Guest Author, Author at Florida Politics

Guest Author

Chikara Parks: Finding a safe school is better than waiting for one

I considered myself Campbell Park Elementary family. Not only did four of my children attend this school, but I was so actively involved in mentoring students, volunteering and attending PTA meetings that I was often mistaken for staff. So, it was a surprise to me that my daughter Tanijah was bullied as long as she was.

The bullying started early in first grade and continued to get worse until fourth. Bullying happened at PE, during recess, and in the hallway, as she transitioned between classes. It started out as name calling and teasing, but by fourth grade the bullying became physical.

The bullying peaked in fourth grade where Tanijah and her class spent considerable time with substitute teachers. Without the firm control of a full-time teacher, the classroom descended into chaos. One day while transitioning to class from recess, Tanijah was kicked by another student.

All this time I had been telling my daughter to not fight back, but to tell an adult. The adults, I promised her, would keep her safe. But they hadn’t.

Now my daughter was hurting, and I felt like less of a mom. My daughter’s grades were suffering, and she was losing self-confidence daily. How long can a child be bullied and still be OK?

My kids have each had great teachers at Campbell Park, so I’m not sure why they or the principals weren’t able to put a stop to the bullying after several years. I recognize that students in this community come with their own set of baggage, but good teachers and a zero-tolerance policy couldn’t end the bullying.

I couldn’t wait any longer. My daughter needed a safe school now. Even the school leaders agreed that it might be best if Tanijah started fifth grade at a new school.

Thankfully, I qualified for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and enrolled Tanijah at Academy Prep of St. Petersburg. Academy Prep handles bullying issues immediately. The girls have one-on-one meetings with the head of the school and the counselor, and group meetings where the girls are required to say something nice to each other. The principal and teachers even call to discuss problems big and small. Not only do I feel like I’m finally being heard, but I also know I’ve found a place where Tanijah will be safe.

I think the Hope Scholarship is an awesome idea and I hope that parents take advantage of it.

The Tampa Bay Times once called Campbell Park a failure factory. My two boys still attend, and I hope the school continues to improve. I’m even working toward a degree in elementary education with the dream of becoming a public-school teacher. But I believe that if a parent feels their child isn’t safe, they should have a right to enroll their child somewhere else.

Sometimes leaving is the best option, even if you feel like they are family.

Deborah Franklin: Protect Florida elders by keeping nursing home certificate-of-need process

Deborah Franklin

Throughout my professional career, I have been dedicated to the continued growth and enhancement of quality long-term care in Florida. A key element of quality care is maintaining a sense of independence among the elders we serve, a priority that is fostered by Florida’s long-standing commitment to helping them remain in the least restrictive setting possible.

However, I believe a proposal now before the Constitution Revision Commission would undermine that goal and threaten the continued independence of countless older Floridians.

The proposed amendment to our State Constitution would eliminate the Certificate of Need (CON) process for nursing homes, among others, and change that would disrupt the mission of continuing quality care in skilled nursing care centers. The CON process requires Florida’s Health Planning Councils to identify areas which have a need for additional beds.

Facilities must document how they will meet those needs, either through new development or adding on to an existing center. Beds are awarded based on several factors, including a center’s quality outcomes and financial stability.

The intent is to prevent an oversaturation of care facilities, so the taxpayers don’t end up subsidizing unused beds.

Florida has the nation’s highest share of seniors, and elimination of the nursing home CON requirement would fly in the face of the state’s ongoing support of home and community-based care — a policy that allows elders to remain in their own homes as long as possible.

If additional nursing center beds are allowed without the careful scrutiny of the CON process, the new facilities will need residents to fill their beds — and the first place they will look is the ranks of those currently enjoying the benefits of home and community-based care.

It’s no secret that Florida is experiencing a nursing shortage, with more than 12,000 vacant nursing positions around our state. The problem is particularly challenging for skilled nursing centers.

Elimination of CON would lead to additional facilities competing for the same limited pool of Registered Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants, thus spreading already limited resources even thinner.

