Friday, February 26, 2016

No Go Hillsborough

Support for Go Hillsborough is dwindling on the county commission. Good! 

Commissioner Beckner offered up his alternative plan that included a 10 year 1/2 percent sales tax hike at the Budget and Transportation Workshop held Thursday afternoon.

And Commissioner Hagan, Mayor Buckhorn and County Administrator Merrill are not happy. Even Better!

It is revealing what the Times and the Tribune reported from the meeting and some reaction to it. We note the media did not bash Beckner for offering up his alternative plan, even later in the game than Commissioner Murman did last year, like they bashed Murman. Is our media sexist?

From the Times:
County Commissioner Kevin Beckner at a budget workshop Wednesday revealed his vision of a 10-year, half-cent sales tax that would fund transportation improvements.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the Beckner plan "threw the cities under the bus" and negates 2½ years of effort, including nearly 100 public meetings that led to the drafting of Go Hillsborough. That plan, originally supported by Hillsborough's mayors and a majority of county commissioners, has faced a series of setbacks in addition to critiques from the tea party. 
"The vast majority of us were willing to take that risk and not back down in the face of three tea party bloggers sitting in their underwear in their basements in Ruskin," Buckhorn said. "That's not leadership." 
"It kills any option for mass transit, particularly rail in the urban corridor," Buckhorn said. "Without a 30-year time frame, I can't go to the bond market to issue debt. You can't do major, major infrastructure projects like rail without issuing debt."
Desperation can often cause stupid actions. The peeping Tom Mayor of downtown Tampa only Buckhorn has now been reduced to bashing bloggers in basements in Ruskin. Huh? We don't have basements in Florida. But It is Buckhorn and his cronies who are being investigated by law enforcement - not any bloggers.

Buckhorn wants to blame critics from the Tea Party for the Go Hillsborough crony mess he helped create. Buckhorn conveniently ignores the critics from his own political party, the Sierra Club and others. Is Beckner a Tea Partier?

Buckhorn also ignores that even as power brokers (him) and unelected bureaurcrats (perhaps illegally) have been begging the business community to pony up $2 million for an advocacy campaign, no one has stepped up to lead the charge.

Buckhorn and the city of Tampa did not take any risk with  Go Hillsborough. The city of Tampa never paid a dime for Go Hillsborough. Buckhorn got to sit back and ride the coattails of county taxpayers who paid for the $1.35 million crony, phony, baloney Go Hillsborough campaign.

Buckhorn created risk with Go Hillsborough by helping to hand his own campaign consultant, the politically well connected Beth Leytham, hundreds of thousands of county taxpayer dollars to run the Go Hillsborough campaign. We're left assuming he thought no one would care and everyone would look the other way. Those silly bloggers - they kept refusing to look the other way.

So much for Buckhorn leadership - it can lead to cronyism and law enforcement investigations.

Also reported by the Times:
Beckner, a Democrat, said he's had to deal with opposition to Go Hillsborough from his side of the political aisle, as well.
Proof again that Buckhorn is out of touch with his own constituents.

When Go Hillsborough first proposed the 1/2 percent sales tax hike last summer, we said they were making ground sausage - a plan that no one likes.

The Tribune reported about the meeting too:
After two years of meetings and public workshops, Hillsborough commissioners are not even close to a consensus on how to pay for needed road and mass transit improvements.  
The level of division on the seven-person board was evident Wednesday as yet another commissioner came forward with an alternative to the Go Hillsborough transportation plan developed last year at a cost of $1.3 million.

But Jean Duncan, director of Tampa’s Transportation and Stormwater Department, said reducing the tax to 10 years would hurt the city’s efforts to attract federal funds to extend the city’s street car system and to build a commuter rail from downtown to Tampa International Airport. “We need a 30-year plan to leverage those dollars for the street car extension and the rail extension to TIA, and 30 years is needed for operations and maintenance,” Duncan, who was at the commissioner workshop, said. “The 10 years does not support transit in that regard.”
It is about time the public hears some differing opinions on this county commission. Let the sparks fly. Transparency in the Sunshine has been sorely lacking on this commission for a long time.  The county commission needs to stop rubber stamping so many things and take control back from County Administrator Mike Merrill - an unelected County Administrator who works for them not the other way around.

Thank you Jean Duncan. Finally, someone is publicly admitted the only reason for a 30 year sales tax hike for a 10 year plan is to fund Buckhorn's high cost trains. We've been saying that since the 30 year sales tax hike was proposed.

In the Times article Buckhorn also stated "You can't do major, major infrastructure projects like rail without issuing [30 year] debt."

Duncan and Buckhorn confirmed Go Hillsborough is 2010 all over again.

The Tribune also reported:
Hagan, in an apparent effort to call Murman out, suggested that commissioners who supported a gas tax increase “put it on the floor and we’ll vote it up or down.” Murman didn’t bite. 
“I heard it through the grapevine that was coming; I was prepared for the comment,” Murman said after the meeting, referring to Hagan’s ploy. “But to totally discount any options would be premature. Not knowing if the half-cent referendum is going to pass our commission, do you want to be left with no options?” 
Hagan expressed frustration that commissioners, who in just six weeks will vote on whether to hold the referendum, are still floating alternatives that will not address the county’s backlog of failed roads and lack of transit. 
“We spent nearly three years illustrating our enormous transportation deficit and the dire straits of our transportation network,” Hagan said. “We are weeks away from scheduling a referendum and we are still chasing our tails.”
Good for Murman for not taking Hagan's bait. Who orchestrated that strategy behind the green curtain? We can only speculate - Hagan's close confidante Beth Leytham, the Wizard of Oz of County Center Mike Merrill, BOCC Chair Miller or all of them?

We do know it was an intentional tactic by Hagan to take raising gas taxes, a user fee for roads, off the table as a funding source for our roads. Hagan's strategy backfired and his repetitive  talking points are stale and robotic.

Hagan admits what we have always been saying. Go Hillborough was never intended to be an honest, transparent public engagement effort. It was a marketing campaign to push another huge sales tax hike on the ballot. His admission is backed up by his own action trying to take other funding options off the table.

No opportunities were provided for the PLG/county commissioners to transparently, honestly and openly discuss all funding options throughout the entire Go Hillsborough process. It is better late than never for the county commissioners to have these important discussions in the Sunshine. It is disingenuous for Hagan to lament that now others are "floating alternatives" to the Go Hillsborough's proposed sales tax hike when the discussion never occurred.

Lessons learned from the Go Hillsborough mess is our electeds must listen to their constituents, address valid issues and concerns when raised- don't let the issues fester, and stop listening to the special interests and unelected bureaucrats pushing their own political agendas.

Regardless of what comes out of the investigation, Go Hillsborough continues its downward spiral.

With Commission support dwindling in the run up to any Commission vote,

It is now No Go Hillsborough!


  1. You finally have vindication on what you have been saying all along. GO Hillsborough was never a transportation plan but a "Tax for Tracks" in sheep's clothing. GO Hillsborough is dead and the Tax for Track is again trying to make it to the ballot.