Monday, July 30, 2018

Vinik Tax Hike DOUBLES County Sales Tax Revenue, Increases COUNTY'S Tax Rate 100%

Guest post from Hillsborough County resident and small business owner Tim Curtis.

Who among the "Transit Tax Hike supporters" will tell the whole truth about Vinik's transit tax hike petition effort to raise the total sales tax rate in Hillsborough County to 8% - the highest in the state?

The so-called “one penny” or $.01 increase isn't a "1%" or even a 14+% increase. This is a county levied tax hike. It is a 100% INCREASE in the COUNTY Sales Tax Rate.

As a small business owner, the current state sales tax rate I must collect and remit to the state is 6%. The other 1% of the current 7% total sales tax rate collected is the county sales tax rate. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that an increase from 1% to 2% is a 100% PERCENT INCREASE.

The transit tax hike will DOUBLE the county's sales tax rate with the vast majority of the 100%  increase in the county sales tax revenue paid by taxpayers in unincorporated Hillsborough.

Local media, including Sue Carlton and others at the Vinik bailed out Tampa Bay Times, continue misleading the public that this is a “one penny” tax hike. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Instead of this “mad dash” to unnecessarily take an additional $15-18 BILLION out of taxpayer pockets, the mad dash should be insisting elected officials properly prioritize the current and growing county revenues. Ensure our county roads, neglected for almost a decade, are fixed first and then lets talk about where additional transportation funding is needed.

Two years ago, the BOCC-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) diligently examined the county budget. They prepared a report, unanimously approved by the bipartisan CAC, containing recommendations on the budget. The CAC meticulously identified $3 BILLION in potential savings.

Why is there a “mad dash” to unnecessarily increase the county sales tax rate 100% instead of a “mad dash” to examine whether the identified potential savings in other areas of the county budget can be used to fund transportation?

Hillsborough County and the local economy is growing – both resulting in booming revenues unanticipated a few short years ago.

I personally know the misleading talking points being used by those gathering petition for the 100% county sales tax rate hike petition effort.

Last week at my place of business, I was approached by a nice young lady who asked if I would “sign her petition”. I engaged her in conversation and learned she had only recently relocated to Tampa from out of state and was doing this work to earn money.

I applaud her for that and assume a temp agency is being used to hire paid petition gatherers.

However, I asked some very pointed but polite questions about the petition and she told me she was told “it is a one per cent increase”. When I questioned her again and showed her the math questioning how that can be, she assured me that she was told “one per cent”.

Obviously, people that was hired to gather the transit tax hike petitions know nothing about Hillsborough County or the transportation issue.

The city of Tampa power brokers behind this Vinik and associates funded transit tax hike petition effort are being dishonest and intentionally using misleading information to deceive taxpayers and voters.

But are you getting a 100% raise or revenue increase next year?

If not, then why should the county?

Especially a 100% county revenue increase that will greatly benefit Vinik, his Under Water Street development and the city of Tampa…but will be paid for on the backs of taxpayers in unincorporated Hillsborough.

Eye Note: There is another citizen led transportation funding proposal that does NOT require any massive 30 year sales tax hike. Fund Transportation and No Tax Hike Is Needed!
Voters and taxpayers deserve to hear both proposals and be fully informed.
Unfortunately biased local media is suppressing information and intentionally shutting down any other proposal so they may cheerlead for Vinik's massive transit tax hike.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Media Suppresses Information to Cheerlead for Vinik's 14% Transit Sales Tax Hike

A massive 30 year 14% sales tax hike is totally unnecessary to fund transportation needs in fast growing Hillsborough county. There is no need to take an additional $15-18 Billion out of taxpayer pockets to fund transportation.

As we posted here, Hillsborough County commissioners took action regarding an alternative transportation funding proposal. We could find no local media reported about this action taken by the commissioners or the alternative funding proposal.

Citizen and Hillsborough County resident Dr. James Davison, who presented his alternative transportation funding proposal to the county commissioners on April 4, directly contacted the Tampa Bay Times (Times) and other local media outlets regarding his funding proposal. He sent the Times and other local media a copy of his transportation funding proposal on July 4th.

Below is a copy of the letter Dr. Davison sent to the Times on July 4th that with his permission we are posting:
To the staff of the Tampa Bay Times; 
So that there is no confusion I have attached a copy of the Transportation Revenue Plan presented to the Hillsborough County BOCC on April 4th at their regular meeting. Its total revenue is $8.469 billion of which at least $6.2 billion goes to transportation including $2.014 billion in new revenues for transit. Money is also included for roads, congestion relief/safety, sidewalks/trails and other infrastructure, all without raising taxes. There is a slight increase in the sales tax, ¼ percent, from 2021 to 2026. From 2027 to 2045 the sales tax in Hillsborough county remains at 7%. The revenue plan is spread over 25 years. If you extend the plan to 30 years the numbers increase dramatically, but the tax level remains the same, 7%. These are conservative estimates and at the request of Mr. Merrill were verified for accuracy and validity. On June 6th at their regular meeting and after meeting with Ms. Wise, Mr. Fesler and Mr. Brickley the county administration did so verify to the plan’s estimates and the BOCC voted unanimously to send the plan on to the Citizen Advisory Committee for their opinion and deliberation. Copies of the plan were given to several TBT reporters, the same attached here. A unanimous vote by the BOCC on any transportation plan in Hillsborough county I think would be news. I have never seen any mention of the above in any of your columns, the editorials or in the pages of the Tampa Bay Times. On the contrary you have chosen to publish a plan put forward after the BOCC voted on the 6th, whose numbers have not been vetted nor its impact modeled. One that raises the sales tax to the highest in the state for 30 years and is knowingly regressive in its application. That is your right as a free press. 
As we celebrate the 4th of July and are all aware that American men and women are in harms way around the world I hope we can celebrate our freedoms and rights but remember our responsibilities. 
I have had the pleasure of knowing several journalists and professors of journalism. They have assured me that there is no course or curriculum at any American university school of journalism or any ethic in journalism which teaches or supports the suppression or withholding of this type of information from the public. You have therefore learned this on your own and have done so knowingly. I am a staunch supporter of a free press. Even Pravda or the Cuban Granma have a right to publish in America, but I remind you, this is America and the truth will get out whether or not you choose to live up to your responsibility. 
I hope you and yours have had a safe and happy 4th of July

Jim Davison DO.
Davison's proposal is also a citizen led funding proposal with numbers and estimates that have been vetted. But according to Davison, the Times nor any other local media he contacted, would report about his citizen proposal that county commissioners actually took an action on. Davison, disturbed by the lack of fair journalistic reporting by local media on the issue of funding transportation, told the Eye when we contacted him:
Suppression of information by the press is not part of the 1st Amendment and has always led to tragic consequences for the people in the past. It will here too for the people of Hillsborough County.
The Times and local media cannot claim ignorance. They are aware there are alternatives to the Vinik and associates funded massive 30 year 14% sales tax hike proposal.

