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Roundup 6-28-2019

June 27, 2019

Contents

Rays – What Can You Say?

Transportation

— Referendum

— TBARTA

— Treasure Island Causeway

USF – Yes, But

Politics/Regionalism – Water

Economy/Economic Development

— Unemployment

— Housing

— On the Verge

Airport – More Snowbirds

Ybor City – The Brick Quest

St Pete – Rearrange

Pasco – Now or Later

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

— Airports

— Scooters

Meanwhile, In the Rest of North America

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

_____________________________________


Rays – What Can You Say?

Last week, when a Hillsborough County Commissioner raised the issue of the Rays and St. Pete, the St. Pete Mayor told us:

“Hagan’s remarks are nonsensical,” Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby wrote in a text, “because the Rays have never asked St. Petersburg for a new agreement to let them talk to Tampa.” “As Mayor Kriseman has suggested before, it’s time for Commissioner Hagan to be benched. He’s struck out wildly on this issue countless times.”

Kriseman will continue the regional approach and expects to hear from the Rays by Labor Day “more about the Rays’ future desires,” Kirby wrote.

This week, while discussing his idea to split time between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, the Rays owner said this:

“We never say never but after all we’ve been through and what we’ve learned it’s highly unlikely,’’ Sternberg said, then adding “really difficult” and “very challenging” as further qualifiers.

“I don’t see it happening in St. Petersburg, and I would be hard-pressed to see it happen in Tampa as well, just given what I know.’’

And the Times, in a not-bad-given-the-circumstances editorial, made sure that the message was understood:

Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Tuesday he does not see a new permanent home in St. Petersburg as an option and cast serious doubt about one in Tampa.

Interesting how talking smack sometimes works out.  Though it is also a good encapsulation of a large part of how we got here with the Rays.

Setting the bickering aside, a lot of virtual ink was used to speculate on what the Rays were thinking with their time-sharing proposal, but there is not much clarity. For articles on the actual announcement read here, here, and here.  And not surprisingly, the Montreal group is interested.

In any event, we considered a large number of angles and takes to go with regarding the Rays, but after watching the Rays announcement we kind of shrugged.  We have written a lot about the Rays over the years and the situation really has not changed.  It is clear that St. Pete, nice as its downtown is, is not a good full-time location for a baseball team. (Though Al Lang is apparently part of the consideration.  That logically leads to the question of whether the Rays were working on this plan when they bought the Rowdies or the plan came later)   And it is clear that whatever Hillsborough showed the Rays was not enough money for the Rays since they just walked away essentially without comment.  We do not know what any private discussions entailed but the public reactions of the Rays and MLB did not, shall we say, evince an interest in trying to work anything out (even if it would be hard to reach an agreement. We should also note that, after all this time, it is still unknown how much money the Rays can/would put towards the stadium, how much they make or really much about their finances at all.)  Of course, that is their choice.

Given all that and that, as of now, there are no real details regarding the time-share proposal, it is hard to have a very firm opinion.  Sure, we have some thoughts, but they are not fully formed and, admittedly, we go back and forth.  Over the last week or so, we heard a lot of emotions in terms of initial reactions, we heard a number of different views on the Rays ownership, ranging from “disingenuous p.o.s.” to a few people who thought the idea was OK.

After their press conference, the Rays sent out an email saying:

On Tuesday, Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg spoke at the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg about the club’s desire to research a bold, innovative, shared-season model that allows the team to stay in Tampa Bay.

“We’re asking for open minds,” said Sternberg. “We want to do this because we are champions of Tampa Bay. We believe in Tampa Bay, we live in Tampa Bay, we desperately want the Rays to stay in Tampa Bay.”

This concept is in the very preliminary stages of its development. As we move forward, we expect to find answers to the myriad questions that will bring us closer to our goal of keeping major league baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come.

Maybe it is true.  Maybe it is not.  We shall see.  But the onus is on the Rays to provide substantive information.


Transportation


— Referendum

There was news about the referendum lawsuit:

In a “motion for reconsideration” filed Wednesday, White asks the ruling judge, Rex Barbas, to remove one sentence mandating revenue from the new transportation sales tax be “distributed to the County and to each Municipality in accordance with their relative population.”

