The Tampa Centric 5 Hillsborough County Commissioners (Overman, Cohen, Smith, Myers, Kemp) are responsible for putting the deceptive $23 Billion All for Transportation (AFT) transit tax on the November ballot. They are responsible and the reason why a legal challenge was filed against the AFT tax hike.
Circuit Court Judge Moe ruled on October 10th the (AFT) tax hike ballot language is misleading and removed the deceptive tax hike referendum from the ballot.
After that ruling, the voting public was bombarded for days with local media headlines shouting the AFT transit tax was "nullified", "removed", "eliminated", "thrown off" the ballot.
Judge Moe heard oral arguments on October 27th from both sides regarding Plaintiff's request to lift the automatic stay and she did.
On Friday, October 28th at 7am, the Hillsborough County SOE had placed signs at all the early voting locations and in the voting booths informing voters the transit tax had been removed from the ballot.
|SOE Notice to Voters AFT removed from ballot
Then Friday afternoon, the stay was temporarily put back in place by the 2nd District Court of Appeals and the SOE signs were removed leaving voters totally confused.
Voters have been repeatedly told, by the media and by the SOE, that the transit tax has been removed from the ballot.
The AFT transit tax referendum is corrupted beyond repair. The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in.
While the AFT tax hike ballot language was ruled unlawful, there may be other issues with the $23B AFT transit tax.
First, the AFT transit tax ballot is tainted. Voters have been repeatedly told the tax hike referendum was removed. Anyone who opposed or supported the tax hike may have simply not voted on the referendum because they were told, even by the SOE, it had been removed from the ballot.
Confusion now reigns over the AFT tax hike. The integrity of the transit tax hike referendum election is in jeopardy.
Second, as we posted here, the required Financial Impact Statement (FIS) was NOT included in the ballot language as required by Section 8.05 of the County Charter. The missing FIS violates the County Charter. We have still not gotten a satisfactory answer from the County or SOE for why the FIS was excluded. Local media have been told about this issue yet they have refused to ask questions or report about it.
Third, Hillsborough County directs the voting public to Ordinance 22-9 that specifies how the AFT transit funds are to be appropriated for 30 years.
But the County neglects to tell voters that per Florida Statute 212.055 the commissioners can apply the proceeds from the sales surtax to as many or as few of the uses Statute 212.055 enumerates in "whatever combination the county commission deems appropriate".
Statute 212.055 does not mention the transportation sales surtax can fund "Trails". Yet the April 19, 2022 memo from Public Works Asst. County Administrator John Lyons to the County Commissioners states that at a minimum:
The current proposed plan builds out the Greenways Master Plan for Trails at an estimated cost of $273M.
Additional funding would allow for expansion beyond the Master Plan.
Lyons 4/19 memo also states the $23B sales surtax would:
Resurface roads only once every 30 yearsFund only between 8/10 of a mile to 1 mile of new road capacity per year (a total of 24-30 miles) of additional lane capacity over 30 years
John Lyons memo is nowhere found on the County's "transportation education" website. This is totally unacceptable for a website created by engineering firm HNTB, who was handed a $700K taxpayer funded contract to launch the "transportation education" (aka GOTV) campaign.
The only place the terminology "build and widen roads" is used is in AFT's ballot summary language, the only thing every voter is guaranteed to read, Those words are the first item listed on the ballot language the tax hike will fund.
Using those poll tested words as the first item to be funded by the AFT tax, the County implies to voters that building and widening roads is the highest funding priority of the $23B tax hike.
That implication is totally false. The terms "build and widen roads" are only found in the ballot summary language. They are found NOWHERE else in Ordinance 22-9. Those words are nowhere found in any of the mandated appropriations dictated by Ordinance 22-9. There is NO appropriation in Ordinance 22-9 to fund additional new auto-lane capacity.
Statute 212.055 does not mention "make walking and biking safer". Those terms found in the ballot summary language can mean REMOVING auto lanes for bike paths and/or transit. Voters are not told that.
Fourth, Ordinance 22-9 putting the $23B transit tax on the ballot states:
the Board desires to enact this Ordinance to provide for the levy of, and referendum on, a one percent (1%) transportation system sales surtax (the "Transportation Surtax") in accordance with the State Surtax Law AND as provided herein, to provide a method of funding such transportation needs
All proceeds from the Transportation Surtax....shall be expended only as permitted by AND in accordance with this Ordinance AND the State Surtax LawA County Ordinance cannot supersede State law. Stating the AFT tax hike proceeds must be used according to Ordinance 22-9 AND State law appears to be conflicting.