Commissioner Murman lauded in this Tribune editorial on her small business job-creation program:

Editorial: Public money for private sector jobs


Published: June 20, 2011

It’s a dicey proposition anytime government tries to get involved in creating private sector jobs.

It’s one thing to hire private companies to build roads, buildings and other necessary public projects; it’s another to use tax dollars to actually subsidize private jobs.

Under such scenarios, businesses that receive government aid may benefit, but competitors can suffer, even end up eliminating jobs and making the net effect on the economy negligible.

That is why government usually should avoid tinkering with the marketplace.

But with the county suffering an unemployment rate near 12 percent, it’s understandable that commissioners don’t want to simply sit on their hands.

And the county’s Small Business Job Creation Program provides a cautious but meaningful way to encourage local firms to hire more workers.

It won’t solve the jobless crisis, and county officials should monitor its long-term impact, particularly whether the jobs it creates last and whether it gives some firms an unfair advantage over others.

But the signs are encouraging that it is indeed giving private businesses an incentive to hire more workers.

Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman, who championed the plan, says it has resulted in plans for at least 63 jobs. “That is like bringing a corporation to town,” she says.

The commission approved the program in March, providing $500,000 that will be used to reimburse small businesses for a portion of the salaries they pay new workers over three months. Businesses are limited to subsidies for three workers, and there is a maximum payout of $3,900 per employee. Only firms with 10 employees or fewer are eligible.

Participating companies must be pre-approved. They must be Hillsborough-based and have been in business two years. Workers must be Hillsborough residents. The firms do not have to agree to keep the workers beyond the three months, and they need only pay minimum wage. But they are not reimbursed by the county until the end of the three months, which ensures the jobs actually are filled and that no abuse occurs.

Murman reports an enthusiastic response. Close to 30 businesses have applied, and just a little more than half the funds remain. City Council member Lisa Montelione understandably would like the city to launch a similar effort.

With the city’s budget shortfall, it may be best to see exactly how the county’s experience plays out.

This little program is not going to suddenly ignite the economy, but it does give businesses that are gaining traction reason to invest in growth. Murman, her fellow commissioners and retiring Economic Development Director Gene Gray deserve credit for fashioning a simple, accountable way to give business a hand, without getting government’s fingerprints all over the place.


Tagged with:

Our West Tampa Sandwich Shop Family

Thank you to the West Tampa Sandwich Shop for the honor of being part of your family!

Our small businesses and community need our help and partnership.

Make sure to visit them!

West Tampa Sandwich Shop

3904 N. Armenia Ave.
Tampa, FL 33607

Phone/Telefono: (813) 873-7104


Raises offset pay cut for retirement system

Published: June 14, 2011


Hillsborough County sheriff’s employees will receive a 3.25-percent salary boost to offset a state mandate requiring them to set aside 3 percent of their salaries for retirement.

Sheriff’s employees haven’t received raises in years, and a 3 percent reduction without compensation would have affected morale and quality of life, Sheriff David Gee said.

“I wouldn’t call it a raise,” Gee said. “I don’t think it’s a raise when you’re trying to keep them at their same pay.”

County commissioners did not directly criticize Gee’s decision. But some had reservations.

“It’s their budget; but it’s taxpayers’ money,” Commission Chairman Al Higginbotham said. “I don’t feel it’s the authority of the commission to get involved in the details of their budget; that doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention.”

Commissioner Sandy Murman, a former state lawmaker, said the sheriff’s action undermines the Legislature’s intent to close the state budget deficit without raising taxes.

“When you’ve got a branch of government that is trying to impose this 3 percent reduction, you have to question, if there is an office that’s trying to circumvent that, where is the benefit to the public?” Murman said.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober also is considering giving his employees raises to offset the mandate to pay into the state retirement system.

“We’re studying options at this time,” said Mark Cox, a spokesman for Ober. “Our employees haven’t been given a cost of living increase in five years. Our goal is the retention of our valued employees.”

The retirement system covers not only state workers but also teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and other employees of local governments. It provides benefits to 572,000 active and 319,000 retired government employees.

News that Gee had found money to offset his employees’ retirement payments was another more blow to county employees who have been battered by successive years of layoffs, furlough days and flat paychecks.

