Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 6 of 41 - SaintPetersBlog

Mitch Perry Report for 12.2.16 – The Rock in 2024?

Rick Kriseman’s appointment of former WTFS weatherman Bill Logan to serve in the newly created position of communications director for the public works department is getting (predictably) negative reviews in the Pinellas County GOP world, who think it is more “big government” from the Democratic-leaning administration. It naturally fuels speculation about who will the Pinellas County Republican prop up to challenge the mayor next year, if Rick Baker opts not to not to get into the race. As is usually the case with the former St. Pete Mayor, no one on the outside is clear where he is on such a big decision, and he’s likely to play the Hamlet card with those of us in the media before making that decision. If not Baker, is there anyone else viable?

While the world waits to figure out how far Donald Trump will go on some of the (few) specific policies that he enunciated during his successful campaign, immigration always rises to the top. Trump has promised to deport the two-million plus undocumented immigrants who have criminal records, but that’s going to be a problem. According to the NY Times, there is a backlog of more than 520,000 in the 56 nationwide immigration courts around the nation. The paper reports that at least hundreds of thousands of those deportations would have to be approved by immigration judges, which means the most efficient way to clear the backlog would be to hire more immigration judges. Except that there was another promise made on the trail – that he intends to freeze federal hiring new resources.

“Now in Denver, the court with the longest wait times in the country, most cases drag on more than five years, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group studying federal data, has found,” the Times reports.

The Democratic National Committee won’t choose their chairman for two more months, but the early front-runner, Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, says he’s getting smeared about some of his comments going back to the early 1990’s.  The Anti-Defamation League says that his 2010 comments about about whether Israel controls U.S. foreign policy are “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”

You’re hearing from a lot of blowhard baseball purists today, hailing the decision by Major League Baseball to award home field advantage in the World Series to the pennant winner with the best regular-season record, and not the representative from the League that won the All-Star game. Sure, it makes sense, but do you know what the rule was before 2002, when Bud Selig made the change? It alternated between the leagues, with zero consideration about who had the best record in the game. So there.

And forget about Kanye West in 2020, what about The Rock? The man just declared the Sexiest Man Alive by People and the highest paid actor by Forbes tells Sports Illustrated that he’s thinking of running for office. “I’m something I’m very serious about in the future,” says the 44-year-old registered Republican.

In other news..

Davison’s loose talk about using secession of New Tampa from the rest of the city has prompted Bob Buckhorn to come off the sidelines and endorse Viera, a fellow Democrat.

The state of Florida was behind the majority of states when it finally passed a texting while driving law thee years ago, so a South Florida House Democrat would like to make it tougher, changing from a secondary to a primary offense.

For those who want to petition their state government, your best shot at speaking before a state lawmaker may take place in two weeks, when the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meets up in Tampa.

And the White House has named the Tampa Bay area and three other Florida regions as “tech-hire” communities. 


Tampa and 3 other Florida areas selected by the White House as “Tech Hire” Communities

The White House announced on Thursday that the Tampa Bay area has become one of 20 of the latest communities (and four in Florida) named to participate in its “TechHire” initiative that aims to equip Americans with the skills they need to land jobs in the tech industry. The announcement was made via the White House at 11 a.m., and an hour later, a press conference was held at City Hall in Tampa, kicked off not by Mayor Bob Buckhorn but instead by Mark Sharpe, the head of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, who said that while universities like USF are providing plenty of training to get young people the opportunity to compete for the growing number of tech jobs in the country, there are a number of others who have missed out on what is considered the “tech revolution.”

“What’s exciting is the that the Tampa Innovation Alliance and our district has been recognized by the White House as an innovation district worthy of their support, and the city of Tampa is emerging as a tech leader in this nation,” Sharpe said, emphasizing that everybody has the opportunity to compete for these jobs.

These so-called “innovation districts” have been popping up all over the U.S. in recent years. They’ve been described as  geographic areas where “anchor” institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators. Ideally they’re also physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired and offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail.

The Tampa Innovation Alliance kicked off nearly two years, fueled by a $2 million injection from the Hillsborough County Commission. It literally scored big time back in June, when it secured a $3.8 million grant from the federal government to develop training in the University Area of North Tampa, providing education specifically for technology-related jobs. That grant was the result of a partnership between CareerSource Tampa Bay, the University Area Community Development Corp., Hillsborough County, Tampa Bay Technology Forum and the Tampa Bay Innovation Alliance.

