Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, December 26, 2020

Traffic in Tampa Bay is bad and getting worse. One of the most acute areas is New Tampa, in northern Hillsborough County. And since most of the clog is on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, projects to widen that road are in the works, despite misgivings about whether or not it will improve the situation in a rapidly-growing sprawl zone.

This article by Michael Van Sickler has a lot of great information about the wider debate over continued exburb-like planning in Tampa, which make road projects like this more of an issue. The wrinkle for New Tampa is the just-as-robust development happening right across the county line in Pasco; Tampa has no control over that, but the resultant traffic that pours onto Bruce B. Downs impacts the city. Despite half-hearted measures to stem and plan this kind of growth, it’s only getting more chaotic.

How is it manifesting itself, aside from the traffic jams?

Not only do area residents pay the taxes that support further road expansion, they pay a greater percentage of their incomes for the cars they need to get to work.

A 2003 study by [Surface Transportation Policy Project] showed that Tampa families spend 25 percent of their income on transportation. That is the highest percentage in the United States and more than three times what they spend on health care.

And that basically wipes out the property value and tax advantages that the area has over comparable metro areas in other states. Along with the weather, that’s been a hallmark incentive for attracting residents.

Perhaps most frustrating of all, the resources spent in New Tampa detract from the downtown initiatives that Tampa is keen on jumpstarting:

Although officials say disaster awaits if they don’t widen the road, [associate professor of urban planning Ruth] Steiner, of the University of Florida, questions the timing. This is, after all, a time when Mayor Pam Iorio is pushing for more redevelopment of the city’s inner core.

“If you make it too easy to develop out there, you’re not encouraging redevelopment,” Steiner said.

Nor does it make for a faster commute. [Surface Transportation Policy Project president Anne] Canby said cities that invested heavily in expanding road capacity didn’t get less traffic than those cities that spent less.

The Texas Transportation Institute released a study this year that showed commuting trips got longer between 1982 and 2002, despite millions spent on road projects.

The average motorist in the Tampa Bay area was stuck in traffic 18 hours a year in 1982. By 2002, that delay had climbed to 42 hours a year.

Tampa is uncomfortably committed here, naturally. While redevelopment in the city center is preferable, it can’t abandon the north county development. As long as people continue to vote with their mortgages, New Tampa will be a factor. Twenty years of annexation of county land and developer deals aren’t going to be reversed. It’s looking very much like a situation that will have to implode, in the form of some massive economic slowdown, before a managable solution is found.

The viewpoint here is obviously very biased against a car-centric living area (one that I share). Proponents of the wide-open suburb/exburb spaces will argue that the continued influx of residents, which follows a national trend, shows that the concerns are exaggerated and not a factor for the very people most affected. If it comes down to it, higher tax and service rates would take care of the costs. If the area can do that and continue its growth, and not lose out to Pasco and other neighboring areas, so be it.

For me, when even the best-case scenario means hellaciously long commutes, I’d just as soon see the growth of condos and mixed-use development. Living half your life in a car isn’t a particularly appealing option. I’m not counting on ever seeing a dense-but-livable urban area like Manhattan or San Francisco develop here, but anything close would be welcomed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 11:34:09 PM
Category: Political, Society
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bats tackles hoops pucks
With collective bargaining agreements on the minds of hockey fans (those who haven’t succumbed to total apathy, anyway), this Sporting News comparison of the recent/current CBAs in the NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL offers a useful shorthand reference on how players and owners coexist in the major sports leagues. It also includes various tidbits of related info, like attendance numbers and TV ratings.

Given that the content is syndicated on Yahoo!, and thus has a likely short online shelf life, I’m going to reproduce the factual information here. The editorial “Is it working?” parts I’ll leave out, not because I disagree with their conclusions (although mostly, I do, especially on the soon-to-be-deadlocked NBA), but because I figure they’re most subject to any copyright issues. By all means, follow the link to read them if you’re interested in the interpretations.