The Times and local media must have their marching orders. They have become information gatekeepers who refuse to fairly report and inform the public of any other transportation funding proposal but Vinik's massive 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike.

It is easier for local media to suppress information and shut down healthy public debate over different transportation funding models. Because it is very difficult for anyone to defend a massive transit tax hike that is not needed.

The Times and local media are intentionally ignoring Davison's funding proposal so they can cheerlead for the special interests/astroturf funded 14% transit sales tax hike,

The financially distressed Times, who was bailed out last year by the wealthy transit tax hike donors Jeff Vinik and Frank Morsani, is the transit tax hike's biggest cheerleader accomplice. The wealthy downtown special interests bought their media megaphone to do the cheerleading for them. 

The media is now part of the storyline not reporters.

The Times latest pro Vinik tax hike cheerleader is Sue Carlton, who the Times never discloses is the wife of Times editor John Hill. Carlton's Times article about the proposed 14% transit sales tax hike in Hillsborough County uses a picture showing traffic congestion in Clearwater. 

Cannot make such nonsense up but it does fuel the fire that the Times has no credibility when it comes to the transportation issue in Tampa Bay. They cannot figure out that Clearwater is in Pinellas County not Hillsborough.

Information is key to public debate, especially regarding transportation funding and contentious tax hikes. But the Times and local media refuse to acknowledge or report about another citizen's transportation funding proposal.

Instead the Times and local media have instituted a media blackout of reporting on any transportation funding proposal except Vinik's 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike - that will greatly benefit him.

And it's called media bias.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Audit Required For Local Tax Hike Referendums

In this year's 2018 legislative session, HB 7087 was passed that added Section 10 to Florida Statute 212.055 governing local tax referendums. A Performance Audit is now required and must be completed and published online 60 days prior to the election for any local sales tax hike referendum held on or after March 23, 2018.

The Performance Audit language added provides criteria for what the audit will examine and evaluate. The audit must examine and evaluate how economically efficient or effective the proposed tax hike program is, the tax hike programs goals and objectives, alternative methods of providing the program, performance measures to measure programs success and is there adequate and accurate public documentation relating to the program.

The Hillsborough County School Board had been considering putting a sales tax referendum on the November ballot. However, on June 14, the Tampa Bay Times reported Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November
Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum. 
The law could delay a sales tax referendum by about eight months, past the November election that would usher in the needed bonanza. 
An April 16 letter from the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability said districts had to submit their resolutions by April 23 to arrange a required performance audit by the legislative office, known as OPPAGA.

Hillsborough spokesman Grayson Kamm said that when district leaders contacted OPPAGA to arrange the audit, they were told there could be a six-month wait. And the results would have to be posted for two months before the referendum could take place.
OPPAGA contacted all counties and school boards in the State. OPPAGA's April 16 letter, addressed to the Chairs of each county commission and school board (copy also found here), stated to contact OPPAGA by April 23rd for any referendum on the August or November ballot and to contact them ASAP if a referendum was being considered.

That same June 14 Times article that reported the audit required could delay a school board sales tax referendum also stated:
A citizens’ group called All For Transportation is gathering the required petition signatures to place a question on the November ballot about a penny sales tax to subsidize public transportation and needed road repairs in the cities and county. And, because the law requiring the OPPAGA audit specifies "county or school district" and the citizen group is neither of those two things, they do not believe they will have to take that step.
We do know there's been some confusion regarding this new audit requirement, especially with a sales tax hike referendum initiated by a petition effort. However, from numerous sources we spoke to or contacted, all indications was that any local tax referendum regardless of how it got on the ballot, required the performance audit be completed and published at least 60 days prior to the election.

For the November 2018 ballot, the performance audit must be completed and available to the voting public posted online by September 6, 2018.

The Times also reported on June 18 regarding the school board proposed sales tax hike referendum (emphasis mine):
The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum resolution to the state, a first step toward trying to place such a question on the Nov. 6 ballot — though other factors may render that a futile step. 
The audit, which will not cost the district anything, will likely take about six months. The results must to be posted for two months after that, making it unlikely that such a referendum could appear on the November ballot.
Something changed with the AFT PAC between June 14 and July 9. Perhaps they were advised by someone the performance audit does apply to any local tax hike referendum. And that would include AFT's proposed 14% transit sales tax hike referendum to raise Hillsborough County's sales tax rate to 8%, the highest in the state.

Obtained via a Public Records Request, AFT emailed and snail mailed a letter to OPPAGA on July 9, 2018.

On July 9, 2018 AFT informed OPPAGA of their citizen petition effort to put a transit sales tax hike referendum on the November ballot. AFT requested "that OPPAGA begin the process of arranging for an audit pursuant to the statute in sufficient time to comply with the 60 day pre-election deadline.

We have seen no update reporting from the Times regarding AFT requesting the performance audit on July 9th.

AFT has a very compressed timeline as their 6 week petition drive ends this week. All petitions to be validated must be submitted to the SOE by Friday, July 27, 2018 at 5pm. The SOE has 30 days to complete their validation process.

It is reasonable to assume the SOE will certify to the Hillsborough county commissioners, sometime between August 1st and the 30 day deadline of August 27th, whether the required number of valid petitions were submitted for the transit sales tax hike to be placed on the November ballot.

But then there is also the performance audit requirement.

Hillsborough County school board was told it may take 6 months to complete an audit for them. Is it possible OPPAGA can complete the required audit for this petition's proposed massive sales tax hike in 5 weeks or less?

Does OPPAGA begin their performance audit process for any proposed local tax hike referendum being considered before it is officially placed on the ballot? Even if the audit process started July 9th when AFT officially notified OPPAGA of their petition drive, can OPPAGA complete the required performance audit in less than two months by September 6?