Through CareerSource Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County’s workforce development board, the Tampa Innovation Alliance is going to be working over the next three years to get the message out to approximately 1,000 local out-of-school youth and young adults to get involved. Employers across industries, such as BayCare Health Systems and Cognizant Technology Solutions, are partnering with the initiative in order to advance the economic health and technology industry of the community.  The first meeting will be held at USF Research Park on Dec. 15.

“We will identify over 1,000 individuals who qualify for the program, but as the program evolves and we talk to our business partners,” said Sharpe. “There’s an understanding between the White House, CareerSource and the Department of Labor that they modify existing programs or add to existing programs to even train more workers.”

“Make no mistake, we have changed as a community our economic DNA,” said Buckhorn, referring to how the tech revolution has spread from places like San Francisco, Boston and Washington D.C. to areas like Tampa. “We are not dependent on selling real estate and selling Florida based on cheap land, cheap labor and cheap taxes. We are a different economy.”

Buckhorn said that there are as many as 40 percent of these tech jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree, so there are opportunities with those with the ability to learn coding skills. “This grant gives us the opportunity to touch those kids in that university area, and touch some of those kids who may not have that opportunity, or may not be able to afford to go to a four-year college, but yet with a little assistance and a little training could be productive matters for our society.”

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said he recently returned from St. Louis, where he observed their innovation district and came away with two takeaways. One was that everyone in the community had to prosper, and that the local governments play a crucial role in “kickstarting” the effort to ultimately attract private money to invest in the community. “This is huge, because without trained workers, the private sector will never invest, because they can go find well trained people anywhere,” he added.

Other Florida communities named at “TechHire” areas by the White House are Alachua and Bradford Counties, Pensacola, and the Central Florida area, where the University of Central Florida, Valencia College and the Florida Institute of Technology will play a role in developing trainings to train and place 100 people within the next year and 400 people by 2002 into tech jobs.

Bob Buckhorn endorses Luis Viera in for Tampa City Council

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is endorsing Luis Viera in the race to represent District 7 on the City Council.

The mayor had remained silent through much of the campaign, but recent comments by Vierra’s opponent, Jim Davison, regarding the possibility of New Tampa seceding from the rest of the city has prompted the mayor to weigh in.

“The more I’ve paid attention to this race, the more it became clear that one candidate had the temperament to work with fellow council members and my office, and the other was more interested in provoking division within our city,” said Buckhorn. “I will not let stand unchallenged a callous suggestion of secession as being of any benefit to the City of Tampa.”

News of the Buckhorn endorsement first came  Wednesday night from political consultant Gregory Wilson, who mentioned it near the end of a debate held in Forest Hills between the two candidates.

At a debate Tuesday night, Davison said that while he is not promoting the idea of New Tampa seceding from the rest of the city, he also wouldn’t take the issue off the table when negotiating for more services for the district.

Viera labeled the notion the equivalent of “birtherism,” and doubled down at a forum on Wednesday, saying that, “the next thing you know, we’re going to hear Jim say, ‘Hey, listen. I’m going to build a wall and make South Tampa pay for it.” Davison strongly objected to that comment.

The two men were part of an original field of six candidates who ran this year to fulfill the remaining two-and-a-half years in the seat that had been occupied by Lisa Montelione until October, when she had to step down as she ran for a state legislative seat.

Davison received the most votes of anyone in the Nov. 8 election with 31 percent, while Viera came in second with 22 percent. A poll taken last week showed Davison maintaining a single-digit lead.

Whether Buckhorn’s endorsement will move votes remains in question, but Davison has been working an anti-establishment stance that the district gets little love from downtown, and the rejection seems to be playing into the theme of his campaign.

“Luis Viera’s campaign and supporters have stupped [sic] to sending out false information,” Davison said in a statement on Thursday. “This is how he works, creating a divide between the people and being divisive. Dr. Davison never said he was for secession from the city of Tampa. On the contrary he felt it was his duty to bring back the taxes to fix our issues in District 7.”

Davison also  tweeted out a statement saying that the mayor has never cared about New Tampa until the S-word surfaced in this campaign, writing, “Just the word secession gets Buckhorn’s attention for the first time in six years.”

