Friday, April 3, 2020

Pinellas County Will Not Pursue Transit Tax on November Ballot

Yesterday Pinellas County Commissioners decided not to pursue putting a transit tax on the November ballot.



Pinellas County's decision followed that of Hillsborough County who decided Wednesday, thanks to four commissioners Miller, Murman, Hagan and White with common sense, to ditch a transit tax referendum as we battle the Coronavirus emergency and its economic devastation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

4-3 Vote: No $16B Transit Tax on November Ballot in Hillsborough


Hillsborough County Commission will not be putting any proposed All for Transportation 2.0 $16 Billion transit tax on the November ballot - if the Florida Supreme Court throws out the All for Transportation tax passed in 2018.

Go here to listen to today's Special Meeting that was a virtual meeting with audio only. Note the meeting starts at about 15:15 on the Youtube recording.

The Special meeting was called by Commission Chair Les Miller. Miller began the meeting with his Motion to defer pursuing any proposed transit tax hike until 2021. To his credit, Miller compassionately and eloquently stated the many reasons why he was making the motion that would stop the pursuit of putting a massive tax hike on the ballot during this time of crisis.

Will Pinellas County Keep Pursuing Transit Tax Hike During Crisis?

As posted here yesterday, the Chair of Hillsborough County Commission Les Miller called a virtual "Special Meeting" for 1pm today with little public notice, to reschedule a public hearing for putting the All for Transportation 2.0 $16 Billion transit tax hike on the November ballot.

Will Pinellas County also try to schedule a public hearing to put a proposed transit tax hike on the ballot?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

County Commission Chair Pursues Picking Your Pockets During Crisis.

While everyone is on lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic crisis, Hillsborough County Commission Chair Les Miller astonishingly displays where his priorities lie.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Miller had cancelled the April 1 public hearing about putting another All for Transportation (AFT) $16 BILLION rail tax hike on the November ballot. Miller had scheduled the April 1 public hearing weeks ago that now seem like an eternity ago.

With little notice at 7:51 AM this morning, the county sends an email announcing a "SPECIAL MEETING" scheduled for tomorrow at 1:30pm. The meeting notice to discuss rescheduling the public hearing for putting the AFT 2.0 $16 Billion tax hike on the ballot was sent out to the public about 30 hours before tomorrow's meeting.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Injustice? Tampa Homestead Property Seized by Court

The State of Florida has a Constitution, so does the United States of America. A Constitution, whether State or Federal, is the embodiment of the rights of the citizens.

Our Pledge of Allegiance ends “with Liberty and Justice for All”.

We want to believe our legal and judicial system is fair and will always ensure there is justice for all. But at times it appears there is a double standard where certain people or certain groups of people seem favored or disfavored in our legal system over others.

The people of the State of Florida, when they created the Florida Constitution, were committed to the concept of the inviolability of the Home, hence what is called the Florida Homestead Exemption found in Article X, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The family home is as close to sacred as can come under the Florida Constitution.

But there is a legal case in Tampa that may shake the sacred foundation that homesteaded property cannot be seized to pay another party's creditors.

The case involves residential property purchased in 2009 by Tampa tax attorney Terri Gaffney from her father John Gaffney who passed away in 2011. The property never lost its homestead and the property has always been homesteaded.

A lawsuit was filed in 2014, which Ms. Gaffney claims was after the relevant statute of limitations had expired, attempting to reclaim the property as part of her father's estate to pay legal expenses incurred by another family member.

In October 2017 a 13th Judicial Circuit Court judge ruled to seize the homesteaded property. A Hillsborough County sheriff knocked on the door of the property one morning and told all who were there to vacate the property in 15 minutes.

Since then the property has gone into a state of disrepair. Two vehicles and family keepsakes were forced to be abandoned and the property subsequently became subject to county code violations. The county pursued massive fines against Gaffney and her family while a circuit court had removed their legal rights to the property.

The county code violations fines were recently tossed out by a county court judge but there continues to be a number of twists and turns with Gaffney's case.

The Eye recently had an exclusive interview with Terri Gaffney. Below is a clip of that interview and a statement from Gaffney's attorney Sheldon McMullen.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

County Center: Stop Waging War On Small Business, Taxpayers and Move County Center Out of Downtown Tampa

The Eye headed to the Hillsborough County Commission meeting last week. Downtown Tampa is one big logistical headache to get to anywhere in downtown, park in downtown and get around in downtown.

Hillsborough County government needs to move out of downtown Tampa and provide much better access to County services. Downtown Tampa has become a mobility and parking nightmare. That is not fair to residents in unincorporated Hillsborough who need better access to County Services but are forced to go to County Center in downtown Tampa.

Residents of unincorporated Hillsborough should start demanding the County move out of the mausoleum building in downtown Tampa aka County Center.

Here is one suggestion. Hillsborough County owns the MOSI property on Fowler Avenue and MOSI is moving downtown. Swap places. The county could move county services to the MOSI property they own which is more centrally located with access between 2 interstate highways. The County can sell the County Center building. We know the city of Tampa wants more office towers - here's one ready to rent.

