PAC is a dirty word for most, particularly when attached to the prefix “Super.” PAC stands for ‘political action committee’ and they are a fixture on the political landscape at the local, state, and national levels. They’re also easy targets for both sides of the aisle. The Conservative Political Action Committee Conference (CPAC) is known as the annual coming out party for the right-wing’s craziest ideas. Organizing for Action (OFA) is known as the sock drawer where the President stashes his campaign’s unrivaled war chest and is a legacy of his broken promise to run a campaign on public funds and to reject donations from corporate interests.
But PACs are not inherently evil, and of course, they’ve no doubt proven useful. At the most basic level, a PAC is a mechanism for promoting chosen interests. It does this by pooling resources to finance candidates, proposed legislation, or ballot initiatives. They’re also complex legal entities, though, which means that typically only the most mature interests make use of them. This can often make for an unfair fight. For this reason, it’s particularly encouraging to see PACs sprouting up around the U.S. that are dedicated to advancing interests like livable cities, complete streets, and smart growth. It’s a sign that support for improved pedestrian, biking, and transit infrastructure has grown up and ripened to a point where it can potentially influence elections and legislative sessions in its favor. That’s not something we’re used to seeing in the livable cities supporters camp.
In Miami, this is one livable cities trend where we’re out in front. Last month, Transit Miami posted the press release announcing the launch of TrAC, the city’s first transit-oriented PAC. Miami is among the earliest adopters of the livable cities PAC approach. But we’re not the first, and the experiences of those that have gone before are worth looking at. They can be a guide for TrAC and an illustration of what it could mean for Miami.
The oldest and most significant livable cities PAC at the national level is the Committee for a Livable Future, or LivPAC. LivPAC was established in 1996 by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who can lay claim to being Capitol Hill’s foremost supporter of transit, biking, and pedestrian issues. Based in Portland, LivPAC enjoys support from heavy-hitter advocates in DC and in major cities throughout the country, including Smart Growth America, the American Planning Association, and the Congress for New Urbanism. In its nearly twenty-year history, it has been active in close to 250 congressional races and made $1.2 million in campaign contributions. In 2012, LivPAC endorsed and funded 19 candidates, including two in Florida.
At the local level, Alexandrians for a Livable City, from Alexandria, Virginia, has demonstrated great success in electing candidates and shown how quickly PACs can tilt the plane in favor of the livable cities agenda. Founded only several months before Alexandria’s City Council Primaries, ALC endorsed Allison Silberberg, who went on to win a seat on the Alexandria City Council and now serves as Vice Mayor.
Most attention to the livable cities PAC trend, however, goes to StreetsPAC, New York City’s transit and pedestrian PAC. StreetsPAC was formed to continue pushing a livable cities agenda in NYC and to prevent new leaders from reversing the progress made under Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. This progress saw the city make great strides toward more egalitarian treatment of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders with approaches that prompted much visible public debate but which were supported by the vast majority of New Yorkers. StreetsPAC polled candidates to determine which had the strongest commitments to complete streets values. They then solicited these candidates for endorsement interviews, an opportunity to question candidates about their stances on livability issues and get them to commit on the record to policies and positions before contributing to their campaigns. In total, StreetsPAC endorsed 18 candidates in New York’s City Council races; thirteen of them won.
The benefit of livable cities PACs has been not only to elect candidates sympathetic to the cause but also to elevate livable cities to a subject worthy of discussion on the campaign trail. StreetsPAC’s endorsement of mayoral primary winner Bill de Blasio came alongside de Blasio’s promise to aim for zero pedestrian deaths in the city. Even with several million fewer pedestrians in Miami than NYC, that’s a promise that most politicians here wouldn’t go anywhere near. At least not yet. But the promise of TrAC could change that.
Like the livable cities movement at the national level, the desire in Miami for equal access to safe, effective, dignified transportation has been growing with increased momentum. That momentum has brought us to a milestone moment where the movement evolves into a sophisticated machine capable of laying the groundwork that will inch forward the cause. The United States, Miami included, is moving towards a more livable future. That much appears now to be certain. What we’re witnessing here is that the mechanisms of policymaking are now beginning to catch up to the public. In a decade or two, when we look backwards to examine how we arrived at a more livable society, we could very well identify the developments taking place now as the moment that the political machinery ceased working against us and became an instrument for effecting the change that the public has been asking for. PAC doesn’t need to be a dirty word. It needs to be a tool in the toolbox of the livable cities agenda; it needs to be a symbol for how far the movement has come and of our potential for how far we still can go.
Disclaimer: I am not formally involved with TrAC. However, I do support their efforts and encourage you to check them out at www.tracmiami.org.