Back in October 2015 during the Go Hillsborough debacle, the county had requested a sheriff's investigation of how Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) received their no bid county contract to conduct that tax hike campaign. The commissioners also requested their internal auditor conduct an audit of the CCNCA procurement process used to award PB the contract.

At the October 7 2015 BOCC meeting, the county's internal auditor Peggy Caskey, told the commissioners it would take 3-4 months to complete the audit of the CCNA procurement process and an additional 2 months to issue the audit report. That is a 6 month audit window auditing one county procurement process.

This proposed transit sales tax hike is a $15-18 BILLION initiative that funds multiple programs in multiple organizational entities. The petition is not simple. It is 5 pages of legislative regulations and bureaucratic specificity that would be placed in the county's governance document - the County Charter for 30 years - if passed. Therefore, how complex or comprehensive will the performance audit be?

Remember AFT decided to ram a normal 6 month citizen petition drive process into a 6 week petition drive. Their decision to use such a compressed timeline was theirs. They could have completed their petition drive last year or months ago.

We doubt anyone can request OPPAGA somehow provide preferential treatment to complete their required audit to meet the September 6 pre-November election deadline.

We know Hillsborough county must be audited for this proposed transit sales tax hike because it is a county levied tax. That is a good thing. We always wanted an independent audit done before there was ever another proposed countywide tax hike referendum placed on a ballot.

Hillsborough County's property values are rising and growth is occurring so fast that one county commissioner said the county must re-estimate population growth on a yearly basis. We know Hillsborough County can fund its transportation needs within the county's existing ballooning budget: Fund Transportation and No Tax Hike Is Needed!

So kudos to the state legislature for requiring the performance audit and requiring the results be transparently displayed to the public 60 days BEFORE the election. Voters must be informed and taxpayers must be protected.

AFT must first submit the required number of valid petitions by July 27th at 5pm.

If they don't, the audit is a moot point because the tax hike will not be on the ballot.

If they do, the completion of the performance audit by September 6 will become a critical path to actually getting AFT's massive 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike on the ballot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

More Deep Pockets Coming For Your Wallets

As we posted here, the petition effort for a massive 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike is astroturf and not grassroots. Tampa wealthy elites and well connected power brokers are using a group of Tampa urbanists and some paid political operatives to front them. The wealthy elites want to unnecessarily raise taxes to 8% - the highest tax RATE in the state - that will benefit them.

Hillsborough County, growing by leaps and bounds with new growth and rising property values, can Fund Transportation and No Tax Hike Is Needed! Except when a billion dollar stadium is seeking public money It's a Package Deal! The Billion Dollar Stadium Needs Billions for Trains. It's the same Tampa power brokers seeking both.

Surprise! NOT! Tampa Bay Partnership, the symbiotic twin of the 2010 pro rail tax PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward (MHF) and also a supporter of Greenlight Pinellas, donated $150K to the transit tax hike AFT PAC on June 26.
Tampa Bay Partnership donates $150K
(click to enlarge)
Both those transit tax hike referendums were overwhelmingly defeated by voters. Tampa Bay Partnership must have lots of money to burn to keep funding LOSING transit tax hikes.
2010 Rail Tax in Hillsborough defeated 58-42% 
2014 Greenlight Pinellas Rail Tax
defeated 62-38%
Let's throw in the latest transit tax hike boondoggle savagely defeated in Nashville 64-36% on May 1. See a trend? The public no longer is hoodwinked by multi-million dollar fairy dust and unicorn advocacy false advertising campaigns for massive tax hikes.
Nashville Rail Tax
defeated 64-36%
Tampa Bay Partnership (TBP) self-proclaims they represent the Tampa Bay business community and are representative of the business community in Tampa Bay but they do not. They represent a number of big businesses in Tampa Bay and also includes USF President Judy Genshaft. However, no one appointed or elected them to represent anybody.

TBP is funded by special interests who pay $50K and $25K to be a member to lobby. And their top policy issue continues to be pushing costly transit in Hillsborough and Tampa Bay - when less than 2% use transit today and the vast majority want our roads, highways and interstates fixed and improved.

We did contact TBP regarding their $150K donation and support for the transit tax hike and received their statement below.
The governing body of the Tampa Bay Partnership, its Council of Governors, voted unanimously to contribute $150,000 to “All for Transportation,” the grassroots group that is collecting signatures to place a transportation referendum on the ballot for the November general election.
 “To connect regionally, we need to have a well-funded local transportation system,” said Rhea Law, chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership and chair of the Florida offices of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney. “Improving connectivity throughout Tampa Bay is critical and we’re proud to support the citizens working to bring this decision to Hillsborough County voters in November.”
With the $600K that was donated to the AFT PAC from 4 special interests donors ($150K each), their last SOE campaign filing reflects they have paid Revolution Field Strategies $250K for petition gathering. That is not a grassroots petition gathering group. They are paying people to gather petitions who may not live in Hillsborough County or even live in Florida.
AFT pays for petition gathering
The only reason the Tampa deep pockets want a massive transit sales tax hike from 7% to 8% (a 14% tax hike not a one penny or one cent tax hike) that takes $15-18 BILLION out of taxpayers pockets  is to fund costly Tampa centric transit. Fixed guideways and rail are about land use aka transit oriented development to benefit them. It is not about mobility solutions to relieve congestion for the 98% who use roads in Hillsborough County everyday.

And Voila!

Special interests Coastal Construction out of Miami also donated $150K. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported last June that Coastal Construction, led by Sean DeMartino, is expanding into Central and North Florida.
He [Sean DeMartino] is co-chairman of the Orlando Economic Partnership and past chairman of the Central Florida Transportation Task Force.
Just think of the Orlando Economic Partnership as Central Florida's version of Tampa Bay Partnership. The Orlando Economic Partnership was created thru the merger last year of what was the Central Florida Partnership and the Orlando Economic Development Commission. Their "investor" level pay to play lobbying starts at $100K and they receive taxpayer monies.