The existing charter calls for using a “statutory” formula that exists in Florida statute. But White claims in his motion that statute “is not a formula created by the Legislature for use with the transportation surtax.”

Barbas’ original ruling on White’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the tax upheld the voter-approved charter amendment, but found the Board of County Commissioners is “exclusively responsible for determining which uses the surtax proceeds should be allocated to as well as the amount to be distributed to each use.”

As usual, we are not going to get into the legal argument, but here is the political reasoning:

. . . White argues “Florida Statute gives the BOCC the option to distribute surtax proceeds to municipalities, but it does not mandate it.”

“This is not to argue that the BOCC should fail to consider giving a portion of surtax proceeds to the municipalities,” the lawsuit reads. “But any such allocation should be based on the actual transportation needs of the municipality, not on arbitrary, fixed percentages that were created to serve an entirely different tax with entirely different goals.”

We leave the lawsuit to the court, but, since it has the authority, we, like many others, think the BOCC should just copy the formula put in place in the referendum.

In further news,

If the Hillsborough County Commission enshrines into ordinance the portions of the All For Transportation sales surtax a judge struck from the new charter, that would be good enough for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, according to the agency’s attorney, David Smith.

It seems the discussion was relation to bonds:

There had been some concern that even if the Board of County Commissioners passed an ordinance restoring those details, it wouldn’t be sound enough policy to ensure the transit agency’s ability to use the funds to attract federal grants or seek bonds to pay for major projects.

Federal grants and bond applications typically require a 20-year guaranteed revenue stream to back the financial obligations. If County Commission approved an ordinance allocating All For Transportation revenue, a future board could overturn that ordinance, raising the question of whether or not that would hurt funding options.

Smith said it wouldn’t.

“Even had the judged ruled totally down the line supporting the original [charter] language, it could always be amended,” Smith said comparing the charter to a county ordinance. “There was no guarantee to begin with.”

Further, he explained, any bonds sought using revenue from the new tax charter have to be protected even if a future board wants to roll back allocations.

“If the County Commission undoes that, they have to do so in a method that does not jeopardize the bonds,” Smith said.

That all makes sense to us.  The key is that the BOCC endorse the formula, enshrine it in interlocal agreements, and, as much possible, require a supermajority to change it.


— TBARTA

TBARTA got some money.  Here’s the breakdown:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed off on the state budget, which includes funds for Tampa to develop transit technologies and operations.

The record level of the $2.5 million funding for Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority is broken up by $1.5 million slated for agency operations and administration and an additional $1 million to study and develop transit innovations. 

Those technologies include smart city technologies, autonomous vehicles, multimodal transportation, hyperloop technology and zero-emissions transit, according to TBARTA’s June 26 press release.  

That is nice but not particularly relevant to getting anything useful done in the next few years.  (We just want to note that hyperloop is basically a type rail, just the kind that risked killing everyone inside with explosive decompression.   But it’s not called “rail,” which apparently makes it ok.  Why not study maglev, too?)  Where is the money for the regional gondola study?


— Treasure Island Causeway

There was interesting news about the Treasure Island Causeway.  From Florida Politics:

A stalled project to improve the East Treasure Island Causeway in St. Petersburg will still get $1.2 million allocated for the project in last year’s budget.

The funding was reallocated and included in the 2019-20 state budget Gov. Ron DeSantis approved Friday.

The approved funding will pay for drainage improvements and resurfacing along the corridor that primarily serves Treasure Island residents and two St. Pete neighborhoods.

The funding might be a slight to St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who had been pushing for the project to include pedestrian and bicyclist improvements as part of the project, according to sources familiar with the project. The reappropriated funding is earmarked specifically for drainage and engineering.

To us it makes no sense to not include the bike and pedestrian improvements. If you are fixing the bridge and you have already spent all this money on the Pinellas trail and other features, rebuild the bridge right the first time.

The original appropriations request for about $300,000 more included language that would have allowed Treasure Island to include pedestrian and bike lanes as part of its improvement projects. The reappropriated funding does not allow for such infrastructure.

The original appropriation request is here. The linked funding is here.

As you can see from the request, the State Senator requesting the funding included the trail money, and rightly so. (Note he also championed scooters in bike lanes, which is connected. It can all work together)  So who dropped it and why? And who would remove it just to slight St. Pete’s Mayor and why? (At least there is money for the roads to nowhere and hyperloop studies.)


