Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Death of Go Hillsborough

The impact of WTSP's Noah Pranksy's ongoing reporting on Go Hillsborough, is still rumbling throughout Tampa Bay like 20 straight days of thunderstorms in July.

Regardless how the audit, investigation, lobbying reforms, hand wringing, etc. turns out, Go Hillsborough is toast. Done. Fini.

But no one has really caught why Go Hillsborough is dead.

Off the tracks.. and dead!
Sure, as Henderson wrote, 
If the review finds no violations occurred, as Merrill has insisted is the case, opponents will scream it’s a whitewash and business as usual. Even if commissioners went ahead with the referendum, imagine trying to convince a skeptical public that this isn’t an inside job where taxpayers get handed the bill.
True that. With good reason.

We agree with with Mitch Perry as well:
This proposed tax was always going to be a tough sell in a county that overall doesn’t seem to believe it needs to pay more for improved transportation. Now it’ll be even tougher.
True that too.

Yet they are all missing the reality that Go Hillsborough is forever tainted by their own doing, and the real downstream impacts. They can't recover from all the mistakes, lack of transparency, and insider dealings.

They could have learned from the mistakes of the 2010 referendum, but they didn't.

They could have learned from the mistakes of Greenlight Pinellas, but they didn't.

They could have heeded the AECOM study, which we the Hillsborough County taxpayers paid for, but they didn't.

They could have awarded the contract in an open and transparent process, but they didn't.

They could have not hired a crony leader of the rail cartel, Parsons Brinkerhoff, but they didn't.

They could have separated themselves earlier from an insider/PR/lobbyist/advisor/friend who always seems to get the business her way, but they didn't.

You get the picture. 

Hillsborough County Commissioners, the transportation Policy Leadership Group, and county Administrator Mike Merrill made a series of decisions.

Each decision was the wrong decision.

Now Go Hillsborough has to live with that legacy.

Will the expected business interests throw the big money at the real campaign? Will the same businesses that got behind Moving Hillsborough Forward in 2010, and Greenlight Pinellas in 2014 get near this thing?

The Tampa Bay Partnership, Downtown Partnership, Chambers of Commerce, Westshore Alliance, real estate developers, land use attorneys, big banks, real estate associations, et al.

Now they won't touch this thing.

If they do, they'll be tainted as well.

Without the corporate money from a multi-million dollar PAC, there will be no campaign, and no corporate support.  

Without that, no Go Hillsborough.

Time to cut our losses.

It gives me no great pleasure to write this, as we have to fix our transportation problems now.  But it is their own doing.

As we've asked before, and now more than ever.

Where is Plan B?

Time to dump Go Hillsborough, and get started on a new plan. We can start now. Work with the current budget, develop quick wins, demonstrate success, and rebuild confidence.

Before we go for the moon shot.


  1. Plan B:

    Establish a Transportation Trust Fund as follows:

    1) Enact an ordnance that establishes a mobility fee to mitigate the cost of development. A fair mobility fee would yield around $50 million / yr.
    2) Raise the gas tax a nickel. That adds $25 million / yr. A recent Go Hillsborough poll indicates strong support for this increase. It's a user fee.
    3) Pledge 50% of all new money to the Transportation Trust Fund. This year the county found $98.9 million in new funds. much of this money comes from an improving real estate market and the attendant increases in home values.
    4) Announce there will be no referendum for a sales tax increase.

    These actions would yield $125 million a year in today's economy. They require no consultants and can be accomplished with four votes at a county commissioner's meeting. This can be done right now, Remember, we need to do something now. At least one commissioner has stated publicly that $60 million of the $98.9 million could be re-appropriated to transportation.

    In my opinion, if the above actions were taken by our commissioners, the people would stand up and cheer!

  2. We buses propose a full-blown privatization of HART to be enacted IMMEDIATELY!

    HART needs privatization, not expansion!