If the CON repeal is enacted, it seems unavoidable that more seniors will be moved from home settings and into skilled nursing centers — a setting that is necessary for our most frail elders, but certainly not for everyone currently living in the less restrictive environment offered by home and community-based care. If it was your mother or grandmother, would you want her living in even the best nursing home before it was really necessary?

The Legislature has seen the value in allowing the nursing home CON process to remain in place, so why does the Constitution Revision Commission want to circumvent their authority by using our State Constitution to repeal CON?  Because of today’s CON laws, nursing care centers are able to continue to provide quality care at a level that is among the best in the nation.

Existing centers are able to focus on recruiting dedicated more health care professionals to the field, to serve residents who truly need the care they offer.

Every Florida resident should take a significant interest in this issue, for the sake of their elderly relatives — and, someday, for themselves.

I hope every member of the Constitution Revision Commission recognizes the need to protect our senior citizens by leaving the nursing home CON process in place.

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Deborah Franklin is Senior Director of Quality Affairs for Florida Health Care Association. She has more than 20 years’ experience working as a nursing home administrator, most recently overseeing renovations and expansions for the not-for-profit Florida Living Options, which operates the Hawthorne Village continuing care retirement communities in Florida. She can be reached at dfranklin@fhca.org.

Chelsea Murphy: Right on Crime; conservative on justice

During the upcoming 2018 Florida Legislative Session, Right on Crime will serve as a resource to lawmakers on the importance of criminal justice reform, breaking down long-held, but unsupported, policy prescriptions. For example, the assumption that to decrease crime, all drug offenders should be subjected to the same mandatory minimum sentences has led to burdensome prison costs with little return for public safety.

As an alternative, Right on Crime will introduce and promote public safety reform measures that have seen results in other states that most Floridians want to see enacted.

Housing 102,000 inmates in 63 prisons across Florida costs taxpayers nearly $2.4 billion and the recidivism rate is a dismal 33 percent – meaning one out of every three inmates released from a Florida prison will return to a Florida prison within three years. Just as conservatives hold other government functions accountable for spending, the same cost-effectiveness requirement should apply to our criminal justice system.

There are steps Florida can take to cut crime and spending within the criminal justice landscape that have proven to save taxpayer dollars, reduce recidivism and protect public safety.

For instance, reforming mandatory minimum sentencing by instituting a judicial safety valve. Under current Florida law, judges are required to sentence all individuals convicted of certain drug crimes to the same mandatory prison term – without taking any mitigating factors into account. Meaning a first-time, low-level drug offender is subject to the same minimum prison term as a drug kingpin.

If a judicial safety valve were instituted, the court system would be given the flexibility needed to divert low-level drug offenders with substance abuse issues into drug treatment.

While some argue this puts dealers back on the streets and endangers the public, there is simply no evidence to suggest mandatory minimums have any effect on public safety. Texas, for example, has virtually no mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in place and has a nearly identical crime rate to that of Florida.

The bottom line is a judicial safety valve is more effective and less expensive than mandatory minimum sentencing, and does not put public safety at risk.

In addition to judicial safety valve, Florida is well behind other states in reforming its laws governing the property theft threshold, which has not been changed since 1986. The state is once again using an outdated, one-size-fits-all model to criminal justice.

In this instance, someone who steals a $300 Xbox is punished in the same manner as someone who steals a $20,000 car.

Moreover, raising the property theft threshold, which 37 other states have already done, including neighboring states that have felony theft thresholds more than three times higher than Florida’s, does not result in an increase in felony theft.

Simply put, there are more effective, less expensive ways to deal with petty theft than habitual incarceration which costs taxpayers and has not proven to promote public safety.

Finally, in Florida, there is strong Republican and Democratic support for commonsense criminal justice reform and a recently released poll, funded by Right on Crime, demonstrably indicates registered voters overwhelmingly believe the primary purpose of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate and not punish criminals.

