My Day at the GOP Convention

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Today was an eventful day for me at the RNC Convention! Since I am not a delegate, this is about as close as I was able to get to the Times Forum itself. Okay, a little closer than that as I attended a number of events that I had been invited to right at the security zone border. First let me say what a pleasant time I had. Contrary to some accounts you might hear on cable news, traffic is very calm and downtown is actually surprisingly empty other than delegates and the occasional protestor. Traffic in and out at the downtown exit was so smooth. I hear thought that on the busses at night after the convention may be another story! But during the day today and yesterday have been fine. The police, national guard, and secret service looked exhausted but vigilent, and all I spoke to were very polite. As a news reporter friend of mine today tweeted, I am very proud of Tampa…keep it up.

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I started the day by heading to Liberty Plaza, sponsored by Citizens United. There I spotted Gov. Mike Huckabee doing his radio show. I really respect the governor and the way he reaches across party lines for the good of the country, while also standing up for the principles he believes in. Then I headed into the makeshift theater to see the showing of “Reagan:Rendezvous with Destiny” produced by Newt and Callista Gingrich. The documentary on the life of President Reagan is one of the most thorough and all encompasing works on Reagan that I have seen. And I have seen a lot!

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Afterwards, Newt and Callista were so gracious to speak with attendees and sign books and DVDs. I had been looking forward to getting Mrs. Gingrich’s book Sweet Land of Liberty that stars Ellis the Elephant as he travels American history, and simply and eloquently identifies what makes our country so great by way of history’s most inspiring moments. My kids Lyndsey and Kyle have already fallen in love with the book. Here is an excerpt:

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“Ellis read of those coming from distant shores, arriving in a country they had never seen before. Speaking different languages, they all shared a dream–to live together in a land where freedom was supreme.” I’ll let you guess from that excerpt where Ellis got his name! What a beautiful book with gorgeous illustrations.

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Citizens United was getting ready for an exciting party tonight, but I had to run! Here is a sneak peek of the dance floor.

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Now before I move on, let me just say again, these events were all open to the public, well organized, complimentary, and fully catered. I wish more people had attended! I think the bluster of press coverage over the last few days has scared off people from going into downtown. Come check it out, convention events are lots of fun, and these are valuable events. For some ideas check out this website or my post yesterday about the YG WomanUp! Pavilion at Channelside. Tomorrow I plan to attend a national security panel with KT McFarland from the Reagan administration and a film showing at The Straz Performing Arts Center, also free with lots of fun perks.

I haven’t even mentioned all the nice people from various states and media outlets that I have met including lobbyists for the International Franchise Association and writers for the Tampa Tribune. I am not much for the slimy world of politics, but these events feel nothing of the sort. Everyone is polite, respectful, and just enjoying themselves. Even if you are a Democrat here in Tampa it is worth coming down to the convention to see your city shine!

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Finally, I ended the day with my kids and our friends from the Georgia delegation at their hotel that happened to be the place where my wife and I had our rehearsal dinner island party the night before our wedding. It was only fitting that our kids goof around at their welcome table! (Sorry for the wrinkled table cloth) This beautiful place provided us with many wonderful memories…as I am sure it will for every Georgia delegate!

Question: What has your experience been like during the convention so far?

Get Excited Again about Roadtripping

roadtrippers.com

There is nothing I like much more than embarking on a road trip…except maybe planning it! Maybe it was all the summer vacations across America that my fearless mother took us kids on, that endeared me to road travel. More likely, it is the many many trips back and forth between Tampa and Atlanta. I often prefer driving the 7 hours to Atlanta over the quick Delta flight. I’ve got my car, and I’ve got the freedom to stop wherever I want, whenever I want, and even go off the beaten track.

I often wonder why Google hasn’t let me be more creative with my maps for travel purposes. I am always hearing about or web-surfing places I would like to explore in Florida, Georgia, and across the country. But until now, I hadn’t found an intuitive tool for me to discover hidden gems and then save them to a route for the future. Enter Roadtrippers.com!

I Stumbled Upon the Roadtrippers website in June. It is actually how I found my dream lodging destination The 1842 Inn for my next stopover in Macon. Roadtrippers is a simple, intuitive road trip planner, powered by local experts and travel writers. I just plugged in my starting point and my destination, and I could customize my route and build my own travel plan around incredible historical sites, restaurants, hotels, and attractions many of which I had never heard of.

These are the top features of the website:

Explore the best independent places in America. Browse by distance from your trip or explore everything on the map.