“District 7 is an unusually diverse group of neighborhoods that have very different needs and unique challenges,” Buckhorn said in his statement.“The next City Council member there must be able to listen carefully, weigh differences, and work to serve the greater good. I believe Luis Viera is best prepared for that job.”

Jim Davison erupts at Luis Veira after Trump joke during second District 7 debate

The relative comity between Tampa City Council District 7 candidates Luis Viera and Jim Davison exploded about fifteen minutes into their second debate on Wednesday night, when Viera criticized a Davison proposal that would keep the idea of New Tampa seceding from the rest of the city  on the table when negotiating for more services to come to the district.

“That is a proposal that is adversarial, that is nonproductive and it is a nonstarter,” Viera said while speaking at the Babe Zaharias Golf course clubhouse in the Forest Hills section of North Tampa. “The next thing you know, we’re going to hear Jim say, ‘Hey, listen. I’m going to build a wall and make South Tampa pay for it.’ “

The line generated laughs from members of the audience, but Davison didn’t find it funny.

“Luis, that was uncalled for,” he responded. “You were trying to compare me to Donald Trump. And what the commissioner said beforehand that this was a nice, congenial campaign. You just destroyed that. I am not Donald Trump, and you are not Hillary Clinton. Alright? The bottom line is, if you want to get down to it, we can debate our character, right here, right now.”

The two candidates are running in the District 7 run-off election taking place next Tuesday, succeeding Lisa Montelione, who left her seat for an unsuccessful run for the Florida House.

The fiery exchange revolving around New Tampa seceding from the rest of the city was discussed at the candidates debate on Tuesday night at the New Tampa Regional Library. That’s where Davison said that while he wouldn’t push for the concept, he wouldn’t remove it either as a means of gaining leverage in calling for more services to come to New Tampa, an issue that both candidates agree doesn’t get the attention it deserves from City Hall.

Earlier on Wednesday, Davison said that it was only when New Tampa leaders like Joe Caetano began talking about secession in 2000 that the area received crucial transportation improvements. “We were not getting out fair share,” he said.”So as soon as we started talking about secession, and started forming and organizing ourselves to the New Tampa Transportation Task Force and the New Tampa Community Council, all of a sudden we started getting road improvements, money for recreation, money for pools, money for fields, all of those things. You never want to give away any leverage that you have in negotiations. And I’m not alienating anybody.”

But according to Gregory Wilson, Viera’s political consultant, Davison’s comments had alienated Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “You said you didn’t want to alienate the mayor, but you did, because yesterday, when the mayor wasn’t involved with this race at all, to this afternoon, he is now endorsing and supporting your opponent,” he said (Viera later said that a statement from Buckhorn announcing his endorsement would be released on Thursday). It should be noted that Viera and Buckhorn are Democrats, Davison is a Republican.

The debate was moderated by former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who now leads the Tampa Innovation Alliance, an economic organization charged with lifting the economy in the USF area, which is part of the district.

Viera has called for a Community Redevelopment Agency for the University area, which he called a unique tool (there are seven such CRA’s throughout Tampa, where tax revenues stay within the district to pay for projects there).

As a strong advocate for mass transit in the community, Sharpe also kept the focus on transportation, which dominated parts of the forum. Although both opposed the Go Hillsborough proposed sales tax that never came before the voters last month after being voted down by the Board of County Commissioners, they differ on their opposition. Viera said there wasn’t enough transit in the plan, but Davison is much more energetic in his opposition, saying that County Administrator Mike Merrill, Buckhorn and other advocates were “lowballing” how much it would ultimately cost the taxpayers.

“If you’re going to vote on a half-cent sales tax, you have to know the truth,” Davison said. “That’s all I’m asking, that the City Council be honest with the people in this district.”

Davison says he does support light rail, but says that instead of a proposed transit hub in Westshore that would go Tampa International Airport, there would be a greater economic impact for a so-called “starter line” to have it run from downtown Tampa to USF.

On an aesthetic level, it wasn’t the smoothest debate to watch. The candidates weren’t given a time limit on their responses, and frequently Davison would go on for several minutes citing financial figures that at times seemed to make the audience grown numb.

