Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

Carlton: Could salty talk be the final straw for the PTC?

Let us consider what's been said over the years about Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission. Oh, where to start.

There are the allegations of the PTC's cozy relationship with the taxi and limo industry it's supposed to regulate.

Or the fact that the PTC is the only such standalone agency in a state in which other local governments seem to handle the same duties without all the vitriol.

There was that two-year battle over regulating edgier ridesharing options like Uber and Lyft — alternatives consumers obviously wanted.

And for nostalgia, you can't forget that PTC chairman who went to prison for trying to sell his influence for bribes in the tow truck business.

So yes, you could call the PTC controversial. You could also call it under investigation, this time over whether agency cellphones were wiped clean despite public records law.

And now we can add to the list of things one small detail that might finally (and rightly) doom Hillsborough's PTC:

An apparent case of potty mouth.

Text messages containing some rather unkind thoughts about certain elected officials were recovered from the cellphones of then-PTC executive director Kyle Cockream and top staffer Brett Saunders. Admittedly, things were a tad tense at the time, since it had been revealed that Cockream had used cabdrivers for PTC stings to ticket their mortal enemies, drivers for Uber and Lyft.

What, something wrong with that?

In the texts, the two exchange witty humor about putting their nemesis, then-PTC chairman and current County Commissioner Victor Crist, onto a bonfire. Who hasn't said that about a colleague? Then there's the part where Saunders calls Crist a (bleeping) idiot and says of state Sen. Dana Young, "(Bleep) her too." There's a fun bit about getting fired instead of resigning in order to get a big, fat severance.

Did they learn nothing from Tampa's infamous lawyer fiasco, when phone records were used to trace members of the Adams & Diaco firm's setup of an enemy lawyer for a DUI using a comely paralegal perched on a neighboring barstool?

With a whole lot of damning texts and calls playing out into the night as the scheme unfolded?

No, this is not that. But I mean, read a paper, guys.

Yes, we all have that First Amendment right to free speech (unless that's changed with the day's news — it's hard to keep up lately). Some of us even work in places where talk can turn salty.

But when you are doing public business and talking about public officials, it tends toward the unseemly and unprofessional, to use a few printable adjectives.

So it's fair to say this year's bill to abolish the PTC will likely have legs with legislators. Heck, in his final speech to the board, Cockream himself referred to the darkly cynical political drama House of Cards. Fun to watch on TV, but in our actual government not so much.

Keeping the transportation industry safe and fair — the very reason the PTC came to be — is an important, necessary function that can easily be folded into local government. Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden has already offered.

Those unfortunate texts are but the icing on a mud pie, another dirty detail that could not come at a worse time for the agency. Or maybe a better one for the public.

Sue Carlton can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushnerís security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushnerís security clearance

WASHINGTON ó A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA ó A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Published: 02/23/18

Gulfport candidates draw stark contrasts

GULFPORT ó One candidate is a plain-spoken, straightforward technology consultant who preaches "conservative fiscal responsibility" and votes Republican in national elections.The other is a self-proclaimed "progressive liberal" who practices law, pro...
Published: 02/23/18
William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

In the aftermath of the Broward County high school shooting, gun rights issues have jumped to the forefront of local legislative races.Democratic challengers are calling out incumbents in Tampa legislative seats on their past stances on gun control."...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the presidentís call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Published: 02/22/18
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention ó the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House ó CNNís Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Published: 02/22/18
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to the Republicanís affair with a woman in 2015. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced the indictment Thursday. She launched an ...
Published: 02/22/18
Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trumpís Mar-a-Lago Club, the galaís organizer said.Rizzuto and his wife, Den...
Published: 02/22/18
Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year.A new indictment has long been expected in special cou...
Published: 02/22/18
Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. Thatís because a ban deals only with fut...
Published: 02/22/18