Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Tribune article on transit:

 

POLITICS

Go Hillsborough transit supporters lay low until critical vote

By Mike Salinero | Tribune Staff 
Published: 
November 27, 2015

 

TAMPA — During the past two months, conservative activists have unleashed an all-out attack on the Go Hillsborough transportation initiative in hopes of blocking a sales tax referendum from going on the ballot in November 2016.

 

The opponents gained momentum after media reports in September alleged back-door dealing in the hiring of the Go Hillsborough consultant, engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. The reports forced County Administrator Mike Merrill to ask for an investigation by the sheriff’s office. The probe is ongoing but should be done before Christmas, Merrill said.

But while Go Hillsborough opponents have ramped up their criticism, supporters of the transportation plan have been largely silent. At a Nov. 4 county commission meeting, seven people rose during the public comment period demanding that commissioners pull the plug on Go Hillsborough. No one spoke in support.

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Conspicuous by its absence was Connect Tampa Bay, a pro-transit group that says it has 2,340 members in counties around the bay. It was Connect Tampa Bay’s persistent lobbying several years ago that pushed county commissioners to begin the process that resulted in the Go Hillsborough initiative.

 

Kevin Thurman, executive director of Connect Tampa Bay, joked that the reason he and other members of the group are not speaking out at commission meetings is because they are winning. He was referring to a recent 8-3 vote by the city-county Policy Leadership Group to move the Go Hillsborough plan forward.

That vote sent the plan to the county commission, which must muster four votes to put a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax on the ballot. If approved, the tax would finance over 400 transportation projects, including new roads, more road maintenance, expanded bus service, bike and running trails and a pilot commuter rail line.

Commissioners will likely vote on the referendum in January after the sheriff’s investigation is through, Merrill said.

The commission’s passage of the ordinance calling for the referendum is not assured. Commissioners, who sit on the Policy Leadership Group, voted 4-3 to advance the plan. Commissioner Sandy Murman, who some observers thought might vote yes, announced her own transportation plan on the eve of the policy group’s vote.

After the board rejected Murman’s plan, she said she would not vote for the sales tax referendum. That left Commissioner Victor Crist as the swing vote. This week, Crist said he was still undecided.

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Thurman said his members and other transit supporters across the county will show up once the commission holds the decisive public hearings leading up to a vote.

 

“If there is a big moment where that needs to happen, we’ll outnumber (opponents) 3 to 1 like we always do,” Thurman said.

Merrill, too, predicted that supporters will come out as soon as there are meaningful meetings where their advocacy will count.

“I know once we get past the report on the investigation and begin scheduling the definitive meetings where the commission is going to be voting, that will be the key the supporters have been waiting on to show up,” Merrill said.

Another reason transit advocates haven’t been heard from lately, Thurman said, is that many are focused on fighting plans by the Florida Department of Transportation to put express toll lanes on Interstates 275 and 4 in Tampa and Pinellas County.

Transportation planners say the toll lanes, called Tampa Bay Express or TBX, will ease congestion and give commuters a choice to pay if they want to move more quickly through traffic jams.

Opponents counter that the DOT should be focusing on 21st-century transportation solutions like rail and bus rapid transit instead of more and wider roads.

At a recent public hearing on TBX, more than 30 people who spoke against the lanes also mentioned the need for mass transit, said Phil Compton, an organizing director with the Suncoast Group of the Sierra Club, who was there.

“Everybody there who was against TBX is for transit,” Compton said. “And the thing people want to see is leadership in this community to make it a priority to fund transit at a level like every other major city in the United States.”

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Business leaders, who have indicated in the past they would support a tax hike for transportation improvements, also have been largely out of sight during the recent offensive by Go Hillsborough opponents. That changed last week, when the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce issued a statement in support of a “transportation investment.”

 

The statement, though, read as less than definitive. Instead of giving a full-fledged endorsement of the Go Hillsborough project list and the half-cent-per-dollar sales tax, the chamber said transportation improvements “require additional funding sources.”

“The chamber supports the right of the citizens to vote on issues of taxation, including a referendum,” the statement said.

Merrill disagreed with the media criticism, calling the chamber’s statement “courageous and meaningful.”

“When they said they supported the right of the voters to express their support with a referendum, there’s only one referendum and that’s for the sales tax,” Merrill said. “There wasn’t any waffling or lack of clarity.”