National Hockey Leaguepucks
Teams: 30
Players per team: 23
CBA expired: September 15, 2021
Highest-paid player: $11 million, Jaromir Jagr, Rangers
Average salary: $1.81 million
Most valuable franchise: Rangers, $282 million
Average payroll: $41.6 million
Players’ share of revenue: 75 percent
League revenue: $2 billion
Average attendance: 16,533 (includes record crowd of 57,167 at outdoor game in Edmonton)
Salary cap: None
Payroll tax: None
TV deal: TV revenues from national contracts in the U.S. and Canada are shared equally; last season, that was about $4 million per team. As for the new deal signed with NBC, “If the NHL sees a penny from NBC, it’s only because the guys at NBC are good guys,” a FOX executive told Alan Hahn of Newsday.
TV audience: 1.1 rating on ABC, 0.47 on ESPN and 0.24 on ESPN2
Revenue sharing: 10 percent
Free-agent system: Players become restricted after their first entry-level contract, unrestricted after turning 31 if they have at least four years of NHL experience.
Rookie system: 2004 draft picks had a rookie cap of $1.295 million and can’t sign anything longer than a three-year deal; excessive and easy-to-attain performance bonuses have made the cap ineffective.

Major League Baseballbats
Teams: 30
Players per team: 25
CBA expires: December 17, 2021
Highest-paid player: $22.5 million, Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
Average salary: $2.5 million
Most valuable franchise: Yankees, $832 million
Average payroll: $68.1 million
Players’ share of revenue: 63 percent
MLB revenue: $4.1 billion
Average attendance: 30,401
Salary cap: None
Payroll tax: In 2004, first offenders were taxed 22.5 percent for anything above $120.5 million; second offenders paid 30 percent.
TV deal: The league has a six-year, $2.5 billion deal with FOX through 2006 and a six-year, $851 million deal with ESPN through 2005.
TV audience: 2.7 rating on FOX, 1.1 on ESPN and 0.6 on ESPN2
Revenue sharing: 34 percent of local revenue, including gate receipts, is shared equally among the teams.
Free-agent system: Players who have six or more seasons of experience become unrestricted after their contracts expire.
Rookie system: None

National Basketball Associationhoops
Teams: 30
Players per team: 15 (12 active)
CBA expires: June 30, 2021
Highest-paid player: $29.5 million, Shaquille O’Neal, Heat
Average salary: $4.92 million
Most valuable franchise: Lakers, $447 million
Average payroll: $59 million
Players’ share of revenue: 57 percent
League revenue: $3.1 billion
Average attendance: 17,050
Salary cap: A complex system of sliding caps is the base. Effectively, the soft cap for 2003-04 was $43.9 million, extending to an average of $59 million after free-agent exceptions.
Payroll tax: Teams are taxed one dollar for each dollar over $54.6 million, but only if leaguewide salaries exceed a specific percentage of revenue.
TV deal: A six-year, $4.6 billion deal with ABC, ESPN and TNT brings each team $25.5 million each season.
TV audience: 2.4 rating on ABC, 1.3 on ESPN, 0.9 on ESPN2 and 1.4 on TNT
Revenue sharing: 35 percent of total revenues
Free-agent system: Players are eligible for contract extensions after three years, become restricted free agents after four (they can be unrestricted if the team does not pick up the option) and are unrestricted after five.
Rookie system: Fixed three-year contracts for first-round picks are figured on a sliding scale based on where players were selected in the draft; contracts have two option years, though the second rarely is used.