The two were asked about the idea of allowing major cities like Tampa to have the power to tax their citizens on transportation issues. Florida law allows counties to do so, but not cities, a distinction that Viera described as “arbitrary.” Although plenty of Democrats ran for state legislature this year saying they would make that they would advocate for the change, there is no indication at all that the GOP-led Legislature will pass such a measure.

“I think the voters should have a choice in a democracy,” Viera said. Davison said he wasn’t opposed per se, but he said he simultaneously wanted “expenditure limitations stuck into your budget,” which he said is currently the case in Wisconsin.

Davison’s overriding thesis of his campaign is that the people of District 7 are “tired of being forgotten.”

“They don’t believe the people downtown on Jackson Street cares,” he said, referring to where City Hall is located in downtown Tampa. “A lot of the issues out in New Tampa could be remedied if they got back that they think is their fair share,” and referred to the fact that there is only one recreation center from the city in a district containing 65,000 people.

“People here in Forest Hills, I think they’re tired about having streets that aren’t lit, about having property crimes committed,” he said. “Some of their streets are flooding, and the only solution they got was a fee that isn’t going to directly solve the problems to begin with?”

“North Tampa is not getting its share of respect from the city of Tampa,” Viera agreed. He related an anecdote about speaking to a woman who lived on Busch Boulevard, who upon hearing that he lived in Hunter’s Green, said, “You shouldn’t have to live behind a gated community to have access to a park.”

Montelione, who has endorsed her fellow Democrat Viera in the race, commented during the Q&A portion of the debate with the audience that while transportation had dominated the discussion, the fact was that two-thirds of the city’s budget goes towards the police and fire departments, which “doesn’t leave a whole lot of money for a lot of other things.” Speaking directly to Davison, she also mentioned how more than 700 city jobs were cut during the Iorio administration to deal with the recession.

“I’m not sure how much more you can cut from city government without sacrificing city services,” she said pointedly.

Wednesday’s debate was the second and last one-on-one debate between Viera and Davison before voters go to the polls on Tuesday. Early voting starts today in the district.



Luis Viera friendship with Mike Suarez becomes an issue at New Tampa debate

In the world of Tampa politics, where some folks spend considerable time about contemplating about what might happen years from now, there has been some interest in the District 7 run-off election in the context of how it might affect the chances of Mike Suarez getting an edge in the 2019 mayoral election.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said that he will decide within the next few months whether he will pursue a statewide candidacy in 2018. Most analysts believe the posts he’s looking at are Governor or Chief Financial Officer. In either case, if he were to run for either of those seats, he would need to step down in advance, which would put the City Council Chairman at the time in the mayor’s seat on an interim basis, which could catapult him or her into becoming the leading candidate in 2019.

Or so it goes.

Why that matters now is that Suarez is good friends with fellow Democrat Luis Veira, who is fighting to win the District 7 seat next week against Republican Jim Davison in the (nonpartisan) race. The theory goes that a Viera victory would mean he’d vote for Suarez next spring when the Council again votes on its leader, which anti-Suarez folks don’t want to happen (forget the fact that the Council vote for Chair in 2018 might be the real council vote that would actually matter, since Buckhorn could very likely still be in power at that time).

If you get all of that, then you’ll understand what Joe Caetano was up to on Tuesday night at the New Tampa Regional Library. During the first one-on-one debate between the two candidates since they qualified earlier this month to compete against each other in the December 6 runoff, Caetano, the former District 7 Councilman from 2007-2011 (who has already endorsed Davison) confronted Viera about a mailer he has distributed that features Suarez’s mug.

“This whole election is about who is going to be the next Mayor,” Caetano barked out.

“When I came to Mike to talk about this issue, we never spoke about the Chair of City Council,” Veira responded, dismissing such speculation as “narcissism and elitism within the city on these issues.”

Viera continued that he couldn’t believe that Caetano could think there was some deal between the two. “To even begin to say that is an issue, is just far outside of the realm of a reality,” he protested.

“The thing is, Suarez wants to be the mayor,” Caetano shouted back. “When the mayor goes to Tallahassee to run for governor-” but the rest of his sentence was drowned out by the moderators, who told him that he had already asked his question.

Davison, who would become the only Republican on the Council if elected, predicted that Veira would support Suarez for chair next year, and said he probably wouldn’t. “That may not be the politically expedient thing to be right now, but that’s the way I feel, ” Davison said, adding that the city council and the whole city of Tampa needs to be “shaken up.”

