Monday, April 6, 2020

Tone-Deaf: Commissioner Smith To Keep Pursuing $16B Rail Tax During Crisis

Democrat Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith wants to rescind the commission's vote last week that stopped the county's pursuit to put the All for Transportation 2.0 $16 BILLION rail tax referendum on the November ballot.

Smith, a longtime Sierra Club activist and transit advocate, took to the Transit Now Tampa Bay Facebook page to activate her fellow transit ideologues. Smith uses Facebook pages "friendly" to her cause for her own political activism.

When Tampa Bay Sierra Club President Kent Bailey posted his complaint about the commission's vote last week, Smith responded with her plan of action: "It's not over. I'm placing an item on the agenda for our April 15 Board meeting to rescind that vote and schedule the public hearing for May 4, 6pm. Stay tuned. I'll post more soon."

Smith uses transit "friendly" Facebook page for her
transit political activism
At the same time we have been told Florida may hit its Coronavirus peak, Smith wants to hold a public hearing to put another one-percent $16 Billion rail tax on the November ballot.

While Smith continues to receive her $100K salary, many of her constituents have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay their bills and support their families. While Smith keeps her $100K salary, businesses in Hillsborough County that were forced to close may never reopen.

The $16 Billion rail tax Smith is pursuing forces county taxpayers to dedicate and hand transit agency HART 40% of all tax proceeds, about $6.5 BILLION, to fund city of Tampa rail systems. The only reason to pursue a massive $16 Billion tax hike is to fund costly Tampa rail - it is a rail tax.

The massive tax hike Smith keeps pursuing forces county taxpayers to dedicate and hand 1% of all tax proceeds, about $160 MILLION, to the central planning bureaucrats at the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization. Smith's desire to bloat the MPO bureaucracy at a time so many are suffering, people are losing their jobs and businesses and we may go into a Recession is revolting.

Less than 2% use transit in Hillsborough County and we do not know the impact the Coronavirus pandemic may have on transit usage.  Transit is a petri dish where germs are easily spread. It is believed heavy use of transit in New York metro area helped proliferate the spread of the Coronavirus in New York.

This virus pandemic is already driving paradigm shifts including telecommuting, telemedicine, tele-education and the use of online delivery services.

We do not know yet but the paradigm shifts may drive transit usage in Hillsborough County even lower. While there will still be transit dependent who need some type of transit service, the transit choice rider in Hillsborough County may be gone.

With these paradigm shifts and so much uncertainty, why should Hillsborough County taxpayers be forced to spend Billions on transit?

As we posted here as recently as March 6 (which seems light years away now), Commissioner Smith took a tour of SunRail SunFail out of Orlando/Orange County and "left the two-hour session with Orlando transit officials with one prevailing feeling: envy."

Orlando and the SunRail Central Florida counties including Orange County, Seminole County, Osceola County and Volusia County must pick up the operating and maintenance costs for SunRail beginning January 1, 2021.

These Central Florida counties have no dedicated funding source to fund SunRail. Osceola and Volusia Counties defeated proposed transportation sales tax hikes last year.

Orange County was also pursuing putting a 1% transit tax on the November ballot. But according to this report April 3rd
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced during a press conference April 3 that the county will be suspending the proposed tax increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we reported here, Pinellas County also ditched their effort to put a transit tax on the November ballot.

While other Florida counties display common sense and stop pursuing tax hikes during this crisis, Smith displays lack of judgment and lack of compassion for those suffering. Her naiveness is disturbing.

Smith's "envy" of costly rail is distasteful enough.

But Smith's tone-deaf pursuit exploiting this time of crisis, when we are shutdown in a State of Emergency, to keep pursuing putting another $16 Billion rail tax on the November ballot is repulsive.

Section 9.08 of the Hillsborough County Charter empowers citizens to recall elected officials.

Instead of another massive rail tax on the November ballot, perhaps a ballot initiative to recall Smith should be pursued.

1 comment:

  1. Mariella's judgement, now in this time of crisis, is obscene and borders on criminal negligence as does the rest of the countywide commissioners Kemp and Overman. They don't seem to understand that the resulting economic downturn and swiftly rising unemployment will cause a worsening health crisis and increased mortality, with or without Medicare for All. Their and other Tampa based organizations heartless insistence on continuing to pursue this sales tax at this time is not based on any facts at all. It will not decrease congestion, make the air cleaner or save the planet. Not a single species will be saved. It will put money in the pockets of a few in Tampa at the expense of many. These people scream the loudest for money from Washington for relief then take it away with the other hand. This sales tax will effect small business and its ability to recover, it will cause greater hardship on those most effected by recent events. This from a trio of commissioners whose most important concern is tearing down I-275 despite the wishes of the rest of the county. Who neglect to build roads to new schools. All for RAIL TRANSIT and some hidden agenda by the Sierra club that has never been put before the people of Hillsborough county, but seems to have found followers on the BOCC.