Despite their best efforts, Tampa Bay area Republican legislators Jamie Grant and Jeff Brandes couldn't kill off the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) during the recently concluded legislative session. But they tried their best, attempting any legislative maneuver possible to allow car sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to operate legally in cities like Tampa, Orlando and Miami.
Though the legislators failed, Uber and Lyft have opted unilaterally to operate here in Hillsborough County, risking $800 fines imposed upon them by Kyle Cockream, the recently hired executive director of the PTC. Cockream has replaced Cesar Padilla, who ended his tenure in a blaze of ignominy last summer, you might recall.
The chairman of the PTC, County Commissioner Victor Crist, has been steadfast since last fall that he can get his hands around the troubled agency, and in a new op-ed (submitted to local media, including CL) says that the agency has already turned the corner. "The new and improved PTC of today is not the old and troubled PTC of yesterday," he writes.
No doubt the commissioner is breathing easier about the agency's rate of survival. The fact is that because it was created by the Legislature in the 1950s, only the Legislature can kill it. And though Brandes and Grant gave it their best shot, it isn't going anywhere for at least another year. Read Crist's entire column below:
The Public Transportation Commission is an evolving, responsive authority charged with advancing public safety while ensuring a level playing field within the industry. The PTC is currently working with representatives of the companies Uber and Lyft on ways to successfully operate within the rules and regulations in Hillsborough County. Our primary concern is the safety of the riding public.
The new and improved PTC of today is not the old and troubled PTC of yesterday. Today the concerns of outside special interests are unfounded. There have been many changes in this organization. In fact, there is a new board, new director, new staff, new guidelines, rules and policies. Accordingly, the PTC has significantly improved day-to-day business operations, transparency, accountability and continues protecting consumers. An independent audit and organizational assessment has been completed. The board and staff are working diligently to follow up on recommendations for agency wide improvements.
A new finance committee has been established to provide greater oversight by the board. A new policy and procedure committee has been established to ensure the PTC remains receptive to both the industries we regulate and the riding public we serve.
The PTC is a free standing, independent authority subject to rules, regulations and safe guards including Florida Ethics laws, the Sunshine Law and open records law. The board is a representative body comprised of elected officials from the cities of Plant City, Tampa and Temple Terrace along with three Hillsborough County Commissioners. Hillsborough County provides legal counsel, finance management and other technical support on an as needed basis. Consumers and the community should now have full confidence in the ethical expertise and ability of this authority’s competent and hardworking board and staff.
The county or any other agency could not easily absorb the responsibility of the PTC. County and city leaders have stated they do not want the responsibility of running the services currently provided. The state created this free standing authority to reduce duplication and bureaucracy while providing necessary consumer protection. Burying its functions in county government may led to less transparency and reduce accountability.
Bigger government is not better government.