The role of transportation and land development in Pinellas County took on increased importance with passage of a special act of the Florida Legislature in 2014 unifying a 13-member governing board of local elected officials with responsibility for countywide transportation and land use planning. Pinellas remains Florida’s most densely developed county with nearly one million residents spread among 24 municipalities. Its history of planning and environmental leadership is a critical foundation for how this county moves forward. But we face long-term economic, social and environmental challenges that need visionary, practical and well-integrated solutions to guide transportation and community redevelopment.
The Special Act linked the two legal entities created by state and federal law, the Pinellas Planning Council (PPC) and Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Their work is carried out through a staff services agreement covering the operations of the unified organization. No longer is the MPO a division of the Pinellas County Planning Department, as it had been for years. And no longer is the PPC a regulatory-focused agency bent on adherence to the Countywide Rules. We also have an increasingly important regional transportation role with our partner transportation agencies in Tampa Bay to provide a vision and set of priorities that will move people and freight optimally.
The purpose of the unified PPC/MPO – doing business as Forward Pinellas – is to provide leadership and coordinated land use and transportation decision-making in a county with a unique set of geographic and economic challenges. The law describes the need to coordinate and implement land use and transportation planning in Pinellas County in an integrated manner that reinforces community goals for redevelopment, economic development and quality of life. Through a more streamlined countywide planning process, the PPC is able to provide more strategic, forward-looking, multi-jurisdictional planning and technical assistance that guides and sustains our investments in transportation, use of developable land, and protection of natural and cultural resources. It also gives local governments the ability to adapt and respond quickly to changing needs within that broad countywide framework. The MPO’s role is central to that mission.
Pinellas County’s geography is not like our bigger, fast-growth neighbors in Hillsborough, Manatee or Pasco County. Like Apple, we need to think different. It’s hard work to guide well-designed redevelopment, organized efficiently around transportation networks, public utilities and on land that does not flood. Making sure there’s good access and housing close to services for a range of incomes is especially challenging in a mostly developed county. Redevelopment in Pinellas requires addressing conditions not simply as they are today, but as they may need to become in the future.
The first step involves clarifying who we are to the public. When I started my job almost one year ago, I inherited a confusing miasma of different organizations: two sets of business cards; my employee badge said Pinellas County; our telephone system hold message is an infomercial for Pinellas County government. People who want to learn about transportation and land use planning in Pinellas have two different web sites to visit. We get calls daily about things like swimming pool permits, where people can park, and how they can ride the Pinellas Trail. We send letters out on different sets of letterhead depending on the issue and actions taken by our board.
It’s clear we need to create a new identity that supports our new mission and role.
Why Forward Pinellas?
We did not choose our name easily nor quickly. After careful consideration and consultation with our staff, board and many people both in government and out, we sought a brand identity that we felt best reflected a sense of countywide progress and momentum to meet changing demands. As a transportation planning organization, we also wanted our identity to convey motion – that our focus is helping residents and business get to and from the places they need to go. The logo itself represents the complex and changing environment of land, water and transportation that connects us.
We found that balance in Forward Pinellas. We selected a name, logo and set of messages that frame our role and responsibilities as an organization that
- Gets the job done
- Moves Pinellas County into a brighter future
- Encourages the progress of other government entities
- Facilitates projects moving forward
- Helps the public move
We’ve developed the following mission statement to guide our activities.
“Forward Pinellas will provide leadership to align resources and plans that help to achieve a compelling vision for Pinellas County, our individual communities and our region.”
That mission is reinforced by our planning and coordination activities, how we conduct ourselves professionally and through an organizational culture of ethical public service, creative problem-solving and continuous learning.
We have filed a fictitious name request with the Department of State, as other government agencies and MPOs around the country have done, and will begin doing business as Forward Pinellas in all our communications. We will continue legal functions as the PPC and MPO, acting consistently within state and federal legislation to adopt and amend our plans, programs and agreements.
We are hiring a communications specialist to help develop and carry out a strategic communications plan that supports our mission. Our new web site – forwardpinellas.org – will be functional in June and we will host a brand unveiling event later this summer to introduce ourselves to the public and our stakeholders.
With our Pinellas SPOTlight Emphasis Areas for US 19, Gateway/Mid-County and Enhancing Beach Community Access, we will work with our regional and local partners to move Pinellas forward. We will do so by being visionary, helping to set and maintain a direction, and answering critical questions. Being forward means making your voice heard and relevant, engaging others to join. Are you forward? Are you Forward Pinellas?