Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Another Black Eye on PSTA and Greenlight Pinellas

PSTA and the Greenlight Pinellas campaign continues to get black eyes.

PSTA has been running their Greenlight Pinellas ads on their buses for months.  So NoTaxForTracks Pinellas decided to request and pay for their own bus ads but PSTA just said No:
No Tax for Tracks, a group opposed to the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit plan, recently offered to pay $15,000 to advertise its logo on the back of five Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses. 
But the group on Friday said it was told that the agency, which is funded through taxpayer dollars, does not allow political advertising and accepts advertising only for companies selling goods or services.
PSTA says they have legal cover for their bus ads because their ads are only educational.
PSTA puts their own Greenlight Pinellas ads on buses
but refuses to put NoTaxForTracks ads
Who is PSTA trying to kid? Where does education begin and ads for a political marketing campaign end?   Does PSTA think education is a one way street?  

Last summer PSTA created an ethically challenged taxpayer funded marketing campaign, targeting specific audiences, to support their transit referendum for light rail and expanded bus service. The Greenlight Pinellas campaign started on a rocky road last summer, before the referendum was ever placed on the ballot in December, when PSTA decided to spend at least $400K or more of taxpayer dollars to hire PR firm Tucker Hall to market their plan.  This was not educational, this was target marketing as Tampa Bay Times reported in January.
But unlike other education campaigns, Greenlight spent little money to spread its message. With no TV or radio commercials, billboard ads or flashy mailers, the campaign was nearly invisible to ordinary voters.
The agency bought ads on Bay News 9's website and in newspapers, including this one ($3,000). It purchased $6,750 in advertising on saintpetersblog.com, a local website read by political insiders and covered 10 of its buses in Greenlight ads (emphasis mine). It spent $700 to increase the number of "likes" it had on Facebook.
We assume PSTA had to spend $700 on Facebook ads or perhaps no one would have liked their page.  

Subsequently the Tampa Tribune reported at the beginning of February that PSTA will spend another $150k or more to continue their pro referendum advocacy campaign. 
PSTA leaders say the campaign will enable voters to make an informed decision on whether to raise the sales tax by one penny to pay for an expanded bus service and a new light-rail network. 
That will mean treading a fine line since state law prohibits tax dollars being spent to influence how residents vote. Nonetheless, the publicly funded campaign will also be used to counter misinformation (emphasis mine) PSTA leaders say is being spread by transit opponents, including the No Tax for Tracks group.
Misinformation?  PSTA/Greenlight Pinellas has been leading the way with misinformation and misleading information:
  • PSTA's Greenlight Pinellas plan page 1 states that Pinellas population will grown by 200K in the next 25 years.  Wrong.  Pinellas has been losing population recently.  As we posted here, the most likely will be a stagnant, no growth population by 2040 but could LOSE 200K over the next 25 years.                                                                                     
  • PSTA's Greenlight Pinellas plan, page 4, shows a misleading map with a connection over the Howard Frankland Bridge, insinuating Greenlight Pinellas goes over the bridge.  As we also posted previously, even local media was misled and reported that Greenlight Pinellas was going over the bridge.  If the media were easily duped, do you think others will be?  
    Greenlight Pinellas DOES NOT go over the Bridge
  • PSTA/Greenlight Pinellas and the power brokers are attempting to sell Greenlight Pinellas as a tax swap: a 14% increase in the sales tax (from 7-8%) generating $130 million and eliminating the existing property tax which generates about $30 million.  If the property tax is eliminated, that's a four fold (4x) tax increase. No one in their right mind calls that a tax swap, that's a huge tax increase.
  • Reality is the ballot language voters are being asked to vote on is misleading.  There is nothing that states the property tax is being eliminated, it's not honest by stating it is a light rail system and insinuates the funding will include "regional connections" over the Howard Frankland.  
    • Title: Levy of Countywide One Percent Sales Surtax to Fund Greenlight Pinellas Plan for Public Transit. 
    • Summary: Shall the improvement, construction, operation, maintenance and financing of public transit benefitting Pinellas County, including an expanded bus system with bus rapid transit, increased frequency and extended hours, local passenger rail and regional connections be funded by levying a one percent sales surtax from January 1, 2016, until repealed, with proceeds initially deposited in a dedicated trust fund?
  • Greenlight Pinellas campaign is making things up as they go along. Greenlight Pinellas has NOTHING to do with roads but with Gov. Scott's recent announcement about the Gateway Express toll road project, suddenly we are being told Greenlight Pinellas was "meant to complement" roads.  
    • State Senator Jeff Brandes, chairman of the Senate Transportation committee, was interviewed last week on WFLA 970 about the Gateway Express project and said this: "The newly announced I- 275 connector in Pinellas to be started in 2017 does not contemplate any involvement with a light rail system. In fact, it would help leverage the assets we already have in Pinellas County and work well with expanding Bus Rapid Transit and managed lanes and steer our conversation away from light rail and all the huge costs of a light rail system. Once this connector is completed you will be able to travel from the Sunshine skyway bridge to north of Countryside Mall without a stop light. This will be a game changer in Pinellas County transit." The entire interview podcast is here.     
What is PSTA/Greenlight Pinellas so afraid of?  The truth! 

PSTA says they have legal cover as long as they do not use the words "vote for" or "support".  Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA, runs all over Pinellas advocating for Greenlight Pinellas with Greenlight Pinellas buttons and handing out goodie bags and the inference is plain as day: PSTA/Greenlight Pinellas is asking you to SUPPORT and VOTE FOR the referendum.  Who's intelligence are they insulting simply because they don't use the words "vote for" or "support"?
Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA, hands out Greenlight Pinellas buttons and  goodie bags
The fact is Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA and leading the taxpayer funded Greenlight Pinellas marketing campaign, attended and even spoke at the recent Yes for Greenlight campaign kick off event on taxpayer funded PSTA time. That is correct.  Taxpayers in Pinellas paid for PSTA CEO to speak at the private pro-referendum campaign kick off that is asking taxpayers to support  the tax increase for Greenlight Pinellas.  Below is a picture of Miller speaking at the event next to the sign stating "Vote Yes on November 4th".  What legal cover does Miller have for that?   We're not lawyers, but is that legal? 
Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA, speaks at the private Yes for Greenlight campaign kick off
standing next to sign stating "Vote Yes on November 4th"
PSTA is using their power to unethically advocate for the referendum and using their power to silence their critics.  

PSTA must allow NoTaxForTracks to buy their bus ads or PSTA needs to remove their bus ads immediately.  

The entire Geenlight Pinellas campaign is imploding. 

PSTA and Greenlight Pinellas have become a victim of their own deceptions and deceit.


  1. "PSTA leaders say the campaign will enable voters to make an informed decision on whether to raise the sales tax by one penny to pay for an expanded bus service and a new light-rail network."

    How in the world can PSTA say it's an informed decision when only one side of the issue is allowed to be educated. I seriously don't know how these people sleep at night.

  2. Like I have been saying how much is EACH politician (and even County worker) who supports GREENLIGHT Pinellas going to make from the deal? Yes they must be looking at a windfall profit in their personal accounts if this goes through!!!!!!!