• Create “Bucket Lists” of your favorite places.
• Create road trips using the most powerful route planning features online, including instant fuel cost estimation. • Save your trips for quick access and further editing later.
• Share your trips with friends and family on email, Twitter or Facebook. They can even edit and share them back. • Become a guide and display your bucket lists and favorite trips to the world!
• Follow your friends or favorite writers/brands and see their curated trips and bucket lists.
• Print your itinerary or driving directions and hit the road!

http://www.roadtrippers.com

I hear Roadtrippers is also coming out with an incredible app shortly that will revolutionize how you travel. Imagine being able to book hotels from your map!

For me, road trips are a great metaphor for life. We are all on a journey, I have a destination where I want to end up; I set milestones along the way, and sometimes I take some detours. My goal is to savor the ride, treasure the lives of the people riding with me, and make a positive lasting impact on the people in the places where I stop along the way.

Question: Where are you going on your next road trip?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 2 – Case Study Tampa

courtesy of Beltline.org

On July 31st, Atlantans will vote on the Atlanta Beltline and Transportation Referendum mentioned in Part 1 of my post Get Rid of Gridlock. We struck down a similar measure in Tampa/Hillsborough County over a year ago. There are many who criticize Tampa residents for not being forward thinking and not caring about mass-transit. I’m not one of those, I think everyone in Florida realizes how useful a regional transit system would be, they just want it to make common sense first and be done right. Here are four reasons in my opinion why the pitch for a tax might work in Atlanta and didn’t work for Tampa:

1) The BeltLine is truly visionary, they have done a great job with videos, renderings, and maps communicating what the BeltLine will be. Progress is already being made. They are turning vacant land into parks along the BeltLine so people can begin to imagine the possibilities. Runners are already having races along the BeltLine. The project is also very innovative, and a fascinating reuse of existing infrastructure that yearns for revitalization.

2) As mentioned above, Atlanta has been able to collaborate across 10 counties to come up with a plan and a referendum. The Tampa Bay Area has not been able to do that, with authorities in every county butting heads against each other and regional authorities that couldn’t get consensus from the counties. On Hillsborough County alone there were at least 4 groups involved in the lobbying for the tax and they did a pathetic job of creating one coherent vision with one common set of renderings/maps. And that was just Hillsborough County.

3) Atlanta already has the experience of MARTA and its citizens rally around mass-transit in theory especially due to Atlanta traffic. Atlanta sees the future and wants to grasp it. It is part of the culture. There seems to be less of a concern for frivolous spending in Atlanta and more of a sense of trust in local government and public/private partnerships. Recently, local media and government cracked down on the spending/accounting of the BeltLine team before anything egregious happened. All parties are working together on transparency, and that will be critical.

4) None of the plans for light rail in Tampa Bay made any sense financially, although no public transportation plans ever really do in terms of dollars and cents. The value of course are in the long term intangible benefits for future development and economic growth that can only be estimated, and in my opinion this was not done effectively by the agencies involved in Hillsborough County.

I think Tampa has a lot to learn from cities like Atlanta about collaboration, innovation, and planning. In this case though, I think the team in Atlanta could learn some good lessons from what did not work here in Tampa.

Question: What else is holding Tampa back?

Get Rid of Gridlock? Part 1

Atlanta Beltline – courtesy of BeltLine.org

Sound familiar Tampa? In just 11 days, Atlanta will be voting on a public transportation referendum that proposes a regional 1% sales tax across 10 counties. This sounds similar to the recent Hillsborough county tax referendum that we voted down last year…or does it?

The Atlanta BeltLine is the 1999 brainchild of Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student Ryan Gravel from his master’s thesis, a plan for a 22-mile loop that would connect 45 historic Atlanta neighborhoods, promoting in each greater access to mass transit, public parks and recreational trails. Much of the BeltLine makes use of abandoned track from previous local railroads. Ambitious in its scope, the BeltLine project hopes to grow the local economy by $20 billion dollars, create some 30,000 jobs, reclaim 1,100 acres of brownfields, and develop more than 5,000 affordable housing units for working families over the next 25 years. For more information, check out the BeltLine Tour or Maps of the Project.

Here is a video from the Referendum website from the BeltLine as well as a brochure from the Opposition so you can make an informed vote. According to the Beltline website, if the referendum passes, it would build roughly five miles of new transit on the east and west sides of Atlanta BeltLine and another five miles across midtown and downtown on city streets, connecting to MARTA rail in three locations. It would also connect transit to the existing West End Trail and run transit alongside the Eastside Trail, now under construction.

Question: What are your concerns about the Atlanta BeltLine Referendum?