Juan Basso, president of Local 167 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said for weeks he had heard rumors that Gee would bolster his employees’ paychecks. Then, on Monday, Basso learned Hillsborough Clerk of Court Pat Frank will give her 781 employees $1,500 each in a one-time bonus using money the clerk got from a federal lawsuit settlement.

“All these raises are going around; Pat Frank and the sheriff’s office,” Basso said. “And our blue-collar workers, we don’t get any raises because they say the money is not in the budget.”

Chief Deputy Jose Docobo last week announced to sheriff’s employees that the changes will be effective June 27 – the same day they must begin paying 3 percent into the state retirement system. Deputies as well as civilian employees are affected.

Other Florida counties also are seeking to offset the shift in salary to the retirement system.

Earlier this month, when new Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco unveiled his first budget proposal, he said he hoped to address the retirement contribution change with the Pasco County Commission.

He said it costs about $100,000 to hire a deputy, including a background check and training — much more than it would cost to give existing deputies a pay increase to offset the retirement contribution.

Escambia County’s government and its sheriff are seeking 3.1 percent raises for employees who pay into the state retirement fund, as is Santa Rosa County’s sheriff, the Pensacola News Journal has reported.

State Rep. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, co-sponsored the legislation mandating 3 percent of salaries for retirement. She has no problem with local government agencies deciding to give raises to employees.

“God bless them, if their taxpayers agree with what they’re doing, I can’t argue with them,” she said.

The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office’s salary offset is for employees hired before July 1 who are members of the retirement system but have not entered into a deferred retirement options program.

Gee said he has about 3,200 sworn employees and there are about 400 sworn positions currently open. There are about 1,400 civilian employees, with about 170 open positions.

The sheriff’s proposed budget is about $370 million – roughly $130,000 more than in 2011, Gee said.

Tagged with:

Thoughts on Transportation and the Budget

Commissioner Murman quoted in this Tribune article on transportation and budget:

Hillsborough commissioners want plan for roads

By MIKE SALINERO | The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 10, 2011


Despite limited money, Hillsborough County commissioners want more transportation projects underway to create jobs and show constituents the county is working to clear jammed roads.

Commissioners voted Thursday to have county administrators contact planners at other agencies in order to draw up a coordinated plan to expedite transportation projects.

“We need to look at this as a strategic objective that we plan for,” said Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Murman started the conversation at a budget workshop where administrators were explaining how they prioritize transportation projects when revenues are plummeting. The county is deferring $76 million in scheduled road work until 2014 because of the continuing decline in the Community Investment Tax, a half-cent sales tax.

Despite the shortfall, County Administrator Mike Merrill has recommended budgeting $32.8 million for road projects in fiscal 2012 and about $56 million in fiscal 2013.

How that money is spent, and how quickly projects can get underway is crucial to the local economy and to residents stuck in traffic jams, Murman said. She said the issue is so important, the county should assign one person to deal only with transportation. No such position now exists.

“The county staff needs to be involved in this at the get-go in some kind of leadership roll,” Murman said. “We’ve got the dollars and the public works department.”

The suggestion spurred a conversation on the importance of transportation and the need to coordinate efforts now fragmented among numerous agencies, most of which do not answer directly to the commission.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe suggested resurrecting a list of road projects recommended by the county’s Transportation Task Force, a group that studied transportation needs from 2006-09. The task force recommended a 1 cent sales tax increase to pay for the road projects as well as a light-rail system. Voters rejected the sales tax last November.

Commissioners finally decided to have county administrators talk initially with directors of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the City-County Planning Commission about coordinating a plan to identify the most crucial road projects. Other agencies could be brought in later, Sharpe said. (813) 259-8303


Tagged with:

Our Budget Priorities

Commissioner Murman was quoted in this Times article on budget priorities:

Hillsborough commissioners discuss budget priorities

By Tia Mitchell, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Jun 09, 2011 07:11 PM

TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s transportation and infrastructure continues to lag far behind its resources, forcing leaders Thursday to discuss ways to prioritize projects and spending in the coming fiscal year.

The community investment tax, used to fund a large chunk of the county’s capital projects, is generating much less money than was projected. Income during the 2011 fiscal year was initially expected to be around $135 million. It came in at just $90 million.

“The CIT has pretty much been our sole source of funding,” said county administrator Mike Merrill. “We kind of put all our eggs in one basket.”

Proceeds from the CIT are split among the school system, the county and its cities. The county expects to receive about $1 billion through fiscal year 2027, but more than $600 million is owed on existing debt.