USF – Yes, But

The new USF med school got a decent amount of money from the legislature this year, but,

Despite receiving $12.4 million from the state this year for construction costs of its new downtown Tampa building, officials with the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute were surprised by a last-minute $1.7 million cut to its operating budget.

Gov. Ron Desantis vetoed a line item in the state’s budget that allocated $1.7 million toward the operating budget specifically for USF’s medical school, an annual lump sum the university has received from the state for years, as more medical schools were established at other state-funded universities.

“The genesis of this funding came from a study by the board of governors for the State University System of Florida, which identified funding on a per medical school student basis,” said Mark Walsh, a lobbyist who represents USF in Tallahassee. “USF and the University of Florida have longstanding medical schools, and this money was meant to keep medical school funding at an equitable level after four newer medical schools were founded post 2000.”

We understand wanting to save some money, though this seems like an odd item to cut.  Moreover,

Those four new medical schools at public universities are at Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University.

The University of Florida medical school did not receive any cuts this year to its operating budget, Walsh said.

$1.7 million is not that large an amount in the greater scheme of things, but it is not chump change either.  Setting aside that the Miami area really does not need two medical schools (and south Florida three), that is a sign of where the leverage is, even in the Tampa Bay delegation.  (At least there is money for roads to nowhere.)


Politics/Regionalism – Water

We have previously reported on the Tampa “toilet to tap” plan.

The Tampa Augmentation Project, or TAP for short, was a top priority for former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who left office in May. Tampa officials have said the whole region would benefit from their plan to inject up to 50 million gallons a day of treated wastewater into the underground water table to provide an added layer of cleansing before it is pumped back up into reservoirs and, eventually, faucets and showers.

This week, oddly:

Tampa Bay Water’s board was voting on an agreement to give Tampa $1.6 million last week to study the feasibility of a controversial plan to use reclaimed water to augment the city’s drinking water supply. The deadline for getting that done would be next year — but then Tampa officials sought an extension to 2021.

As soon as eight of the board members cast their vote, though, the ninth member, Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda, made an announcement: He was pulling the plug on the whole thing.

“I’d like to ease all minds,” Miranda said June 17th. “The city of Tampa would like to withdraw from further consideration the pending … memorandum of understanding and agreement.”

The city will proceed with its studies alone, he said. Once its plans are 60 percent complete “then the city of Tampa will return” to seek Tampa Bay Water’s input.

* * *

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said this is not the end of the program, just a delay.

“We are absolutely still doing TAP — we have studied this process for years and we believe it is in the best interest of our entire region,” she said Friday. “However, we will continue to evaluate this project against other options as we proceed.”

That is all a bit odd.  Though, if you read the Times article, you discover it is pretty much par for the course:

Leaders of local chapters of the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters have strongly objected to Tampa’s proposal. They complained about a lack of transparency, a lack of scientific study of the potential effects and what they perceive as a rush to gain approval.

Facing such opposition, and with distrust rising among their own ranks, water board members postponed a scheduled October vote on the project until February. In February they postponed it until April. And then in April, on a motion by St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice, they voted to postpone it until June 2020 to give the Tampa time to do a feasibility study.

Rice’s motion in April said the board would support Tampa’s attempt to get $1.6 million from the Legislature to pay for the study, and if that fell through, then Tampa Bay Water would provide the money itself. Tampa would provide a matching amount. The Legislature did not provide the money, and neither did the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

So on Monday, the utility board was supposed to vote on the $1.6 million. But Tampa officials wanted to push the deadline for completing the feasibility study to 2021, and Tampa Bay Water board members questioned whether Tampa would share the scientific and financial information.

“You’ve provided no rationale for why you need more time,” Rice said during Monday’s meeting.

First, if you don’t like the plan then what is wrong with delaying it further? And what is wrong with taking time and doing a comprehensive study? And if you are paying for half of the study, put in a provision that you get all the information.  And if that is not enough, Tampa Bay Water could pay for the whole thing.  We would understand ensuring getting the information. But the attitude is just really odd and, in the long run on many issues, counterproductive.

