Mitch Perry - 6/282 - SaintPetersBlog

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Barclay Harless announces run for St. Petersburg City Council

Barclay Harless, a 31-year-old banker and former aide to state Sen. Darryl Rouson, will be running for District 2 seat on the St. Petersburg City Council next year.

Harless announced Tuesday he will be seeking the seat currently held by Jim Kennedy, who is term-limited out of office next year.

“We have a great city and we want to keep it that way and we want to improve upon everything that’s been built over the past two decades,” Harless said last week as to why he’s running for Council.

Speaking at Hawkers Asian Street Fare in the city’s Edge District, Harless believes millennials like himself are continuing to be a part of the fabric of the St. Petersburg.

“They’re opening businesses. They’re becoming policemen and teachers, and so I want to preserve what we’ve built and fix what’s not working.”

What’s not working?

“We have an infrastructure challenge,” referring to one of St. Pete’s major stories of the year — sewage system problems that has been gripping City Hall for months.

Harless also mentions the continuing work with the Pier. If elected, he wants to amend the city’s permitting process.

“Just naturally being at a bank with a lot of small businesses,” Harless says, “you hear from folks who have opened up businesses in Sarasota and Tampa and elsewhere.

“They’ll tell you that the St. Pete permitting process is challenging, compared to some of the others.”

Another improvement would be on the lack of affordable housing for middle-income people in St. Pete. Harless suggests the city look at changing zoning requirements, freeing up more housing for people without children or pets.

“We need to rezone some of these areas that are maybe single family homes that were made for two bedrooms and one bathroom,” he says, quickly adding that it should be “privately driven.”

“But I think the city can encourage private industry to move in that direction.”

When asked about how he feels Mayor Rick Kriseman has handled the sewage problem, Harless is sympathetic, saying that leaders need to solve problems; he believes that the city now has a set plan going forward to deal with major storms.

However, the closest Harless comes to criticizing anyone on the matter is when he mentions Mike Connors, the longtime city public works administrator who resigned abruptly a year ago.

“I know he had a lot of power in a very central location,” Harless says. “And sometimes in an organization, that can cause fear.”

Crime is a concern that needs to be taken seriously, Harless notes.

“I have a lot of friends who say they’ve been the victim of criminal activity, and they say ‘I’m not going to bother with filing anything,’ and I always tell them, file it,'” he says, adding that with more data, the more likely that city leaders can understand the underlying issues behind such activities.

Running for political office at this stage of his life wasn’t something he was thinking about until about a year or so ago, until officials with both the St. Pete Chamber and some nonprofit agencies suggested he might be a viable candidate in District 2.

Harless was born in Melbourne, Florida, and has lived in St. Petersburg since he began attending USFSP more than a decade ago.

After graduating, his first job was as a legislative aide to Rouson.

“It was a pleasure working for Darryl because he’s just so involved. Not just in the Legislature, but he’s also active on the local level,” Harless recounts. “He has his hands on all types of projects, so even if he wasn’t working on them, he wanted to be informed about them if they impacted his area.”

In late 2013, Harless left Rouson to become a campaign scheduler for Alex Sink, who had just announced her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which opened after the death of C.W. Bill Young.

Following that campaign, Sink, a former banker herself, suggested Harless get into the banking business,

The “best advice I ever got,” he says.

In May 2014, he was hired by Trevor Burgess, the then-chief of C1 Bank in St. Petersburg, as a business development officer.  In May 2016, Harless was promoted to assistant bank officer, shortly before CI was sold to Bank of the Ozarks.

Harless worries about street parking, saying he knows of some business owners who were forced to leave downtown because it has become too big of a problem for them — specifically Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro, which closed shop this past summer in the Edge District for its location on 4th Street.

Harless’ political aspiration began in college. He was elected student body president at UFSP, but his brief reign ended ignominiously in 2007, after alcohol was found in his campus office.

Facing the threat of an impeachment proceeding conducted by the Student Government, Harless resigned.

“I was 22 years old,” he says deliberately, clearly prepared to be asked the question. “It was after a long day. I invited some good friends of mine back to my office. It was night time. It was after hours. I violated campus policy.