There are a whole host of names being floated already as potential mayoral candidates in 2019 – including several other Council members, such as Yolie Capin, Frank Reddick, Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda.

Whomever is elected next week, it might be hard for next vote on City Council for chair to supersede last year’s election, with it took no fewer than 14 ballots before Suarez was elected chairman.

In debate, Jim Davison doesn’t dismiss idea of New Tampa secession from Tampa

An interesting word popped up at a debate between Tampa City Council candidates for next week’s runoff election — “secession.”

Ever since New Tampa was annexed in the late 1980s, some residents have been frustrated that they aren’t receiving the same city services as other Tampa neighborhoods, particularly downtown.

During Tuesday night’s debate at the New Tampa Regional Library, District 7 candidate Jim Davison did not rule out the possibility of secession from the city of Tampa.

“As far as splitting off and seceding from the city of Tampa, that will be up to the people of the city of Tampa, if they don’t get someone to deliver the services and the hopes and the ideas that they want done,” Davison said as he faced opponent Luis Viera.

“That’s what I plan on doing so we can avoid it,” he said. “If they don’t cooperate downtown, we may have to look at a different tactic.”

Davison went on to say that — if elected next week — his efforts would be to ensure city government invests more in all its neighborhoods.

Viera slammed Davison’s response, calling it the equivalent of “birtherism.”

He said that he could envision Davison going up to Mayor Bob Buckhorn and declaring, “Do what I want, or we’re going to leave.”

“If we want to work within the city for results for North Tampa,” Viera said., “then radical options like that should be respectfully rejected.”

Davison disagreed, saying doing so would give up a leveraging tool to be used against downtown interests.

“He wants to guarantee to people downtown that no matter what they do to us out here, we’re not leaving. That’s not a good negotiation.”

The issue has also been championed by former District 7 Councilman Joe Caetano.

The notion that New Tampa doesn’t get their fair share was a frequent topic of conversation between the candidates and the audience, a week before voters in Tampa’s District 7 race go to the polls to decide between the two candidates. The two men went on to the runoff after neither received the 50 percent plus one needed in the Nov. 8 election.

The candidates did find common cause on the topic when they both slammed the city for not spending $500,000 to fix Kinnan Street, which links New Tampa to Pasco County. It has been a persistent issue for a decade.

“So, you’re stuck in traffic because they didn’t want to bring the $500,000 up here to fix that road,” lamented Davison.

Viera agreed, saying if this problem were in Hyde Park, “it would have been taken care of three weeks ago.”

Throughout the debate, the 61-year-old Davison painted himself as a “disrupter” who bring needed change to City Hall, depicting Viera as being part of the status quo that freezes out District 7 at City Hall In addition to New Tampa, includes the University area, Forest Hills and Terrace Park.

Viera, on the other hand, repeatedly asked the audience attending the forum if they would be content to elect a candidate who would be on the losing end of a lot of 6-1 votes. Davison is a Republican, Viera a Democrat in a nonpartisan race. Both Buckhorn and the other six members of the council are Democrats.

“I don’t know if Luis realizes this, but they’ve had 7-0 votes, seven people of the same party,” said Davison. “Where’d that get us? Right where we are today,” he said disdainfully.

Although technically a nonpartisan race, Davison was the only Republican in the original six-person field, whereas Viera was one of three Democrats in the contest. The two independents in the race, Avis Harrison and Cyril Spiro, were in attendance Tuesday night, and both have endorsed Davison, a development that he said “spoke volumes.”

That led to a whole segment on endorsements, which was punctuated when Spiro questioned Viera about potential conflicts of interest he might have when it comes to negotiating with the Tampa Police Benevolent Association and the Tampa Fire Fighters, two groups who have endorsed his candidacy and given maximum campaign contributions.

“We all interviewed with the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, I don’t think when any of us went in there we starting wringing our hands saying, ‘My golly, we’re going to have a conflict of interest,'” Viera responded. “No, I think we all went in with the idea that it would be an honor of a union.”

Davison has been involved in transportation issues in the District 7 areas for years. He was against the Go Hillsborough transportation tax proposal that never made it on this month’s ballot, and is taking credit for the Board of County Commission’s vote to approve $600 million in road projects.