Back to idea itself, as we have said earlier:

Health and environmental concerns should be examined, but the idea that having more water to put into the system is a problem is a bit odd.  It seems to us that, even if one county might benefit more from one project, reducing the demands of one county on the overall system leaves more water for other counties.  If it is a truly regional system, making the overall pie bigger would seem to be a good thing even if not every county gets a bite from every piece.

Once again, we are open to considering real objections, but having more water for the system does not seem to be a good one.

Regarding the concept, nothing has changed.


Economy/Economic Development


— Unemployment

Employment data for May is out.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday that Florida’s jobless rate stood at 3.4 percent in May, reflecting 353,000 people out of work from a workforce of 10.3 million. The state had initially released a 3.4 percent rate for April but later revised the estimate to 3.5 percent.

Florida’s unemployment rate remains below the national rate of 3.6 percent. Among the categories of jobs that did well in Florida last month were in the fields of construction and leisure and hospitality.  

The state release can be found here (though, looking at the hyperlinks on this DEO page, it might disappear next month). Hillsborough is 3%, Pinellas 2.9%, Polk 3.5%, Pasco 3.4%, Hernando 4.1%.  In terms of job growth of the major metros:

In May 2019,  23 out of 24 metro areas in Florida had over-the-year job gains.  The areas with the largest gains were Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (+40,600 jobs, +3.1 percent), Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall (+28,300 jobs, +2.4 percent), and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (+27,100 jobs, +2.0 percent).

Make of that what you want.


— Housing

There was also new housing news.  Nationally,

Sales of new U.S. homes slumped 7.8% in May, as sales plunged in the pricier Northeastern and Western markets.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 626,000 in May, down from 679,000 in April. During the first five months of the year, purchases of new homes have fallen 3.7% compared to the same period in 2018.

Lower mortgage rates and a healthy job market have yet to unleash more home-buying. Sales of new homes plummeted 35.9% in the West and 17.6% in the Northeast. New-home sales rose 4.9% in the South and 6.3% in the Midwest, which are generally more affordable markets.

In line with that, closer to home:

According to figures released today by Florida Realtors, sales of single family homes in Pinellas shot up 13.8 percent from May 2018. That was biggest year-over-year increase since November 2016, when sales soared nearly 27 percent.

Pinellas also had the biggest price jump in the bay area in May — up 7.1 percent to a median of $271,000.

Sales in Pinellas were even better than for Florida as a whole although statewide figures showed an impressive increase of almost 10 percent.

* * *

The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage is 4 percent, down from 4.6 percent a year ago.

Here’s how single family homes sales fared in other counties

Hillsborough — sales up 5.1 percent, prices up 3.5 percent to a median of $259,900.

Pasco — sales up less than 1 percent, prices up 4.1 percent to $223,745.

Hernando — sales down 6.3 percent, prices up almost 6 percent to $180,000.

As with previous months, divining specific trends from one month’s stats is a bit hard.  However, those numbers, while possibly a buoyed by interest rates, (and the employment numbers) do not indicate an arriving downturn (though some say we may already be in one ).  It may be coming (it always is) but when is still not clear.

Although another factor in the housing market may be the persistence of institutional buyers and other investors real estate activities, especially in “starter’ homes”.  In that vein, there was an interesting article in the New York Times (focusing on Atlanta)

Except they didn’t stop. Last year, investors bought about one in five starter homes in the United States (defined as priced in the bottom third of the local market), according to CoreLogic. That was even higher than in the early years after the Great Recession and about double the level of two decades ago. In the most frenzied markets, investors bought close to half of the most affordable homes sold last year, and as much as a quarter of all single-family homes.

You can read it here.  That works for sellers but not necessarily buyers.


— On the Verge

Back in 2017, there was some news regarding some tech jobs and public incentives for a company that already has a presence in the area. (Note: we do not object to incentives properly targeted and with proper conditions.) The reason we bring that up is because we ran across an article on theverge.com regarding one of that company’s facilities in Tampa, the content of which, if true, may not be what the state should be focusing on.  While, from the articles, it does not sound like the jobs in the article are the incentivized jobs, but we think the operations are relevant.  We have no idea if the article is accurate, but maybe someone should check.  The verge article is here.


Airport – More Snowbirds

There has been a lot of Canada talk this week.  Here’s is some more. Tampa International is adding service to another Canadian city:

Canadian low-cost carrier Swoop will soon start new seasonal service at the Tampa International Airport.