Rick Scott certainly has not made himself popular among transit supporters by rejecting high speed rail funding, holding up Orlando’s SunRail, and criticizing Tri-Rail. His unpopularity extends beyond transit aficionados, as his proposed budget cutbacks affect many people. Last night, 10,000 to 15,000 people demonstrated across the state, protesting his cuts. From 750 to 1,300 people congregated along Broward Blvd. in downtown Fort Lauderdale, chanting “Recall Scott” and “They say cutback, we say fight back.” While anti-Scott protesters covered three street corners and spread about a block down Broward Blvd. at Third Ave., 60 to 100 Tea Party supporters congregated on the remaining corner in front of the First Baptist Church.
Police closed portions of Third Ave. and Broward Blvd. as the crowd swelled. In the video below you can hear the protesters chanting and see them swarming across the street as they did nearly every time the police allowed people to cross.
The Sun-Sentinel article points out that some of the protesters were out because of Scott’s rejection of rail funding, while a Tea Party counterprotester called for Scott to kill SunRail as well. As long as Scott and other libertarians are convinced that subsidizing highways is OK, but subsidizing transit is wasteful, we will remain divided on transportation infrastructure spending.
Commissioner Carollo wants you to know that he supports Bike Miami Days. At today’s meeting of the City Commission, Mayor Regalado presented a statement to commissioners on the scheduled April 25 event. Before he could move on to his next point, Commissioner Carollo asked to put on the record,
I was at the first Bike Miami Days and I will be there on April 25… Every once in a while, it’s good to leave your car at home and go for a bike ride.
The Mayor and Commissioner went on to comment that they both have sons who like to bicycle and that the new City Manager, Carlos A. Migoya, is a cyclist, as well. At this point, we can only hope that this means that Carollo will support bicyclists on the road, as well as on the record. As reported here earlier this week, the Commissioner has put all bicycle projects in his district on hold. This concerns residents and local business owners for a number of reasons. The SW 32nd Road project, which had already started, would connect the Vizcaya Metrorail Station/M-Path to Coral Way and its bike lanes. The project represents a significant connector route for cyclists and transit users, and promotes local businesses by connecting shops and restaurants with the highly residential neighborhoods of Coconut Grove, the Roads and anyone who lives along the M-Path.
Last but not least, it is one of the first benchmark projects of the City’s Bicycle Master Plan. With this bicycle route up for reconsideration, what will that mean for the other projects cyclists are waiting for in District 3, such as SW 3rd Ave or Flagler to 5th? We encourage you to direct these questions yourself to the Commissioner and his Chief of Staff, Jude Faerron, and let us know if you get a response. If there is ever proof that they are listening to you, this is it.
You can watch the video from the Commission meeting on the City’s website here. The conversation took place around 11:40am.
Oregonian Congressman Earl Blumenaur is one of this country’s strongest advocates for mass transit and active transportation. This week, the Honorable Representative writes a brief but strong op-ed for Politico.com in which he espouses his support for pro-rail legislation as a defense against climate change.
TransitMiami.com encourages you to engage your representatives locally, in Tallahassee and DC. Inform yourself on what legislation is presented and advocate for what matters to you. (Transportation!!)
Still have questions? Write to us or click on the links below for more information.
Of course, there are lots of resources available online, and we appreciate your recommendations!
SunRail was defeated in the State Legislature Friday, 23-16. With it goes the $2 rental car surcharge for Tri-Rail, which most of the South Florida Senators ended up voting against because they said they were worried that local voters might overturn the surcharge. It’s uncertain whether they considered that most locals will not be paying this “tax”, but will definitely benefit from it. Read more at the Palm Beach Post.
Also check out an article at The Ledger that includes Senator Mike Bennet of Bradenton suggesting that the money spent on SunRail would be better spent buying a car for each of the 3,500 riders predicted to ride SunRail the first few years. I know the government is now in the auto business, but really now—how ignorant can you get?
Don’t vote for these guys in the next election.
If you build it - Traffic will consume the neighborhood, taxpayers will fund 73% of 2000 temporary construction jobs, Jeffery Loria will cash out in a few years, the Little Havana neighborhood will be revitalized disenfranchised, The Marlins will stay in Miami (for 35 years, guaranteed), etc…
This Friday, the Miami-Dade Commission will meet to determine the fate (maybe - they will likely postpone the vote) of the Marlins’ Ballpark at the Orange Bowl. As we noted earlier, from a strictly urban policy perspective – the current site plan (and funding scheme) is a calamity.