The poll found that, despite the range of opinions voters have on the criminal justice system, both voter groups readily embrace the four proposed reforms tested:

– Roughly 3 in 4 registered voters and GOP voters support ending the practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for failure to pay court fees or fines when the person can prove an inability to pay and agrees to do community service.

– Nearly three-quarters or more of Republican and Democratic voters support encouraging counties to create civil citation programs that would allow police officers to give citations that include fines and/or community service instead of making arrests for various misdemeanors.

– Two-thirds or more of both voter groups support allowing Florida judges to cut three- and five-year mandatory minimum sentences by up to two-thirds for first-time drug offenders when they believe the mandatory sentence is inappropriate based on the crime committed.

– A solid majority of voters from both parties support raising the minimum monetary threshold that qualifies as a felony from $300 to $1,500.

The case for smart criminal justice reform is clearer today than at any time in our past, and with smart solutions already being widely discussed by Florida lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Right on Crime is hopeful that the 2018 session will usher in laws that truly work to reduce crime, deliver justice to victims and safeguard taxpayers money.

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Chelsea Murphy serves as Florida State Director for Right on Crime.

Emmett Reed: Constitution is no place for special favors for clients or friends

Emmett Reed

There is no place for special favors in our state’s basic charter, the Florida Constitution. Every provision in that document should benefit all of us equally, and officials working to revise the Constitution should be above any action designed to profit one group over another.

In today’s charged political environment, the public has a right to expect the highest ethical standards from its public officials. Unfortunately, one appointed member of the Constitution Revision Commission seems to still be serving the master who pays him to be a lobbyist. This commissioner has ignored his solemn duty to address the needs of all the people of Florida. Worse still, he would have us believe that he is actually doing it to protect some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents. Now he has been hit with a conflict of interest claim, and deservedly so.

Brecht Heuchan is a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, but for many years he has been a paid lobbyist for Wilkes & McHugh, a law firm that makes its living suing nursing homes. Mr. Heuchan has stood before the Legislature and testified for his client in an attempt to advance his client’s desire to make it easier to sue. Note that these lawsuits would do nothing to help nursing home residents – just the lawyers hoping to cash in on large volumes of claims.

The Legislature flatly rejected his idea to sue passive investors in 2017. So now Mr. Heuchan is trying to use (some would say abuse) his appointed public position to slip those same changes into the Constitution. If he can’t win by going through the front door, he’ll try through the back door. The big problem is, that “back door” is the most fundamental document of state government, something that is supposed to be limited to the broad structure of government and its compact with the public.

This is simply wrong, and it must be stopped. The American Senior Alliance filed the ethics complaint against Mr. Heuchan for this obvious conflict of interest. The Florida Health Care Association, which represents the majority of our state’s outstanding long-term care facilities, agrees with the Alliance’s reasoning and supports its complaint.

Not only does Mr. Heuchan’s proposal not belong in the Constitution, but it’s entirely unnecessary. It would add zero new protections to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and would only bypass decisions of the Legislature and expand ways that trial attorneys can sue. Mr. Heuchan says it’s a response to the terrible tragedy in which more than a dozen residents lost their lives in a South Florida nursing home during Hurricane Irma, but it wouldn’t do anything to fix or prevent what happened there. It would only give attorneys – his clients – more opportunity to sue.

Here is why the proposal is unnecessary: Nursing home residents have been guaranteed a bill of rights since 1976 thanks to Florida’s Legislature. In 1987 Congress further codified those rights when it passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. That Act lists specific rights for residents, and requires each nursing home to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life of each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination.

Mr. Heuchan is offering his proposal under the guise that nursing home residents don’t have the same rights as you or me – which is completely misleading. What he is really doing is helping a law firm from whom he benefits financially.

And that’s just wrong. Wrong for the people of Florida, and wrong for the Florida Constitution.

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Emmett Reed is Executive Director of Florida Health Care Association, the state’s first and largest advocacy organization for long-term care providers and the residents under their care. He can be reached at ereed@fhca.org.