According to this Business Observer article, last July Vinik hired 9 construction firms to construct in his Water Street district development that included Coastal Construction. But by January 2018 according to this Tampa Bay Business Journal article (also find it here): (emphasis mine)
The developer of Water Street Tampa has parted ways with the majority of contractors doing pre-construction work on the massive, mixed-use project, instead hiring a Miami firm for most of the buildings in the district's first phase. 
Strategic Property Partners, which is controlled by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC, is awarding the majority of the construction work in the first phase of its $3 billion district to Coastal Construction, the developer confirmed Tuesday.
Coastal Chairman and CEO Thomas Murphy Jr. is the father of Patrick Murphy, the Democrat who challenged Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016. The elder Murphy was the "financial muscle" behind the campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported in May 2016.
Skanska is building the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine, which is on an acre of donated land within Water Street. That construction project is under the purview of the university, not SPP.
All the major donors to this reckless massive Tampa centric transit tax hike is Jeff Vinik and those connected to him and Vinikville - Morsani, Tampa Bay Partnership and Coastal Construction.

We cannot forget what the state legislators handed Vinik in this last legislation session:  Jeff Vinik scores win with signing of Water Street Tampa bill
A bill that would create a special taxing district for the Water Street Tampa development in Hillsborough County was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. 
The proposal was backed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership of Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment, and billionaire developer Jeff Vinik. Water Street Tampa has become one of the most eagerly awaited private developments in Tampa. 
The Water Street Tampa Improvement District, created by HB 1393, would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mill — $1 per $1,000 of assessed value — on property within the district.
And his thanks to them is pushing a massive transit tax hike that is an end round around county local officials for 30 years?

We have to assume Vinik did not get all that he wanted from the state so he is intent on getting more - BILLIONS more - from Hillsborough County taxpayers of whom over 2/3 of them live in unincorporated Hillsborough County.

Most people in Hillsborough County know nothing about this petition effort because there is no broad base of support for a massive $15-18 BILLION transit sales tax hike.

Tax hikes do not belong in County Charters. The Hillsborough County Charter is a governance document. This effort is changing the County Charter to add the massive tax hike and its 5 pages of gobbledygook burdensome regulations to the County Charter for 30 years. Ludicrous!

Like the crony Go Hillsborough, there is no broad base of support in Hillsborough County for this transit tax hike.

The base of support for this petition effort is Jeff Vinik, his cronies and their fawning local media - literally bought by, paid for and bailed out by Jeff Vinik. It's public face is fronted by pro rail Tampa urbanists. (Who's using who??)

There is much more going on with this petition effort than just the astroturf funding it - a post for another day.

The failure to even consider any alternative transportation funding plan is bad public policy and shameful.

But ignoring the consent of the governed can be perilous!

Friday, July 13, 2018

It's a Package Deal! The Billion Dollar Stadium Needs Billions for Trains

Tuesday the Rays unveiled their Billion dollar stadium plans. It was all happy face rah rah to those who attended the announcement event at the Italian Club in Ybor.
Billion dollar Rays stadium in Ybor City
While "they" estimated the cost at $892 million for what will be the smallest baseball stadium in major league baseball, cost overruns will push the costs to a billion dollars or even more.

While the Rays are on record saying they would pitch in $150 million, the elephant in the room Tuesday was not mentioned at their stadium unveiling. Apparently not one word was mentioned how the billion dollar stadium will be paid for and who will get stuck with the tab to build it and pay for it's ongoing maintenance costs.

That is what most people want to know so Wednesday, the day after the stadium unveiling, the Times reports:
"I absolutely know it will grow from there, but I also know it’s not going to be multiples" of $150 million, Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times’ editorial board.
"A baby step," the mayor [Buckhorn] added. "I think the reality is that unless the Rays are able to get to close to half, this will be a very difficult transaction to complete."
The Eye has speculated the latest massive transit tax hike effort is tied to the billion dollar stadium because there's no parking for the stadium. And it is.

One of the most pressing issues is logistically getting fans to the stadium.

Taking them out to the ballpark, the team acknowledges, will require an expanded Ybor streetcar, beefed up water taxis, a longer Riverwalk, a rail line from the east, and drop-off places for Uber and Lyft.

"The days of a ballpark where everybody drives their car to the ballpark, that's kind of five years ago," one team official noted.
Who is going to tell the Bucs they no longer need their big parking lot where lots of tail gates are held? Who is going to tell the Bucs their parking lot is passe and will now be "developed" over because the days of driving to a sports venue is passe.

The District Rays Candidate Hagan has been talking to Jeff Vinik and others for years about putting a stadium in or near downtown Tampa. And a massive transit tax hike has always been part of the package deal.

We reported in 2016 the crony Go Hillsborough Sales Tax Hike Is For A New Baseball Stadium. Hagan voted for the proposed tax hike at both county commission public hearings in 2016.

Hagan has been orchestrating the baseball stadium/transit tax hike package deal for a decade. Hagan knows he needs a new revenue source to be able to fund building a Billion dollar stadium and then maintain and operate it forever.

Hagan never updated his commissioner colleagues as he promised in 2014 when he lined up his secret baseball committee, expensive NY baseball law firm and underwriters to finance a stadium. Selection of the Ybor site and all the wheeling and dealing was done without ANY public discussion or even a nod of approval by county commissioners. Now the Rays/Hagan team want the county commissioners to ante up public funds for a stadium they had no say in?

According to this Times article last October Darryl Shaw, a big donor to Hagan, bought up Ybor property and then entered into an option agreement with the nonprofit SC Hillsborough setup last August. The Directors of the nonprofit are Chuck Sykes and Ron Christaldi. Both were supporters of the 2010 rail tax but Sykes led and was a huge financial supporter of the pro rail tax PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward.

It's all the same circle of Tampa power brokers with a few name changes.

With the Rays announcement looming for a new stadium without parking, suddenly the hastily pursued 6 week petition effort to put another massive 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike on the November ballot began June 15th. The AFT PAC, funded by deep pocketed downtown special interests, has until July 27 at 5pm to gather 49K valid petitions.

A massive 30 year regressive tax hike, that hurts low income and fixed income the most is unnecessary because Hillsborough County can fund its transportation NEEDS without a tax hike.

A massive transit tax hike provides Hagan the new pot of revenue he has continuously sought.  This massive 14% tax hike enables other revenues from the county's ballooning budget to be leveraged, borrowed against and spent on a billion dollar baseball stadium that enriches special interests and subsidizes another wealthy sports team owner.

It's a double whammy to taxpayers and the public should know it's all a package deal.

The Billion dollar stadium needs Billions for costly trains/transit to a stadium with no parking.