“It’s changed since then,” he recounts, “but back then you have to file for a ‘social’, essentially, and I dealt with it. I lied about it initially, and then I took responsibility for myself and resigned.”

In retrospect, he says that in some ways it was one of the best things that could happen have happened to him. “I hate to say it was a testing phase of my life … I didn’t violate any laws, you know? But it was a lesson I’ll never forget, and it means a lot to me.”

Harless becomes the first candidate to announce for District 2 in the upcoming election cycle, to represent the area encompassing the northern part of the city.

Councilmembers Darden Rice and Amy Foster will also be seeking for re-election in Districts 4 and 8, respectively. The District 6 race will also feature new candidates, as incumbent Karl Nurse is term-limited out next fall.

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Kathy Castor co-signs letter to Donald Trump calling on him to repeal the Hyde Amendment

Tampa area Representative Kathy Castor is one of more than 100 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who have co-signed a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, calling on him to support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. That’s the 1976 law named after former Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde which prevents federal funding for abortion.

“Every person should be treated with dignity, compassion and respect – and that includes upholding a woman’s right to make her own decisions about whether to end a pregnancy,” says the letter, written by Berkeley Representative Barbara Lee. “We urge you to begin your presidency with a clear and bold statement that abortion coverage bans have no place in our public policy by eliminating all such restrictions from your FY2018 Budget request.”

Other Florida Democrats on the letter include Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings.

The Hyde Amendment enjoys popular support from a strong majority of Americans. A Marist poll published in July found that 62 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 63 percent of women, 45 percent of those who say they are “pro-choice,” and 44 percent of Democrats.

 

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At town hall in Ybor City, Darryl Rouson says climate is good for “true” criminal justice reform

At a town-hall meeting in Tampa’s Ybor City, newly-elected Senate District 19 Democrat Darryl Rouson said he feels that, finally, a serious attempt at criminal justice reform is going to take place in the Florida Legislature in 2017.

“It’s my intention to change the Black Caucus this year so that all 28 members … really stand up and do something,” he said when queried by one new constituent, who told him that the only way to stop gun violence was to provide more job opportunities for young men.

“I believe the climate is good this year for true criminal justice reform,” Rouson continued. “And we’re going to work hard.”

The St. Petersburg Democrat added that it was “unfair” for the community to criticize lawmakers like himself for not doing enough regarding urban violence, “as if we’re not sensitive to this issue.”

“These are our families. These are our friends. These are church members who are going through this issue,” he said.

Rouson met with approximately 120 of his new constituents in Tampa, where he was joined by House District 61 Democrat Sean Shaw in a joint meeting hosted by both local legislators. While Shaw represents much of Tampa and other parts of Hillsborough County, Rouson’s district encompasses that area and parts of  downtown and south St. Pete as well, making him the first lawmaker in this hybrid district to come from the Pinellas side in more than two decades. He narrowly defeated former HD 61 Representative Ed Narain by just 75 votes last month to take the seat which has previously been held in the past eight years by Arthenia Joyner.

One audience member questioned how criminal justice reform should move forward with the heavily GOP based Legislature?

“Because certain people are beginning in this phrase ‘smart justice,’ certain people are looking at the economic cost of incarceration and felonization of people to society and they haven’t looked at it like this before,” Rouson explained.

Senate President Joe Negron and St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes have spoken about tackling criminal justice reform in the coming year. But whether that happens or not remains to be seen. In the U.S. Senate, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker introduced the REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) in 2014. The bill is focused on helping people who committed non-violent crimes better integrate into the community and find gain full employment to reduce the chance they will commit offenses in the future.

More than two years later, it has not come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

The two lawmakers also heard plenty of questions and concerns about issues like restoring ex-felons rights, the Tampa Bay Express project, affordable housing and education.

On the restoration of voting right for ex-felons, Shaw said he intends to prepare a bill that that will deal with that issue “on the front end.”

“I want to limit the categories of people who get their rights taken away up front,” he said.

Lynn Gray, a new Hillsborough County School board member, said she was concerned that the state was going to get “more involved” in school vouchers.