“I would like to know what Mr. Viera thinks if the GO Hillsborough plan was lying and not telling the truth to the people of this county because he backed it, I fought against it,” Davison said. “I came out with something that raised $600 million in road improvement for Hillsborough County, and it did not cost any of you a penny.”

Viera said he never endorsed Go Hillsborough, saying that while it had some “good features” attached to it, he ultimately opposed the measure because it did not include transit in the original proposal to satisfy his desires.

Late in the debate, an audience member asked the candidates to admit who they voted for president, prompting Harrison to shout out that the question was inappropriate in a city council debate. The moderators overruled her, however.

Davison said he voted for Donald Trump, though he didn’t always agree with everything he’s said. Viera said he voted for Hillary Clinton. 

The two candidates differ on having a police citizens review board with expanded powers, specifically the power to subpoena witnesses and documents.

“I would very likely support subpoena power within the next year, as well as other improvements to the board,” Viera said, adding that the board should also have its own attorney.

Davison disagreed, asking, “Do we want inquisitions?” adding that such “quasi-legalistic maneuvers will actually do harm,” and cause them to stop policing.

Both candidates will debate for a second, and final, time Wednesday at the Babe Zaharias Gold Course Clubhouse in Forest Hills.

At Tampa summit, officials boast that Florida is ahead of nation when it comes to self-driving cars

At the fourth annual Florida Automated Vehicle Summit in Tampa, government officials boasted about how far ahead of the game the state is compared to the rest of the nation in being prepared for the brave new world of autonomous vehicles. And they pledged not to  get in the way of the industry doing whatever they need to succeed with this quickly emerging technology.

“Help us help you and where you’re trying to go,” said Tom Byron, the assistant secretary for Intermodal Systems Development with the Florida Dept. of Transportation. “That’s what I’m asking. That’s it.”

There are currently 33 different companies involved in the development of advanced driver assistance systems and self-driving vehicles, including Tesla, Apple, Ford, Microsoft and Honda.

Byron boasted that unlike other states, the Florida Dept. of Transportation has a “healthy budget,” and added that Florida most importantly has the political leadership that is also unlike any other place in the nation in terms of supporting this new mode of transportation. “You’ve got proprietary data, trade secrets, we don’t want any of that stuff, ” Byron said reassuringly. “What we want to do is get input on what we can do.”

Leading this movement in Florida has been Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes, who told the audience that he was inspired to sponsor an autonomous vehicle bill in his very first year in the Legislature in 2011, after listening to a “Ted Talk” while driving up to Tallahassee from the Tampa Bay area.

The technology has changed, and so has the thrust of Brandes’ legislation in this area. Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature unanimously backed HB 7027, Brandes bill that made Florida the first state in the nation to legalize fully autonomous vehicles on public roads without a driver behind the wheel. “That’s a game changer,” Brandes said, claiming that the law makes every 30-year plan created by various state and local agencies “wrong.”

“Not a little bit wrong, but a lot wrong,” he added. “This technology is just like 100 years ago when we moved from the horse and the buggy to the Model T.”

Brandes said that not are vehicles now becoming autonomous, but simultaneously they’re becoming more electric, saying that the industry has evolved to the point where it has gone from a car with 2,000 moving parts now to one that will soon just 20 moving parts. He said that upcoming electric vehicles now in production will be able to drive 200 miles on a single charge, and cost less than $25,000 by 2020 or 2022.

The St. Petersburg Republican said that he meets with hundreds of groups regarding specific issues or causes, and he says he asks all of them what their vision is, and who’s their champion. He said he is the champion of the autonomous vehicle movement in Florida. “My vision is that we continue to tread new ground, and we continue to work to make bold decisions,” he declared.

The conference started up on Tuesday with a short address by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who said that the “intellectual capital” want choices when it comes to transportation, choices that don’t include building more roads. “It’s options,” he said, listing autonomous vehicles, Uber,  Lyft, HOV lanes and/or rail lines as essential choices.

“We need options, and we need to be thinking about what the future will be looking like, and what transportation is going to look like, not just next year, but 20 years from now,” the mayor said, adding that “the success of our cities is contingent on your willingness to think outside of that traditional box.”

And Buckhorn had a message for President-elect Donald Trump regarding his pronouncements that he supports a major infrastructure project.