Ybor City is "one of only three National Historic Landmark Districts located in the State of Florida. Cobblestone streets and huge old cigar factory buildings make up this historic and legendary town."
Italian Club in Ybor   City

Historic Ybor City
A few red bricks were added to the stadium but this spaceship to Mars looks very out of place in the historic Ybor city.

Skyline of historic Ybor City with new stadium
Where are the historic and neighborhood preservation activists? They were out in force opposing TBX, opposing expanding and improving I-275 and fixing malfunction junction.

With the Billion dollar stadium and the Billions for transit a package deal…

Who is using who?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Astroturfing For A Massive Transit Tax Hike

We posted here about the oddity of the transit tax hike petition PAC All for Transportation (AFT) to hand the SOE thousands of petitions to validate but not provide payment to the SOE to start the petition validation process.

Apparently AFT finally paid the SOE yesterday to begin validating the petitions they handed in on June 29th. Why did it take AFT 10 days to pay and how did the SOE account for what was handed them on June 29th? The public must be assured that the SOE process has no gaps and everything is properly accounted for from the minute any petitions are delivered to the SOE counter.

As the validation process proceeds, the SOE petition tracking list will provide the validation rate reflecting fallout. AFT intends to gather 70-80K petitions as a buffer to cover fall out by July 27th at 5pm. That is 17 days away with tens of thousands of petitions to go.
SOE petition tracking list updated for
transit tax hike petition
As Tampa Bay Guardian recently posted, there are numerous valid concerns with this hastily pursued 6 week petition effort trying to put a massive 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike on the November ballot.

We know deep pocketed downtown special interests Jeff Vinik and Frank Morsani are funding the transit tax hike AFT but who else is behind this petition effort?

The document filed with the SOE to create All for Transportation reflects there is a nonprofit "connected" to the AFT called Keep Hillsborough Moving. That is similar to 2010 when the Tampa Bay Partnership was connected to the rail tax PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward.

Additional documents filed with SOE reflect the PAC appointment of Nancy Watkins as Treasurer and her husband Robert Watkins as Deputy Treasurer.

When the initial Articles of Incorporation for the nonprofit Keep Hillsborough Moving was filed June 8, 2018 no Directors were named. An Amended Articles of Incorporation was filed on June 26th that does name the nonprofit's Directors - Tyler Hudson, Robert Watkins and Janet Scherberger.
Directors named for the Keep Hillsborough Moving nonprofit
that is connected to the transit tax hike PAC All for Transportation
Who are these people?
Tyler Hudson
Tyler Hudson is also Chair of the AFT PAC. According to Hudson's LinkedIn Profile, he is an attorney with a BA in Philosophy. Hudson recently joined the law firm Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort PA and focuses on commercial real estate. He just left the huge global law firm Holland and Knight in May.

Holland and Knight were big financial backers of the 2010 rail tax PAC Moving Hillsborough Forward. (or go to  SOE website and clicking on the 2010 Election cycle group). They donated $30K to the PAC but then provided consulting and campaign services to the PAC and got their donation back and thousands more.

Hudson's LinkedIn also provides his "volunteer" experience that includes he is currently on the Board of Directors of the Downtown Partnership and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, both big supporters of the 2010 rail tax and the proposed tax hike from the Go Hillsborough debacle. They are not grassroots organizations.
Hudson's Volunteer Experience 
Hudson is on the Board of Directors of the Tampa Heights Civic Association who helped lead a fight against FDOT's TBX interstate project that has since morphed into TampaBayNext. According to this Times article this Association supports tearing down 10 miles of I-275, that is a major evacuation route in Tampa Bay and hundreds of thousands of vehicles use everyday, from downtown to Bearss Avenue. And replace the interstate with a boulevard with a train.

Coincidentally (or not), Hudson was recently appointed to the Citizens Advisory Committee of TBARTA in April as a City of Tampa appointee. He was appointed by rail advocate Mayor Buckhorn who continues insisting county taxpayers pay for costly trains in Tampa.

Who is Robert Watkins?
Robert Watkins
Robert and his wife Nancy Watkins own an accounting firm Robert Watkins and Company in south Tampa where they also reside. Nancy, who specializes in the complexities of campaign finance accounting, provides campaign finance accounting services and is the treasurer for too numerous to name candidates, PAC's and 527's.

Robert Watkins is Chair of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board. He was first appointed to the Aviation Authority Board by Governor Scott in 2011 and reappointed by the Governor in 2015.

Nancy Watkins is the Treasurer and Robert Watkins is the Deputy Treasurer of the PAC All for Transportation.

Who is Janet Scherberger?
Janet Scherbergr
Before she married she was known as Janet Zink who was a reporter with the Tampa Bay Times. Her LinkedIn profile reflects she left the Times in September 2011 to become Director of Communications at Tampa International Airport (TIA). According to this Tribune article Zink/Scherberger took her new position at a then salary of $110,000.

Since 2013 she has been in her current position as Assistant VP of Media and Government Relations. Scherberger often represents Tampa airport at Hillsborough MPO meetings and TMA meetings the Eye has attended and is a transit supporter.

According to the Airport Administration information found on Tampa International Airport's (TIA) website:
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority is an independent special district of the State of Florida, established by the 1945 Florida Legislature with exclusive jurisdiction, control, supervision and management over all publicly owned airports in Hillsborough County. 
The Authority is a self-supporting organization and generates revenues from airport users to fund operating expenses and debt service requirements. Capital projects are funded through bonds, short-term financing, passenger facility charges, federal and state grants, and internally generated funds. Although empowered to levy ad valorem property taxes, the Authority has not collected any tax funds since 1973.
While TIA does not levy an ad valorem property tax to operate like HART does, the airport receives state and federal grant monies. In 2014 (another election year) Governor Scott handed TIA $194 million toward the recently completed BILLION dollar Phase 1 of their master plan improvements.

Phase 1 included moving and expanding the rental car center to the economy parking lot and expanding the elevated People Mover 1.3 miles to the economy parking lot at a cost of almost a half BILLION dollars. Phase 2 and 3 of the Master Plan, estimated to cost about $1.6 BILLION, are included in this presentation from a Master Plan workshop held April 2017.

Now there are two of the three Directors of a politicized nonprofit, connected to a PAC trying to put a massive 30 year 14% transit sales tax hike on the November ballot, that are associated with the Tampa airport. One chairs the governing authority of the airport, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, and one is an executive employee of the airport - that receives taxpayer money.