Though supportive of the transportation initiative, the chamber waited weeks to issue its statement while opponents hammered Go Hillsborough over the Parsons Brinckerhoff allegations. Public support from the business organization at the height of the frenzy might have stabilized what looked at that time to be a sinking ship.

Asked why the chamber had been so reticent while Go Hillsborough was under attack, president and CEO Bob Rohrlack said the group thought its role was to continue discussing the issue among its membership and with county officials.

Though transportation has always been a chamber priority, Rohrlack said, the organization wanted to stay above the fray until a definite transportation plan and funding mechanism was in place.

“We’re not going to get caught up in the static,” Rohrlack said. “We’re not going to engage in a war of words.”

The chamber and other business groups won’t have that luxury if commissioners approve the sales tax referendum. At that point, the county government is prohibited from participating in the subsequent campaign. As in other similar referendums, it will be up to the business community to raise money to promote the sales tax and lead the campaign.

 

 

 

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Bay Times article on mobility fees:

 

Millions owed to developers loom over Hillsborough’s move to charge more for growth

Friday, November 27, 2015 3:14pm

 

TAMPA — On this, politicians and activists on both sides of Hillsborough County’s political spectrum seem to agree: Developers should pay more for the roads and other projects needed to support new growth.

But even if Hillsborough charges builders more, it might be a while before county coffers see a big boost.

That’s because developers hold more than $90 million in credits that they can use to offset future fees. And while a new fee structure could ultimately bring in $35 million a year for roads, sidewalks and transit, county staff says it likely won’t until all those credits are used up.

“That circumstance is a product of the system,” said David Singer, a land use lawyer with Singer & O’Donniley in Tampa. “I’m not sure anybody loves that system, but it is what we have and so people play by the rules of the system they’re in.”

How Hillsborough County arrived at this quagmire is complicated but critical to understanding how much money will actually trickle in if commissioners vote to switch from the existing system of impact fees to new mobility fees. A vote could come as soon as next month.

For many years, the county has charged developers an impact fee based on location and type of development.

In some cases, if the new homes or business space significantly increased traffic, the developer was required to widen a road or construct other improvements. In exchange, the developer would earn a credit equal to the cost of the road improvement that could be used to pay off future impact fees.

But in 2009, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill that barred counties from requiring developers to build road improvements to facilitate new construction. The county now has to make the improvements and can only charge the developer a proportional share of new traffic it created, which typically amounts to a fraction of the cost.

Instead of getting millions of dollars in road improvements a year, Hillsborough has collected just $6 million from developers under proportional share since 2009.

The county has explored doing away with that system and with impact fees — which actually charge less for new construction in less populous regions.

In its place, the county is looking at mobility fees, which are designed to incentivize redevelopment and growth in economic corridors where infrastructure is already in place. The fee would be higher — potentially three to 10 times higher — than impact fees.

Even with a change, though, the county is very likely to allow developers to use impact fee credits toward the new mobility fee, said Adam Gormly, director of Hillsborough’s development services department.

“We may be limited (legally) in our ability to say those offsets that have value now are going away,” Gormly said.

Parallel to this conversation is the ongoing debate over whether to ask voters next year to raise the sales tax a half cent for transportation projects. County commissioners are split on that, but there seems to be consensus that mobility fees should be part of the solution to the area’s gridlock and transportation woes.

Those who support a sales tax referendum see mobility fees as a means to prove that they’re forcing developers to pay a fair share before asking voters to tax themselves. Commissioner Sandy Murman, on the other hand, has proposed mobility fees as part of a package that could replace the sales tax hike altogether.

Murman’s plan projects mobility fees could bring in $25 million to $30 million a year for transportation projects, and because a referendum would not be needed, the money would come in as soon as commissioners voted to make the switch.

County staff, though, says that figure is much lower during the transition — closer to $10 million — because of the outstanding credits, which totaled $95 million as of Sept. 30. Newland National Properties, a prominent home developer in the area, holds $12.2 million in credits, far more than anyone else.

Credits can be traded or sold, making it more likely they’ll be used. For example, on Nov. 9, Winthrop Retail LLC sold $50,000 in offset credits to Meritage Homes.

However, developers don’t have to disclose what they traded credits for. Meaning there’s a dark, secondary market where transportation offset credits are bought and sold without county oversight.

Hillsborough is considering an expiration date or an incentive that would encourage developers to use credits quickly so they don’t loom over the county for many years, Gormly said. And the county wants to ensure that credits are used in the same area as they were earned, he added, which is the case now.