National Football Leaguetackles
Teams: 32
Players per team: 53 (45 active)
CBA expires: After the 2008 draft; 2007 is an uncapped season
Highest-paid player: $17.8 million, Peyton Manning, Colts (note: Michael Vick’s recently reworked contract probably puts him in the top spot)
Average salary: $1.25 million
Most valuable franchise: Redskins, $1.1 billion
Average payroll: $71.8 million
Players’ share of revenue: 64 percent
League revenue: $4.8 billion
Average attendance: 66,817
Salary cap: $80.58 million (64.75 percent of gross league revenues)
Salary floor: $67.3 million
Payroll tax: None
TV deal: An eight-year, $17.6 billion deal with ABC, CBS, FOX and ESPN expires after 2005. The deal gives each team $78 million (a six-year extension was signed November 8 by FOX and CBS; FOX will pay $4.3 billion for NFC games, CBS will pay $3.7 billion for AFC games). The NFL also has $3.5 billion satellite deal with DirecTV.
TV audience: 9.0 rating on CBS, 9.9 on FOX, 7.1 on ESPN and 11.0 on ABC.
Revenue sharing: 80 percent of all gate receipts, among other things, are spread evenly among the teams.
Free-agent system: Players who have four years of experience become unrestricted after their contracts expire. Teams can retain a key free agent by designating him a franchise player and paying him the average of the top five salaries at his position.
Rookie system: There is no limit for top draft picks.

While direct comparisons among the four can distort unavoidable inequities — for instance, baseball and football naturally have higher average attendance than hoops and hockey because of larger stadia — this gives a good once-over to the team-based major sports landscape. It’s especially useful for me regarding the NBA’s agreement: I was vaguely familiar with the changes from what they used to have, but I never did see a capsule version.

Again, this is just a snapshot look. A deeper dig might shed some light on how things like overall league revenue is calculated, and how salary/contract arbitration factors in.

Who’s got the best? Based on most measures of success, the NFL comes out on top (and Sporting News editor Paul Grant says as much in the “Is it working” notation). As I’ve mentioned before, a key reason for this is probably the nature of the NFL payroll: Composed overwhelmingly of non-guaranteed player contracts, it’s very easy for clubs to make payroll adjustments. In addition, each team’s cut of the leagues television money alone covers the payroll cap figure, so that guarantees success. I’m curious to see how the 2007 uncapped season will work (if they get there — the players and owners might work out a new CBA before then, which would supplant that final year).

I guess the similarities strike me more than anything. The NFL and MLB have comparable league revenues, for instance, despite starkly different schedules and labor setups. We’ll see how the next deals for the NHL and NBA change the makeup.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 09:01:24 PM
Category: SportsBiz
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Yes, according to Don Diebel, “Americas #1 Singles Expert”, the ladies go all melty-melty for a guy packing a puppet:

- First, you will need a hand puppet. You can buy them at your major toy stores such as Toys R Us.

- Bring your hand puppet with you to a nightclub where there are lots of single ladies.

- When you see a girl that you’re attracted to, approach her and tap her on the shoulder lightly with your puppet and when she turns around raise your hand puppet towards her face and say something like this with your puppet, “Hi beautiful, would you like to dance with me?” Move your puppet up and down with your hand as you are saying your script just as if the puppet was really talking. And be sure to talk in a real silly voice.

- What happens next? She’s going to die laughing and think that you are so funny. Plus, you will make a very favorable impression on her because women love a guy with a sense of humor. And, of course, she will most likely dance with you.

I guess if this doesn’t work, you could make improvisational use of the hand puppet at the end of the night, during your compensatory auto-erotical session.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I considered trying this, a few months back (well before finding Diebel’s article). Prior to heading out for a night of self-whoring clubbing, I stopped off for a couple of hours at a friend’s house to visit. His one-and-a-half-year-old daughter was up and about, and I obligingly did the playmate thing.

Among her mountains of toys was a hand puppet of a goat (Vincent Van Goat, actually). Sensing a winner when I saw it, I slipped it on, started with the goofy voice (hoping that it sounded like the “real” Mr. Van Goat, since I’d never heard of him before that night), and proceeded to ask the little girl for a kiss, a taste of whatever she was eating/drinking, and pretending to eat her feet.

She went nuts with laughter! She couldn’t get enough of the routine. And it was plenty of fun from my end.