In addition to bilking taxpayers for 73% of stadium costs, we will also find ourselves footing the bills for at least $100 million dollars worth of parking. Then, in the not too distant future, we’ll realize we built the stadium too far away from existing transit, and we’ll need to fund a reasonable solution (like a streetcar west from downtown to the MIC) or our elected officials will think up of a $180 million scheme to create a people-mover extension from the Culmer station. By this point, I’m sure most rational people would then agree that it would have been better to save the hundreds of millions in parking and transit costs and just build the damned thing in downtown, near existing parking and transit to begin with… But hey, this is Miami, right? We can’t do anything right…
To reiterate – the current site plan will have deleterious effects on the surrounding community. In its current state, the site will act as a vacuum – sucking in traffic while providing few benefits to little Havana.
Central to the Marlins’ and public officials’ pitch to taxpayers was a promise that, in exchange for $450 million in public subsidies, the $609 million stadium project would propel redevelopment in the surrounding area, luring commerce, jobs, amenities and foot traffic to an area that sorely lacks them.
But the stadium site plan released this month suggests that the city of Miami’s approach might best be summed up as “build it and hope.”
Contrary to Andres Viglucci’s thoughts, to me, the current site plan evoke more of a “build it and to hell with the surroundings.”
In reading the article last weekend, I was curious if anyone caught onto the glaring contradiction posed by the political proponents of the stadium plan and the city planners.
On one hand, political proponents claim the park will serve as a catalyst, bringing commercial and retail activity to the community at least 80 days a year. This activity is confined to the “mixed-use” garages (FYI – parking/retail mix does not constitute mixed use) that provide scarce retail space along the base of the garages. This space, of course, is supposed to be sufficient to create a vibrant district around the stadium, regardless of the season.
Then the truth comes out we have the city planner’s take on the garages surrounding the stadium:
City planners say the size and shape of the garages were dictated largely by the Marlins’ need for 6,000 spaces and quick exit times.
My question remains, if we were planning a vibrant district around the stadium, wouldn’t we want to complicate the exit procedure so that people would linger around the stadium longer? It appears that is what the Seminole Hard Rock Casino did (rather well, I might add) in Hollywood (from what I’m told: just try leaving there in a timely manor on a Saturday night after a concert…) From a planning perspective, I would agree that this idea is convoluted, but it illustrates that the entire site plan is being designed so that drivers can come and leave as efficiently as possible on game day – not as it should be – a structure built to compliment a community.
As our own Tony Garcia aptly noted, ”Why are people going to come to this area? What’s going to make it a destination, and not just for baseball games?…You need a better mix of uses here, not just parking garages.”
Below are a few images of some other successful baseball parks around the country. These stadiums, particularly San Diego’s Petco Park, exemplify what a Baseball stadium should look like, how it should fit in with the surroundings, and how people interact with these spaces not just during baseball season, but 365 days a year. Compare these parks to the rendering above.
Peter Calthorpe, an urban planner working on the California high speed rail project, wrote a very good piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on the lack of transit funds in the current form of the economic stimulus. Check it out—it sounds like something we would say here. We definitely agree that there is not enough funding for transit in the economic stimulus bill. I would take it a step further and point out that there is not enough infrastructure funding in the stimulus bill, period. Infrastructure investment pays off in the long term, while offering jobs in the short term. Of course, between highways and transit, transit spending creates more jobs in both the short term and the long term, besides further stimulating the economy.
Many different figures have been floated as to how many jobs are created per dollar spent on infrastructure. Depending on which source you look at, you might see that for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure, 18,000 or 28,000 or some other high number of jobs are created. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, but the point is it’s high. Yet only about $30 billion of the $900 billion package is being directed at roads, with transit and inter-city rail getting $12 billion. Some of the other money is being directed to places that will do very little to create jobs.
The New York Times points out some of the latest additions to the bill, which include tax credits for home buyers and car buyers. I hate to say it, but this only attempts to feed our way of life for the past 50 or so years. The message it sends is, buy more homes in the suburbs to contribute to suburban sprawl, and buy a new car to drive on all those new lanes that are getting added to our highways. Don’t bother changing commuting habits or moving into the city, there was nothing wrong with our lifestyles that caused the economy to collapse or anything. (Oh, yeah. We bailed out the car industry so now we have to protect our investment. Same goes for the mortgage companies. Bleah.)
That’s totally the wrong message. Our representatives need to take advantage of the opportunity to encourage sustainable development by directing the funds to the places that will make a difference. Among those places are mass transit and high speed rail. If we don’t learn from our mistakes of spending unwisely in the past, we’re doomed to repeat them.
Commissioner Joe Sanchez has officially entered the race for Manny Diaz’s mayoral seat. His sole opponent will likely be Commissioner Tomas Regalado. Sanchez is known for aligning with Mayor Diaz on most issues, especially as they relate to the physical development of the city. He is also a very large supporter of Bike Miami Days and alternative transportation. Regalado on the other hand has not demonstrated such progressive tendencies, typically offering a ‘no’ vote for those issues we at Transit Miami champion. However, we do recognize Regalado for voting ‘yes’ on the Bicycle Action Plan back in October of 2008.
