Taxpayers in Hillsborough County have not received a refund, in any way, shape or form, of any of the unlawfully collected $512 Million All for Transportation (AFT) transit tax monies. The fact that taxpayers are owed over a half a billion dollars of AFT 1.0 monies is not stopping the Hillsborough commissioners from pursuing another transit tax hike.
At the BOCC meeting on Wednesday, 5/5/2021, the Hillsborough County commissioners voted to begin activities for putting AFT 2.0 on the November 2022 ballot.
Commissioner Gwen Myers, who was an ardent supporter of the unlawful All for Transportation transit tax and worked on the AFT campaign in 2018, is leading the effort to put AFT 2.0 on the 2022 ballot.
Sam Hamilton from the County Attorney's office informed the commissioners of the transit tax hike timeline. The commissioners must vote to put AFT 2.0 on the November 2022 ballot by the end of April 2022 to comply with completing the required OPPAGA audit.
Commissioner White requested there be robust community input from across the entire county and asked that four public hearings be scheduled, one in each single member district. We remember too well the Go Hillsborough debacle.
Commissioner Overman stated the public was "waiting on us" to put AFT 2.0 on the 20022 ballot as 57% voted for AFT in 2018. Overman failed to mention AFT lied to voter their unlawful transit tax was "fixing" roads to reduce traffic congestion when it was a rail tax that prohibited funding of new road capacity creating more congestion.
Overman wanted the commissioners to vote to put AFT 2.0 on the 2022 ballot by December 31, 2021. Her top-down attitude is that she, the commissioners and the county need 2022 to explain and communicate "their" plan to "our" residents. She also appeared paranoid the state could make legislative changes next year and there was "risk" in waiting to 2022 to put AFT 2.0 on the ballot.
There was pushback on Overman's aggressiveness to put on the ballot by year end as Commissioner Cohen, who was part of the legal counsel team for All for Transportation, commented this time the commissioners need to "get it right"....whatever that means.
Commissioner Smith agreed with Cohen about "getting it right". She suggested the four meetings in each single district be called "Town Halls" and be considered a "listening tour" to get public comments.
Sound eerily similar to those "Town Halls" the county held in high schools throughout the county in 2015 prior to the county launching the crony Go Hillsborough debacle? People showed up en masse at those "Town Halls" wanting their roads fixed.
Remember how the county promised to publicly publish a summary report of those public comments? The county never did publish such report because the vast majority of people wanted their roads fixed while the county wanted a 30 year tax hike to fund costly rail and transit.... when less than 2% in Hillsborough County used transit back then. As we posted here, transit ridership has tanked even more for numerous reasons and may never recover to even previous anemic levels in Tampa Bay.
Commissioner White got Commissioner Myers to clarify she prefers putting AFT 2.0 on the November 2022 ballot through an Ordinance not a Charter Amendment.
The commissioners passed Commissioner Myers motion to start hosting the four Town Halls about AFT 2.0 in August while taxpayers wait for over a half of Billion dollars be refunded to them from AFT 1.0.
It is unclear how many public hearings will be scheduled before the commissioners vote on another transit tax referendum.
These activities are required for transparency but it is already clear they are window dressing.
Because the same five commissioners - Kemp, Overman, Cohen, Smith and Myers - who supported the unlawful AFT rail tax in 2018 - will be voting to put AFT 2.0 on the November ballot.
Ironically, these same five commissioners told voters in 2018 they could not trust the elected officials.