Jack Cory: The truth and facts about live greyhound racing in Florida

Mark Twain is credited by some as saying: A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Live greyhound racing is good for Florida and good for the greyhounds!

Over $80 million was bet on live greyhound racing at the tracks last year, with no reported compulsive gambling. Over $2 billion was bet at out-of-state Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) facilities, untaxed and unregulated, a portion on live greyhound racing in Florida.

Eleven million dollars was generated in state revenue, over 3,000 Florida jobs, and over 8,000 beautiful greyhounds with over 95 percent adopted to loving families or returned to the farms to live out their lives.

These are the standards for the “no kill” animal movement.

The “false” information is being put forth by very radical out-of-state animal rights (AR) groups and their misinformed supporters, that take care of NO animals in Florida. They are the same groups that put on the sad puppy commercials over the holidays. They use this “false” information for fundraising, not to take care of any animals in Florida!

These groups support the high-kill animal shelters in Florida that will kill 250,000 pets this year, that is over 700 TODAY.

Greyhounds are well trained and well treated. Greyhound owners do not get paid unless the greyhound comes in first, second, third or fourth in a race. Therefore, greyhound owners take immense pride in ensuring that greyhound athletes receive the very best treatment.

Everything from the size of the crate, the quantity and quality of food, veterinary care to the amount of walking, exercises and play time is closely monitored for optimum athletic performance. The greyhound’s performance puts food on the tables for the trainers, owners and breeders and their families. Some of the greyhound men and women have been in the industry for generations. They love their animals and love their jobs.

The State of Florida inspects all greyhound kennels at all tracks. The Florida Greyhound Association and the National Greyhound Association have “0” tolerance for any animal abuse.

One animal dying prematurely is too many, but all athletes, human or animal can get injuries and even die. In order to avoid this, the greyhound owners have proposed a 3-point safety bill that would have eliminated the vast majority of deaths and injuries at the track, but the hypocritical AR people oppose it.

John Adams, the second president of the U.S. said: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

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Jack Cory is with Public Affairs Consultants Inc. in Tallahassee. He represents members of the Florida Greyhound Association.

Michelle Dennard: Growing apprenticeships will strengthen economy

Michelle Dennard

The talent gap we face in Florida is not a new problem nor is it unique to our state.

According to the Florida Chamber, while more than 400,000 are looking for jobs, we still have 232,000 jobs looking for people.

Florida’s employers and workforce development, economic development and education entities are collaborating to bridge that gap with a new focus on apprenticeships.

The National Office of Apprenticeship, within the U.S. Department of Labor, has set a goal of doubling and diversifying the number of apprenticeships by 2019. Florida is among 36 states and Guam recently selected to help make that big goal a reality through the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative. The responsibility tied to these grants is clear: build partnerships across key industries and organizations to create a strong talent pipeline for businesses in vital industries like advanced manufacturing and information technology.

Last month, I had the opportunity to talk with U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta about the importance of expanding apprenticeship opportunities during his visit with Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee. Florida is the third largest state in the nation, with low unemployment – just 3.8 percent in September – and record job growth.

Yet we know we still have construction companies in need of skilled workers, hospitals in need of healthcare technicians and manufacturers in need of production technicians.

The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine® data series found more than 46,000 healthcare openings in Florida in September. In the same month, we had more than 64,000 construction jobs open, 42,000 IT positions available, and more than 9,000 manufacturing jobs open.

Apprenticeships are a great way to get tomorrow’s talent ready for the demand we know is here, and constantly growing.

CareerSource Florida is integrating apprenticeships into our statewide sector strategies initiative. Sector strategies are a nationally recognized approach that brings together partners and stakeholders in industry, education and workforce development to align public resources that address the skills needs of critical industries.

Sector strategies, including apprenticeships, enable us to meet the talent demands of tomorrow and support state and local economic growth in a significant way. Research shows sector strategies strengthen the participating businesses, the industries involved and the workforce as a whole by shifting workforce development from a supply-driven to a demand-driven approach.

