Hillsborough anti light-rail advocate wants to insure that county leaders never revisit issue

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Caton, better known perhaps for his jihad against gays in the county, took up the Tea Party led mantra against light rail over a year ago, and on at least one occasion debated one of the transit tax's most fervent supporters, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe.

The measure lost by 19 points. However it should never be forgotten that it was successful in the precincts within Tampa - which brings back all types of issues in the past where the wishes of those in the city have been commandeered by the voters outside it.

In any event, if you'll recall, just a couple of weeks after the stunning defeat (the fact that the measure lost wasn't stunning, simply the size of that vote), there was already talk of reviving some form of a light rail system - a "starter line," was the phrase, that might be built from downtown to Tampa International Airport.

But the slim possibility of that ever occurring died when Governor Rick Scott rejected the $2 billion the federal government had already promised the state to build a high speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando.

So, needless to say, there is a lot of uncertainty in Bay area circles about transit, with the modus operandi over at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency being to get back to basics - as in providing the best bus service possible.

On Monday, the HART board tentatively approved a budget that will preserve most of the current service, but will do so by boosting the millage rate in Hillsborough County. That compromise (the board could have voted to maintain the current millage, but cut significantly more bus routes) prevents a worse case scenario - which is no rail, and less buses.

Meanwhile, just as importantly, Pinellas County officials are scheduled to speak on June 23 about their plans for transit moving forward into 2012 as well.

David Caton
  • David Caton

When Hillsborough County voters overwhelmingly defeated the penny transit tax last fall, local supporters said that the idea would definitely come back - they just couldn't predict when.

But if one anti-rail advocate gets his way, that will never happen.

In Wednesday's St. Petersburg Times, reporter Jodie Tillman alerts the citizenry that though it may be nothing more than an idle thought, activist David Caton would love to get a measure on the 2012 Hillsborough ballot that would prohibit spending county money on rail - presumably forever.

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