Author Topic: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford  (Read 4440 times)

marcuscnelson

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2023, 09:09:45 PM »
The total budget of the agency he manages isn't really germane to the discussion. The yearly Marta budget is $1.3 billion. Should the CEO there make $4 million? Ford is already being compensated very handsomely for the level he is working at, the number of staff he has to manage, and the complexity of the system he has to oversee relative to peers. Seems like he is really pushing the limit on travel expenses, when he already has a very nice compensation package.

Knowing how Jax and politics in general work. It's likely that this whole story has been fed to the media to tarnish Ford's name, so that when they come after him for U2C or whatever, he will not have anyone coming to his defense.

Perhaps it's not perfectly germane, but I think it's relevant enough context, especially when a big highlight of the reporting is JTA's ridership in comparison to that salary. For a non-transit example, Richard Corcoran's total compensation will amount to $1.3 million per year to run a state university with fewer students than JTA has employees. His base salary alone is more than Ford's total compensation, but the state appears completely fine with that. Again, it's not to say that this is nothing, but again in comparison with what he wants to do with half a billion dollars in public money it starts to pale. As Ken said, if Ford was the rail rockstar we hoped he would be back in 2012, I don't think we'd be especially concerned about how much money he made doing it. But of course, he wasn't, so…
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2023, 11:27:30 PM »
The travel expenses do seem like overkill, although I wonder how this compares to other local movers and shakers. But at the end of the day, JTA's FY 22/23 operating budget was $173 million, of which Ford's compensation would be 0.4%. That doesn't mean it's fine but I'd question the value of making scandal out of this.

This! It's why I believe one reason Ford is pushing AV's.  Imagine an operating budget/capex of double or more of this amount justifying his compensation as just a drop in an ocean of dollars.  Many salaries roughly correlate to how many dollars flow through an organization.  More flow, more salary.

Jax_Developer

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2023, 08:03:18 AM »
The glue in all of this is the fact that JTA is an independent authority. I guess I never really thought about what that really entails, but in some ways.. Nat Ford has as much power as our Mayor, within JTA of course (which does stretch outside of Duval). The board for JTA being their City Council.

Where I'm going is... there is a natural conflict of interest to have the mayor & city council in cahoots, and there's checks & balances in place to prevent that. JTA really doesn't have these same checks & balances w/ Nat Ford & the former board. I'll be a little rude in saying this, but you actually have to be idiotic to have allowed the U2C to get this far. You HAVE to be delusional. I could go on why, but I think there's been enough said there. OR, you have to be lied to.

The only possible way I see all these members (because JTA's board wasn't in disagreement over the U2C) being in agreement, is some shady stuff. I think it would be hard to argue that all those board members were so incompetent, that they had no reservations about the U2C at all. These are educated and intelligent people with great careers.. See I think theres been a lot of manipulation going on, and all of this is just coming around to Nat now.

- Donna replaces every Mayoral appointment to the JTA board
- City Council Members speaking out against it
- Nat Ford hit piece

The next domino is the big big hit piece. I've said it before, and will say it again.. but this is a JEA-level scandal... decade long... $100M+ in used funds when Phase 1 gets going. This has been in the works for a while. Nat Ford loaded the board, manipulated information, and is now facing the ugly consequences of believing in technology that trillion dollar companies have issues with.

This really is not a surprise, and his salary has no meaningful impact on this city or JTA. The meaningfulness here, is a de-factor dictator for JTA is getting called out for being the used car salesmen he is with AV's/EV's. Spending big dollars on trips, maybe not even going to the office(?), and blindly leading an entire agency down this path is why the issue of his salary is being brought up. Frankly, if he implemented the U2C, he could go get a job at Tesla or Google making $2M+. It's all about the result that he has provided for JTA, and my best bet is that his writing is on the wall with those that control strings locally.