Swoop, a subsidiary of WestJet, will begin service from Winnipeg, Canada and Tampa Bay on Nov. 17. 

The twice-weekly service will be offered on Thursdays and Sundays. 

The article says seasonal.  The press release just says winter but not necessarily seasonal.  The Swoop website map says year round.

From Swoop.com – click on map for website

We tend to think it will be seasonal, but you never know.

Meanwhile, the seasonal Tampa-to-Hamiliton, Toronto service in Tampa continues and runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. 

The Tampa airport currently has other nonstop flights to more major Canadian markets including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, St. Johns and Halifax. 

The more the merrier.


Ybor City – The Brick Quest

It turns out the City wants to return bricks to 7th Avenue.

There is growing interest in accentuating the historic look of Seventh Avenue — Ybor City’s main thoroughfare — by once again paving it with brick. Last week, the city asked for a price estimate.

The City should have enough bricks saved up from removing them from all the old brick roads it used to have.

Step one was to find out how many of the required historic “Augusta block” bricks made by the now-defunct Georgia Vitrified Brick & Clay Company were available.

So far, the answer is not many.

“We hit a brick wall,” said Courtney Orr, manager of the Ybor City Development Corp., which has been charged with the project. “I don’t know if there is a gold mine of the bricks somewhere, but we’re going to keep looking.”

Orr is on the hunt for those branded with the Augusta name to match the historic district’s existing brick streets, which include nearly all of Eighth and Ninth avenues.

The city has a stockpile of Augusta block, but Orr said it is reserved for maintaining Tampa’s existing brick roads.

(You can learn all about bricks in the article)  Of course, there is a little more to the story.

When this city embraced asphalt in the 1960s, the bricks that once made up Tampa’s roads were offered to anyone who asked.

“They were just given away,” said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of the Tampa History Center.

* * *

Twenty years ago, the city sold 130,000 historic bricks at 30 cents each to Winter Park. Each brick was worth as much as $4, according to Times archives.

Shocking . . . That may have contributed to the shortage.  And, while it would be cool, we would not demand they all be Augusta either.

But there is a bigger question about 7th.  We are not sure 7th is really a good choice to be brick.  It has nothing to do with this:

Decades later, city leaders wanted asphalt to modernize Tampa’s look. Some streets, such as Seventh Avenue, had the bricks removed. Others, like Fourth Avenue, had the bricks paved over.

Setting aside that paving over bricks is usually the worst of both worlds, we get maintaining residential (or just lower traffic) roads as brick roads (or even returning some to brick).  However, 7th is the main drag in Ybor, and has traffic, parades, and all manner of goings on.  Yes, aesthetically, it would be nicer than asphalt.  But in the balance of usefulness and aesthetics, we may lean more towards usefulness on 7th. Brick roads can be quite brutal and to keep them from being so, they can be a pain to maintain.

As we said, we like brick roads and where they would work reasonably (including many other streets in Ybor), we are all for them, but that does not mean they work everywhere. Making 7th brick again should be considered long and hard.


St Pete – Rearrange

It is time to check in with the proposed tallest building in St. Pete:

A condo and hotel tower planned for the 400 block of Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg won’t be quite as towering as initially planned.

Because of height limits imposed by proximity to Albert Whitted Airport, a New York developer is now considering two shorter buildings rather than one tower of 50 or more stories.

“We weren’t able to accomplish what we ideally wanted so we’re looking at a revised scheme where we’re going to separate the hotel from the condos,” Ralph Zirinsky of Red Apple Real Estate said Monday.

Zirinsky said it is uncertain how many floors the condo tower will have but “it’s still going to be a pretty tall building.”

Our guess is that it will be similar in massing (if not design) to the One St. Petersburg/Hyatt Place hotel.  While it is a shame it will not be as tall as originally proposed, it still can be a very nice project.  This is a revised rendering they released:

From the Times – click on picture for article

It looks interesting (though it is a rendering and there is not enough detail to conclude anything).  In any event, we shall see.


Pasco – Now or Later

Pasco has been working on their long-range transportation plan.

There are plenty of numbers in the working draft of Pasco County’s long-range transportation plan — the document that guides road and transit initiatives through 2045.

The county’s population by then is expected to reach 795,600, a 64 percent growth rate over the 2015 total. That’s actually a slower pace than previously projected.