Mayor Diaz has provided excellent leadership in his tenure, pushing for projects like the Streetcar, Miami 21 and making the city more bicycle friendly. Either candidate will have to demonstrate they can be equally effective at moving Miami into the 21st century, while balancing the ongoing challenges presented to cities and regions in this economic climate.
Let the race begin.
He may not have possession of Air Force One yet, but Obama is riding on what you might call “Amtrak One” on his way from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. today. Retracing the train tour of another famous Illinois president, Obama will be making stops to greet people and celebrate on his way to claim the throne assume the presidency. It sure is more friendly than flying along in a private jet away from everybody else or cruising down the highway with a motorcade isolating him from the rest of humanity.
The Baltimore Sun has a good article on the long history of railroad cars and Presidents. The very car he rides in was used before by other Presidents. The heyday of train-traveling Presidents died off with Eisenhower and the advent of jumbo jets and the interstate system. This symbolic action by Obama brings us hope that he will also resuscitate inter-city and inner city rail as more effective modes of transportation.
Many news sites have listed potential candidates that Obama may choose for cabinet positions. Since we’re most interested in the position of Secretary of Transportation, who might he choose for that all important post?
The Sun-Sentinel has R.T. Ryback, Mayor of Minneapolis, Representative James Oberstar from Minnesota, Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, and Representative Earl Blumenauer from Oregon as potential candidates for the job. That last name should have all of us jumping for joy if he is selected for the position. Blumenauer, from the great bicycling city of Portland, is the only congressman who rides his bicycle to work at the Capitol. The picture above conveys the idea that he is a man concerned about bicycles as a viable mode of transportation, and his development of the recently passed Bicycle Commuter Act gives him a record of seeking the betterment of bicyclists everywhere.
Obama, please pick Blumenauer! We’ll love you more for it if you do!
In what could only be judged as an effort to stymie opposition on the most contested land use issue in the region, the Miami-Dade Planning and Zoning department has scheduled a public hearing for November 3, regarding an application to amend the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP). The hearing, of course, entails the expansion of the Urban Development Boundary for the development of a “new mixed-use community” on 961.15 acres, also known as the Parkland Development. The likely horizontally mixed-use development (sprawl) would incorporate residential (cookie cutter houses), commercial (strip shopping centers), institutional (schools deemed necessary by county code requirements), and civic uses (streets?).
Besides the obvious detrimental ecological concerns posed by opening up further land outside the urban development boundary, I am troubled by the timing of this public hearing – only one day before the most hotly contested presidential race to date. The timing is uncanny for such a hot buttoned issue within Miami-Dade’s local politics. Moreover, amid the deepest economic recession in recent history, the precipitous decline of the local housing industry, and the tumultuous wake of the sub-prime lending mortgage crisis i must wonder why anyone would push for a public hearing. Looks like its politics as usual in Miami-Dade…
Remember ShuttlePort? The FLL shuttle service that had problems with drivers crashing? This LA Times article points out that it was owned by the same company that employs Metrolink engineers. Yes, that’s the Metrolink that had the commuter rail crash earlier this month.
Streetsblog had a post last week with a link to a document outlining McCain’s and Obama’s respective positions on transportation. Well worth checking out.
Much closer to home, Broward County is cutting funding for the Tri-Rail feeder buses. As a shuttle stops at my workplace, and my employer just built a bus shelter for it, this is particularly upsetting. We may have more to say about this later.
Bike sharing is alive in the U.S.! At the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Freewheelin is running a bicycle sharing program. Humana (a health insurance company—can you guess why they support people riding bicycles?) and Bikes Belong have partnered to put these bike sharing programs together. They seem to be catering to the delegates attending the convention with bicycle stations placed near the convention hotels, but the program will go on after the conventions end. See an article at Forbes.com for more info on the program.
So far, it looks like they had good success in Denver. They surpassed their mileage goal of 25,000 miles by logging 26,493 miles with 5,552 rides. That puts them well on track to meet their combined ridership goal of 10,000 riders by the end of the Republican National Convention. It will be interesting to compare the ridership between the two conventions to see if one party is more willing to participate in a bike-sharing program.
The good news for residents of Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul is that Freewheelin is leaving the cities some of their bikes as a pilot bike sharing program after the conventions end. It will be in the cities’ hands now as to what they do with it, but we can only hope for the best.
Now we just need to host a political convention in Miami or Fort Lauderdale to kick start a bike sharing program down here. Dave Barry thinks the bikes would get stolen down here, but it looks to me like Freewheelin has a pretty well-planned sharing program. If we can’t get them to come down here, at least we can learn from their example.
Photo by Flickr user kitseeborg.
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