Board vote on ballot language on light rail in Hillsborough County to be delayed?

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When Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder asked when the marketing campaign would begin, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe replied, "They're waiting for us," and said he was hoping that the vote on the language would still take place on March 3.


Chamber Chairman Chuck Sykes said the Tampa Bay Partnership has kicked off a Referendum Committee, of which he is a member of,  but "once we have that language, we can really start positioning how we need to go out and begin building our strategy."


Chamber President and CEO Bob Rohlack said the Chamber has the infrastructure in place, through "the grass roots," naming groups like Emerge Tampa and other local business agencies.  "All that's getting in place right now," he assured.


Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern said, "We need a political marketing campaign run by the best professionals who can do that."  Like other local officials, she fretted that there could be confusion amongst the electorate about high-speed rail and the local light rail effort, after the state plan to run trains from Tampa to Orlando was awarded over a billion dollars last month.


But it was left up to Commissioner Jim Norman, an outspoken critic against the one cent referendum, to again became the proverbial skunk at the light rail party.  Sarcastically claiming that he's ware of the "grass roots" that Rohlack referenced, Norman said that he's been out campaigning in parts of the County, and he says the public is outraged at the prospect of  being asked to have their their taxes raised.


"I live and walk 3 days a week, late at night, and I'm talking to people everywhere," he began.  "I'm running into that 12% unemployment rate.  I'm running into people, so angry at this elected government for trying to do this to families right now.  Y'all got a tough sell , you got a ...I don't care how much education you're going to throw at people, they're angry, they're angry at government, that we don't have our barometer right, we're asking for a penny sales tax from these people...you should hear the anger in these living rooms.  It's unbelivable.  ...  This 'grass roots'  stuff you're talking about?  You oughta go out there and experience that."  And with that, the Commissioner dumped his can of soda into a garbage can and walked out of the meeting.


The BOCC will conduct a workshop on transportation Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.  Tomorrow afternoon at 5:30 p.m.,  the Transportation Task Force will hold another public meeting on the one-cent transit sales tax at the Brandon Regional Service Center.  That's at 311 Pauls Drive in Brandon.

County Commission Chair Ken Hagan hinted today that ballot language for the proposed one cent sales tax for transportation projects might not be voted on at the BOCC's March 3rd meeting.

He made the comment at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce luncheon with members of the  Tampa City Council, Hillsborough County Commission and Hillsborough County School Board.

The timing is important, since the Tampa Bay Partnership, which will be spearheading a campaign in support of the proposal,  say they are holding back on any type of marketing plan until they see the actual language that would go before County voters on November 2.

Hagan said that governance and accountability issues, as well as community meetings currently going on right now about the proposal, could delay the discussion and formal vote on the language scheduled for the first week of March.  "It's very likely it might be that meeting after the 3rd, maybe two meetings after the 3rd," he speculated.  "We're shooting for that.  But I guess you have noticing requirements.  You have to do it 10 days or 14 days in advance of that, so it's making that a little tight."

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