Monday, July 20, 2015

La Gaceta takes down GoHillsborough

We wrote recently the leaders of the GoHillsborough initiative better take notice, as groups across the political spectrum are aligning against the proposed sales tax referendum.

Now its causing some disagreement among Democrats running for Hillsborough County Commission.
"My position is it's not enough," said Tom Scott, a former Democratic county commissioner and Tampa city council member who is running for county commissioner again in District 6.
"I'm optimistic about the direction it's heading," [Brian] Willis said. "What I'm seeing is there are needs everywhere across this county and if it's a plan that allows the city of Tampa to build rail and address mass transit needs while allowing the county to go forward with its needs, that's going to be a good plan."
[Pat] Kemp, meanwhile, is not weighing in yet, though she said she's "somewhat disappointed by the commitment to transit" in the half-cent proposal.
We can now count another, Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta, the influential local Latin newspaper.
Two weeks ago, this column endorsed a “No” vote on the Go Hillsborough half-penny sales tax increase for transportation. It was the first time in our long memory of our history that La Gaceta endorsed against a sales tax, property tax or special assessment increase when the money was to be used for a range of improving public infrastructure including transportation, schools, public safety, sports facilities, environmental lands, sewer, water and/or storm water.
One week ago, we met with County Administrator Mike Merrill on this topic. We listened to his pitch on why we should give our support. We came away unmoved. We shared with him that we think the plan was designed to appeal to the area’s far right. That it was a transportation plan to appease those who frowned on investing in all forms of mass transit. The plan embraces more roads, wider roads, faster roads and roads for the rich as the only answer to Hillsborough County’s future transportation needs. We told him in spite of the plan’s design, the far right would fail to support it and that he would lose the normally dependable support of the left.
We don't often agree with Mantiega, there is much we agree with in his commentary... and things we disagree. While he thinks the plan "was designed to appeal to the area’s far right", we got news for Mantiega -- the "far right" will surely not vote for GoHillsborough in its current form.

The traffic jam will continue with GoHillsborough
We at the Eye believe the plan is too dispersed with it's something for everyone, making too many promises, and betting the house on a sales tax increase referendum in 2016. Not to mention 30 years is way too long to plan this effort. We'd rather start doing things now rather than wait for this initiative to fail yet again. What ever the plan, it must address roads now and in the future, since that is the one thing all of us use and benefit from, and Hillsborough County has done little to invest in its largest asset in the last decade.

Manteiga picks up on some of our recent thoughts.
The consultant says traffic is the most important issue concerning voters. That it far exceeds our concerns regarding crime, jobs and the economy. Yet, the County just announced $100,000,000 in additional revenues that will be used mostly for raises not roads. We understand that just two percent of the $100,000,000 will go to maintenance. That’s just wrong.
He also picks up on the sleight of hand on the polling, which we reported on earlier.
The poll also shows that 95 percent of those polled believe taxes are either “much too high,” “somewhat too high” or “about right,” yet the poll later shows the contradiction of 53 percent supporting more taxes to “pay for traffic congestion relief.”
Go Hillsborough insists that a sales tax increase of a half-cent is the only type of tax voters will approve to fund transportation, but it’s obvious to people in the survey biz that the poll was designed to skew the numbers.
He further states, "We even heard that a recent, non-biased, larger-sampled poll of just Democrats showed this tax can’t pass with that group. That kills this tax."

Manteiga concludes,
This tax will fail with the voters, so why all the smoke and mirrors to convince the County Commission to place it on the ballot?
The only conspiracy theory we can come up with is money. We believe those who are heading this charge want to be hired to run the losing campaign and continue to be paid by the County for additional studies.
As we've published, the circle of money between the Hillsborough County Commissioners, direct select non-contested million dollar contract awarded to rail crony Parsons-Brinkerhoff, which hired local political lobbyist and PR operative Beth Leytham, who promptly donated to several commissioners... who can't be bothered to make the hard decisions -- examine the current budget, identify quick win projects, or spend political capital to lead the county, has led us to similar conclusions.

Several constituencies across the county, even some reliable pro-tax Democrats, are lining up against GoHillsborough. It's still early, so our county leaders should listen, and make some quick adjustments before its gets ugly.  It's now time to come up with Plan B.

You can read Mantiega's takedown of GoHillsborough here.  Go ahead, read the whole thing.

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