Our work on the State Apprenticeship Expansion grant has already resulted in system-wide partnerships, and the engagement of nearly 100 industry and expert volunteers who are identifying ways to expand apprenticeships. Each of Florida’s lead organizations – CareerSource Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Education – has designated a project director to focus on this important work.

We believe this renewed focus and the fresh insights of industry, education and workforce experts will further strengthen and diversify Florida’s already robust economy. The collaboration and commitment to build and grow strong apprenticeship programs throughout our state is a testament to Florida’s leadership on a critical national issue.

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Michelle Dennard is president and CEO of CareerSource Florida.

Kate MacFall: CRC should pass amendment on greyhound racing

Right now, Floridians have a chance to finally put a stop to one of the cruelest “sports” left in America – greyhound racing.

Two past Florida Senate Presidents, Tom Lee and Don Gaetz, have introduced an amendment that would phase out greyhound racing in the Sunshine State to the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission, the 37-member body that meets every 20 years to recommend changes to our state Constitution. The proposal would go into full effect on July 1, 2021, and would phase out greyhound racing operations over a three-year period.

With 12 of the 18 dog tracks nationwide in our state, Florida has the most dog racing operations in the U.S., thanks to our state government’s actions to prop up the industry. Greyhound racing is illegal in 40 states and now is the time to add Florida to the list.

On average, a racing greyhound dies in Florida every three days. Many more are injured. Even if dogs don’t end up injured or dead, their lives are ones of abject misery. They are fed meat that comes from diseased and dying cows (a substandard beef grade known as 4-D) and confined 20-23 hours a day in cages too small for them to stand up normally. Since 2008, state investigators have documented at least eight cases of cruelty and severe neglect at Florida dog tracks and associated track kennels, including a 2010 case where state investigators found 37 dead greyhounds at a kennel compound and another five severely emaciated live dogs.

Just this year, two more cases of dog “doping” have been added to the long list of violations. In one case, two trainers at a Jacksonville area track were cited when dozens of greyhound blood tests came up positive for cocaine, with one greyhound testing positive six different times.

The total amount gambled on live racing at Florida dog tracks declined by 56 percent between 2006 and 2016. State tax revenue from dog racing also continues to drop, with revenue declining by 81 percent from 2006 to 2016.

The Constitutional Revision Commission must first approve Lee and Gaetz’s proposal to place it on the November 2018 election ballot – and it’s time for Floridians to let the CRC commissioners know they support phasing out greyhound racing and ending this cruelty once and for all.

The dogs racing in Florida pay the price for a long-ago political deal that makes no sense in today’s economy. The government forces businesses to conduct one activity so they can offer another. Because of this antiquated mandate, tracks keep money-losing greyhound racing around so they can offer more popular and lucrative games, like slots and poker. While patrons crowd inside playing slots or cards, the dogs run around a track in front of largely empty stands. Legislative attempts to separate dog racing from other forms of gambling have been unsuccessful.

This proposal before the Constitutional Revision Commission is a chance to do the right thing and make history. Take a few minutes to let the commissioners know you support the proposal to end greyhound racing in Florida by going to humanesociety.org/greyhoundracing.

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Kate MacFall is Florida State Director of The Humane Society of the United States.

Adam Putnam: Your Thanksgiving meal began on a farm

Picking up ingredients for your family’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes locally can be so easy that we sometimes take for granted our ranchers’ and farmers’ hard work to provide the food we all rely on.

Agriculture has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of society — it is the industry that provides for one of our most basic needs.

Some elements of agriculture have remained unchanged over centuries while others have changed radically with scientific and technological advancements.

Agriculture is not for the faint of heart. It has always drawn people who are stubborn, resilient, courageous and love the land that gives the bounty. Ranchers and farmers must embody these traits to weather whatever Mother Nature throws their way, whether it’s too much rain, too little rain, or an invasive pest or disease.

Agriculture is both robust and fragile, and it requires commitment and adaptability. Farmers have faced these challenges for hundreds of years, and they face them today.