“I support a fully funded high quality public education for every child that fits their need,” Rouson immediately began before adding, “But one size does not fit all.”

He went on to say that parents deserve a choice, referring to how one of his boys who was born with cognitive deficits is struggling with IEP’s (Individualized Education Program) in public schools, because there’s no type of school that handles such kids in his school district.

“I believe that parents deserve choice, but we must require accountability, strict standards, we must lessen the testing that’s going on in public schools, while requiring certain things of our private charters and public charters,” Rouson said. “And there are there are 90,000 kids supported by Step Up and tax credit scholarships.”

Shaw said that the issue of school choice was one of the items that the two lawmakers disagreed on. “Unfortunately, it’s zero sum game to a certain extent, so if we want to fully fund public eduction, we have to do it before we start doing other things,” he said, adding, “I want choices, but as a starting point, we have to fully and adequately fund public education. And we don’t adequately fund public education.”

Rouson, a noted anti-drug hawk, joked that no other senate district was in more support of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment that his SD 19. “So I’m taking a look at this,” he deadpanned.

Both men talked about how reducing gun violence, but admitted they didn’t have all the answers. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re here,” said Shaw. “We need your ideas too.”

Regarding Florida DOT Secretary Jim Boxold comment last week said there was time for a “reset” regarding the troubled Tampa Bay Express project, Shaw said,”I’m going to meet with the secretary and ask what the reset means. Regarding the TBX project itself, Shaw remains resolutely opposed to it.

“I think it’s bad. My district contains the homes that will be torn down, it contains the land that has already been sold. I’m absolutely against it.”

A number of other elected officials were in the room, including newly elected Hillsborough County School board member Tamara Shamburger and Lynn Gray, Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick and District 70 Representative Wengay Newton, who was put to work passing the microphone to members in the audience who asked questions.

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Alan Clendenin moves to Bradford County, becomes state committeeman, now running for Florida Democratic Party Chair

Two weeks ago, it appeared that Alan Clendenin‘s hopes for becoming state chair of the Florida Democratic Party died after falling twelve votes short of being re-elected as Hillsborough County’s state committeeman.

That position is one of just a handful in local Democratic Party politics that would qualify a candidate to run for state party chair.

But in a stunning development, the DNC Committeeman and Tampa resident moved in recent days to North Florida, specifically Hampton in Bradford County, where there was a vacancy for their state committeeman position.

On Monday night, he was sworn in as state committeeman, once again becoming a full-fledged candidate for party chair.

“I ran last time against the entire paid staff of the Democratic party — both state and national — and came damn close to winning,” Clendenin said about his unsuccessful bid for the party chair post in 2013. “This year I’m going to enjoy that same type of support, and hopefully add a few more votes to it and hopefully be successful.”

Clendenin was speaking from his new trailer home in Starke, which will serve as his residence for at least the next few weeks. Th9isn week, he’ll meet with people in Bradford. Then, after Christmas, he’ll go on a “roadshow” of sorts, a listening tour of Democrats up and down the state in advance of the FDP party elections, which take place mid-January in Orlando.

Two weeks ago, Clendenin seemed a “dead man walking” over his chances for the state party chairmanship.  A stunning loss at the December 5 Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting occurred shortly after DEC Chair Ione Townsend made a controversial decision regarding the party’s bylaws. The decision resulted in the exclusion of several locally elected officials in nonpartisan races (meaning the entire Tampa City Council, a couple of Hillsborough County School Board members and Mayor Bob Buckhorn) from participating in the county’s reorganization meeting.

In that race for state committeeman, Clendenin lost to Russ Patterson, 52-40.

Nevertheless, Clendenin has many Democratic friends around the state, some acquired during his campaign for state party chair four years ago, which he lost to Allison Tant by 139 votes, 587-488.

Clendenin said several DEC party officials around Florida contacted him after learning what happened in Tampa. He ultimately discovered that his best opportunity would be in Bradford County, where the former state committeeman decided earlier this month not to run for re-election, leaving a vacancy and opportunity.

