By David McKalip, M.D.
“For phase two of this program, PSTA will work with an advertising agency to develop a mass-media outreach campaign to further promote the public awareness project. … These advertising elements combined with high frequency messaging will enhance the public’s awareness of their role in keeping the community safe.” RFP from PSTA for CARES program Funded by DHS, 2011.
“This was not the phase that paid for the TV Ads”. Phase two did “promote security issues related to public transportation” Brad Miller to PSTA Board. June 25, 2014
“There is going to be misinformation from folks that aren’t willing to look at this fairly.” Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch.
This week highly respected Tampa Bay investigative reporter Mike Deeson exposed the outright abuse of Federal anti-terrorism money by PSTA to instead promote itself and the Greenlight Pinellas Tax hike with feel good TV Ads. The evidence is clear (see exhibits A-F below). The facts are not disputable (although lies are being told by government officials). However the facts are certainly damaging to a Greenlight Pinellas political machine that needs to convince voters PSTA can be trusted with a 300% tax revenue hike (an extra $110 million per year to start). Every month brings more examples of how Pinellas voters cannot trust PSTA to spend their tax money wisely or the Greenlight Political machine to act with integrity. Examples include 1) how they spent $800,000 in tax dollars to “educate voters” on Greenlight, 2) and how they broke their own policies to advertise Greenlight on Buses. 3) TBARTA Chair Ronnie Duncan resigned after inappropriately serving as Greenlight Pinellas Chair 4). Greenlight Pinellas had hidden their donor money at first and had to be pressured to be transparent. 5) Jack Latvala tried to change the law to allow Penny for Pinellas Money to be inappropriately siphoned to Greenlight Projects.
Latest Greenlight Pinellas/PSTA abuse: anti-terrorism money spent on feel good ads
The Sunbeam Times broke the story on the abuse of anti-terrorism grants by PSTA on May 12, and Mike Deeson thankfully publicized the story on Monday night (6/22). The stories detail how money was taken from the Transportation Security Grant Program (TSGP) from the Department of Homeland Security to create feel good ads about PSTA and Greenlight Pinellas instead of educating citizens on spotting possible bus bombs. The original response from PSTA CEO Brad Miller to both this reporter and Mike Deeson was that the ads “promoting the message that riding public transportation is safe and secure”. That was his sole talking point from which he would not stray, as illustrated by Mike Deeson on 6/22 at the end of his story and in the original story on Sunbeam times. However the time came to face the music at PSTA’s Board meeting on 6/25 (See the video of the Board meeting starting at about 1 minute to 15 minutes on this issue). There, Miller told his board that the news story and this blog got it “wrong” by pointing out that the TV ads referred to from “phase 1” money designed to give the anti-terrorism message.
However, that statement was never made by Mike Deeson or the Sunbeam Times which specifically pointed out that it was always a “phase 2” project. The quote from the RFP put out by PSTA specifically stated that the TV ads would be designed to “enhance the public’s awareness of their role in keeping the community safe”.The ads were not meant to make people view public Transportation as safe and secure or to promote PSTA or Greenlight Pinellas with feel good ads of happy bus riders and bus drivers! How can the CEO of a major metropolitan transit agency believe he can get away with such a bold-faced lie? Because elected officials let him and support him with further lies along with their union activists.
A Catalog of Lies: Miller, Welch and Union activist Ken Elliot
Lie 1. (By PSTA CEO Brad Miller). Miller claims that the Sunbeam Times and WTSP’s Mike Deeson claimed that the TV ads were paid for under “Phase 1” of the TSGP grant.
FALSE! No such assertion was made. He told the duly convened Board of a Public agency this lie on the record. The Sun Beam Times story specifically referred to Phase 2 money.
Lie 2. (By PSTA CEO Brad Miller). Miller claims that the TV ads are legitimate since they are paid for with “Phase 2” TSGP money.
FALSE! The PSTA put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) to a company to take on the project in 2011 that indicated the money was for TV ads to “enhance the public’s awareness of their role in keeping the community safe”. (see Exhibit F below on how the ads do not do that).
Lie 3. (By Pinellas County Commissioner & PSTA Board Member Ken Welch). That opponents are merely spreading “misinformation”. Spoken while acting as an appointed member to a public agency from a Board where he serves as an elected official.
FALSE! There is no misinformation here. The PSTA abused grants designed to stop bombings of busses by terrorists. They instead made feel good ads to make PSTA look good and promote Greenlight Pinellas on television, radio, billboard and bus wraps.
