Friday, November 7, 2014

Respect Voters and the Consent of the Governed

It's been several days since Greenlight Pinellas and the Polk County transit referendum were overwhelmingly defeated and the question of "what's next" is being asked. 

Both in Hillsborough and Pinellas, we keep hearing we're going to be put through a second referendum because the power brokers did not like the first answer they got from voters. Some elected officials and special interests organizations want us to continue down the same path, despite what the voters said. They will tout that it often takes two, sometimes three attempts for "them" to finally ram a boondoggle referendum through.

Look at other cities, "they" say, like Denver, St. Louis, Phoenix where initial initiatives were defeated but subsequent referendums got passed.

This question was raised by LightRailNow blog:  

If rail has previously been rejected by voters, but a new rail measure is subsequently presented for a vote, how long does it take to achieve successful voter approval for rail?
Here's their answer based on looking at 6 such cases since 2000.

Years between Rail Referendum Rejected and
 later referendum Passed
They concluded:  
The process of re-submitting a rail transit measure to a vote may depend not so much on public attitudes but on the determination of sponsoring officials, their responsiveness to public input, and their willingness to re-craft specific project details to more closely conform to public needs and desires.
Sounds like what we see in Hillsborough County with the Transportation Policy Leadership Group and their mercenary force of Parsons Brinckerhoff. 

This is the agenda of try, try again until "they" win. 

According to a Mineta Transportation Institute study of ballot initiatives with rail transit component, success or failure criteria:
  • Passing transit initiatives in communities featuring transit agencies of questionable reputations, in those fielding credible opposition, or those lacking a traffic congestion “crisis” is extremely difficult  
  • Support for transportation-related tax increases from business community and key elected officials is apparently linked to their close involvement in development of the package 
  • Attracting campaign funds in excess of $1 million seems essential to effectively promoting transit initiatives. 
  • Importance for community consensus amongst the business, elected and environmental communities  
  • Importance of utilizing experienced campaign consultant 
  • Specified routes to increase perceptions of individual benefits 
  • Threats of tangible service cuts  
  • Effectiveness of a region’s predominant newspaper in portraying an initiative in a positive or negative light
Was that the playbook of Greenlight Pinellas and the 2010 rail referendum in Hillsborough?

I would add also those pushing rail consistently regurgitate talking points attempting to create generalized false narratives that factual data do not support. I call that deception.

The Mineta study also pointed out the need to include roads:
Failure to include funds for highway improvements risks alienating transit nonusers, who are typically a majority.
In other words, throw some roads in to your rail boondoggle for voter bait to gain support because a majority of people want roads not trains. 

The study concludes that the most important factors for success was "high-profile support from both political leadership and the business communities."
While the high-profile political leaders may change, the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Chambers of Commerce continue spending their time and resources to push "their" rail agenda.

Voters in Hillsborough and Pinellas have soundly said NO once to high cost rail projects. Voters in Polk County have said NO twice to transit related referendums. 

Where is respect for the voters? 

Do our elected officials not believe in the "consent of the governed"? 

Do our elected officials not believe in the intelligence of their own constituents?  

As Florida DOT Secretary recently stated:
We need to create a framework for private entrepreneurship to lead the way,” argued Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad during a panel at the ITS World Congress. “Legislation at the state and federal level needs to be loosened up.” 
In many cases, public-private partnerships will have a larger role in financing new transportation projects
We need mobility solutions now, with the highest priority to fund our roads first because 98% of us use them everyday.

Our county commissioners should not continue holding our road funding hostage to push another boondoggle referendum. 

Is it the proper role of government to "transform" or redesign our county using our tax dollars to try to coerce or force us to get out of our cars and use transit?

Let's not go backwards and gamble billions of tax dollars that forces us to be stuck on last century's infrastructure. 

The future is going to bring innovative transportation solutions, options and competitive services we may only dream of today, that could make costly rail systems irrelevant and obsolete tomorrow.
The future will include roads and buses need roads, so let's fund them now.

Please respect Voters and the "Consent of the Governed".

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