Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tampa Centric 5 Must Have No Say In AFT $521M Refund "Hot Mess" They Helped Create, Four Can Be Voted Out Next Year

All for Transportation "hot mess" Dumpster Fire 

The Tampa Centric Five Hillsborough County commissioners were staunch supporters of the unlawful All for Transportation Transit (AFT) $16B rail tax in 2018. Commissioners Pat Kemp, Kimberly Overman, Mariella Smith, Harry Cohen and Gwen Myers, all Democrats, aided and abetted AFT's shameful activity of putting an illegal rail tax hike on the ballot and misleading the voting public. 

Tampa Centric 5 County Commissioners who 
supported illegal AFT rail tax 

Now Hillsborough County OWES taxpayers $521,183,433 that needs to be refunded according to this Fox13 report  

Karen Jaroch, with the group "Fix our Roads First," calls it a "hot mess," adding, "this whole tax could have been avoided if it was legally vetted in the first place."
....the Florida Legislature could step in with a local bill to enable White’s idea [sales tax holiday], which Jaroch supports, telling FOX 13, "the Department of Revenue could work with legislators to come up with a good bill to return the money fairly through a sales tax holiday."

Jaroch also stated the "Defenders" of the AFT rail tax should NOT be deciding the refund remedy for the "hot mess" they helped create. The winners of the lawsuit NOT the losers must decide the refund remedy. 

Fox13 stated AFT is a road tax but that is not true. 

The County can fund its roads within the County's bloated $7.142 BILLION growing budget without any massive tax hike. 

AFT is a rail tax to force taxpayers in unincorporated Hillsborough County to pay for rail boondoggles in the city of Tampa to benefit AFT's crony wealthy donors and downtown developers. The rail tax is also tied to a new baseball stadium that the same wealthy cronies want taxpayers also to fund.

Horrifically the $16B AFT rail tax specifically prohibited funding of new road capacity. it also forced hundreds of miles of "road diets" to remove valuable lanes of vehicle traffic all over Hillsborough County. 

AFT is the congestion creation rail tax hike.

The AFT rail tax is scandalous and a very contentious and tainted issue in Hillsborough County. Judge Barbas, who assigned himself to the case in the lower court after former Judge Laurel Lee recused herself and he also allowed AFT to intervene in the lawsuit, should not be negotiating any refund with the losing Defendants or the AFT losing intervenors of the lawsuit. 

The refund remedy must be determined by the lawsuit winners in a Court preferably outside Hillsborough County. 

Or, as Ms. Jaroch states in the Fox13 interview, our state legislators can pass a bill to implement a sales tax holiday in Hillsborough County until the $521M is depleted. 

The Hillsborough County commissioners should be championing such bill with Hillsborough's local legislative delegation instead of proposing "funny business" refund shenanigans to allow the County to keep most of the illegal tax proceeds.

Commission Chair Pat Kemp and the rest of the Tampa Centric 5 commissioners have already agreed they are putting AFT 2.0 rail tax do-over on the 2022 ballot. There's been no public meetings and no refund of the 2018 AFT illegal tax proceeds. They don't care. They have the votes to put another rail tax boondoggle on the ballot and they will. It is a done deal.

While the Tampa Centric 5 were warned in 2018 there were numerous legal issues with AFT, they ignored the warnings. The AFT rail tax referendum included 5 pages of appropriations - stating who, how, where, how much the $16B would be spent and pages and pages of regulatory gobblygook. 

It is simply common sense that biased political committees have NO authority to appropriate public funds or create regulations. Florida Statute 212.055, which governs local transportation sales tax referendums clearly states it is the elected county commissioners who have the appropriations authority.

Proceeds from the surtax shall be applied to as many or as few of the uses enumerated below in whatever combination the county commission deems appropriate

How could Pat Kemp, who has publicly touted herself as being a lawyer while sitting on the dais during commission meetings, and Harry Cohen, also a Florida lawyer, not understand Florida law? 

Or does the end justify the means?

When Cohen ran for his county commission District 1 seat he barely won last year, he did not disclose to voters he was a lawyer for one of the AFT Defendants - Hillsborough Clerk of the Court office - in the AFT lawsuit.  Though he no longer is the lawyer for the Clerks office, Cohen was legally tied at the hip with AFT and their high priced lawyers last year but he was not transparent about it. 

Now Cohen sits on the county commission and Surprise Surprise he wants to put the AFT rail tax boondoggle do-over on the 2022 ballot. Cohen had the audacity to ask in February this year, ironically right before the Florida Supreme Court threw out the entire AFT rail tax as unlawful, if the County should begin spending the AFT tax proceeds. Remember he's a lawyer...asking whether the County can spend tax proceeds still under litigation. It's like the Twilight Zone.

Commissioner Overman got caught lying to the media that AFT had been "thoroughly vetted" in December 2018 right after Commissioner White filed his lawsuit. These commissioners are disqualified from proposing any refund remedy to fix the big mess they helped create.

Kemp, Overman and Smith voted on April 1, 2020, right as the pandemic wrecked havoc on us and before the Supreme Court ever issued their ruling striking down the entire illegal tax down, to put the same AFT 2.0  rail tax on the 2020 ballot. They wanted to reward the wealthy AFT cronies by putting another $16B tax hike on the 2020 ballot when their constituents were losing their jobs and their livelihoods and financially struggling....while they kept their 6 figure taxpayer funded jobs. Shameful! 

A survey this year of Hillsborough County residents reflects a vast super majority 89% want their roads fixed. A vast supermajority 75% would never use transit and do not want to pay for more transit.

The Tampa Centric Five are out of touch with their own constituents. 

Those who support illegal rail tax hikes, crafted in the dark behind closed doors and funded by crony wealthy downtown donors, should not be in elected office. Those who support unlawful activity cannot be trusted, should be removed from office and are disqualified from having any say in the AFT refund remedy.

Lucky for Hillsborough, four of the five Tampa Centric commissioners - Kimberly Overman, Mariella Smith, Gwen Myers and lawyer Harry Cohen are running for re-election. They can be voted out of office next year.

So wake up Hillsborough County voters.  

And send these four commissioners and their crony rail tax boondoggle packing in 2022!

No comments:

Post a Comment