Developers so far haven’t lined up against mobility fees. Singer said he’s optimistic the new system will be simpler. He believes it will more directly benefit the development that pays the mobility fee in the form of better roads and transit, especially if it’s located in more densely populated areas.

But some worry that a sharp increase from impact fees to mobility fees could mean existing credits aren’t worth nearly as much as they are now, said Jacob Cremer, a lawyer who works on land planning issues for Stearns Weaver Miller in Tampa.

“The big concern is working with the county to be able to come up with a fair solution that doesn’t disrupt the market that’s out there now for the credits,” Cremer said. “The most important thing is stability.”

The county is holding focus groups with developers and other stakeholders to strike a balance. Commissioners will meet Dec. 9 to discuss some solutions.

“Some folks are going to move real quickly to utilize their entitlements to the fullest extent and some people are going to let them sit,” Singer said. “But there’s going to be rockiness in any transition. Coming off one system and moving to a vastly different system, there’s going to be a hiccup or two.”

 

 

 

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Tribune Joe Brown column on transportation:

 

JOE BROWN COLUMNS

Charlotte’s light rail offers lessons

 

Published: November 19, 2015

 

We are less than one year away from Election Day. The marathon for the presidency will cull the herd in a few months, but in Hillsborough County, there’s still a question of whether a sales tax referendum for transportation needs will be on the ballot — again.

Earlier this month, a Hillsborough County transportation board voted 8-3 to move forward with a sales tax referendum for local transportation projects. The county commission will take up the issue next month.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn supports the initiative and says it’s needed to help the local economy.

“What is normally a straight-A report card, we fail when it comes to transportation,” Buckhorn said. “It is our Achilles’ heel. It is what keeps us from becoming even more competitive than we already are.”

Supporters of another transportation sales tax ballot initiative might want to read a recent article in The Atlantic by Alana Semuels focusing on the growing cities of Nashville and Charlotte. The former is, like Hillsborough, looking for transportation alternatives; the latter invested heavily in a light rail system a few years ago. The conclusion: Residents are accustomed to cars, so support for bus and rail options is limited.

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In Nashville, where congestion costs the average auto commuter 45 hours a year, there’s agreement among just about everyone that the city needs more public transit. Two of my sisters live in the area and I’ve heard similar complaints.

 

“But, even if the city could find the money for a new light-rail line, would people use it?” asks the article. “Like most Americans outside the biggest cities, people in Nashville are accustomed to using their cars. According to Census data from 2009, fewer than 3 percent of workers in the Nashville metro area used public transit to commute to work, making the city less public-transit-friendly than Houston, Richmond, Memphis, Tampa and Kansas City, to name a few.”

Then there’s Charlotte, which in 1998 passed a half-cent sales tax to fund transit. A light-rail line began running in 2007 and is being expanded. The goal is to establish 25 miles of commuter rail, 19 miles of light rail, 16 miles of streetcar and more bus lines throughout the metro area. It sounds a lot like some of the public transportation fantasies I’ve heard about Hillsborough’s future. But what has it done for commuting?

According to The Atlantic, ridership in the Charlotte area has remained essentially flat, even though downtown has grown about 50 percent in employment. Average daily ridership of CATS, Charlotte Area Transit System, peaked at 95,484 in 2008 but has dropped to around 90,000 ever since.

“The case of Charlotte shows that, even when there is transit available, the vast majority of people won’t leave behind their cars and embrace public transportation,” writes Semuels, quoting a public transportation professor at UNC Charlotte. “In many cities, the average commute time by public transit is about twice what it is when driving your own car. And in many cities, including Charlotte, only about 20 percent of the operating costs of a transit line come from ridership; the rest come from government dollars.”

Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman has proposed that instead of a sales tax, we tap other revenue sources: a 5-cent gas tax, mobility fees on developers, property tax and the BP oil spill settlement, and the county’s reserve funds. Some of her fellow board members don’t think that will be enough to solve local transportation problems.

“This community needs a transportation plan that is transformative and is a game changer,” said Commissioner Ken Hagan.

I agree. A game changer, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way.”

The only game-changing plan will be one that gets a significant number of commuters out of their cars.

Judging by the experience of other cities, good luck with that. But all options need to be considered.