That leaves about $355 million for everything else, with the county on the hook for projects totalling $482 million.

County commissioners discussed other funding sources, including additional tolls, community development areas and tax increment districts, at Thursday’s budget hearing. Commissioners also said they wanted to re-create a task force that would unite various government and planning agencies, such as HART, the Planning Commission, Expressway Authority and Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Commissioner Sandra Murman said it was “ridiculous” that only 3 percent of the county’s budget goes toward transportation. She advocated for a “transportation czar” that would lead the discussion.

“Something so important is getting so little attention,” she said.

During discussion on parks spending, Murman lobbied for the redirection of $1.5 million budgeted for skateboard parks in Apollo Beach, Brandon and a yet-to-be-determined northwest location. They didn’t seem like a good use of money during such tough times, she said.

Apollo Beach residents have even asked for a trade, Murman said, saying they would rather cut the skateboard park instead of after-school programs.

Merrill told her the parks were funded by impact fees, and that money can only be used for certain projects. But he said county officials will come back to the commission with alternative options for the money.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at or (813) 226-3405.


Tagged with:

Boys & Girls Club Ground Breaking

Area residents and officials gathered at Resurrection Catholic Church on June 3 for the Boys & Girls Club of Riverview groundbreaking ceremony. From left are Anne Garcia, Joe Garcia, Dan Campo, Diana Campo Ekonomou, Christine Hogan, Earl Lennard and Antonio Diez

Work is under way on a project that will mark the latest step in the development of Riverview.

On June 3, area residents and officials — including Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman — attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Boys & Girls Club of Riverview.

The club is located on the grounds of Resurrection Catholic Church, 6819 Krycul Ave., Riverview.

“This marks the start of a great future for Riverview and its kids,” said Lynn Dumais, board chairwoman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.

The ceremony marked the start of work on the first two of the three-phase project.

Phase one features a 6,000 square foot building, which will feature areas for tutoring, a computer lab and other recreation space. Phase two is a covered outdoor pavilion for basketball and other activities.

The first two phases are expected to be completed in August to coincide with the start of the fall semester.

“I spent over 40 years working with kids in this county,” said Earl Lennard, former Hillsborough school superintendent and chairman of Riverview Boys & Girls Club leadership team. “In my experience, kids aren’t as prone to trouble or mischief when they are active.”


Work on the first two phases of the Boys & Girls Club of Riverview is scheduled to be completed in August.

Phase three — which involves the closing of the pavilion and building an indoor gymnasium — will begin when the additional required funds are raised. In total, about $1.5 million has been raised for the $3 million project.

The leadership team is presently working toward raising money for a $250,000 matching grant. So far, the team has raised $114,000.

“There are a lot of generous people in Riverview who have stepped up,” said Joe Garcia, board member for the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay.

Once completed, the facility will become the 16th Boys & Girls club in Hillsborough County and will serve up to 150 kids from the Riverview area every day.

“As our community has grown, the need for places for our youngsters has grown as well,” said Lennard, who is the county elections supervisor.

(813) 627-4762



Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Times article regarding Hispanic commission district:


Hispanic group forms to have voice in Hillsborough County redistricting

By Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Tuesday, June 7, 2011

TAMPA — Hispanics fueled well more than half the population growth in Hillsborough County during the past decade.

Yet they potentially stand to lose ground politically when it comes to their ability to elect someone whose interests resemble theirs to the Hillsborough County Commission, or force that board to listen to them.

A hastily formed group of Hispanic civic leaders is mobilizing to try to change that as commissioners finalize proposals for new political boundaries for themselves in coming weeks.

“We need to be united, not try to get anyone elected,” said Lydia Medrano with the League of United Latin American Citizens heading an effort calling itself the Hispanic Redistricting Initiative. “We’re just trying to get a district with a large percentage of Hispanics in it.”

Hillsborough County has seven elected commissioners. Four of them represent separate, defined regions of the county, while the other three are chosen in countywide elections.

As with Congress and the Legislature, political boundaries for the four district commissioners are redrawn every 10 years to ensure each represents roughly the same number of people.

Commissioners draw their own boundaries with the help of county demographers and feedback from representatives, not to mention behind-the-scenes political arm wrestling. That process is going on now.