“Bradford was one of those areas four years ago that were just absolutely steadfast supporters,” Clendenin said. “I had spoken extensively about the need for a 67-county strategy, and with the Bradford folks, I could not have asked for people to be more supportive. I’ve maintained a very good longstanding relationship with them.”

Meanwhile, in Miami, Coconut developer Stephen Bittel continues to gain more endorsements as he battles former state Senator Dwight Bullard for a state committeeman position there. The winner is expected to run for the FDP chair position as well. On Monday, the Florida Education Association and the Florida Service Employees International Union came out in support of Bittel.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, one of the most influential Democrats in the state, had kind words for Bittel coming short of formally endorsed him. Nelson did tell FloridaPolitics.com last week he believes that Bittel, if elected, would bring a level of “professionalism” to the state party.

But as the only statewide elected Democrat, Nelson doesn’t want to “inject any thought that I am trying to strong-arm anybody, which I am not.”

“People took the bait and ran with it,” Clendenin said about the impression that Nelson is backing Bittel. While Nelson has definitely said nice things about Bittel, Clendenin said he hopes Nelson “will say some of the same positive things about me.”

As far as living in Bradford County, Clendenin said it’s more akin to how he grew up.

“I lived for a long time in Sanford in a farm that my grandfather was renting,” he said, “and I’ve bounced around from school to school.

“This is a small town. My extended family is from Southern Georgia, this is more in kind with my family and my growing up than what people probably know me.”

The 2013 election for state party chair was an intense, bitter race. Clendenin was a “little more cognizant” about some of the “maneuvers” that can happen in such races and said he’s ready for whatever comes his way.

“What I bring to this party is part of the solution,” he said. “Four years ago, I would have said ‘righted the ship.’ Now it’s taking the ship off the ocean floor, and hopefully the people I speak with will see that.

“It’s the time to really turn this into a grassroots, bottom-up organization that can win races across the state, as well as state races.”

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.20.16 – Our driverless future?

Among the 2017 priorities that the Hillsborough County Regional Transit Authority’s government liaison, Cesar Hernandez told board members on Monday, one would be to continue to push for anything that can push autonomous vehicle technology forward in the new year.

In case you’re not familiar with the whole driverless car concept, you should know that the Sunshine State, led by St. Petersburg Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes enthusiasm and advocacy, is in the vanguard of states when it comes to this new form of transportation.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature unanimously passed a bill making Florida the only state that legalized fully autonomous vehicles on public roads without a driver behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, Uber says it will continue to tests its 11 self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco, despite the threat of legal action from the California Attorney General’s office if the company does not “immediately” remove its test vehicles from public roads.

The Attorney General’s letter, sent late Friday, ordered  Uber to apply for the appropriate permits from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles before continuing to test its cars.  Uber says its self-driving cars don’t require a DMV permit because the systems it is using are no different from current advanced driver-assistance systems that help with parking and collision avoidance, the same systems available in some luxury cars today.

As reported by USA Today, in a Friday afternoon media call, Anthony Levandowski, who runs Uber’s autonomous car programs, said the permitting process doesn’t apply to the company and that “we cannot in good conscience” comply with a regulation that the company doesn’t believe applies to it.

Does that sound familiar to anyone in Tampa?

By the way, have you spoken with an Uber or Lyft driver of late? In Tampa, because there are so many drivers flooding the market, the only way folks can make decent money working for either of these companies is to work for both. And driverless cars could make it even harder for “entrepreneurs” to make money.

But while we’re all moving so fast towards this brave new world of technology, what does the public think?

“In the glorious future, we are assured that driverless cars will save lives, reduce accidents, ease congestion, curb energy consumption and lower harmful emissions. These purported benefits contain elements of truth. But the data is nowhere near complete,” writes Jamie Lincoln Kitman in the op-ed section of Monday’s New York Times. “Even stipulating that all the claimed benefits will one day materialize, the near- and midterm picture from a public-interest perspective is not the same favorable one that industry sees. Legitimate areas of question and concern remain.”

Kidman notes that while the new technology will create some jobs, many others will be lost.

“Millions of truck and taxi drivers will be out of work, and owing to the rise of car-sharing and app-based car services, people may buy fewer vehicles, meaning automakers and their suppliers could be forced to shed jobs,” he writes.

