Sunday, July 26, 2015

Go Hillsborough Cheerleading Begins

Apparently dismayed by the lack of support across the political spectrum, Go Hillsborough supporters have kicked off their private campaign. The headline, and I'm not making this up, is Hillsborough businesses ready to cheer sales tax hike for transportation.
Business organizations are gearing up to lead the campaign to pass a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects if county commissioners agree to put the tax on the November 2016 ballot.

The campaign will begin to come together sometime early next year following a December vote by commissioners to put the measure on the ballot. How the campaign will be structured is unclear, though both business and government leaders expect the business community to be in the forefront.
This comes as no surprise, as multiple Hillsborough County Commissioners have stated on numerous occasions they expect to work with private business to develop an advocacy campaign. Despite their spin, this is just like Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010, and Friends of Greenlight in 2014.

We know how those turned out.

It does seem rather early, as we're still a few months off from the commission voting to put the sales tax referendum on the ballot. There are still over 50 more community workshops to be scheduled supposedly to gain further constituents input buy votes across the county, led by rail crony Parsons-Brinkerhoff, and their sidekick, Beth Leytham.
“I think we’re looking at how we build a coalition of organizations like ourselves to be out there and talking about this,” said Mickey Jacob, co-chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce transportation council. “We want to be right in the middle of the debate and the discussion.”
Jacob is playing the part he was expected to perform when the County Commission appointed him to the HART Board last year.  The County Commission replaced Steve Polzin, a well recognized transportation expert on the HART board with Jacob, an urban architect and Chamber of Commerce leader. Jacob stated last year when he was appointed to HART
"[W]e have to look at the culture of our community to start to change the behavior of everyone to embrace different modes of transportation, and that’s not an easy process,"
Conveniently, the Tribune did not disclose that Jacob is currently on the HART board.

We wonder how Jacob will balance his position on the HART board with his Go Hillsborough advocacy.

Commissioner Ken Hagan is aware of the conflicts, risks and mistakes that the unethical Greenlight campaign made taking its education advocacy up to the legal edge in 2014.
That won’t happen in Hillsborough, said County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who does not see the Hillsborough Area Transit Authority playing a major role in the Go Hillsborough campaign.

“I do not envision the county or HART being involved in any manner regarding the private-sector campaign; I think that’s dangerous ground,” Hagan said. “I think PSTA ended up making fatal flaw. We want to avoid the self-inflicted grenade even getting remotely close.”
Again, we ask, how will Jacob balance his position on the HART board with his Go Hillsborough advocacy?

But the county may not be completely hands off the campaign.
Hagan said he expects a private-sector campaign committee will be formed after the first of the year to raise money and provide oversight. [County Administrator Mike] Merrill said the group will likely “organize themselves.”

Hagan said he wants to see a citizens advisory committee that includes some neighborhood leaders to advise the campaign’s executive committee.
Will this citizens advisory committee be truly representative of the citizens in Hillsborough County? Will it include those that have expressed grave concerns with the Go Hillsborough plan? Will in include those who voted against the plan in 2010, which failed 42% - 58%?

Why are we still here?  Perhaps a clue from the clueless
Business leaders often back such referendums because of a widely perceived nexus between economic development and a top-flight road and mass transit network. Surveys by economic development groups show the Tampa area’s transportation network is a major drawback in the eyes of out-of-town business leaders considering a move here.

“From my perspective, the issue that keeps coming up over and over is transportation,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. “And it’s critical we respond and be able to say, ‘Look: We’re doing something about it.’ ”
The problem is they are trying to fix our transportation issues around a politicized, centralized plan to promote economic development rather than solely focusing on improving mobility.

Our leaders have wrapped themselves around the axle of some ill defined mega-plan around "walkable communities", mythical millennials, and neighborhoods that we all can "live, work and play" in.

Fix mobility, then everything else will follow. 

Since 2010, our leaders have accomplished nothing except bloviating and procrastinating on improving our transportation.  They've negligently avoided examining and re-prioritizing the existing budget. With increasing revenues, the County could have developed some incremental projects, identified some quick wins, or proposed increased funding options they can implement without a referendum.  But it would take leadership and expending political capital to do so.  

That's why we are where still here today, where we were in 2010.

The County Commission has accomplished nothing in the last 4 and 1/2 years since the defeat of Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010.

Now they're planning to do the same thing again.  

The results are predictable.  There is little support for a 30 year sales tax increase, and even less trust in the process.

We ask again.  What is their Plan B?

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