Much of the public debate so far has centered on ensuring that District 3 — representing much of central Tampa and parts of east Hillsborough — maintains roughly the same percentage of its African-American population share, about 40 percent.

On Monday, the Hispanic Redistricting Initiative heard a presentation from John Garcia, redistricting manager for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a New York group that advocates on behalf of Hispanics. He said Hispanics are arguably worse off under each of the new boundary proposals.

He noted that District 1 — representing much of South and West Tampa, as well as neighborhoods along the south Hillsborough shoreline — currently includes a 35 percent bloc of Hispanics. The existing proposals each have the percentage declining, to no more than 33 percent to just less than 30.

That’s true although the Hispanic population grew countywide by 71 percent to 307,000 people during the past decade.

“You’ve got to work real hard to do something like that,” said Garcia of the fact that all six of the redistricting proposals so far dilute the Hispanic vote in District 1.

Four of the proposed new boundary maps under consideration by the county were drawn largely by county planners, with public input. The two under closest consideration as of the last County Commission meeting emerged from the offices of Commissioners Victor Crist and Sandy Murman, both Republicans.

Crist represents much of northern Hillsborough — or District 2 — and he has to give up some of his territory to other districts that didn’t grow as fast. He is seeking to ensure he doesn’t lose all of the city of Temple Terrace to District 3, represented by Commissioner Les Miller, a Democrat.

Another map with origins in Murman’s office has the south Hillsborough part of her district spreading east to take in the heavily Republican retirement community Sun City Center.

Commissioners hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday at the County Center to consider the maps they have so far.



Hispanic leaders: County commission should reflect changing demographics

Hillsborough County’s population

Published: June 07, 2011

» 23 Comments | Post a Comment

TAMPA Now comprising 25 percent of Hillsborough County, the local Hispanic population grew more than any other group in the last 10 years, and some community leaders say it’s time the county commission reflected the change.

A coalition of Latino community organizations is preparing to petition the Hillsborough County Commission to take their concerns into account as commissioners set new voting districts as a result of the 2010 census.

Some are pessimistic their issues will be addressed and say if they’re denied, they will turn to the Justice Department or the courts.

“By continually ignoring the Hispanic community, for whatever argument they want to use, it’s only going to get worse,” said Victor DiMaio, president of the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus. “The numbers are just too big to ignore anymore.”

Hispanic leaders say they want an opportunity to put a Latino on the commission.

‘We have been traditionally a large part of the community for over a century now,” DiMaio said. “I really think that we deserve an opportunity to be represented as well as the African-American community…I think it’s time.”

“We want to be heard,” said Norma Reno, a community activist.

Al Frederick, president of the Tampa Latin Chamber of Commerce, said Hispanics don’t have a voice in county government. “There’s no one there to speak up for the people, to speak out for that ethnicity,” he said.

“We’re looking at empowering the community so the people who get elected to represent them will be responsive to them,” said John Garcia, national redistricting manager for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a national legal and civil rights organization that is working with local Hispanic activists.

Four of the seven county commissioners are elected in geographic districts. The other three are elected by the entire county.

One of the four geographic seats – District 3 – was created to be a “minority district” under the federal Voting Rights Act. The federal definition of “minority” includes Hispanics and African-Americans. District 3 is 40 percent African-American and 25 percent Hispanic.

Les Miller, who was elected in District 3, is the only African-American county commissioner. About 17 percent of Hillsborough County residents are black.

Hispanics make up 35 percent of District 1, the highest percentage of Hispanics in any of the geographic districts. The district is represented by Sandy Murman, who is white.

“I think all minority groups should be represented in some fashion,” Murman said. “I make a big effort to reach out to Hispanic groups.”

But some activists think the absence of a Latino county commissioner means the concerns of their community are too often ignored. They point to their unsuccessful fight for years to obtain funding in heavily Hispanic areas for historic community club buildings that have fallen into disrepair, noting commissioners found millions to funnel into a lavish community center in Brandon.

Among those taking up the cause is Patrick Manteiga, publisher of the trilingual weekly, “La Gaceta.” He said Hispanics make up a relatively small percentage of county workers and argues that might be different if there was a Hispanic county commissioner.

“When you look at county government and they govern a diverse group of people, you would like to see that diversity naturally move up through the ranks,” Manteiga said.

Manteiga thinks it’s possible to form a district that is 40 percent Hispanic by linking West Tampa and Town ‘n Country. That, he said, would greatly increase the chances of electing a Hispanic county commissioner.