Legal? Ethical? Conflicts of interests with any of this? We do not know but these Directors are well connected not grassroots.

Why is the airport pushing the sales tax hike boondoggle?

To expand the elevated People Mover to the proposed Westshore Multi-Modal Center?

In 2014, FDOT and TIA did a feasibility study for a TIA/Westshore MultiModal Center and according to this Tribune report in 2016 (emphasis mine):
The Florida Department of Transportation has closed on a Westshore Business District site that could become a regional transportation hub linking buses, an airport people-mover and potential commuter rail. 
FDOT’s $45 million bid submitted in November was accepted by the Blackstone Group, a New York-based investment and advisory firm that held the property now housing a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel and Charley’s Steakhouse. The site is bordered by West Cypress Street, Interstate 275, Trask Street and Manhattan Avenue.
The Times also reported about the purchase in 2016:
The center, once constructed, will be used as a hub for transit to Tampa International Airport, as a depot for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority buses and as a station if a light rail or bus rapid transit system were to connect Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in the future. 
Airport CEO Joe Lopano called the move "a giant step in the right direction." 
"A multimodal center near the airport that connects us to the region … has always been a key part of our vision for the future of Tampa International," Lopano said. "Many more pieces still need to fall into place to make that vision a reality, but this is a critical component." 
That two-year period is tied to a prediction of how long it will take the FDOT to complete a study with Hillsborough's transit authority evaluating different options, including light rail and converting existing CSX freight tracks to commuter rail.
We must assume Lopano supports this proposed massive transit tax hike.

We reported last year about TIA airport fees that now includes fees to use ride-share services like Uber and Lyft:
We are at the limit for what we are taxed for already, still waiting for roads, storm drainage and sewer fixes, while the elites are strategizing to tax us for their benefits. 
The one thing we do know -- they will not give up trying to get them to pay for their profit. 
But to the elites, "them" is you.
This petition effort for a massive transit sales tax hike is not grassroots.

It is a power grab.

This is an astroturf effort by city of Tampa elites and the well connected to do an end round around duly elected Hillsborough County commissioners.

This is an astroturf effort paid for by wealthy special interests and orchestrated by well connected power brokers to further their interests by using a front group of Tampa urbanists and political hired guns.

This is an astroturf effort by downtown Tampa interests for another 30 year bad plan that constrains roads and forces taxpayers in unincorporated Hillsborough to pay for outdated and costly transit/rail in the city of Tampa.

As we previously posted here, Hillsborough County can pay for its transportation NEEDS without any massive sales tax hike.

Instead we get another astroturf effort by wealthy special interests, well connected power brokers, their fawning media accomplices, and their political operatives, for a huge14% sales tax hike, that hurts low and fixed income the most, because the elites refuse to even consider anything else.

But a multi-million dollar transit tax hike advocacy campaign funded by deep pocketed special interests would fill the coffers of some local PR firms.

Follow the money!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Transit Tax Hike Petitions Turned In Without Payment to SOE To Start Validating Them

Is there something  odd with the transit sales tax hike petition effort in Hillsborough County?

A citizen (not grassroots) petition effort funded by deep pocketed downtown special interests, including Jeff Vinik and Frank Morsani who also own part of the Tampa Bay Times, is underway. This is another effort to put a massive unnecessary 30 year 14+% transit sales tax hike referendum on the November ballot. The special interests funded PAC orchestrating the effort is All For Transportation.

The effective start date of this tax hike petition effort from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections was 6/15/2018 and the last day to turn in petitions is just 3 weeks away on 7/27/2018. The PAC plans to gather and tun in about 70K signed petitions by 5pm on July 27th to try to get the required 48,745 valid petitions to put the massive transit tax hike on the November ballot.

The SOE then has until August 27th to complete all the petition validations and certify whether the required number of petitions was reached to get on the November ballot. Petitions must be collected proportionally in at least 2 of the 4 county commission single districts.

It was reported by local media that the special interests funded PAC had already turned in about 5K petitions last week. The Eye went to the SOE office yesterday to inquire about their process for validating the petitions and wanted to know the current status of those 5K petitions. We were told each petition must be validated - the cost is 10 cents per petition. However, the SOE must first be paid upfront to start the validation process. That makes sense.

But surprisingly the validation process had not even begun for the 5K petitions handed in because the PAC has not provided a $500 check to the SOE to start the process. Until a check is received, the SOE does not consider the petitions "received". Therefore, the petitions must be sitting in boxes somewhere in the SOE's office. How comforting is that?

The SOE had not updated their list of active petition initiatives since January even though this latest petition effort was given a start date by the SOE of June 15th. This is the list where the number of petitions received and validated are transparently tracked by the SOE.

We were able to get the SOE to update their active petition list to include this latest petition effort even if the number of petitions received is "zero" (because no payment has been received).
SOE Active Petition List tracking
(Click to enlarge)
We were told by the SOE that no observers like poll watchers are allowed to observe the validation process. How comforting is that?

A public records request can be made to get access to the petitions.

While at the SOE, the Eye witnessed a stack of petitions being brought in for the Marijuana petition effort number 16-02. They provided a check to get them validated because the SOE's active petition list was updated to reflect that 650 had been received and are in the process to be validated. But the petition effort for the massive 14% transit sales tax hike misnamed "Funding for Countywide Transportation and Road Improvements" (post for another day) still currently shows ZERO received.

It is very odd that the PAC, which has raised over $300K, cannot (or intentionally did not) write a $500 check to cover the cost of validating the petitions they have turned in. We asked the SOE if the PAC could just keep dropping off thousands of petitions with no check and then wait until the last day on July 27th to provide a check to start the validation process for all of them. We were told they could though the SOE preferred that did not happen. Could the SOE even validate 50-70K petitions within the required 30 days?

The normal timeframe provided by the SOE for a citizen petition is 6 months but this effort is trying to cram their effort into 6 weeks. This petition effort could have been started last year or at the first of this year for November. Hmmm…

Did an alternative transportation funding proposal that requires no massive sales tax hike that was presented to the county commissioners in April cause panic with the transit tax hike crowd? The county commissioners voted unanimously (except for Hagan who walked out and refused to vote) on June 6th to ask the Citizens Advisory Committee to look at the proposal and provide an advisement.