Lie 4. (By Pinellas County Commissioner & PSTA Board Member Ken Welch). People aren’t looking at this “fairly”.
False! There is no “unfair” way to look at and report on the evidence and the facts as detailed below.
Lie 5. (Ken Elliot, Transit Workers Union, Greenlight Pinellas Committee Member) Emphatically states the ads are labelled in every video and bus wrap as being paid for “in part” by DHS. He even repeats himself dramatically – “IN PART”!
FALSE! The quote from the video states “Paid for by a Grant from the Department of Homeland Security” it does not say “in part”. (see Exhibit D, below)
Exhibit A. PSTA Request for Proposal No. 11-019P.
The PSTA put out an RFP in 2011. It indicated the entire grant (both phases) is designed “to develop a public awareness program that will incorporate the basics of the Transit Watch program”. The Transit Watch Program has an “Eyes” and “Ears” component and is specifically deigned to help every day citizens WATCH transit for possible bus bombs. See an excerpt from the RFP below (full RFP available upon request). The Federal Transit Administration describes the Transit Watch Program as follows:
“Launched in 2003, Transit Watch is a nationwide public awareness outreach campaign that encourages the active participation of transit passengers and employees in maintaining a safe transit environment.”…“These materials include messages pertaining to unattended bags, evacuation procedures…, and the development of a “Five Step Strategy” for use in enhancing communication with State and Local Citizen Corps Councils.”
Exhibit B. The PSTA Agreement Witt Associates 01.2012, RFP 11-019P
Exhibit C. Phase 1 developed brochures
Exhibit D. The RFP clearly states that Phase 2 money will be used “to develop a mass-media outreach campaign to further promote the public awareness project.”.
It was not designed to create feel good ads about how Eva, Phillip, Margaret and Victor feel “safe” on the bus and like how it is “green”, they can check the schedules and that the bus drivers are friendly. Phase 2 money was supposed to FURTHER PROMOTE PUBLIC AWARENESS OF SUSPICOUS PACKAGES AND NOTHING ELSE! The Tv Ads, contrary to claims of Activist and Transit Union member/Greenlight Committee Member Ken Elliot, said they were SOLELY paid for by the DHS Grant (not “in part”).
Exhibit E. Amendment #1, RFP 11-019P dtd 1-17-13 Phase Two (2) to the agreement showing phase 2 money was now available and work should proceed on the TV ads.
It noted that the original agreement was in “full force and effect” and referred to the original goal “to develop a public awareness program that will incorporate the basics of the Transit Watch program”.
Exhibit F. These ads do not do that meet the DHS and Stated PSTA goal to “enhance the public’s awareness of their role in keeping the community safe”.
How is the community learning about “THEIR ROLE” in “KEEPING THE COMMUNITY SAFE” in these ads? They aren’t.
PSTA and Greenlight Pinellas are based on lies and Corruption.
Thus, the CEO of PSTA overtly lied to the Board of the PSTA regarding facts that are easily checked and public. The PSTA Board welcomed the lie, especially County Commissioner Ken Welch who is famous for leading the personal attacks against any Greenlight Opponent. He launched into his characteristic attack on anyone who exposes simple truths as “misinformation”. He claims that these tactics are all merely political and can thus be rapidly discounted. He essentially stated that Mr. Deeson is merely a muckraker who specializes in finding “what they call government excesses”. Mr. Welch is so invested in the corporate cronyism that is Greenlight Pinellas, his only possible response to exposure of obvious corruption is to deny and attack anyone who disagrees with him or exposes indisputable facts. His henchman Ken Elliot of the Transit Workers Union is aiding and abetting this activity. In fact during the PSTA Board meeting he proudly pointed to a Facebook posting of his telling people to “Keep Calm and Support Greenlight”. It looks like support for Greenlight is more important than the facts or abuse of Federal Taxpayer money by the PSTA.
The PSTA is not ever going to admit that they abused Federal grant money as they clearly did. The only question for voters is do you trust the PSTA with a 300% Tax Revenue hike that results from their proposed highest sales tax in the state. If they can’t be trusted with a $500,000 Federal grant to stop bus bombings, how can they be trusted with an additional $1.35 billion in tax dollars over the next ten years? As the facts emerge on this scandal and the lies and cover ups continue, at what point with Brad Miller and Ken Welch both realize it would probably best serve the common good to resign from their posts?