This is the big boy league, and a little city transit authority sure ain't even in the minors.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2023, 08:36:50 AM by Jax_Developer »

CityLife

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2023, 08:55:56 AM »
The total budget of the agency he manages isn't really germane to the discussion. The yearly Marta budget is $1.3 billion. Should the CEO there make $4 million? Ford is already being compensated very handsomely for the level he is working at, the number of staff he has to manage, and the complexity of the system he has to oversee relative to peers. Seems like he is really pushing the limit on travel expenses, when he already has a very nice compensation package.

Knowing how Jax and politics in general work. It's likely that this whole story has been fed to the media to tarnish Ford's name, so that when they come after him for U2C or whatever, he will not have anyone coming to his defense.

Perhaps it's not perfectly germane, but I think it's relevant enough context, especially when a big highlight of the reporting is JTA's ridership in comparison to that salary. For a non-transit example, Richard Corcoran's total compensation will amount to $1.3 million per year to run a state university with fewer students than JTA has employees. His base salary alone is more than Ford's total compensation, but the state appears completely fine with that. Again, it's not to say that this is nothing, but again in comparison with what he wants to do with half a billion dollars in public money it starts to pale. As Ken said, if Ford was the rail rockstar we hoped he would be back in 2012, I don't think we'd be especially concerned about how much money he made doing it. But of course, he wasn't, so…

Both JTA ridership and total budget pale in comparison to the other agencies mentioned. MARTA's is $1.3 billion, Chicago's is $2 billion, LA's is $9 billion, DC's is $4 billion and so on. His salary in proportion to total budget is exponentially higher than all of the big agencies referenced in the salary comparisons. The Corcoran example isn't worth mention imo either. He shouldn't be President of a state school, but it's an apples to avocado comparison.

As JaxDeveloper and I have said, if you are going to pay someone a big league salary to play in the minor leagues, they better be leading the minors in batting average and homers. Instead, it seems like Ford has led the league in strikeouts, faked some injuries to get himself on the DL, and played fast and loose with the per diem on road trips.  If Ford was leading the league in homers, it's possible that everything would be swept under the rug. Now that new management and coaches have been brought in, he is coming under scrutiny and it appears they are looking for a way to terminate his contract for cause.

simms3

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2023, 10:45:16 AM »
CityLife and JaxDeveloper making all the points I agree with.  Typical Jax -  we pay BIG salaries to our leaders and never have anything to really show for it and also often find scandal coming out of it.

For our track record, we should be paying out average and just attracting "average" anyways (average in quotes - I have little faith in extended resumes and "experts" these days, personally).  Perhaps there are some people hungry for actual success who don't have the stellar "resume" but are really capable and really willing to put in the work in our city to make a name for themselves.  With Nat Ford, we are just getting the fattened calf - he doesn't need to actually work to build up his salary justification, he can just take advantage of a mid-size city "looking for the best".

We are getting ripped off right and left.  I would question leadership of JEA - there's an organization that needs A LOT of scrutiny and I am not talking about past things, but current.  Plus we have Nat Ford.  Plus we have just about the world's highest paid Chamber CEO (not that it's a city job but the city does contribute handsomely to the Chamber).  I think the list could really go on, and yet we still have so many basic and fundamental problems plaguing our city and we haven't had any real successes.  It's quite hilarious.  We cannot seem to figure this out.

The taxpayers are footing the massive bill though while the city jokes around.
Bothering locals and trolling boards since 2005

marcuscnelson

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #20 on: November 14, 2023, 01:11:24 PM »
Where I'm going is... there is a natural conflict of interest to have the mayor & city council in cahoots, and there's checks & balances in place to prevent that. JTA really doesn't have these same checks & balances w/ Nat Ford & the former board. I'll be a little rude in saying this, but you actually have to be idiotic to have allowed the U2C to get this far. You HAVE to be delusional. I could go on why, but I think there's been enough said there. OR, you have to be lied to.

The only possible way I see all these members (because JTA's board wasn't in disagreement over the U2C) being in agreement, is some shady stuff. I think it would be hard to argue that all those board members were so incompetent, that they had no reservations about the U2C at all. These are educated and intelligent people with great careers.. See I think theres been a lot of manipulation going on, and all of this is just coming around to Nat now.