While the local media fawns over another attempt at a massive Tampa centric transit tax hike for costly trains, they refuse to report about any other funding plans - even a proposal the commissioners took action on.

We're left wondering what kind of games may be being played by those orchestrating this effort.

The PAC hired Revolution Field Strategies to help direct and manage the petition effort. The PAC was expecting to hire 100 petition gatherers to hit the streets but no one has seen them anywhere with only 3 weeks left to gather and turn in petitions.

Note that petitions gathered by paid petition gatherers must be reported accordingly on the petition form itself after the signature at the end of the form.
All petitions gathered by paid petitioners must
complete this section at end of petition form
From comments we found online from those supporting this petition effort, they are extremely optimistic that they will get the required 49K valid signatures to put this massive tax hike on the November ballot.

If the PAC and their supporters are so confident, why aren't they paying the SOE to start the validation process? With deep pocketed special interests funders, the PAC can certainly afford to pay the $500 to start the validation process.

Does something not smell right? Why hasn't the local media picked up on this part of the story?

Potential for issues with this petition process?

We'll be watching closely over the next few weeks.

Who Harassed Attorney General Pam Bondi

Local Progressive activist and transit advocate Tim Heberlein was part of the group who accosted and harassed Attorney General Pam Bondi recently at a movie theater in Tampa. As reported by this  Politico article
According to Bondi, she and a friend were confronted at least four times — while buying tickets, entering the theater, standing in line at the concession stand and then on their way out — and that activists were aggressive in each instance, with one yelling so loudly at her that he spit in her hair, either unintentionally or because he meant to expectorate on her. She said they also taunted her friend as “blue eyes” and asked him in a threatening manner if he was going to protect her, as though they wanted to fight. 
“Pam Bondi’s version of events is inaccurate and don’t reflect what happened,” said Tim Heberlein, Tampa Bay regional director for the progressive group Organize Florida. 
In talking to POLITICO, Heberlein said he needed to be cautious about his remarks because Bondi is the “top law enforcement officer” in the state and she had called the actions of his group an assault. Earlier, to The Tampa Bay Times, he had more swagger: “If you refuse to meet with us, we're coming to where you're at. We're coming to where you're watching a movie or eating dinner.” 
The Tampa Bay Times article about the incident, link also embedded in Politico article above has Heberlein's complete quote (emphasis mine):
Heberlein, who accused Bondi of refusing to start a dialogue with groups that work with at-risk communities like his, said he has no regrets about how the protesters acted. 
"If you refuse to meet with us, we're coming to where you're at. We're coming to where you're watching a movie or eating dinner," he said. "Sorry, not sorry."
Tim Heberten, Regional Director of
Progressive Organize Florida 
 Ironically, Heberlein had previously been lauded with this Meet Tim Heberlein — one of the “30 under 30″ rising stars in Florida politics
He has worked on legislative campaigns on the protection of Social Security and Medicaid, Senate Rules reform, Medicaid Expansion, and budget cuts; and now focuses his efforts on the Bay Area through amendment campaigns and local races. He organized the Awake Tampa progressive table, including an Awake the State rally in Tampa which was the largest of such in the state 3 years running.
I’ve [Heberlein] already worked on legislative campaigns ranging from the protection of Social Security and Medicaid, Senate Rules reform, Medicaid Expansion, the fight against state budget cuts and I am now focused on transit improvements in the Bay area.
Heberlein was previously associated with the Progressive Florida Consumer Action Group and was an ally and an activist member of the now defunct local transit lobbyist organization Connect Tampa Bay. They were advocating for another sales tax hike in 2013 and supposedly credited with the county commission creating the 2013 transportation initiative.

We all know how that transportation initiative started and ended. It started by inviting all the 2010 rail cartel cronies to their very first meeting and ended with the corrupt crony Go Hillsborough debacle under a law enforcement investigation. Unfortunately, while the sheriff's investigation admitted they were unable to get all the evidence they asked for, they refused to do a forensic investigation that would have led to capturing much more of the communication trail and the money trail associated with the crony effort.

Heberlein was also featured in the Progressive New Leaders Council (NLC) 2014 list of NLC Fellows (emphasis mine)
Tim Heberlein is the Political Director for the Florida Consumer Action Network, and organizes his community to advocate for economic and social justice. His activism has focused on grassroots organizing and field campaigning for progressive issues and candidates. 
He will also be a speaker for a national webinar in January focusing on assisting advocacy organizations in preparing for transit referendums.
Heberlein, representing the Young Democrats gave public comment at the public hearing the county commissioners held on May 13, 2010 regarding putting the 2010 rail tax on the ballot in support of the rail tax. He stated (emphasis mine):
The choice of the voters on a 14% sales tax hike for outdated costly rail boondoggles in 2010 was overwhelming defeat 58-42%.

Heberlein is also the regional director for Organize Florida Education Fund, both Organize Florida entities are partners of the Progressive Center for Popular Democracy (CPD). Organize Florida is also known as Organize Now. According to
CPD’s largest donor is activist billionaire George Soros. Its network also includes former chapters of the controversial and now-defunct Association of Community Organizations and Reform Now (ACORN).
As the Time article above reports, Tim Heberlein and his band of screaming ranters were having a public temper tantrum yelling at Bondi "You're a horrible person" at a movie theater because they disagree with her politics.

Threatening to go after people in public places to engage them in abusive temper tantrums is unacceptable. Most people consider that kind of behavior to be "horrible".

Progressive activist and transit advocate Tim Heberlein is simply a bully not a "rising star".

And no such bullies should be dictating transportation policy in Tampa Bay.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Rebutting Rhetoric to Reign in Recklessness

The transportation issue in Tampa Bay today consists of lots of kabuki dancing, lots of posturing, some street theater, some insider ball game scheming and even an attempted power grab. As taxpayers keep enriching the same consultants over and over for transit study after transit study, the rhetoric soars with dishonesty, deception and misleading information.

And all of this is done at what cost and at what success?

The attempt to extract millions and billions more from taxpayers for transit services that costs too much, does too little and benefits too few continues. Insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome - especially as transportation and traditional transit are being disrupted by innovation and new technology.

Reading local media or attending the too numerous transportation meetings in Tampa Bay, one would think transit is the biggest transportation issue in Tampa Bay. These transportation meetings are mostly attended by special interests and have become an echo chamber of group think. The group think mentality forces their focus to be on costly transit and empowers tone deafness to the reality that the vast majority in Tampa Bay want their roads, highways and interstates fixed and improved.