 

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Bay Times article on transportation debate:

 

Commissioner Victor Crist positioned as swing vote to decide Go Hillsborough debate

Saturday, November 14, 2015 9:24pm

 

TAMPA — The fate of Hillsborough County’s ambitious transportation initiative appears to lie in the hands of one man: Commissioner Victor Crist.

County commissioners will soon decide whether to ask voters for a half-cent sales tax increase that would raise $117 million a year for transportation projects. Six of seven commissioners have staked out positions.

Commissioners Kevin Beckner, Ken Hagan and Les Miller back the sales tax referendum as the county’s best option to improve roads, highways, bridges and transit. Commissioners Al Higginbotham, Sandy Murman and Stacy White oppose it in favor of other solutions that don’t need voter approval but provide less flexibility and fewer dollars.

That leaves Crist — a Republican representing primarily the north county — as the pivotal swing vote on Go Hillsborough, perhaps the most important issue facing the county. A decision could come as soon as next month.

Crist voted to advance the referendum in a Nov. 5 meeting of the Policy Leadership Group, a body of Hillsborough commissioners and the three city mayors. But he warned not to mistake it as an endorsement, placing himself squarely on the fence.

“For me, it’s a lose-lose proposition,” Crist said after the vote. “If I vote against it, I’m the guy who killed the plan. If I vote for it, I’m the guy who moved the bad plan forward.”

Those fighting for and against the plan remain hopeful to win over Crist, a longtime local politician first elected to the County Commission in 2010 after 18 years in the state Legislature.

Former Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Republican who leads the Tampa Innovation Alliance, was encouraged after Crist told the PLG that though his solidly red district was unlikely to vote for a tax increase, “I might just be willing to give them a chance.”

“Victor is really attuned to the creative economy we’re trying to build and the need for Tampa Bay to have a competitive transportation network,” Sharpe said. “I have confidence in Victor.”

But Sharon Calvert, a tea party leader and a vocal opponent of the tax, said too many questions remain, including the outcome of a sheriff’s investigation into whether a politically connected public relations consultant helped steer a $1.35 million Go Hillsborough contract to her client, Parsons Brinckerhoff.

“He was against it in 2010. Does that mean he’s going to be for it now?” said Calvert, who waged a primary challenge against Crist in 2012. “Everyone who has shown up to speak is against it. Where is all this appetite for a tax?”

This critical vote was not intended to come down to one person. After the failure of a one-cent sales tax referendum in 2010, county leaders hoped to coalesce around a collaborative solution to its transportation woes, seen by many, especially the business community, as the most pressing issue facing Hillsborough. They took nearly two years to get here.

Then White joined the commission this year on a campaign promise not to back a sales tax increase, and he hasn’t budged. And Murman and Higginbotham dropped their support amid criticism of the Parsons contract and growing uneasiness over how the plan was formed and where the money was coming from.

Throughout, Crist has remained neutral but vocal. In conversations and during commission meetings, he often goes back and forth on the merits of Go Hillsborough without committing either way. He’ll question whether the county has a well-constructed plan, but in the next breath he will malign his 90-minute commute to work and the problems of doing nothing.

Crist’s district, which stretches from north county to between Temple Terrace and Plant City and down to Brandon, would benefit most from sidewalk and intersection improvements, road widening and reversible express lanes, he said. They care less about funding expensive new transit options like light rail that would more directly benefit Tampa residents.

But Crist’s interests have frequently extended beyond his county district. He also has strong ties to the University of South Florida, his alma mater, and has spent his career trying to jumpstart the troubled community around it, sometimes called “Suitcase City.” The USF Area Community Civic Association served as his launching pad to winning a 1992 state representative race.

Now that area is poised for the kind of ambitious transformation Crist always hoped for, with plans for an “innovation district” aimed in part at attracting young, skilled workers. Crist said he recognizes millennials want options for getting around other than cars. Poor residents in that area would also benefit from an expanded bus system.

As a state senator, Crist also helped move forward a $1.2 billion commuter rail project in central Florida, with hopes it might eventually spark a movement toward mass transit statewide.

There are other clues as to how Crist might vote. At the Nov. 5 meeting, Crist criticized an alternative plan floated by Murman because it dipped into county reserves. Several days later, Crist led the charge to deny Murman, a fellow Republican, a second term as County Commission chairwoman, nominating Miller, a Democrat, over her.

The four commissioners who supported the half-cent sales tax hike at the Policy Leadership Group backed Miller, while the three commissioners against the tax voted for Murman.

