Beltway Bubble in Tampa – RNC Convention Days 2 & 3 – Lesson on Politics

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Welcome to all of the new readers and people following this blog after the GOP Convention. I met a lot of really nice folks from other states and other countries, and I’ve been pleased that some of them have found their way to this site. I want to take some time to tell you what my last two days around the convention were like and share some photos, but I am also trying to paint a picture for another purpose, and that is to describe my perspective of politics, which was broadened this week.

I’ve never been naive about politics and its effect on government, but up until now my visits inside the Beltway have been brief, and I have scurried out as fast as I can. This time, the Beltway came to us here in Tampa, and I decided to immerse myself in it. But since I wasn’t a delegate, I didn’t have planning meetings and other official events to go to. Instead, I was hopping from special interest party, to media event, to book signing, back to special interest event, and stopped at some of my favorite Tampa hot spots along the way to mix and mingle.

The experience was complete with lots of interaction with some of the GOP’s top candidates and past leaders, but it made me realize what a bubble these people live in. I’ll save more for another post, but I think when you see the pace and influences of the people in this realm, the dysfunction of our government becomes more clear. I am confident that they have best intentions in mind, it’s just that a whole lot of other junk gets in the way…primarily in the green paper variety with our founders’ faces on them!

The photo at the top of this post has little to do with my observations above, other than the fact that it is of a panel I attended by a grassroots special interest group with a great purpose — to uplift women and the issues that matter to them. Many of these special interests, especially in my opinion the ones at this convention, have a good purpose. This National Defense and Security panel featured KT McFarland, a defense department advisor to Ronald Reagan that I greatly respect. I was really pleased to talk with her after the panel and get this photo. Her message that a strong energy and economic policy first, is the foundation of a strong security policy made a lot of sense. I also met Jennifer Carroll our fantastic Lt. Governor of Florida.

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After wandering around the Channelside area and realizing that I was one of six people that weren’t part of the MSBC crew broadcasting there, I decided to make a break for a real lunch spot, the newly reopened Floridan Hotel! This national historic landmark that my grandfather owned during World War II was at one time the tallest building in Florida. It had been shuttered since the late 80’s, and after many false starts by other developers, a local family purchased and renovated the hotel and opened it two weeks before the RNC.

I’ll do another full post on the Floridan soon, but I wanted to share a few photos so that you can see how beautiful it is. As I was hoping, it was reminiscent of the Georgian Terrace in Atlanta!

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I had a wonderful lunch in the dining room and was so pleased to have as my waiter one of the nephews of the Floridan’s owner who spoke with me at length about the renovation efforts and all of their hard work in decorating and preservation. The place was beautiful and the food was incredible. It was so important for the city to show it off, that NBC was assigned the hotel for its crew and commentators.

Sitting next to me in the quiet dining room was none other than Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, opinion writer for the Washington Post, and MSNBC contributor Eugene Robinson. We had a really nice chat, and although I hardly ever agree with anything that comes out of his mouth on TV or paper, he was such a gentleman. I look forward to sharing some of his observations of Tampa with you in future posts, he seemed very impressed.

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That experience made me realize that despite all of the political disagreements, these folks living in the world of politics are generally nice people who are real and actually have to eat food and go to sleep. (when, I don’t know) The thing is politicians, lobbyists, and the press, they all know each other and they are all truly in one business, and that is promoting themselves and their agenda. They enable each other and feed off of each other. Because there is a camera in their face all the time, they begin to believe they are experts on everything, and everyone they come in contact with shows them a level of appreciation that may be real or it may just be a show as well, but reinforces that idea in their head. The culture is so immersive I don’t see how many can avoid it. They just do their best to grow gills and swim.

Look at this event I went to with Rick Santorum. You can hardly see him because of the mass of press surrounding him asking him and his family questions along with adoring fans trying to touch him. Even the most honorable man has to be affected a little by this…I would think.

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Even I had to get in on the action and stop Gretchen Carlson for a photo. After all, we have the same last name. I told her this and she dryly responded, well good you’ll be able to remember mine. She was so gracious. The fact is, who doesn’t remember her name? Everywhere she went she was barraged by people wanting to take photos with her. It is amazing how clearly these people can focus once they are in front of the camera. I wonder if they feel like they live in two worlds, one in front of the camera and one behind it. Or if the two have just merged into one.

