layout of the park. And the park is so big that views of the river and a vertical element can coexist – the vertical element actually creates unique views of the river. (The biggest mound is that small circle in the upper left hand section just to the right of the tennis courts between the trees – about the size of the infield of the softball field – but, we admit, small as it is, the Mayor’s common quips about the mounds make good sound bites.)
It will be interesting to see how much input the community actually has or if the park gets the Bro Bowl treatment.
Downtown – One Suit Down
This week the lawsuit seeking to block the Residences at the Riverwalk was dismissed:
Baker also contended that the 36-story apartment tower would be out of scale with surrounding buildings, inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and incompatible with the rest of the city’s arts and cultural district.
As the judge noted:
But Hillsborough Circuit Judge James M. Barton II concluded Baker failed to establish that he had standing to sue the city and the developers. Even if what he claimed were true, Barton wrote, Baker wouldn’t suffer injuries different from those of the community at large.
That all makes sense to us. Of course, it was a legal ruling and not this:
Nevertheless, it still opened the way for the initial road work to start, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the Channelside suits are still around.
Transportation – The Connector Works
First reports on the Selmon/I-4 Connector look good:
That is not particularly surprising because:
The idea for the connector was conceived more than 30 years ago, and the road cost $421 million to design and build. The elevated road provides access between the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway and the east-west stretch of I-4 that cuts through Ybor City.
In other words, the need was known, just nothing happened for decades – like most transportation in this area. Now, there will be changes in Ybor:
This fall, the state will begin repairing and enhancing the two one-way roads between Adamo Drive and Hillsborough Avenue, narrowing them and adding more on-street parking spaces, landscaping, benches, a bicycle path and other aesthetic improvements. The work will take about two years to complete. Then the Department of Transportation, which now oversees 21st and 22nd, will transfer management of the roads to the city of Tampa.
That’s fine because there is an alternate route – namely the connector.
Hopefully, transportation fixes will not take so long anymore, but with something conceived 30 years ago just becoming reality and all the obvious needs throughout the area, one wonders.
Meanwhile In The Rest of Florida
SunRail, the commuter rail system in Orlando started service this week. While, as commuter rail (as opposed to light rail or intercity rail), it is not really what is being discussed initially for this area, it is still an achievement for Central Florida – especially given that leaders from all political parties and different counties got together and the state kicked in money (unheard of here). Interestingly, though not a full quote, even HART’s resident bus expert – who previously has spoken against rail in this area – thinks it is viable:
Charlotte residents had the same unease as Orlandoans about commuter rail not going where they wanted it to go or as frequently as they wanted, and why the heck there were no trains during the weekend. There were big doubts about whether enough people would ride the train, Hooks said.
All the concerns and uncertainties are legitimate, but it will be the practical application that determines whether the train attracts the number of riders to make it viable, he said: “You have to let the performance of the system play out and see how it works for folks.”
Why wouldn’t the same be true here?
To achieve multiple stated goals, like being the/a gateway to Latin America and increasing high paying/tech jobs, it would be nice to have something like Microsoft’s Latin American headquarters in the area. Sadly, it is in Fort Lauderdale, as noted in this article from the Sun Sentinel.
Microsoft chose South Florida for its Latin America headquarters about two decades ago. It moved to its current locale in Fort Lauderdale in 2002. The lure: proximity and easy access to Latin America, “perspective” to lead the entire region from a South Florida location and the availability of diverse talent both from South Florida and Latin America, executives said.
“For Microsoft to have their Latin America headquarters in Broward is a huge vote of confidence for our area,” said Bob Swindell, chief executive of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the county’s economic development partnership.
Their overseas links also often lead to greater trade of goods through South Florida ports. It also tends to bring in staff, customers and others from Latin America and other world regions, helping lift business at area hotels, restaurants, nightspots and retail shops, said Swindell.
All that sounds very familiar, except there it is closer to reality. Maybe we should study what they did.
— Tech Festivals
There is also a big tech conference in Miami this week:
Kicking off Friday with a summit of local and Latin American mayors and a hackathon, the conference’s main event opens Monday for two days of panels, presentations, contests and — this being Miami, parties — designed to promote South Florida as an emerging technology hub.
Once again, the reality of the situation is that these events are happening elsewhere, putting the focus elsewhere.
Another example is One Spark in Jacksonville, which drew 260,000 attendees to downtown Jacksonville – which is a bit more (between 10 to 26 times as many, depending on whether you are counting the awards show or the highest estimate of people at the downtown party. We bet the Mayor would trade 10,000 for 260,000 any day – though why can’t we do both?) than the IIFA.
Rivas teamed up with Peter Rummell, who created Disney’s planned community in Celebration, Fla., to put together the first One Spark festival last year. Rummell pointed out that, unlike many cities around the country, Jacksonville is not rushing to copy the tech ecosystem of Silicon Valley.
“We’re not the next Silicon Valley,” Rummell said. “Jacksonville wants to be the best version of what we are.” That means showing the world that the city has interest, excitement, and money to support innovative new ideas, he added. Also important: celebrating all ages.
Rivas secured sponsors for the event, who donated toward funding projects ranging from art and music to science and technology. He got local venues to manage the pitching of projects to audiences. He designed an app and kiosks to help attendees navigate the whole festival. (They could also donate to their favorite projects through these touch points.) And, most importantly, he put in place a voting system so that everyone who attended could vote on which projects received money, in addition to donating to the projects themselves.
Rivas expected a few thousand people might attend; he underestimated the response, by a lot. More than 150,000 showed up to One Spark’s first event. Venture capitalists flew in from around the country, and presenters from around the world turned up to pitch their projects.
Talk is good. Action is better.
List of the Week
Coming in first is, unsurprisingly, San Jose, followed by San Francisco, Austin, Raleigh, Houston, Nashville, NYC, Orlando, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, and Seattle.
It reads like a list of the usual suspects, and we are not there.