I've said before that I think what happened is that the board got caught up in the self-driving hype in 2016, and got awarded federal money soon enough (2018) that they felt committed. Several of these companies have insisted the technology was ready to roll right up to the bitter end, and I imagine any encouragement for JTA to proceed is along the same lines. What's irresponsible is now hearing the chorus of voices saying they're wrong and insisting on the sunk costs.

This isn't the first time a transit agency's board has irresponsibly rubber stamped initiatives by its CEO (look at AC Transit under Rick Fernandez in the 2000s) but it's up there in terms of scale.

As JaxDeveloper and I have said, if you are going to pay someone a big league salary to play in the minor leagues, they better be leading the minors in batting average and homers. Instead, it seems like Ford has led the league in strikeouts, faked some injuries to get himself on the DL, and played fast and loose with the per diem on road trips.  If Ford was leading the league in homers, it's possible that everything would be swept under the rug. Now that new management and coaches have been brought in, he is coming under scrutiny and it appears they are looking for a way to terminate his contract for cause.

Action News got a hold of Ford's contract and it does include a specific definition of cause:

Quote
"Cause" shall be defined as: (i) a deliberate or material violation by Mr. Ford of the duties set forth in this Fourth Amended Agreement or his refusal or unwillingness to perform such duties in good faith, during his full business time, or to the best of his abilities if, within thirty (30) days following Mr. Ford's receipt of the written notice of what the Board considers to be the violation, Mr. Ford fails to cure the same; (ii) materially harmful neglect of essential responsibilities: (iii) grave dishonesty that adversely affects the JTA; (iv) the commission of any felony or of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude; (v) an act of violence or disruption or any other activity which would constitute grounds for dismissal of any employee by JTA under JTA policies; or (vi) a material, significant, or
repetitive breach of this Fourth Amended Agreement.

CityLife and JaxDeveloper making all the points I agree with.  Typical Jax -  we pay BIG salaries to our leaders and never have anything to really show for it and also often find scandal coming out of it.

For our track record, we should be paying out average and just attracting "average" anyways (average in quotes - I have little faith in extended resumes and "experts" these days, personally).  Perhaps there are some people hungry for actual success who don't have the stellar "resume" but are really capable and really willing to put in the work in our city to make a name for themselves.  With Nat Ford, we are just getting the fattened calf - he doesn't need to actually work to build up his salary justification, he can just take advantage of a mid-size city "looking for the best".

I'd say here alone there are plenty of people who have ideas for the transportation problems this city faces. I can open the tab of my ideas right now. But I'd expect nonetheless that even in a world where Ford is ousted, the Board is going to look for traditional options. Ford himself was supposed to be a traditional option.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

Charles Hunter

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #21 on: November 14, 2023, 03:03:53 PM »
Quote
(iii) grave dishonesty that adversely affects the JTA;

Would this be enough? Or, would his "belief" in AVs be a sufficient defense?

Ken_FSU

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #22 on: November 14, 2023, 03:56:40 PM »
The glue in all of this is the fact that JTA is an independent authority. I guess I never really thought about what that really entails, but in some ways.. Nat Ford has as much power as our Mayor, within JTA of course (which does stretch outside of Duval). The board for JTA being their City Council.

Where I'm going is... there is a natural conflict of interest to have the mayor & city council in cahoots, and there's checks & balances in place to prevent that. JTA really doesn't have these same checks & balances w/ Nat Ford & the former board. I'll be a little rude in saying this, but you actually have to be idiotic to have allowed the U2C to get this far. You HAVE to be delusional. I could go on why, but I think there's been enough said there. OR, you have to be lied to.

The only possible way I see all these members (because JTA's board wasn't in disagreement over the U2C) being in agreement, is some shady stuff. I think it would be hard to argue that all those board members were so incompetent, that they had no reservations about the U2C at all. These are educated and intelligent people with great careers.. See I think theres been a lot of manipulation going on, and all of this is just coming around to Nat now.