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Question: Is my portrayal accurate, and is this endless cycle of promotion at all healthy for getting our country back on track?

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?

Keep Your Shoes On

Airside C Terminal at Tampa International Airp...

Airside C Terminal at Tampa International Airport (Wikipedia)

As anyone who has traveled through Tampa Airport knows, it is one of the top ranked airports in the entire world. Anyone who has traveled through Atlanta Hartsfield knows that it has the most domestic flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced earlier this week that Tampa International Airport will now join Hartsfield as one of the 18 airports that has implemented TSA Pre✓™, a passenger prescreening initiative, used to make frequent travelers’ lives easier and focus resources on the travelers that the agency is much less familiar with. In Tampa, select Delta Air Lines frequent flyers and members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs are now eligible to participate in the initiative when traveling domestically. Airlines currently participating in other airports include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways.

According to TSA, “if TSA determines a passenger qualifies for TSA Pre✓™, information is embedded in the barcode on the passenger’s boarding pass. TSA reads the barcode at the designated checkpoint, and the passenger may be referred to the TSA Pre✓™ lane to undergo expedited screening, which could include being able to leave on shoes, light outerwear and belts, and allowing laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bags to remain inside carry-on baggage.” That said, TSA always incorporates random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no passenger is guaranteed expedited screening.

To learn more, and sign up for the program, check out the TSA Website. I love the Tampa Airport Facebook Page!

Question: Will this initiative be valuable to you? What are some innovative ways they can make occasional travelers’ trips through the security lines even smoother?

Next Stop 1842!

1842 Inn Bed & Breakfast – Macon, GA

Macon has always be one of my favorite places for an overnight visit. Only an hour outside of Atlanta, it is still unaffected for better or worse by metropolitan encroachment. The chamber of commerce may encourage you to go there in order to see another up and coming southern city, but I am much happier reveling in days past, enjoying the peaceful historic hamlet that is Macon. I just recently determined my wish-list destination for our next visit!

The 1842 Inn is right down my alley. It appears to be richly infused with antebellum charm and southern hospitality. With 19 guest rooms, a library, and parlors complete with period antiques and tapestries, the hotel listed on the National Registry of Historic Places will hopefully launch me back in a hurry.

The Magnolia Room

What appeals to me most are the names of the guestrooms including the Cotton Merchant’s Room, Jefferson Davis, Lyman Hall, Magnolia, and Sidney Lanier. How do I know they are not just paying lip-service to Georgia history and culture? Each room description on their website (complete with pictures)  includes an historical account of the namesake for that room!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Front Porch at the 1842 Inn

 
 
 

Throw in the seventeen column, wrap around verandah, the garden and courtyard, and it sounds like a recipe for relaxation. If that is not enough, they even have complimentary evening shoe-shine service.

 

That’s what the drive between Tampa and Atlanta does for me, it takes me back in time…before cheerfully being jolted back into the vibrancy and congestion of my favorite big cities! A slower pace gives us a chance to appreciate where we’ve come from and check where we are going.

What’s your favorite pit-stop on I-75?

Ever since I started driving regularly between Tampa and Atlanta, or for that matter hopping a ride in my buddy Dave’s 1984 beamer aka “The Pimp Mobile,” my favorite pit-stop has been the RaceWay gas station at Exit 5 in Lake Park, GA. You’ve just crossed the state-line, you breathe easier at the lower rates in gas, and you are looking for a populated exit with lots of food options. The station used to be one of the largest in south Georgia…I think it was a RaceTrac not that long ago…and consistently has one of the lowest prices on gas in the state. The restrooms are absolutely nothing to write home about, but it is dependable. If you can tell me what is unique about the men’s room, I have a prize for you!

When I stop there with the family it still reminds me of weekend jaunts home to Tampa with my friends from Georgia Tech, and all of the times we had stopped to load up on fountain drinks, candy, and oh yeah Swisher Sweets. With a Chick-Fil-A next door, what more can you ask for? Even though it is no longer a RaceTrac and is nothing like its glory days, I still return just out of convenience, habit, and memories.

What is your favorite place to stop for gas on I-75?