The leadership vote may have signaled Crist’s intentions on Go Hillsborough. It certainly demonstrated he’s not afraid to buck Republican activists, who were angered to learn a GOP-controlled commission put a Democrat in charge. Then again, it cast Crist as a wild card who can shake things up at a moment’s notice.

Crist said there are more personal motivations that will factor into his decision.

“I’m 58 years old. I have a 3-year-old,” Crist told the Tampa Bay Times. “I want to know that when she’s walking to school, she’s safe. I want to know that when she’s driving, she’s safe. And I want to know that there’s an opportunity for her to stay here to work and not leave so I’m around my grandkids.

“And that’s what it’s got to be about.”

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on Operation Reveille:

 

POLITICS

‘Operation Reveille’ wraps homeless veterans in help

 

 

BY CHRISTOPHER O’DONNELL
Tribune Staff 

Published: 
November 11, 2015   |   Updated: November 12, 2015 at 08:53 AM

 

TAMPA — Walking into the crowded hall, David Silva couldn’t stop himself scanning the room for possible threats.

After 11 years and three tours of duty with the 82nd Airborne Division, fear of a sniper or a bomb blast is still ingrained in him.

Now 43, he was discharged 10 years ago.

Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Silva has flitted between jobs and relationships since becoming a civilian. He has been homeless the past 18 months, sleeping on the couches of friends and former girlfriends, unable to find regular work.

“I’m tired of this cycle,” he said.

On the day America celebrates its veterans, homeless advocates set a new target of the end of December to find homes for Silva and an estimated 150 other homeless veterans in Hillsborough County through the second annual Operation Reveille.

Working with the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County, the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative had originally set a target of housing every homeless veteran in the county by Veterans Day. Meeting the revised date would still mean the county has done its part toward meeting a 2010 national initiative by the White House and Veterans Affairs Department to end homelessness among veterans by the end of this year.

Around 50 veterans and roughly 400 volunteers wearing bright orange Operation Reveille t-shirts attended the Veterans Day event at Port Tampa Bay.

Veterans seeking help were “buddied up” with volunteers to guide them through applications for housing and a daunting array of other social services including employment, access to medical care, financial advice, legal help, food parcels and clothing. A job fair for veterans is planned for today.

Organizers had up to 40 renovated homes or apartments ready for vets to move into Wednesday with homes assigned based on the most extreme need. They expect more homes to be ready over the next six weeks. The homes will come furnished through a donation from Ashley Furniture Homestore.

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Those who found housing Wednesday were given a food bag from Feeding Tampa Bay, a non-profit group, and a tote bag of move-in items like cleaning materials and laundry detergent. The Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa Inc. set up a suits, shirts and ties donation booth for job interviews.

Veterans also get help with rent until they can support themselves.

The idea behind the operation is to rapidly rehouse veterans and wrap them in a system of care so they do not end up back on the street.

“Today is about heart and soul,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman. “These efforts today will ensure the veterans don’t have to live on the streets any longer, that they will get the services they need, that they don’t have to be in an emergency situation.”

Hillsborough had about 250 homeless veterans at the start of 2014, around 11 percent of the county’s overall homeless population of about 2,200.

Outreach efforts and last year’s inaugural Operation Reveille helped reduce the number to about 150, said Antoinette Hayes Triplett, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.

Among those placed in homes was Tiffany Lara, a 27-year-old Army veteran who became homeless after her husband suffered a stroke in 2014.

Through the 2014 event, Lara was able to move her family into a two-bedroom apartment in Ybor City and get help her with rent for six months.

Now, she works as a leasing agent at an apartment complex and is back on her feet.

She attended Wednesday’s event to thank those who had helped her but also to call for other veterans to get the same assistance.

“We as veterans are helping fight and do all the things that you don’t want to do,” Lara said. “We’re doing this because we want to; because we love our country. Not everybody’s built for this, and if we can help you, the least you can do is please try to help someone else.”

Nationally, homelessness among veterans has fallen by 36 percent since the White House announced its initiative to tackle the problem after surveys showed about 67,000 former servicemen and women were on the streets or living in shelters.

Around 15 cities including Syracuse and Las Vegas have since wiped out homelessness among veterans, according to the White House.

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U.S General Lloyd Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, noted at the Wednesday event that the U.S. has been at war for 14 years now — the longest period of continuous conflict in the nation’s history.

