Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekend Update

A couple of quick hits on things that grabbed our interest over the weekend.

Joe Henderson of the Trib is sounding a bit resigned about some of the missteps around the GoHillsborough transportation outreach and planning effort in Hillsborough County.
I remain skeptical, however, that voters will approve any sales tax increase, no matter the benefits. The need was great in 2010, too, but that didn’t stop voters from shooting down a similar referendum.
Joe did reach out Sharon, co-author of this blog, for some of her thoughts:
I reached out to Sharon Calvert of the Tampa tea party. She is a regular at transportation meetings and is as well-informed as anyone on the subject. Although I don’t always agree with her views, particularly on rail (I’m for it; she is not), Calvert makes a good point that leaders should consider before this referendum plan gets too far down the, um, tracks.

“I would like to see them come back with several scenarios,” she said. “I would like to see that discussion held first before tying everything into a sales tax. The logical sequence of questions that should be asked is what is (the tax) for, and how long is it for?”
Sharon's statement's are on point, of course, especially given Commissioner Ken Hagan's recent comments promoting a sales tax hike before the plans are developed
“I’ve consistently advocated over the past two years that we’ve had these PLG meetings that we have a measured and methodical approach,” Hagan told the group. “But I’ve got to tell you, I feel it’s time to bring this in for a landing.”
Which of course, Sharon addressed earlier this week.

Speaking of Ken Hagan, he's already back in the news today. The Trib reported he's considering skirting around the spirt, if not the letter of the law, to run for his old county commission seat, perhaps as soon as 2016.
Term limits, popular among Florida voters, have shown limited success in breaking the cycle of career politicians.
Nowhere is that clearer than in Hillsborough County, where one county commissioner is giving some thought to a first-of-its-kind move that could lengthen his total time in office to 20 years.
Commissioner Ken Hagan, a Republican, said he hasn’t ruled out leaving his countywide District 5 seat midterm to run next year in his old north-county District 2. The move hinges on whether District 2 incumbent Victor Crist quits to run for circuit court clerk, a move Crist said he is considering.

By switching back to his home-district seat, Hagan could avoid being forced out of office by term limits in 2018 and start a new clock — one that would allow him to stay on the commission until as late as 2024.

Hagan said the move is a long shot, but the prospect exposes a loophole in the county’s term limit law that the authors of the county charter never envisioned.
Perhaps the county charter never envisioned such attempts to thwart the constituents will, but this is rather callous to think he can get away with it. Which he might, given the war chest he's amassed of over $300,000 from his last campaign, when he had no opposition.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan
Perhaps he's focused on unfinished business over the 12 years (as of 2016) he will have been on the BOCC. He still wants to bring in the Rays into Hillsborough... and he may be wanting to control any big wad of money that would come in from his proposed sales tax transportation referendum in 2016.

He's not committed, so we... and everyone else... need to stay tuned.

Which ties back to transportation yet again.  As it must be that time of the month for the Trib editorial board to promote increasing transportation taxes yet again.
As Commissioner Ken Hagan told the panel overseeing the development of a transportation plan, “... it’s time to bring this in for a landing.”
If citizens want any meaningful improvements to a system that includes more than 12,000 lane miles, 700 bridges and 600 signalized intersections, it seems to us a 1-cent sales tax increase, which would raise $6 billion over 30 years, will be necessary.

The county has more than $3 billion in immediate transportation needs — about $750 million in maintenance needs alone. By way of comparison, the county has spent $1.3 billion on transportation in the last 20 years. It can’t deal with its backlog of problems, much less meet future needs, with existing funding sources.
Yes, but we still have no plan. The GoHillsborough folks are still working on it.
There have been 26 public sessions throughout the county in which more than 1,400 residents have participated. About 12,000 citizens participated in two telephone town halls. That is far more people than generally get involved in community discussions.
That's an average of about 54 people at each of the 26 public sessions throughout the county.  That's not a very high bar for participation in our opinion, especially, as we've documented on several occasions, we are spending nearly $300,000 for the PR and outreach phases in the GoHillsborough plan.

We agree with the Trib we have transportation issues. We also agree the outreach is at least better than 2010. However, we already have more than a good idea about our problems and what we can do to get started NOW.

Why wait 2 more years to improve traffic signal timings?

Why wait 2 more years to add to HARTs TDP?

Why wait 2 more years to begin to think about improving Hillsborough's neglected F-rated roads, with over a 1.5 million trips per day?

Why wait 2 more years for a risky sales tax hike and put all your eggs in one basket, rather than take a look at the Hillsborough County budget and make some choices based on the high priorities of transportation... now? If only to get started on some quick wins?

Perhaps the Trib is coming around.
We still believe rail should be part of the community’s future, but citizens have shown their wariness. Better to start with a less ambitious plan and build support.
Or, as Joe Henderson concluded
But while they’re doing that, the clock is running.

It will be about 20 months before a referendum can be held.

Even if it passes, new buses, routes and roadwork won’t appear the next day.

If it doesn’t pass?

I hope Hagan and others have a Plan B in case their powers of persuasion fail to sway enough votes.
Their cause is just. The need is great. And no matter what, it’s going to cost a lot of money.

I think I just lost everyone on that final point, didn’t I?
Joe, your point is well taken. But why wait 2 years when there are quick wins we can get started on now?

1 comment:

  1. This will be great: keep hagan around for another 10 yrs and bring back ole jim norman for an encore. Add ex-con kevin white and we'll have a BOCC from the "way back machine". More sprawl, corruption, insider deals and all around incompetence. Just like the old days.