Steve Valdez, client services manager for the commission’s redistricting task force, said none of the current redistricting proposals specifically address the issue of Hispanic representation. He said that could change, depending on public input and direction from commissioners.

“That is something that can be brought up at public hearings on the 9th or the 20th of this month,” he said.

If commissioners don’t respond to the coalition, Manteiga said, he will “do everything I can to get people together to fund-raise and organize” to get the Justice Department to exert pressure.

“Maybe the Department of Justice doesn’t have the last word,” Garcia said. “Maybe the courts have the last word… Redistricting invariably leads, in my experience, to litigation.”

Murman said she doesn’t know what the commission will do but said the question is still open. “I say to everyone in the community, just make your voice heard about how these maps should be drawn. We tend to respond to large cries for assistance in matters like this.”



Commissioner Murman mentioned in this Creative Loafing article on HART:

HART board approves budget that will raise taxes and reduce some services

Posted by Mitch Perry on Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 2:50 PM

Sandy Murman said she didnt want to balance HARTs budget on Hillsborough homeowners.

When Hillsborough county voters rejected the penny transit tax last year, officials with HART knew it would have a major impact on their budget going forward.

That impact was felt directly today after the HART board approved the 2012 budget that will include a 3.7 percent reduction in service, and an increase in Hillsborough homeowners property taxes, from .4682 to .5.

HART’s Katharine Eagan, who runs the agency’s Service Development Division, gave a detailed presentation to board members on the staff’s recommendations. She said that there would be some reduction in current services – such as eliminating service on holidays like Christmas and New Years, as well as reducing bus routes on Sunday evenings. The bulk of south and east county would have no weekend service. There would be no south Tampa service east of Dale Mabry, and only hourly weekend service in the Town ‘N Country/northwest Hillsborough region.

There would be some reduction of employees through attrition, but there are no plans to eliminate any other workers.

Voting for an increase on ad valorem taxes is always a sensitive issue, and these days, it’s become a third rail of sorts for Republicans. The only two votes on the board who voted no on the budget were the only two GOP elected officials, County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Mark Sharpe.

Their Democratic party colleague on the BOCC, Kevin Beckner, said he would proudly support the millage increase. He said that though he doesn’t have kids in the school system, he understands fully why it’s important that some of his taxes go to support public education, and said that was his same philosophy in terms of supporting HART, even though he doesn’t utilize their services.

Looking for potentially new sources of revenue, Commissioner Murman suggested buses that would drop off sports fans who go to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg or to the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. But HART officials say that federal law prohibits that – later attorney Mary Ann Stiles suggested that the agency’s lobbyist seek a waiver from the feds on that potential source of new revenue.

HART’s interim CEO Philip Hale, who took over for David Armijo back in April, said one reason why the agency is facing this a tough budget situation is that is that it’s been drawing off of reserves in recent years. “We’ve been kicking the can down the road,” he said, sounding like members of Congress discussing Medicare and other daunting issues in the federal budget.

Board member Fran Davin noticed that there was no funds allocated in the budget for recruitment for a new CEO, prompting her to ask Hale if he was amenable to staying on for the next year or two.

“If you’ll have me,” he replied.

During her presentation Eagan scribbled down suggestions for possible ways to save money from other board members. John Byczek suggested cutting expenses withthe agency’s health care program might turn up some savings. In addition to the plan paying 100 percent benefits for HART staffers, the plan also pays 70 percent for that staffer’s family members who sign up on it.

Another proposal that was on the table was a 3.2 percent step pay increase for drivers and others with the Amalgamated Transit Union. Commissioner Murman said she was puzzled by that request, since it was in the same budget where staffing and services were being reduced. HART’s Eagan said that a one year freeze on that step increase would be implemented, with the board’s consent, which they obviously supported.

There is the chance that the budget could change by the time it must be voted on in late September. There will be pubic hearings in August.


Coffee with the Commissioner

Come out and meet me for coffee at Sava Café on Friday, June 10th at 8:30 a.m.

Share your ideas for our community and our county.

I look forward to seeing you there.

When: Friday, June 10, 2011 – 8:30 a.m.

Where: Sava Café, 143 Harbor Village Lane, Apollo Beach, FL 33572


Page 78 of 81« First...102030...7677787980...Last »