While the heat, hard work and vagaries of nature haven’t been automated, agriculture today is high tech. Innovative ranchers, farmers and researchers are finding ways to do more with less. As our population soars and the demands for land and water increase, our ranchers and farmers are turning to science to decrease inputs and increase yields.

It’s not Old McDonald’s Farm anymore. Florida’s 47,000 farms are sophisticated operations that implement cutting-edge technology and constantly evaluate the results.

With a recent report projecting that by 2070 Florida will have 15 million new residents, the stress on our resources will only grow. As always Florida’s farmers and ranchers will continue to be leaders in conservation and innovation ensuring that they are able to produce the abundant food and fiber we depend on as a state and nation while being good stewards of the resources entrusted to them.

As you gather with your family and loved ones this Thanksgiving, let’s all be grateful for our dedicated ranchers and farmers who work day in and day out to produce our safe, affordable and abundant food.

And when you sit down to enjoy your “Fresh From Florida” meal, remember that it all began on a farm.

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Adam Putnam is Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.

 

Aaron Bean: Small business tax cuts should be Congress’ top job

Following the recent House of Representatives passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Americans in Florida and across the country agree: Now is the time to give hardworking small businesses the tax relief they need to power our economic growth into next year and beyond. With one more legislative session to go before Thanksgiving, Congress must rise to the occasion.

Poll after poll now shows that voters see tax cuts for small businesses as the sweet spot for tax policy and economic performance. Over 80 percent agree Congress needs to pass a tax bill, according to a new America First Policies survey. Specifically, 80 percent favor rate cuts that grow family paychecks, grow local businesses and grow the national economy.

Regardless of party identification, over three in five voters disapprove of the status quo.

As it stands now, small-business owners suffer from their tax status as pass-through entities, which means they often have to pay individual rates of nearly 50 percent in federal, state and local taxes. That’s more than large corporations — so much so that, in order to cope, job creators have to spend precious time and money on filing and outside help. One in three told the National Small Business Administration in its latest tax survey that the annual process chews up two weeks’ worth of work. It’s no wonder that four out of every five small-business owners went on to say their top tax goal was rate cuts and higher deductions.

Fortunately, the White House has recognized the importance of leading on taxes. The Trump administration’s plan would cut the income tax rate for small businesses to 25 percent, encouraging growth. Small businesses have plenty of room to grow, as I’ve learned providing capital access to expanding businesses and startups. In Florida, 97 percent of all small businesses employ no more than 20 people. But they create three out of every four jobs in the state.

As I’ve experienced, investors can park their money during uncertain times. Not so with small businesses, who see opportunity around every corner and invest accordingly. Tax cuts would go to raising wages, adding employees and expanding facilities, a majority of owners agreed in a recent survey by the Job Creators Network. Half concurred that those cuts were the most helpful policy legislators can pursue right now.

And the American people are right there with small-business owners. Most Americans want a major overhaul of our onerous tax burdens, and view new tax cuts as the key to strengthening our finances, increasing our jobs and powering our growth.

Floridians have a lot riding on Congress’ ability to pass extensive tax cuts. Our state is host to more than 2 million small businesses, which employ over 3 million employees. That’s over 40 percent of the entire private-sector workforce. Florida is the kind of place where legislation has been put forward to create a “Small Business Saturday” to kick off the holidays, when shopping season puts many small businesses over the top for the year.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Congress has an all-important chance to come through for small businesses — and the millions and millions of Americans who win big when they do.

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Aaron Bean is a State Senator from Florida’s 4th District.

 

Assessing why the Tampa Bay Rowdies aren’t moving to MLS in this round of expansion

Multiple reports have surfaced showing the Tampa Bay Rowdies will be shut out in this round of MLS expansion.

Several factors are contributing to the Rowdies miss this time, when two new teams will be added. However, the Rowdies remain in contention for the next two teams, which will be announced in 2018.

According to the reports, this year’s two selections will come from Sacramento, Cincinnati and Nashville. The announcement of two new MLS franchises should take place next month.