More than half of the new residents are expected in the Trinity to Wesley Chapel corridor that Pasco calls its south market area. More than two-thirds of all the new jobs (or 74,000 employees) are anticipated to land there as well.

To get people around, the county could use 33 new bus routes costing $102.5 million annually to operate. And planners are drawing up maps with 809 new miles of local roads costing $7.6 billion.

That sounds like Hillsborough County a few decades ago.  So does this:

But the number that drew the most attention recently was the smallest one.

That is 1 percent. As in, the county might need to increase its sales tax rate by 1 percent, or an additional penny on the dollar, to help pay for roads, buses and other transportation elements to get people from here to there over the next 25 years.

It brought an expected response.

“My opinion is: I don’t think we should make this assumption,’’ said Commissioner Mike Moore.

That’s understandable. Deciding to ask voters for a tax increase lies with elected officials, not hired consultants.

But it’s also not binding and it certainly isn’t new. The suggestion for an increase in the sales tax is included in the current version of the county’s long-range plan that covers 2015-2040. Commissioners are required to approve an update every five years.

Moore joined a unanimous commission in late 2014 to adopt the current plan, though, at the time, he added the caveat, “I’d like to get that (tax increase) amended right out of there.’’

In fact:

The same tax forecast was included in the 2009 plan update as well. As far back as the 1990s, consultants hired to develop the long-range plan have included proposals for new taxes to help match income with expenditures.

It’s like Pasco went to a 1990’s themed party dressed as Hillsborough.

But, unfortunately for both Pasco and Hillsborough, if you want stuff, you need to be able to pay for it.  We are not going to tell Pasco how to find the money, but we suggest they find it somewhere sooner rather than later, especially if they are so determined to maintain their sprawl-centric development pattern.

We wish Pasco would learn from all the mistakes made by Hillsborough (and a lot of other places) over the years, but it seems they are determined to just repeat them.  That is their choice, but it should not be encouraged.  And Hillsborough and Pinellas should not encourage or support them.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country


— Airports

Recently, biometrics have been touted as the way to speed up getting through an airport.  Setting aside questions of the government or companies securely collecting and storing large databases of biometric information,

Air travelers want to get where they need to go as fast as possible and with as little drama as possible. Airports, airlines and tech providers are responding by investing heavily in automation to make that happen. But according to a new OAG survey of 2,000 travelers in North America, travelers would prefer to see those problems solved with humans, not machines.

* * *

But ask travelers what they believe is the best way to speed up the security experience, and the number one response is out of the keep-it-simple-stupid playbook: Just open more lanes. Four in 10 respondents (40%) said the TSA should add more loading zones for passengers to prepare their bags for scanning, compared to 29% of travelers who ranked biometrics-based identification processes as the number one choice.

You can see the article here and the survey here.


— Scooters

As the news has reported, all the scooters left around town get picked up (and usually charged).  Who does that?  Learn about those people in this interesting article.   It is all very gig-economy – in other words, low paid.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of North America

The saga of Sidewalk Labs (Google) and Toronto continues:

The Google sister company behind a controversial, hi-tech redevelopment scheme for a swath of Toronto’s waterfront has released the first detailed outline of an ambitious project, but stakeholders say that unanswered questions remain over data collection and the scale of the plan.

The 1,500-page plan unveiled in Toronto on Monday reveals that Sidewalk Labs intends to spend C$1.3bn (US$900m) on the project that will involve “raincoats for buildings”, heated and illuminated sidewalks, affordable housing, tall timber structures and innovations to support sustainability and environmentalism.

* * *

The project has long been a lightning rod for criticism, even attracting a petition calling for Waterfront Toronto to head back to reset the process and seek new proposals for the land.

There are a lot of issues wrapped up in this one storyline: tech companies, urban development/redevelopment, privacy, public/private partnerships, how much privacy will we give up, do we let corporations dictate our cities, etc.  You can read a Guardian article about the latest here, but it is very interesting to just google “Quayside Sidewalk Labs” and read the coverage.

We just wonder if the Tampa Bay area (or any area in Florida) would even raise objections if a major tech company proposed something similar here or whether we would let them just do whatever they wanted.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the World

For anyone with a few minutes to kill, there is a challenge from the Guardian to name the city by the bike lane marking here.

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