“We’re the third largest state in the country, and we need to start acting like it,” Buckhorn said. “We need to start investing like it. I hope that the President-elect lives up to his campaign promises and starts to invest in infrastructure,” adding that, “we need to believe in a future that doesn’t look like today.”

However, some initial proponents of such a major plan have turned cold on it. That’s because Trump is calling for the government to avoid direct spending and borrowing by instead subsidizing private developers with massive tax credits for building roads, bridges and other projects. The developers would own the infrastructure and collect resulting cash flows from tolls or fees. The liberal Economic Policy Institute argues the plan is unlikely to lead to much new investment because it’s driven more by ideology — that private enterprise always trumps direct public investments in infrastructure — than by rational policy.

Giving the keynote address was urban planner and forecaster Dr. Anthony Townsend from the company, Bits and Atoms. FloridaPolitics will have a story about his speech later this week.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.28.16 -While USF football soars, attendance doesn’t

For the first time time since September of 2011, the University of South Florida’s football program is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. This comes after the Bulls defeated cross I-4 rival UCF at Raymond James Stadium.

They’re tied at 24, and have finished their regular season at 10-2, their most impressive record since beginning their program 20 years ago. It’s good times on Fowler Avenue, particularly for those folks who have hopes of building a new stadium on the North Tampa campus.

Then again, there were less than 37,000 fans in attendance at the Saturday afternoon affair, a little more than half of the crowd of 63,674 who attended the Bucs-Seattle game last night.

USF Athletic Director Mark Harlan announced earlier this year that school officials are  onducting a feasibility study regarding the pros/cons and most obviously, costs, of building an on-campus football stadium.

There are a lot of skeptics of such a move, beginning with the fact that even with the team having their best year on the field in a decade, the attendance has been rather sickly. And, as any Rays fan will tell you, this isn’t the first athletic program in the Tampa Bay area who has suffered at the gate while putting on a great product.

Though the Rays have struggled on the field the past three years, their home attendances woes go back into their winning seasons between 2008-2013.

At the Bulls homecoming game earlier this year, only 16,858 made it to Raymond James.

Previous discussions about a new stadium center on making it something like the Bright House Networks field 44,000 facility built for UCF in Orlando a decade ago. But with average attendance well below that in this stellar 2016 season, Harlan and other USF officials need to continue to study hard whether that will be worth it, vs. renting out RayJay six times a year.

In other news…

Al Fox and Ralph Fernandez don’t agree on much when it comes to Cuba, but both agree that the late Fidel Castro was a singular figure in history.

Alan Clendenin  says he’s keeping a low profile for now in regards to a possibly candidacy for the Florida Democratic Party Chairman position.

Bob Buckhorn is very disappointed that the Congress won’t attempt to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the lame-duck session of Congress.

In Tampa, agreement that Fidel Castro was one of a kind

There was no harsher a critic of the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba than Ralph Fernandez. Yet the Tampa attorney who represented several former political prisoners in Cuba over the past several decades says that nobody ever challenged the U.S. government as the longtime Cuban leader, who died Friday at the age of 90.

“The guy stood up to America like no one could. He represented a shrimp of a country, just a dot on the map, and he was just in our face, and he became the advocate for an entire Third World,” Fernandez said Saturday morning. “We have to acknowledge that he was the most eloquent, articulate speaker of the Spanish language of all time. He was brilliant. He was evil. He was one of a kind.”

But Fernandez also compares Castro to some of the evilest men who ever walked the earth.

“It’s great news, but it’s way late. Now he’s gone off to spend time with his friends: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot and the rest of the gang, if there’s a hell, he should be there for eternity.”

There is no official registry of the number of victims who were killed during Castro’s reign in power, which lasted from 1959 until he stepped down as president in 2006 because of health issues, ceding power to his brother Raul. An analysis performed by put it between 5,000-12,000 executions. Fernandez claims it was 30,000, with another 200,000 imprisoned over the years on human rights violations, and “a third” of the population leaving the island to become exiles.

Al Fox is perhaps the best-known advocate in Tampa for advocating for opening relations with the Cuban government. Since creating the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation in 2001, he’s taken more than 100 trips to the Communist island, and he is fierce in criticizing those who deride Castro’s Cuba as a wasteland for its people.