So, inspired by the baby’s reaction, I actually considered borrowing the puppet as a social aid for the evening. Granted, (most) 20- and 30-year-old women are harder to please than toddlers. But I figured it would make for a unique conversation starter. Yet I also feared the potential humiliation factor if it tanked. I floated the idea past my friend as I was walking out the door, and he pretty much dismissed it, so I dropped the idea.

Maybe I should revisit the idea? It is being endorsed by “Americas #1 Singles Expert”, after all. Although any “expert” who’s got GetGirls.com as his home site gives me pause.

Any women out there want to chime in? If a guy approached you with a silly hand puppet in tow, would you take it as a sign that he’s funny and ballsy? Or a dweeb?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 08:32:21 PM
Category: Society, Women
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Thanks to a freak high-wind system that blew through this morning, plus a seemingly-impenetrable cloud cover that’s let in zero sunshine over the past couple of days, the current temperature in the Tampa Bay area is 50 degrees.

Fifty goddamned degrees. And set to drop another 10 degrees tonight.

I don’t care that such temperatures would be cheerfully welcomed as balmy in snow-covered points north of here. That’s their problem.

I’m used to the thermometer showing 70, 80 and 90 degrees on a regular basis, with loads of sunshine accompanying. And that’s what I want to see again, the sooner the better. If nothing else, something other than grey on the horizon would serve to brighten my mood. I’ve had enough of this crap weather for one season, thanks. Bring on the subtropics.

UPDATE: Bitch, and ye shall receive. Less than 15 minutes after ranting, there was a break in the clouds, and blue sky and sun came pouring through. I was able to turn off the lamps, even! It’s not bound to last, but I’m thankful for even this.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 02:09:08 PM
Category: Weather
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When you get to a certain age, you may be looking forward to becoming a grandparent — but that doesn’t mean you want to be labeled explicitly as such.

The relative youthfulness of many of today’s grandparents seems to be the biggest reason so many are opting for new titles. According to the AARP, the average age of first-time grandparents has declined to 47.

The new bimonthly magazine Grand debuted this fall. It is geared toward baby boomers with grandchildren who are anything but aging and arthritic…

“We’re trying to show that today’s grandparents are youthful, often leading very involved, active lives,” said Robert Strozier, editor and chief of Grand. “We’re trying to dispel the image of granny, gramps and rocking chairs.”

Susan Torres, a nurse with Hillsborough County’s Department of Aging Services, has a few theories about the declining use of Grandma and Grandpa.

She blames society’s fascination with youth, particularly among baby boomers. They think young, act young and want young-sounding names even as they confront old age.

“They don’t see themselves in that same context as they remember their grandparents,” said Torres, 54.

The most popular alternates to Granny and Grandpa, according to Grandparents Magazine: Nana, Oma, Grammy, Niny, Mimi, Mommom, Pepa, Papu, PopPop, Poppie, and PeePaw.

I’ve heard some of these titles used for newly-minted grandparentals. It occurs to me that they’re chosen primarily because they’re easiest for little toddlers to pronounce. That accounts for their cutesy nature.

If/when I have grandkiddies of my own, I’m sure I’ll revise my tune. But right now, I think this trend is a bit silly. No one wants to be outside the 18-45 demographic margin, and nothing accelerates that expulsion more than having a grandchild (or, more to the point, having a child who’s old enough to have a kid of his/her own). But let’s face it: No matter what label you put on it, you’re still a grandparent. Denying the traditional name doesn’t change that.

In the same vein, I can understand how jarring the experience must be to be in your early 40s and suddenly qualify for the cane-and-walker set. At 33, my fourth decade is starting to come into focus. My particular personal and family situation is such that I’m not liable to be a grandparent or even grand-uncle in the next ten years. But as others in that age group get there, it does become a case of guilt by association. And again, it’s a youth-centric culture, so no one is in a hurry to get marginalized.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2004 11:27:15 AM
Category: Society
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