- Donna replaces every Mayoral appointment to the JTA board
- City Council Members speaking out against it
- Nat Ford hit piece

The next domino is the big big hit piece. I've said it before, and will say it again.. but this is a JEA-level scandal... decade long... $100M+ in used funds when Phase 1 gets going. This has been in the works for a while. Nat Ford loaded the board, manipulated information, and is now facing the ugly consequences of believing in technology that trillion dollar companies have issues with.

This really is not a surprise, and his salary has no meaningful impact on this city or JTA. The meaningfulness here, is a de-factor dictator for JTA is getting called out for being the used car salesmen he is with AV's/EV's. Spending big dollars on trips, maybe not even going to the office(?), and blindly leading an entire agency down this path is why the issue of his salary is being brought up. Frankly, if he implemented the U2C, he could go get a job at Tesla or Google making $2M+. It's all about the result that he has provided for JTA, and my best bet is that his writing is on the wall with those that control strings locally.

This is the big boy league, and a little city transit authority sure ain't even in the minors.

LOVE THIS ANALYSIS.

I hope you're right!

marcuscnelson

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #23 on: November 14, 2023, 08:51:38 PM »
Tonight's segment available here, this time about lobbying for funding dollars.

Again, this felt like a bit of a miss. I'm not sure any transit agency CEO has to formally register as a lobbyist on behalf of their agency, because that's essentially a given. It'd be like the mayor formally registering as a lobbyist on behalf of the city.

They mention JTA's contracts to firms for lobbying services. Holland & Knight's $90k in federal lobbying apparently brought home $6.6 million this year alone, so I guess they're pulling their weight. But they then note that the $120k for Ballard Partners and $78k for Southern Group haven't reportedly resulted in any money, which seems odd if you just look back a bit. The event Action News caught Nat Ford at was about the Emerald Trail, which by itself has received $132 million in city funding originally meant for the U2C, which they continue to not mention, along with Janett Walker-Ford's job at WSP. Again, it's not to say that these aren't worth suspicion, but they seem like smaller apples compared to much more glaring issues with Ford's tenure.

They did finally clarify that Ford spent about $41k on travel this year, though. Still quite a bit of money to be jet-setting with, but not the $189k we were kind of led to believe.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

iMarvin

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2023, 06:58:57 PM »
Was there another segment of this? We can only hope the U2C expose is coming soon.

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2023, 11:22:41 AM »
JTA COO now departing and, apparently, taking a pay cut to do so.  Rats off a sinking ship?

Quote
JTA COO leaving post to become chief at Chattanooga transit authority

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is losing its chief operating officer, as Charles Frazier has been hired as executive director job of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority in Tennessee.

This is the third departure of a JTA leader in recent months. Bernard Schmidt left as vice president of automation and innovation in July, and former Chief Financial Officer Greg Hayes departed his position in September.

Frazier joined JTA in 2021, taking on the responsibility for “the safety, productivity, and accountability of transit operations” related to JTA’s transit systems. He came to the Jacksonville agency after four years as the CEO of the Rock Region Metropolitan Transit Authority, which provides public transportation in Pulaski County, Arkansas.

According to Chattanoogan.com, Frazier was unanimously selected for the position, which he'll take over in January. The position pays $235,000, with a relocation budget of $26,000. He'll be eligible for an annual performance-based bonus, along with a car allowance. He presently makes $255,000 annually at JTA.

During his time at JTA, Frazier headed up oversight and strategic planning for the First Coast Flyer network, the St. Johns River Ferry, fixed bus routes, paratransit, regional and alternative mobility services, and the agency’s service planning and vehicle maintenance departments.

One of the notable accomplishments during Frazier's time at JTA was assisting with the development of MOVE 2027, with the acronym standing for Mobility Optimization through Vision and Excellence.

"It's a bold, strategic plan, (spread over) five years," Frazier said. "There's seven initiative, 39 strategies and 100 tactics. That working document was a huge accomplishment, just working with the community and the board and our employees."

He also noted several programs and partnerships from the perspective of community impact.

"One of those is called Read USA," Frazier said. "They're a nonprofit, and they hire tutors and seniors in high school to tutor elementary school students, and they utilize the JTA's ReadiRide service to get those students to and from the elementary schools, and then home. That's a project I'm really proud of. It's a pilot program that we're about 10 weeks into."