“A very small number of citizens have shouldered a very heavy responsibility,” Austin said.

In particular, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been marked by the signature wounds of PTSD and mild trauma brain injuries — invisible wounds that leave veterans struggling to find employment, effective medical treatment and acceptance, he said.

“All of us have a responsibility to support them, especially those who served in the military and are now dealing with some difficult issues,” Austin said.

Christopher Woods, a 49-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who served two six-month stints of active sea duty in the Persian Gulf, was “buddied” with Brandon resident Steve Hurley, another Navy veteran.

Since leaving the Navy in 1989, Woods has worked a number of jobs including flipping burgers. He has been homeless on and off for the past 12 years and suffers from Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the bowels.

Finding a home would be a big step, he said, but what he craves more is a steady job so he can support himself.

“I need help, I don’t need a handout,” he said.

Silva, the army veteran, was paired with Becca Marshall, a University of South Florida student whose husband serves in the U.S. Air Force.

A home of his own would help him rebuild his life, he said. He could sleep without worrying he will wake to find his possessions stolen.

He finds comfort in an old military slogan that it takes a warrior to ask for help but admitted he would rather not be in need.

“It’s so hard,” he said, “to ask for something.”

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this ABC Action News article on Operation Reveille:

 

Operation Reveille program helps homeless vets leave the streets

Carson Chambers

5:52 PM, Nov 11, 2015

6:16 PM, Nov 11, 2015

 

Seven-year-old Kristian and 5-year-old Jesse scribbled pictures of their family.

“They’re what I live for. The reason why I’m here today,” Jason Gravette said.

The Gravettes, including their dad, a disabled U.S. Army veteran, were filled with hope Wednesday for the first time in a long time.

“It opened up my eyes that there are people out there that are willing to help,” Gravette said.

Jason and his wife, Melinda, their boys, including another 5-month-old, are homeless and living temporarily with a family member. They spent Wednesday at Port Tampa Bay to find an apartment through Operation Reveille.

“I’d like other people to know that I had the feelings that I was all alone. Bottom line, I’m not alone and neither are you,” Gravette said.

Operation Reveille, an effort to get homeless veterans off the street, will put 53 in furnished apartments by the end of the year.

“Every weekend, we’re going to be moving families into their own homes. We are so fortunate to have 200 households worth of furniture,” Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Coalition CEO Antoinette Hayes-Triplett said.

With around 150 homeless veterans in Hillsborough County, the problem is more than providing a roof and a bed.

“Just giving them a place to live is not going to solve the problem. You gotta have services and you gotta have that support system for them so they can get back on their feet,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman said.

Jason Gravette tells me joining the Army was the best decision of his life.

Wednesday’s decision was another good choice.

“For the longest time, I didn’t think I was good enough to accept the help but the bottom line is, it’s not about me. It’s about my family,” he said.

His boys, his wife and soon a home in the picture.

“Turning point, right?” he said looking at his wife.

“A turning point,” she answered.

 

Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tampa Tribune article on Gardenville:

 

SOUTH SHORE NEWS

Community celebrates re-opening of nearly century old schoolhouse

 

 

BY DOUG ARNOLD
Special Correspondent 

Published: 
November 11, 2015

 

GIBSONTON — Everything old is new again at the Gardenville Schoolhouse.

On Oct. 30, an assembly of Hillsborough County elected officials, civic leaders, volunteers, and citizens celebrated the grand re-opening of the newly renovated, nearly 100-year-old schoolhouse at 6215 Symmes Road in Gibsonton.

The event included a ribbon cutting, light refreshments and other festivities for about 100 attendees.

County commissioners Sandy Murman and Stacy White and Assistant County Administrator Dexter Barge represented the county.

“We are thrilled with the restoration of this great historical building,” Murman said. “It has been a long, long road to this day, but we recognized the significance of (its) architecture and heritage. Today is proof that community, working with government, can make great things happen.”

Opened around 1920, the old schoolhouse and property eventually became a recreation center and the land a park. The building was closed in 2005 when a new recreation center was completed and it remained shuttered until the renovation project got underway last year.

Gibsonton natives and local historians Pete and Jeanie Johnson enlightened the crowd with memories of attending the school many years ago. Pete Johnson noted that the big hurricane of 1921 nearly took the building down.

“Witnesses spoke of how high the water rose, all the way to the top of the cross ties of the nearby train track,” he said.