When we finally got to County Center, the March 4 BOCC meeting was a plethora of actions to shut down small business and raise taxes.

Listen to our latest podcast as we discuss how the county needs to get out of downtown Tampa and  stop waging a war on small business and the taxpayers.

According to Hillsborough County, more than 90% of all commercial ventures are small businesses. However, if this commission does not like your industry or business or they find one bad apple, they will punish everyone instead of addressing the bad apple.

Higher taxes hurts small businesses the most and having the highest sales tax rate in the state will hurt them even more.
Sales Tax Map Courtesy of WTSP
At just this one meeting, the Hillsborough County commission took actions to punish the entire pet retail industry, take choices away from their constituents, put another one percent 30 year $16B transit tax on the November ballot, eliminate clarity and transparency to voters and hold county roads hostage to funding costly rail in the city of Tampa

Considering the commissioners meet every 2 weeks, what other harm is this county commission doing to their own constituents and the residents/taxpayers of Hillsborough County?

Saturday, March 7, 2020

With $16 Billion AFT Transit Tax There's No New Road Capacity Planned for 38 New Schools in Hillsborough County

All for Transportation (AFT) never told voters their new $16 BILLION transit tax will not fund needed increased road capacity for any of the new schools planned in Hillsborough County.

But the central planning bureaucrats at the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) did know and they said nothing in 2018. The MPO transportation planners never informed the voting public of this huge transportation issue. 

Friday, March 6, 2020

Hillsborough's Leaders Ride the Train to Failure

Yesterday a group of "Hillsborough leaders" took a tour of SunRail SunFail, Orlando's commuter rail that has been the envy of our "leaders" for years. But the horror! The county commissioners got stuck in traffic, and they missed their train!
People are spending hours sitting on I-4 trying to get from one place to another,” SunRail’s deputy program manager Sandra Gutierrez told the Hillsborough contingent. 
“You talk to these people who have transformed their commute from a highway system to a commuter rail system, and it’s just night and day.”  I think we had that true life experience today,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp quipped, after meeting up with the others later in the morning.
What a nightmare! If we only had SunRail in Tampa Bay we'd never experience traffic jams again. 

Source:https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-pictures-sunrail-crash-in-seminole-county-20171130-photogallery.html
Yet the real horror is Hillsborough's leaders plans to replicate SunRail failures in Tampa Bay.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

More talking points they don't want to talk about

As we posted here recently, the MPO has a set of talking points that ripple through their Long Range Transportation Plan, to the transit and urban activist, and into our political and business leadership.

A set of recurring talking points reverberate around our poor transit in Tampa Bay. It's holding us back, we need to invest more in transit, transit riders can't get to jobs, blah blah blah.

What does the data show?


via GIPHY

A lot they don't want to talk ... or listen ... about.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Myth Busting the MPO's Talking Points

The Eye recently received "talking points" from Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Executive Director Beth Alden addressed to Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman as a public records request. Beth Alden spoke to many of these points offering support for the AFT 2.0 transportation tax at the February 19, 2020 BOCC meeting, apparently at Overman's invitation.

Beth Alden talking her points.
The complete "talking points" memo is here

There's plenty to digest, but we'll take a few talking points that missed a few talking points.

Monday, March 2, 2020

"Just Trust Us": AFT 2.0 Rail Tax Throws Billions At Rudderless Transit Agency in Chaos

Transit agency HART currently has no leadership at the helm and is in a state of at least semi-chaos due to some poor judgement by its own governing board. But the Hillsborough County Commission keeps pursuing forcing taxpayers to simply "hand" the chaotic transit agency Billions of new AFT transit tax proceeds.

After the November 2018 election, newly elected Democrat County Commissioners Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith replaced Republican Commissioners Sandy Murman and Stacy White on the governing Board of HART.

The new HART Board felt compelled to continue pursuing a new CEO….even after a lawsuit was filed in December 2018 legally challenging the All for Transportation (AFT) $16B transit tax.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Peak at the Future: CSX jams up South Tampa

South Tampa got a peak at their jammed up future when CSX shut down several roads cross CSX tracks for planned maintenance, allegedly without proper notification to the City of Tampa and residents. It sounded like Armageddon from reading the local press reports. The Eye daughter even called complaining her normal 15 minute commute home from work increased to over an hour. Politicians and bureaucrats weighed in.

Then it got really confused.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Who Knew? HART's Mega Millions Spending Spree Funds Existing Services With New Transit Tax

As we posted in November 2018, transit agency HART has no plans for how to spend Billions of new All for Transportation (AFT) sales tax monies.

So right out of the gate, HART plans to fund their existing services, currently funded by property tax revenues, with the new AFT tax.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Hillsborough County Commissioner White Responds With Facts to Tampa Bay Times Attack

Reprinting Hillsborough County commissioner Stacy White response to a recent Tampa Bay Times editorial:

After reading the Tampa Bay Times’ Feb. 23 editorial, “Leading the way on transportation,'' I was struck by how it seemed long on rhetoric but short on facts. As a commissioner who was mentioned by name, allow me to present some further comments and provide the facts surrounding the “back-up” tax plan.

