Friday, October 19, 2018

What NoTaxForTracks Said, What They Wrote

The PAC was filed with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections on October 5, 2018. The PAC was established as formal opposition to the All for Transportation 14% sales tax hike that is on the ballot.

On October 17th the Times published an article about Mayor Buckhorn supporting the rail tax hike that included:
The only organized opposition to the tax is from Americans for Prosperity — an anti-tax, small government group founded by oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch.
That was totally incorrect.

But such newsworthiness that Mayor "I haven't seen a rail tax I don't support" Buckhorn is supporting another rail provided the Times another opportunity to provide free earned media in support of the rail tax.

The Times was finally shamed into having to acknowledge NoTaxForTracks. Times reporter Chris O'Donnell contacted several representatives of the NoTaxForTracks PAC yesterday.

NTFT asked O'Donnell to email his questions and NTFT responded in writing. This is important to compare what O'Donnell wrote vs NTFT's full responses.

The Times has given pages and pages of free earned media coverage to All for Transportation for the last four months. As we previously reported, the Times has even printed multiple articles in one day to cheerlead for the tax hike.

Below are the questions from O'Donnell and NTFT's actual response.
First you asked me on the phone why we formed so late?
We formed to counter the deception perpetrated by wealthy developers bankrolling the All for Transportation campaign. The public is unaware that this is a tax hike over 30 years costing $16 billion. 
1. Why is it a bad plan?
It’s a tax:
It is a new 30-year increase of our sales tax on purchases, going from 7% to 8% which totals a whopping $16 billion and makes Hillsborough County the highest taxed county in Florida.

It's unnecessary:
This tax increase is unnecessary as Hillsborough County Commissioners re-prioritized $800M of existing revenue for transportation funding over 10 years that along with our existing gas taxes funds needed maintenance and safety issues.
It funds 4 rail projects
This spending plan fully funds three of four rail projects outright without leveraging federal funds because they wouldn’t meet minimum federal thresholds for cost-effectiveness. This means that Title 6 protections likely won’t be in place for the transit-dependent community. 
According to Beth Alden of the MPO during an August Tampa City Council discussion of this tax and according to organizers of All For Transportation who wrote the 5-pages of fine print that voters won’t see on the ballot, this plan is based on the MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). Page 168 of the plan funds rail which we believe is too costly and provides little to no congestion relief. The Hybrid Rail project long cited on the MPO’s wishlist is a diesel-burning train built for freight tracks. There is no demonstrated ridership for the USF to downtown route to justify the exorbitant costs. In fact the Regional Premium Transit study showed that benefits didn't exceed costs. There is also streetcar construction, modern tram (aka light rail) from downtown to West Shore and then a people mover from West Shore to the airport. 
It gives developers a break from paying for impacts of their developments:
We believe new development should pay for new roads. The mobility fee that developers pay to reduce road impacts will be cut in half if this tax passed. This is Table 7 from the Hillsborough County Mobility Fee study. Developers pay 30% less with a ½% sales tax, and likely more than half if the whole 1 % enacted. See
Legal issues:
There are several legal issues that are troubling. The charter amendment goes against several provisions of 212.055 Florida Statutes.

2. Your group has stated there are no funds for widening or new road construction. All for Transportation disputes that pointing to the “ “ of the General Purpose Portion (the 54 percent). They also state that those restrictions only apply to Hills County and Tampa, not Temple Terrace and Plant City? Why are they wrong and No Tax for Tracks right?

45% of the funds go to Transit and there is an intentional reason the 55% portion is called General Purpose and not Road Purpose. In the amendment voters are deciding, there is an express prohibition against any funding of new auto lane capacity in the major categories of Maintenance, Congestion Reduction, and Safety. The fourth category is for Bike/Pedestrian Infrastructure which by definition isn’t new auto lane capacity. The final category called Remaining Funds has a road capacity prohibition that isn’t as obvious. This clause states that any remaining funds can be used for any purpose allowable by state statute (so far so good) AND by the charter amendment (which prohibits new auto lane capacity). In legal terminology, the “and” clause means both criteria need to be satisfied to be true. Since the amendment includes a prohibition on new auto lane capacity, the remaining funds can never be eligible for usage towards new auto lane capacity.

3. Ms. Calvert is saying that the plan has four different rails components. Can you explain? (I will ask her if that’s better)

See above on why this a bad plan.

4. How should the community fund needed transportation fixes?
We need a 10-year plan with defined projects that don’t crowd out future transportation technology advances. The County Commissioners restored some of the existing funding that was pulled back during the recession and they are starting to address the backlog. The key phrase in your question is needs versus wants. We have plans to fund what is needed, but funding for pricey trains to downtown stadiums takes an additional tax that residents of Hillsborough County can't afford. 
5. Your group has raised $7,000. How will you compete with a group that has raised $2.3 million? How will the group campaign to get its message to voters

As in 2010, it doesn’t take that much money to tell the truth.

6. Why has the group not taken a position on the schools half penny tax?
We are a PAC formed to oppose the Hillsborough County Charter Amendment No. 2. Some of our members are personally supportive of the school tax. Formally we do not oppose the school tax.

7. As a former HART board member, do you agree that bus service should be expanded? If so, how should that be funded?

During my six years on HART, we expanded service (measured in revenue hours and miles) every year. Starting in 2014 and continuing today, as in Charlotte which was oft-cited at the time as the model we should emulate, ridership has plummeted. I favor a robust, flexible transit option utilizing buses until newer, faster cheaper options become available. Autonomous rideshare holds a lot of promise to that end. Fixed rail or buses in exclusive guideway doesn’t. In 2015 I spoke in favor of a portion of the $800M in funding that the Hillsborough County Commissioners were re-directing to transportation, go to HART. I spoke in favor of value capture in defined urban area where HART services were heaviest such as they do in Lakeland. Furthermore, it has been several years since HART initiated a fare study.

Now that rideshare is legal in Hillsborough County, there are many private providers of transportation that take handicapped riders to their medical appointments that don’t cost the $76 round trip that taxpayers subsidize for each rider of the rationed HARTPlus service. In many cases, their trip isn’t much more than the $8 they would have paid to HART for subpar service.
O'Donnell took succinct answers that even included some citations and the Times published this article titled Three weeks before election, tax foes organize to fight transportation measure.

First the timing in the title is wrong. NoTaxForTracks filed October 5th, which is a month before the November 6 election. Details must not matter.

The same rail cartel band of wealthy special interests with their transit advocates in tow put their band back together months ago. That band is a broken record playing the same old stale song over and over again.

The Times was so adamant to adhere to the All for Transportation doctrine not to mention the word rail or trains, that they truncated NoTaxForTracks name to No Tax. 

No one has ever truncated the NoTaxForTracks name. The Times never truncated the name NoTaxForTracks in 2010 or in 2014 during Greenlight Pinellas. NoTaxForTracks is a brand name in Tampa Bay and suddenly the Times decides to truncate the name. 

The Times does not want the voting public to know the $16 Billion tax hike is a rail tax. 

Why didn't the Times truncate the name All for Transportation to All for Transit?

All for Transportation is not a grassroots effort. It is an astroturf campaign funded by wealthy special interests using millennials as their public face. Jeff Vinik has dumped almost $500K into All for Transportation's coffers. 

Vinik associates and his allies, including the Tampa Bay Partnership band members, have dumped their obligatory hundreds of thousands of dollars into another rail tax hike campaign. It is 2010 all over again.

No surprise that All for Transportation refused to comment. 

They do not want to answer any questions about the plan they wrote. 

They have no citations or evidence to backup all their exaggerated claims.

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