It’s not doom and gloom, and maybe autonomous technology is going to be sensational for all of us going forward. But it’s worth your while to think of some of the possibilities that exist with this technology that may not truly denote progress in our world.

By the way, this will be my last column of 2016. I’m heading out to San Francisco myself tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with friends and family. See you in 2017.

In other news…

Stephen Bittel may be closer to becoming the next state party chairman 0f the Florida Democratic Party. Of course, he has to win his election for state committeeman in Miami-Dade County tonight against former state legislator Dwight Bullard, but there is precedence for the Democratic party establishment getting who they want in these cases.

At yesterday’s HART meeting, one board member raised strong objections to coming together with PSTA, Pinellas County’s transit agency, in an interlocal agreement.

And our state supervisors of election are hoping for the state legislature to help them with two key issues in 2017, a request made on Friday by Hillsborough County SOE Craig Latimer. 

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Craig Latimer advocates for public records exemption for voter file before Hillsborough lawmakers

Speaking to the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation on Friday, Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer had two requests for state lawmakers.

One is to get Florida into the Electronic Registration Information Center, a non-profit organization with the sole mission of assisting states with improving the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and to increase access to voter registration for all eligible citizens. Its membership list is now up to 21 states and Latimer says that they’ve been able to remove more than a million voters who have been registered in another state.

“It’s not malicious. You know, people move from other states, and the first thing they think of is, ‘Oh, let me cancel my registration that I did twenty years ago in that state,'” Latimer told the delegation. “It’s going to help us get those voter rolls clean and accurate.”

The other proposal that Latimer brought forth — one that is also backed by the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections — is an exemption in the voter registration information as a public record. Current law allows some date of birth, address, party affiliation, phone number and email address and nd any information related to 16 and 17 year olds who are pre-registered. What is exempt from public disclosure is the voter’s Social Security number, Driver’s license number,  Florida identification number and location of voter’s place of registration.

“We’re getting calls from people saying they want to be removed from the rolls because they don’t want their information out there in the public,” Latimer said. It’s not political candidates who are bothering them, he said, but retailers.”

He also said those records were being accessed by people who prison inmates.

“I will also tell you that we have been dealing with a handful of men incarcerated in our Florida state prison system, who are making public records demands for females information so that they can become pen pals with them,” Latimer told lawmakers.

A proposal for such an exemption was proposed in the 2016 Legislative session, but did not pass. No such legislation has been filed yet for the 2017 session.

Plant City House Republican Dan Raulerson said there is a bill being presented in the 2017 session that would require all cities to vote in the same election cycle. Several cities in Florida, such as Tampa and Plant City, have elections in March, not November. When asked if he had any opinion on that, Latimer said he really didn’t.

“We run elections, sir,” Latimer replied. “That’s all I can tell you. So bring ’em on,” adding that it would add costs to his department, because currently Plant City and Tampa pay the SOE’s offices for their own elections.

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Dedicated bus service between Tampa, St. Pete and Tampa International on top of HART $ wish list in 2017

“The AirPorter,” a dedicated bus service line that would connect downtown Tampa, downtown St. Petersburg, and the Carillon area of St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport, is the top priority for federal and state funding in 2017 for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. That’s according to Cesar Hernandez, HART’s government relations specialist, who briefed the transit agency’s legislative and strategic planning committee meeting on Monday.

As outlined by HART officials, the service would use a “premium vehicle” that would run every 15 minutes during rush hour (6 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 4 to 7 p.m.), and every half hour at other times, up until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 9:30 p.m. on weekend nights.

“The AirPorter is obviously gaining a lot of traction, especially in the Legislature,” noted committee chair Sandy Murman.

Other priority items on HART’s list next year will be a possible expansion of their HyperLINK program, which covers a three-mile radius surrounding four HART-designated transit stops in areas where passengers will benefit from improved access to the transit system. Passengers book the on-demand rides through the HART HyperLINK smartphone app or through a call center.

The agency also wants to continue to advocate for the CNG rebate program. The agency continues to transform its fleet to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is American-sourced, less expensive, clean and safer than diesel fueled vehicles.