His wife talked about Nagie Nistal, a neighbor who used to operate a small lunch room for the students across the street from the school.

“She was a generous woman who made Spanish bean soup and Cuban bread,” Jeanie Johnson said. “Milk was often free for the children.”

Some days, she added, there were oysters and fish from Bullfrog Creek.

“We are thrilled with the restoration,” she said. “This is a great part of Gibsonton’s past and with the programs serving our citizens, it will continue to be a great part of Gibsonton’s future.”

Hillsborough County’s Aging Services and Parks & Recreation departments now offer programming at the schoolhouse. Aging Services were recently moved from the Gibsonton Senior Center to the schoolhouse.

The facility serves as a gathering place for the area seniors, offering meals to those eligible, plus health and wellness activities. Parks & Recreation will continue to offer arts and cultural programming for young people, adults and seniors.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded the $830,000 renovation project through a Community Development Block Grant administered by the county’s Affordable Housing Services department.

For information on programs at the Gardenville Senior Center, visit www .hillsboroughcounty.org/aging or call (813) 272-5250.

 

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Bay Times article:

 

Murman spurned as GOP-controlled Hillsborough commission names Democrat Miller chairman

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 8:27pm

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman lost her bid Tuesday for a second term as the commission’s leader. It was a surprise rebuke that came just days after she spoke out against a proposed sales tax increase to fund the county’s transportation needs.

Surprise was then followed by shock: The Republican-controlled board named Democratic Commissioner Les Miller the new chairman for the next year.

“Wow,” Miller said after the vote. “I don’t take this lightly. It’s a lot of work to be done. I know that.”

Miller is the first Democrat to lead the commission since Tom Scott in 2003. It’s also the first time in at least two decades that a member of the party opposite the one in power was selected chair. There are five Republicans and two Democrats on the commission.

The title of chairman is largely ceremonial — it means having to attend a lot of ribbon cuttings — but it does come with a $10,000 pay bump. The jockeying and lobbying for the title is usually intense.

After the vote, Murman told the Tampa Bay Times she was “disappointed” she wasn’t selected for a second term. But she didn’t attribute it to the growing transportation divide on the commission.

 

Last week, Hillsborough’s commissioners and three mayors gathered at the Policy Leadership Group meeting to discuss the transportation plans and funding options mapped out for the county by an engineering firm.

But the night before that meeting, Murman dropped her own plan that relied on other revenue streams. She said she would not support a referendum to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to pay for badly needed transportation improvements throughout the county.

The group voted Thursday to endorse the sales tax referendum; Murman opposed it.

“I hope there was more respect for me and my job as chair and as the only female on the board than to have any retribution for just trying to put another funding option out there,” Murman said Tuesday.

The meeting started positively for Murman’s prospects. Commissioner Al Higginbotham presented her with a gift from the rest of the commission, an annual tradition, and then nominated her for a second year as chair.

However, Commissioner Victor Crist then crossed his fellow Republican by nominating Miller over her.

When it came time to vote, Murman fell short of the four votes needed to win the chair.

Miller, though, had support from not only Crist, but fellow Democrat Kevin Beckner and Republican Ken Hagan. After it was clear Miller would win, Commissioner Stacy White and Murman voted for Miller in a sign of support for the new chair.

Higginbotham, however, voted against Miller.

Crist, nominated by Miller, was then named vice chair and White was named chaplain.

Murman, visibly displeased, never opened her gift in public. She tried to cut off Crist when he asked to make a statement about the outgoing chair.

Higginbotham suggested Miller’s ascent may have been a coordinated effort. He said before the vote, Crist attempted to tell him of his plan to not back Murman’s second term, in violation of Florida’s open government laws.

Crist said he ran into Higginbotham before the vote but only said: “We’ve got business to conduct, and I have a feeling it may not go the way people expect it to go.” The conversation ended there, Crist said.

“You’ve got some board members that came in today with a foregone conclusion that everything was going to go one way, and all of a sudden the carpet got pulled out from underneath them and they’re shocked and angry,” Crist said. “There ain’t no master plan. It was a last-minute decision.”

For his part, Miller, the county’s only black commissioner, said while the position is considered ceremonial, it isn’t symbolic that an African-American will now be the face of Hillsborough at many public events.

“It shows this county has come a long way and starting to make some changes,” he said. “Are we where we’re supposed to be? No way. But we’re trying to get there. If we’re going to be a progressive county and be the big boy on the block, this shows we’re getting there.”