“He took a country that 70 percent of all the land was owned by foreigners, and he gave it to the people,” Fox said. “And he took a country where only the elite were educated, and only the elite had proper medical care, and today you have a country of 11.5 million, and the people of Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras — they all wish they could live like a Cuban lives, but the perception out there is the complete opposite.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been a steadfast critic of the Castro regime, and has refused to join the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Tampa City Council and others who have been calling for a Cuban consulate to be located in Tampa after the breakthrough in diplomatic relations set forth by President Barack Obama in December 2014. In a statement, he said that generations of Cubans have helped build Tampa.

“Many arrived in our City fleeing the totalitarian policies of the Castro government with nothing more that the shirts on their backs and a yearning for freedom,” Buckhorn said. “They have never strayed from the belief that one day Cuba would again be free. The passing of Fidel Castro offers hope that one day the Cuban people will enjoy the benefits of a free and democratic society.”

No Florida lawmaker was more than Marco Rubio, who called Castro an “evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people” and turned Cuba into an “impoverished island prison.”

Although there was cheering in Miami overnight about the news, the mood was more downcast in Havana, according to CNN. Fox says that despite what others say, there are many Cuban people supportive of Castro to this day.

“He is revered in Cuba,” Fox says. “When Saddam Hussein was toppled, the people went dancing in the street, OK? You watch what’s going to happen in Cuba (referring his funeral next week). He was an absolutely revered, but the perception is that he was hated.”

Tampa-area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who after traveling to Cuba in 2013 became the first Florida lawmaker to call for the end of the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Cuban government, said that she fears that Donald Trump will reverse the diplomatic measures that Obama has implemented over the past couple of years.

“Slamming the door shut at this point in time would be disastrous,” she said.” Instead, Fidel Castro’s death should encourage all of us to meet the challenge of better diplomatic relations, economic opportunities for Cubans and Americans, expanded travel, and support for the dignity of the Cuban people.”

On that point, both Fernandez and Fox agree that they do not see Trump reversing much of what Obama has done.

“There will be no wall, Obamacare will not be repealed in toto, and there will be no aggressive positioning in terms of the Cuba situation,” predicts Fernandez. “That genie’s out the bottle,” adds Fox.


Bob Buckhorn disappointed that TPP is dead

Donald Trump made it official earlier this week: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is DOA in his upcoming administration.

“On trade, I am going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country,” Trump said on Monday in a brief video outlying his first 100 days that was posted on YouTube. Instead, he said, he said he would “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back”.

The TPP, a 12-country Pacific Rim trade agreement signed in 2015 but not ratified, did not have a lot of support in Congress, at least not while Barack Obama remained in power. It certainly had its supporters in the U.S., including farmers and ranchers. The TPP had promised to slash tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods in large markets such as Japan and Vietnam, as well as eliminate agricultural subsidies that gave competitors in the trade bloc an edge.

Several world leaders say without U.S. participation, the deal is completely dead.

Among those disappointed by the decision is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was chair of the TTP task force with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. His unbridled support entitled him to an invitation to a White House State Dinner in August when the Prime Minister of Singapore came to Washington. Singapore was one of the signatories to the pact.

Speaking to SPB last week, Buckhorn said he was disappointed that Trump would not commit to the agreement, largely because he says the U.S. can’t retreat from competing in a global environment.

 “We have relationships, we have alliances we want to reduce barriers, we want to reduce tariffs we want to engage and produce made in America products all over the globe. That’s good for America, that’s good for American jobs,” he said.

The TPP was opposed by labor group groups in the U.S. and their champions in Congress like Bernie Sanders. But Buckhorn says it’s wrong to think that trade agreements cause the economic dislocation that has so negatively hurt American workers.

“It’s the technology that is changing the way that American workers are working,  and so to hear the demogogery on both sides of the aisle over trade, was disappointing, because I don’t think that’s  reflection of American values and the way that America has competed around the globe,” Buckhorn said. “We need to be the leader, because if we don’t, then other people will, and if certainly in the case about TPP. The void by our absence will befilled by China, and the TPP criteria, whether it was on intellectual capital,whther it was on labor, whether it was on unions, the environment,  will not be nearly to the standard that the TPP would have been. So yeah, for me that’s disappointing and I hope it’s only a temporary condition in America.”

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