The Greenlight Pinellas $2.4 billion rail boondoggle has lots of supporters lining up with political contributions as they look forward to paybacks later if it passes. Case in Point: Parsons Brinckerhoff, the New York City based “infrastructure consultant” company that has donated $50,000 to the Yes on Greenlight campaign. No doubt, when the government contracts are being handed out, Parsons Brinckerhoff will be at the front of the line, perhaps brandishing the receipt for their political contribution to make the deal happen in the first place! Maybe they will have a buddy on the Greenlight Implementation Oversight Committee with its loose conflict of interest rules. Welcome to the world of Greenlight’s corporate cronyism.
Parsons Brinckerhoff describes itself as a “global consulting firm assisting public and private clients to plan, develop, design, construct, operate and maintain hundreds of critical infrastructure projects around the world”. The Greenlight Pinellas project, funded with the highest sales tax in the state, will certainly be a bonanza for Parsons Brinckerhoff to make hundreds of millions off potentially one of the the biggest infrastructure project to ever hit Pinellas county. Parsons Brinckerhoff is already deeply entrenched in government infrastructure projects in Pinellas County. A search for “Pinellas” on the its website reveals many Pinellas county projects. They report a major “Advance Traffic Management System” along all of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater. They have been a lead development consultant for a the Pasco/Pinellas Desalination plant, a project that had raised major environmental concerns over dumping supersaturated salts onto coastal grass flats. They were the lead consultant for the new Johns Pass bridge.
The two $25,000 donations to Yes on Greenlight occurred on June 6, 2014 and August 15, 2014. Ironically, Unionized California state employees sued the state over outsourcing its engineering work to the New York based Parsons Brinckerhoff in 1993. The irony comes as the SEIU of Florida has also donated to Yes on Greenlight ($2,500 on 3/31/2014) which raises the question if they would approve of outsourcing work away from unionized government engineers. Further, Parsons Brinckerhoff was later acquired by the British multi-national company Balfour Beatty, and is now up for sale again! International ownership of Parsons Brinckerhoff effectively put the program management for California high speed rail in the hands of a foreign company, as would be the case for their involvement with Greenlight Pinellas, (should voters approve the plan). Of note, in 2003 Creative Loafing Charlotte also ran a major expose’ on them since they were one of the major firms responsible for building the Charlotte Light Rail (under direction of current PSTA CEO Brad Miller!). The Charlotte line had major cost overruns at twice the cost, just like prior Parsons Brinckerhoff rail projects. The Creative Loafing Charlotte piece detailed major episodes of corruption on Boston’s Big Dig with $14 billion in hidden costs and a public shellacking by Senator McCain about their open-ended contracts. Parsons Brinckerhoff was also held responsible for an 80 foot sinkhole under Hollywood boulevard resulting in more than a 1,000 lawsuits from owners of damaged buildings against the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Parsons Brinckerhoff has reportedly been directly or indirectly responsible for $500,000 in campaign contributions to a handful of Transit Authority members serving as their overseers.
Voters need to be aware that there are rich, powerful and well-connected players pushing the Greenlight Pinellas plan. They are putting in a tiny investment (for them) now to get hundreds of millions of government contracts later. The inbred and cronyist nature of the Greenlight Pinellas political machine and plan itself, is another reason why voters should vote “no” on the Greenlight Pinellas plan on 11/4/2014.