Hernandez also boasted that the agency is in the vanguard of support for autonomous vehicles.  In October, HART officials announced that the Florida Dept. of Transportation had “indicated” that up to $1 million in funding would be available to spend on an Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Circulator Service connection between Marion Transit Center (MTC) to Downtown Tampa along the low speed, controlled access Marion Street Transitway.

Al Burns, the director of procurement and contract administration, also announced that three lobbyists firms hoping to represent HART in Washington had recently submitted the bids for their work. The subcommittee reviewing the bids listed their choices as 1) Holland & Knight, 2) Potomac Partners out of Maryland,  and 3) D.C. based McAllister & Quinn. Holland & Knight’s bid for service was the lowest of the three bids.

 

 

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Stephen Bittel rolls out more endorsements in bid for Miami-Dade Democratic Committeeman

Stephen Bittel, a favorite of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson as the person who might become the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party, announced he received more endorsements from organization labor in his bid Tuesday for Miami-Dade County committeeman against Dwight Bullard.

Typically, such inside local politics maneuvering wouldn’t garner statewide attention, but the winner in Tuesday night’s Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee vote for committeeman is expected to run for party chair next month.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) and the Florida Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced their support for Bittel Monday, joining other Democrats, like Minnesota Congressman and DNC chair candidate Keith Ellison, in endorsing the Coconut Grove multimillionaire real estate developer.

“I’m proud of the support we’ve received in our campaign to reform the Florida Democratic Party to make it more inclusive and representative of all Florida Democrats,” said Bittel in a statement. “We’ve received the support of South Florida progressives because they understand what’s at stake and they want a Democratic Party leader who isn’t afraid to shake things up to ensure more voices are heard, and more Florida Democrats win elections.”

“Stephen Bittel has a compelling vision for transforming the institution of the Democratic Party into a strategic powerhouse in the service of everyday Floridians who lack health care, living wages and civil rights,” said Monica Russo, President of SEIU Florida State Council.

Russo added: “Bittel has articulated a compelling strategy in this complicated moment when working people face unprecedented attacks. He has the organizing skills along with a broad array of relationships in the community that position him to be able to transform that vision into a reality.”

Russo said the winner in the Miami-Dade County race Tuesday night would likely to go on to run for state party chair; they interviewed both Bittel and Bullard, who served in both houses of the Florida Legislature for the past eight years.

Last month, Bullard lost his bid for re-election to the state Senate.

Nelson said he has been trying to stay out of the discussion regarding who might succeed Allison Tant as state party chair.

As the only statewide elected official, Nelson holds an enormous amount of power among fellow Democrats. But when speaking with FloridaPolitics last week, the Florida senator admitted that Bittle, if elected, would bring a significant amount of professionalism to the chair’s position.

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Board member takes strong exception to potential interlocal agreement between HART and PSTA

In late October, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long – in her role with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency (PSTA) – came before her counterparts with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to talk up the benefits of the two transit agencies collaborating on a more formal basis, which she said could be used as way to leverage the power of the region when trying to procure more federal and state funding.

However at Monday’s HART meeting of its Legislative and Strategic Planning Committee, board member Karen Jaroch strongly objected to the language of a draft copy of the agreement, calling it “very subjective.”

“I contend that there are a lot of reasons why this won’t work,” said Jaroch, who came to prominence as a leading critic of the Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax initiative that failed in 2010. Among the more problematic proposals for Jaroch, as well as board member Mickey Jacobs, was one that said that “staff will develop a strategic coordination plan to merge operational functions in IT.” Another said that “Staff will identify two departments, including IT, for functional merge in calendar 2017.”

Jaroch also noted how there was resistance from state officials to the joint proposal from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration that strongly encourages the consolidation of regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations in the nation’s urban areas. (On Friday, the FHA & FTA finalized that rule). 

She read several paragraphs from a letter written by officials from the Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council that citied several problems with the proposed rule (however, Carl Mikyska, the Executive Director of that organization, now tells SPB that “overall, MPOAC is not opposed to collaboration of MPOs. In fact, we stated in our letter that we are supportive of voluntary, incentive-based approaches to collaboration.  Our letter provides greater detail about our position related to what was at the time, the proposed rule.”).