As a side note, the Orlando area is vastly improving and expanding their roads and interstates all over Central Florida while Tampa Bay has dithered with malfunction junction for decades and a Howard Frankland bridge northbound bottleneck that we bet has caused numerous folks to miss or almost miss their flights.

Just 10 short years ago, the now defunct Tribune published 'Malfunction' Moniker From Past Still Describes Revamped Junction (emphasis mine)
A state priority should be to move traffic faster through the intersection as welcomed improvements to I-275 and I-4 funnel more cars and trucks into the mix. 
Surely if the state can spare hundreds of millions of dollars to help private, profitable railroads improve their freight tracks through the boondocks, it can find enough money to add a few lanes to an urban junction used by tens of millions of cars and trucks a year. 
The constant shortfall of construction money suggests the local legislative delegation needs to do a better job advocating for local transportation improvements. And it suggests that Florida's congressional delegation needs to make more noise about the unfair return on federal gas taxes collected in Florida. For decades Florida drivers have helped pay for highway earmarks in states with much less traffic and growth. But most important, every political and civic leader in Tampa should agree that packing four lanes of high-speed traffic into three lanes is an intolerable way to treat ourselves and to welcome our guests. If, instead of playing petty political games, our state and local leaders would agree on top priorities such as fixing the junction, it wouldn't now face another decade of malfunction.
What happened since 2008? Tampa Bay keeps growing and even more cars and vehicles are using I-275 and I-4.

But then the media, special interests (especially those who would benefit) and some electeds figured out that if local taxes can be raised and a new long term pot of local money provided, they can gain access to another trough of federal dollars - federal transit grant monies. Those federal dollars come from the general fund aka debt. And that's how the tax hikes for rail boondoggles began.

While Hillsborough County overwhelmingly defeated the rail tax in 2010 58-42% and Pinellas County defeated Greenlight Pinellas rail tax by an even greater margin 62-38% in 2014, the media, the same power brokers and some electeds prefer to ignore the consent of the governed. And as we posted here, Hillsborough County's MPO has totally gone over the cliff of reality as they consider tearing down 10 miles of I-275 from downtown to Bearss, they try to use unsubstantiated data to create false narratives and ignore their own data.

As we reported here, the taxpayer funded TMA (which is the MPO's of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco) invited a transit lobbyist to speak on how to pursue a transit referendum, how to deceive by whitewashing use of the word "rail" and how to confront critics. This nonsense alone should have shut the TMA down two years ago.

Remember what Commissioner Hagan said about the tax hike proposed by the Go Hillsborough debacle in 2016 that he supported? 
Hagan said that by design, the ballot question does not mention light rail — a mode of transportation that opponents focused on and that was highly unpopular among suburban voters.
Of course, the fine print of the actual Go Hillsborough plan/projects for what the massive tax hike was going to fund included rail projects. Hmmm…Sound familiar? Being deceptive is consistently used by those who keep pursuing these massive long term transit tax hikes. But soaring rhetoric is easily debunked.  

Here is the reality of transit in Tampa Bay.  

AllTransit was implemented in 2016. It provides the percentage of commuters who use transit and a performance score provided. It also provides # of jobs within 1/2 mile (10-20 minute walk) of transit and # of workers within 1/2 mile of transit

According to the AllTransit website:

Tampa, FL - 2.68% of commuters use transit, 90.3 % of jobs w/in 1/2 mile of transit, 84.6% of workers live within 1/2 mile of transit

St. Petersburg, FL - 2.51% of commuters use transit, 93.6% jobs w/in 1/2 mile of transit, 89.2% of workers live within 1/2 mile of transit

Clearwater, FL - 2.78% of commuters use transit, 96.2% of jobs w/in 1/2 mile of transit, 88.1% of workers live within 1/2 mile of transit

Hillsborough County, FL (which is 1100 square miles, still has rural areas, lots of suburban) - 1.5% of commuters use transit, 75.8% of jobs w/in 1/2 mile of transit , 54.2% of workers live within 1/2 mile of transit

Pinellas County, FL (dense, built out) - 1.76% of commuters use transit, 92.6% of jobs within 1/2 mile of transit, 83.7% of of workers live within 1/2 mile of transit

Pasco County, FL (no large densities or CBD, lots of rural, suburban) - .45% (less than 1/2 percent) of commuters use transit, 47% of jobs w/in 1/2 mile of transit, 34.3% of workers live w/in 1/2 mile of transit

Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater Metro Area - 1.38% of commuters use transit, 78.2% of jobs w/in 1/2 mile of transit, 60.4% of workers live within 1/2 mile of transit

We are told by special interests, some electeds and others that the Tampa Bay region is one big happy family that needs to speak with a single voice. Therefore, looking at the total population: Today’s population in Tampa Bay is about 3 million and we are expecting a million or more to move to Tampa Bay (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco) by 2045 which could grow the population to over 4 million by then. 

For ease of use, let’s round and say 2% use transit today in Tampa Bay. If transit ridership quadrupled to 8% by 2045 (which has never happened), there will be 92% or 3.68 million of the 4 million using our roads while 320K of the 4 million use transit.

Looking at the largest county in Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County has a current population of about 1.4 million but only 1.5% (about 21K) use transit today and ridership has continued to decline. Hillsborough is expected to grow 600K by 2040 and may increase 800K over the next 30 years. The population by 2050 may be approaching 2.2 million. If transit ridership somehow quintupled from 1.5% today to 7.5% (which is totally unheard of), 165K would be using transit while over 2 million will be using roads.

Tampa Bay is growing and has a basic math problem. How we decide today to deal with the transportation issues of a growing region will determine whether we become gridlocked, get more congested or get any congestion relief.

Unfortunately once again deep pocketed special interests, with their media allies in tow, are pursuing another unnecessary massive 30 year sales tax hike to take $15 BILLION out of taxpayers wallets and force $7 BILLION be spent on costly transit projects. The special interests are funding a citizen petition effort to get the 14% sales tax hike on the November ballot that would fund a plan worse than the 2010 rail tax (post for another day).

Asking taxpayers to unnecessarily raise their sales tax to 8%, the highest in the state, and get stuck paying billions and billions for costly transit, rail and streetcars that does nothing for congestion relief and benefits so few is fiscal recklessness.