 

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Tampa Tribune column on transportation:

 

JOE HENDERSON COLUMNS

Our transportation system stinks, but who wants to pay to fix it?

By Joe Henderson | Tribune Staff 
Published: 
November 8, 2015

 

A Hillsborough County board just reinforced what we already know. Our transportation system stinks, and we need to make it better.

The county’s Policy Leadership Group, which includes Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, voted 11-3 the other day to recommend that a half-cent-per-dollar sales tax increase be put before voters next November. The county commission has the final say, at least until voters do. I can save us all some time. Voters will crush this plan, as currently constructed, like a daisy under Gerald McCoy’s feet.

That is, of course, unless enough people decide they’re tired of commutes that last longer, fray more nerves and never get better.

I couldn’t blame anyone for feeling like a long-term transportation solution is a hopeless case, though. Officials keep offering same ol’, same ol’ “solutions” that are doomed to fail, while opponents disregard the county’s greater needs because that costs money to fix.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who initially seemed to support the referendum, offered an alternative plan the other day that is straight from the tea party playbook.

❖ ❖ ❖

She wants to cobble together money from so-called mobility fees (we used to call them impact fees), raising the gas tax by a nickel per gallon and tapping into the county’s reserve funds. Her plan recommends earmarking 50 percent of the growth in property tax revenue each year for transportation needs.

No referendum.

There is some logic to it. Hiking the gas tax and user fees shifts the burden of paying for transportation more directly onto those who use the roads. It’s also totally righteous to demand developers pay more for the transportation problems they help create by building all those new houses.

Problem solved.

Except it wouldn’t be.

Critics say the amount of money her plan would generate was vastly over-estimated. Basically, it would pay for some bandages on a traffic mess while failing to deal with long-term reality. It wouldn’t generate enough to allow the county to issue bonds for major projects.

It’s a dodge.

I have said from the start that the county’s referendum game plan has been badly flawed. Maybe it can be salvaged in a year’s time, but I wouldn’t bet on it — unless we get more voices besides politicians and officials to speak loudly about why we need this.

That’s what is missing here.

We’ve heard about cost estimates, including a $750 million backlog of maintenance for the roads we have now. The idea of more buses has been kicked around, and maybe — in the pie-in-the-sky plan — some version of light rail.

We’ve heard we’re falling behind cities like Denver, which has a well-regarded transportation system. We’ve heard that Fortune 500 companies will pass us by for relocation if we don’t solve this problem.

But mostly, we’ve heard loud, relentless anti-tax voices who repeat one word, over and over: NO!

They don’t trust handing over that much tax money to government. They appear to believe the need in the future has been overstated.

They all but sank the “Go Hillsborough” plan with stories about a well-connected consultant’s cozy relationship with the project. They haven’t found anything illegal yet, mind you. But it looks like an inside job, and that’s never good.

Against that backdrop, commissioners will next month consider whether to go ahead with the referendum. Doing nothing is not an option, but taxpayers aren’t going to bite on this until more voices from the community speak out about why we need to do this.

We’ve heard plenty of “NO!” If there is a “YES” out there in the community, we need to hear that, too. Those are the folks who will be asked to pay for this. I’m talking about hearing from small-business owners, commuters, bus riders, students, elderly people and anyone who would benefit by an improved transportation system.

Humm.

That would be all of us, wouldn’t it?

The problem is, who wants to pay for it?

 

Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Mitch Perry report:

 

Mitch Perry Report for 11.5.15 – A Hillsborough transportation plan without a sales tax?

By Mitch Perry –

 

Nov 5, 2015

 

 

I received a text message last night informing me that the Tampa Bay Sierra Club had embraced Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandy Murman‘s late-hour plan to fund transportation projects – which sounds like a larger sized version of what the Club called for back this past summer. You remember, the Club called for the county to began raising mobility fees and the gas tax, saying it would be a good start to raising funds for the county’s myriad transportation needs.

I’ve not had that confirmed, but whether Murman’s plan -which would include everything under the sun possible in terms of revenue streams save an actual sales tax – will fly with her colleagues at the BOCC/Policy Leadership Group I suppose we’ll learn more about later today (Many of those funding options are included in the latest Go Hillsborough product that will be discussed today). At least she believes she gets Tea Party activists and others (now including Americans for Prosperity) out of her hair…

 

 

 
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