Mitch Perry Report 7.24.13 - Hillsborough business officials call for light rail, but BOCC seems unmoved

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe tweeted out a link to Mike Salinero's story in the Tampa Trib this morning on yesterday's transportation meeting between Hillsborough County officials (including Mayor Buckhorn). Sharpe's tweet read "Execs driving Hillsborough to pursue mass transit system."

And yes indeed six different business executives did call for local officials to get involved now, saying it's a competitive issue with other cities in terms of (pardon the expression from 2010) moving Hillsborough forward.

But ultimately this means going back to asking the voters the chance to vote on this, and that's where the push for mass transit/light-rail may be going nowhere in the county. Check out this passage in the story regarding a quote by Gregory Celestan, CEO of Celestar and chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

"Commissioner, don't be afraid of talking about fees or the dreaded T word," Celestan said, referring to taxes. "As long as there's a value proposition in place, people are not afraid of that."

Some commissioners were not convinced. Victor Crist, who represents the northern part of the county, said his constituents will not support a tax. Commissioner Al Higginbotham said last week he had detected no appetite among county residents for higher taxes to finance transportation projects.

In some regions, the business community has clout - sometimes lots of clout - in pushing public policy. Not Hillsborough County. Developers? That's the group that can move votes. But the business community? Not so much. Transit is hardly the first issue where this has proven to be true, but it's the most important one currently.

In other news: I was out of town last week but did watch the discussion via the city of Tampa's Web site regarding two new ordinances cracking down on the homeless that the City Council passed last week. Mayor Buckhorn told me on Sunday that he thinks the new laws will improve the quality of life in Tampa - others disagree, calling it criminalizing the homeless.

Though she gets no respect, Nan Rich keeps on campaigning hard for the Democratic nomination for governor. While in Ybor City on Monday night, the only major Democrat who has put her hat in the ring to challenge Rick Scott next year pooh-poohed a comment made earlier in the day by one of her possible rivals, Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson apparently is one of the few Democrats in Florida who don't have any new opinions about the Stand Your Ground law in the wake of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. Rich didn't think much of his reticence.

Marco Rubio continues to push a very conservative record in Congress, particularly after his high-profile role in passing immigration reform alienated so many of his Tea Party supporters. Yesterday Rubio said he would oppose the nomination of President Obama's choice for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power.

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