Saturday, September 14, 2019

PSTA Hosts Central Avenue BRT "Open House" at S Pasadena

The Eye headed to S Pasadena on Wednesday, September 11th, where PSTA hosted an Open House for their proposed $45.6 million Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

We captured a few interviews from St Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson, a S Pasadena business owner whose business is being impacted by this project and a S Pasadena resident.

Watch the interviews after the break - there is some background noise.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

AFT Spokesperson/Vinik Employee Christina Barker Cited in FL Senate Brief

As reported, a Circuit Court Judge threw out major portions of All for Transportation's transit tax, including their mandated spending allocations, as illegal and unlawful. The judge, who is elected and will probably run again, split the baby and left the tax itself still standing.

Numerous appeals have been filed to the Florida Supreme Court. The appeals include those filed by All for Transportation according to this Times article.

Since the legal appeals were filed, the Florida House and Florida Senate have filed amicus curiae briefs with the Florida Supreme Court requesting the Court to strike the entire All for Transportation charter amendment including the tax.

The Florida House and Senate amicus curiae briefs can be found here and here.

The Senate brief states they are joining the brief filed by the House and also states (we included link to Times article referenced):
On September 4, 2019 the Tampa Bay Times published an article that was entitled Hillsborough's transportation tax has a new opponent: the Florida House.  
The article included the following quote from the organizer for All for Transportation, Christina Barker, the sponsor of the referendum at issue in this case: “Hillsborough County voters exercised a right that the Florida Legislature gave them. The fact that this is being walked back now is incredibly disappointing.”

The Senate wishes to appear in this case as an additional amicus curiae and join in the House brief in order to clarify that both Chambers of the Legislature support the House’s position stated therein. The Legislature is united in seeking a proper interpretation and enforcement of section 212.055, Florida Statutes, and in opposing an expansion of the severability doctrine to include local exercises of legislatively delegated non-ad valorem taxation authority.

The Senate agrees with and supports the House position, which respects and protects the voters. Unlawful referendums that do not follow the clear procedures laid out by statute should not be judicially repaired by the trial court. The result reached by the trial court ignores the premise upon which voters may have supported the referendum, namely how the transportation tax would be administered.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Paying the Baseball Lawyer: A Spending Black Hole Benefitting Private Interests?

How much money has been paid to the expensive New York baseball lawyer for Hillsborough county's pursuit of a new Rays baseball stadium?
Irwin Raij
Baseball lawyer contracted to pursue new Rays stadium
There has never been a transparent discussion publicly disclosing the cost of the baseball lawyer or the total costs associated with Hillsborough County pursuing a new stadium. What exactly have taxpayers been paying for?

Monday, August 19, 2019

Time for Sunshine to Get Rid of the Transit Tax Storm Cloud

The All for Transportation (AFT) transit tax is a storm cloud of dishonesty and deception hovering over Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County must get out from under the AFT storm clouds for the county to begin honestly and transparently addressing its transportation issues.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Raise Gas Tax to Spend Less on Transportation

Historically, ad valorem property tax revenues always funded transportation and road projects in Hillsborough County. However, when the recession hit in 2008, all property taxes that was funding transportation was diverted to other items and areas to balance the budget.

As the local economy recovered, those revenues were not re-diverted back to fund transportation and roads.

That finally changed in September 2016 when that Hillsborough County Commission approved a 10 year transportation funding policy.

BOCC Board Policy purpose was "to establish a fiscal policy of the Board of County Commissioners (“BOCC”) that transportation is one of Hillsborough County’s top priorities and that the proposed annual tentative budget for each fiscal year through FY 26 will reflect increases in funding for transportation uses".

The intent of the policy was to use the growth of existing revenues, including the growth of ad valorem property and sales tax revenues, to fund transportation and much needed new road capacity projects in Hillsborough County. The policy specifically excluded mobility fees and any new gas tax fee if implemented after the policy was in place. Those additional transportation revenue sources were intended to SUPPLEMENT the revenues included in the 10 year transportation funding policy.
BOCC 10 year transportation funding policy - mobility fees
& any new gas taxes were to SUPPLEMENT transportation funding
The $812 million transportation funding plan is still in place but we posted here about the attempt to get rid of that funding plan - even as all the legal issues with the All for Transportation $16 Billion transit tax are not yet resolved.

The attempt to officially begin tearing apart the $812 million funding plan starts at tomorrow's BOCC meeting. On the BOCC meeting agenda is item B-2 Revision to BOCC Transportation Funding Policy to:
Approve by supermajority vote the proposed revision to BOCC Policy Section Number regarding transportation funding to provide that the Five Cents Local Option Fuel Tax, if levied by the BOCC, is an eligible funding source under the policy.
What this change does is raise the gas tax on Hillsborough County residents without providing any additional transportation funding - that the BOCC stated was a top priority of the county.

It takes a super majority to implement any change to the 10 year transportation funding policy. It will take at least 5 commissioners to vote for the change.

And any commissioner who votes for this change is voting to raise taxes and spend less on transportation.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Foolish Power Players Supported Flawed Transit Tax

We continue our "Sunlight" series about All for Transportation's legally flawed $16 Billion transit tax and the insiders who were helping them.

We posted here about the genesis of the All for Transportation (AFT) transit tax. Transit advocate and community organizer Kevin Thurman created his "People's Plan" and shopped his transit tax political strategy to inside power players.

According to public records we received, Thurman targeted power players at Tampa International Airport and sent his transit tax presentations to Janet Scherberger last April.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Bait and Switch Launched To Throw Out $812 Million Policy that Funds New Road Capacity

 Dr. Jim Davison and Sharon Calvert contributed to this post.

The bait-and-switch technique is an old and well-known tool in retail and politics. It is one of the most infuriating situations to be in and it is happening in Hillsborough County.

Critics of the All for Transportation (AFT) 30 year $16 Billion transit sales tax voiced their concern over the possibility of such bait and switch occurring if the tax passed.