Among efforts he won't be able to see through to completion is everything going into the Ultimate Urban Circulator, including the Bay Street Innovation Corridor.

"It really has put Jacksonville on an international stage, and so I wish I could be here to see that," Frazier said.

JTA announced in September the hiring of former Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority CFO Raj Srinath to fill the role left by Hayes, while Kiet Dinh, who came to Jacksonville after being the project delivery manager with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, is the new vice president of automation and innovation.

https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2023/11/17/frazier-jta-coo-leaving.html?utm_source=st&utm_medium=en&utm_campaign=me&utm_content=JA&ana=e_JA_me&j=33403147&senddate=2023-11-17&empos=p4

marcuscnelson

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #26 on: November 24, 2023, 08:11:41 PM »
Another segment on Tuesday. This time about Ford's time spent in the office. It's pretty striking, honestly. In the 6 months Action News requested, of 125 possible working days, Ford only swiped into his office 65 times, 6 of which were on days he was going to travel. The remainder appear to have been spent traveling, to Spain, Hawaii, and other destinations.

Now sure, presumably there are other JTA executives who might handle some of the day-to-day responsibilities, which allow Ford to be out and about more. But I don't think CEOs/EDs/GMs at similarly sized or larger agencies are actually out of town for half the year. And those people are probably not being paid nearly seven hundred thousand dollars a year (including travel) to do so.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

fsu813

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #27 on: November 24, 2023, 11:40:30 PM »
JTA COO now departing and, apparently, taking a pay cut to do so.  Rats off a sinking ship?

The CFO was let go a couple months ago, as well.

marcuscnelson

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2023, 10:05:46 PM »
There have been several developments in Action News' reporting.

These include a report on JTA's lagging performance compared to other Florida transit agencies, one that has led JTA to seek that the metrics by which the Florida Transportation Commission rates them be changed.

Another report discusses the way in which JTA's Board of Directors has largely allowed Ford to proceed unimpeded with his initiatives and avoided explaining themselves to the press, in what a University of Washington professor terms "a classic democratic accountability problem with a series of what economists would call principal agent problems."

Coverage also includes Friday's board meeting, in which hours were spent praising Ford's performance and the U2C program, in spite of their admittance that the Bay Street Innovation Corridor will rely on vans with autonomous "kits" due to Buy America issues and reports of declining budget surpluses even as service remains mostly minimal.

And finally, tonight, JTA's mechanics voted to strike, potentially risking service right before Gameday Express service.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

Charles Hunter

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Re: Taken for a Ride? Action News investigates Nat Ford
« Reply #29 on: February 12, 2024, 08:23:00 PM »
As part of Action News' series on JTA, tonight they highlighted a portion of the Transportation Bill (HB 1301) making its way through the Florida Legislature. The AN team did say but hinted, that their reporting may have led to a provision in the bill. Action News reports (from JTA budget materials) that JTA spends 22% of their annual budget on Administrative costs. However, they do not report on the "average of all transit agencies" percentage, so it is impossible to say if JTA's 22% would trigger the proposed statutory limit. Another wrinkle is that JTA is a multi-modal agency with highways and ferry boats (or is that 'transit'?) in their purview. Will JTA have to do some parsing of their administrative budget between "transit" and "not transit" expenses?

https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/investigates/florida-bill-may-bring-sweeping-changes-jta-after-action-news-jax-investigation/OHFTFRYNA5D5RL3ANFQP2CMIB4/

Quote
(Line 313, page 13)
(b) Each public transit provider, during a publicly noticed meeting, shall annually certify that its budgeted and actual administrative costs are not greater than 10 percent above the annual state average of administrative costs.

The section defines "administrative costs" and directs FDOT to
Quote
(c) ... determine the annual state average of administrative costs by calculating the annual administrative costs of all the public transit providers in this state.

The bill also specifically states these provisions apply to agencies created under Chapters 343 and 349 - Chapter 349 created the JTA.


Link to the bill: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h1301c2.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=1301&Session=2024