Sacramento an established front runner

The Sacramento Republic, a Rowdies’ USL rival, has long been an established frontrunner in terms of MLS viability. Sitting in a top 20 TV market both in overall and Hispanic households, the club has been one of the few at the lower division level of North American soccer to consistently draw over 10,000 fans per game.

The ownership squabbles that threatened to derail the city’s chances earlier this year have been resolved and now the California city sits as a clear option for MLS expansion.

Nashville has surged and is a “hot” city that MLS has logical interest in

Sometimes timing and fortune play a bigger role in this process than anything else.

Nashville is currently enjoying its day in the sun as an emerging center of culture and of soccer fandom. Supporter-owned Nashville FC was successful in the amateur ranks of American soccer, prompting USL, the co-second division in North America, to award the city a franchise.

But before that team has even kicked a ball in USL, the city could be awarded an MLS team.

This summer’s US Men’s National Team match against Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup drew over 40,000 fans and an International Champions Cup match between English giants Manchester City FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC drew over 60,000 fans.

Unfortunately for the Tampa Bay area, comparable attendances aren’t on display. The US Men’s team played a Gold Cup match days later in Tampa which drew only 25,000 fans and the International Champions Cup opted to hold games in Orlando and Miami instead of Tampa. (It should be noted the International Champions Cup is run by a marketing company owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross — therefore all but guaranteeing Miami gets high-profile matches.)

The success of FC Cincinnati in attracting fans

The biggest success story in domestic soccer in recent years has been the interest generated by recent start-up FC Cincinnati (FCC).

The Rowdies got the best of FCC on the field this year, eliminating the Ohio-based second year club from the USL Cup Playoffs. However, FCC is averaging close to 20,000 fans a game, a remarkable number for a lower division team.

The Cincinnati market is not one MLS was particularly interested in prior to the team’s marketing success. It would be one of the smallest in MLS and prior to the on-field start of this team in 2016, the market had very little history of success in the sport.

But FCC has surged to the front of the expansion line drawing crowds far bigger than anyone else in the lower divisions.

Questions about stadium plan

One former MLS general manager who had a new stadium built during his tenure told me earlier this past week that he felt the Rowdies stadium plan was “naive” and a “non-starter.”

This former GM who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity praised Rowdies owner Bill Edwards for doing what he could with Al Lang Stadium but felt the ground would simply be too small (a capacity under 19,000) and that the configuration was not “soccer-specific” enough to thwart Tampa Bay’s hopes.

The Rowdies are limited in what they can do in a congested downtown. But it is worth noting the vista provided of Tampa Bay from the stadium would perhaps represent the best TV images of a facility from the league.

St. Pete instead of Tampa

While MLS constantly talks about the need to find its teams playing in or close to downtown, some speculation has begun to surface that playing in a secondary city, which the Rowdies do and would continue to do in MLS, hurts the club’s bid.

While on the surface this might be true, much of the Tampa Bay Area’s media is housed in Pinellas. While St Petersburg is a longer drive than Tampa for many of the fans who’d flock to an MLS team, it is still in market.

Proximity to Orlando and Miami

Orlando has one of the most successful MLS clubs in terms of local interest. Miami remains a market that is being essentially gifted a team outside of the normal expansion process.

But geography didn’t help the Rowdies bid. MLS’ thinking probably should change on this as local rivalries and traveling fans are what make professional soccer around the globe much more like US college sports than North American pro sports.

A Tampa Bay-Orlando rivalry which is a holdover from the lower division days of Orlando City SC would instantly be one of the biggest MLS rivalries and a triangular “derby” including Miami also would be an instant hit.

Tampa Bay has missed out on this round of expansion but Rowdies Owner Bill Edwards remains committed to moving the team up to MLS. Considering the three solid bids described above likely represent three of the four new MLS expansion teams, the Rowdies will need to beat the rest of the competition.

Working in the Rowdies favor is a larger TV market, larger established fan base and deeper historical legacy than any of the other serious bids that could take the fourth spot.

So, not all is lost yet for Rowdies fans.

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