The voters of the county deserve to know the structural details of this “back-up” plan, which, outside of our Board of County Commissioners meetings, have not been comprehensively discussed. As an elected official, I firmly believe the voters of this county are more than capable of analyzing the facts and making a decision on whether this is a roads investment or a mass transit investment, but they need to see the entire picture.

Much like the previous surtax, 40 cents and 1 cent of every dollar of this tax levy, respectively, would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority and the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, with the remaining portion split between unincorporated Hillsborough County and the three cities according to a population-based formula. Accordingly, there would be – at most – 44 cents of every dollar spent on roads capacity projects (i.e., road widening or building new roads) that benefit unincorporated Hillsborough County.

The plan allows the commission to allocate more of its share than the dedicated 40 cents of every dollar to HART. The commission could also spend a portion of its share on things like road resurfacing, bicycle lanes and sidewalks. This means that it’s possible for unincorporated Hillsborough County to receive less than 44 cents of every dollar for added road capacity. If this tax is viewed as an investment, that’s a return on investment of 44 cents on the dollar for road capacity projects in unincorporated Hillsborough County – and potentially much lower.

Plant City residents would see little more than 1 cent of every dollar of this tax go toward transportation projects within their city. That’s not a penny of every dollar spent by taxpayers, but a penny of every dollar of the tax placed into the government coffers. That equates to paying the tax on two $50 restaurant tabs for Plant City residents to see just 1 cent spent on projects in their city. It’s also important to note that Plant City does not participate in HART and, therefore, does not receive services from HART. Unless this is changed before the election, it would be unfair to definitively tell Plant City residents they will receive services from HART.

The crux of this is whether the plan is a roads investment or a mass transit investment, and, if the latter – does this mass transit investment go from Lutz to Fort Lonesome? If the citizens of this county are presented with a lawful referendum this November and express that they are happy with the returns on investment listed above by passing it, then so be it. But the citizens should be armed with the objective facts, fair and square.

Stacy R. White is a Hillsborough County commissioner representing District 4, which is comprised of east and south Hillsborough County.

Monday, February 24, 2020

April Fools Day Mischief: The Rail Tax Do Over


The Tax is Back!

Hillsborough County BOCC Chair Les Miller and Commissioner Kimberly Overman proposed at the February 19 BOCC meeting to put All For Transportation (AFT) 2.0, another $16 Billion 30 year 1% transit tax, on the November ballot.

And to top that off, the public hearing for the All for Transportation (AFT) transit tax 2.0 is scheduled for April Fool's Day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Panic in the Air!

Now that the AFT related lawsuit made it to the Florida Supreme Court, its become clear the future of the tax is in jeopardy. Fear and panic is in the air. Rather than calming down, reflecting upon failures and lessons learned, developing a real transportation plan for all constituencies in Hillsborough County, the BOCC wants to double down again on the past failures, starting at tomorrow's February 19, 2020 BOCC meeting.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Anti-Car Brigade: $16B Transit Tax Tied to Tearing Down Interstates and Road Diets

Who knew? All for Transportation is the anti-car brigade who want to force us out of our cars to use public transit.

Our latest podcast (about 20 minutes) identifies some currently proposed transit projects that use major road diets for transit. Listen to the podcast as we discuss the proposed I-275 tear down and other road diet transit projects that will require funding by the All for Transportation transit tax.

Monday, February 3, 2020

No One Should Be Above the Rule of Law, Time to Throw Out the All for Transportation Transit Tax!

The oral arguments on the All for Transportation (AFT) lawsuits will be heard the morning of February 5, 2020.
From FL Supreme Court Docket Schedule
(click to enlarge)
One can watch the arguments livestream on Wednesday or view an archived video recording here.

It is worth reading some of the legal documents related to the case. The documents associated with the original case is found at the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court by searching on case number 18-CA-11749, clicking on the magnifying glass under View and selecting Events/Documents.

We suggest reading White's Amended Complaint, the Depositions of Commissioner White and AFT's Chair Tyler Hudson and the Final Summary Judgment where Judge Barbas strikes major portions, including all the mandated spending percentages, from AFT's charter amendment.

The documents filed regarding the Appeals on the AFT lawsuits to the Florida Supreme Court can be found under Case Number SC19-1250. It is worth reading the Merit Briefs, the Amicus Curiae Briefs, and the Cross Reply Briefs.

A must read is the Cross Reply Brief filed on 11/13/2019 by Commissioner White's attorney Chris Altenbernd.

With the AFT legal process playing out this week at the Florida Supreme Court, it's time for some reminders about the AFT transit tax and why we hope it will be thrown out.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Bankrupt in 2022 - PSTA Seeking Taxpayer Bailout in 2020

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency (PSTA) is going bankrupt. Instead of fixing their fiscal crisis, they are seeking bailouts and new revenue sources. PSTA wants another transit tax referendum on the 2020 ballot because they are insolvent in 2022.