She then followed up by reciting statements made in a critical letter from Florida Dept. of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold to the FTA & FHA calling for the proposed rulemaking “to be suspended until legislation is enacted that clarifies the Congressional intent.”

Like several of her fellow board members, Jaroch was resistant to a call by state Senator Jack Latvala back in 2012 to study the benefits of a merger between the Hillsborough and Pinellas agencies, and she made several references to the Pinellas County Republican in her comments.

“I really hate to lose the sense of local control for unfounded reasons,” Jaroch said. “Unfortunately it’s designed to show a certain senator that we are working together. “

Jaroch said that in fact the two agencies are working together, and mentioned several examples of that, clarifying for her that there is no need for an interlocal agreement to certify that. “We need to do what’s best for HART, and not worry about one or two powerful senators who I don’t think has the power that some people may think that he has.”

Latvala is serving over the next two sessions as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, considered to be a prestigious and yes, powerful position in the state legislature.

While no other board member was prepared to respond Jaroch’s swipe at Latvala, Sandy Murman, the chair of the committee, emphasized to Jaroch that HART was a regional transit authority and not the MPO, and said correlating the two was “a bit of a stretch.”

That then led to a general discussion with board members and HART attorney David Smith on how they could strengthen the document. Smith said he thought that some of the proposals “needed to be a little more flexible in some of the goals you’re trying to accomplish.” He also said that a termination clause should also be inserted in the event that HART wanted to get out of the agreement.

“We are moving towards regional cooperation and that is going to be the theme in the Tampa Bay area moving forward in the future with everything,” Murman later added.

HART CEO Katherine Eagan said that she would work with board members and Smith and have a new draft of the interlocal agreement available for review at the committee’s meeting next month.

Meanwhile, PSTA officials want to see the agreement go forward.

“Focusing on regionalism is something that we have been talking about at PSTA for a long time, and we are happy to see our sister-agency getting on board with drafting an early concept of what exactly that would look like,” said PSTA spokesperson Ashlie Handy.“We have a lot of great resources here at PSTA, and we are excited to start talking about the best ways to share these resources across the bay.”

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AFP Florida conveys to lawmakers their holiday wish list for 2017

Americans for Prosperity-Florida is getting in the holiday spirit, playing off a classic Christmas poem to highlight the organization’s 2017 priorities.

The statewide organization launched a new web ad Monday that is meant to target Florida lawmakers over the holiday season. The AFP-FL ad — called “A Holiday poem to FL lawmakers” — asks Floridians to tell the House and Senate to make taxes fair, end political favoritism, be good stewards of transparent government, and empower Florida children with the best education they can receive.

In the new ad, AFP-FL riffs on “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to ask Florida lawmakers to follow a plan laid out by the statewide advocacy organization.

“Lawmakers should focus on real priori-(ties)/So sunshine-state boys and girls can live in prosperi-(ty)/To deliver good government is what they should do/Just follow these steps we’ve laid out for you,” reads the poem. “The first is be fair, no one likes to be cheated/Special favors and corporate welfare are bad and need be defeated/No more handouts to grinches or cronies without care/It’s not right, and it’s not helping those who pay their fair share.”

The statewide organization led the charge in 2016 against incentives, including Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $250 million for Enterprise Florida. It also actively opposed Rep. Patrick Murphy’s U.S. Senate bid, spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on ads targeting the Treasure Coast Democrat.

“As 2016 comes to an end, I am thankful for the hard work of our activists who knocked over 1,000,000 doors and make over 3 million phone calls,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of AFP-FL. ” But if we want to make Florida the best state for families and entrepreneurs we need to stay focused on successfully advocating for policies that continue to cut red tape, keep taxes fair while ending political favoritism, and expand the successful school choice policies that empower our kids with the best education possible. I hope legislators, new and old, enjoy this holiday season with their families and come back in 2017 prepared to tackle the most critical issues to our state.”

The new AFP-FL ad will run throughout the holiday season.

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