Mitch Perry Report 7.30.14: Do Tampa/Hillsborough leaders have what it takes to pass a transportation tax in 2016?

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In Clearwater this Saturday, volunteers for the Greenlight Pinellas initiative are scheduled to knock on doors to advocate for the 1-cent transit tax that will be on the ballot this November in Pinellas County.

The success or failure of that initiative will certainly have an impact on what happens across the Bay in Tampa, where yesterday local officials introduced their ambitious and comprehensive plan to improve transportation in Hillsborough County.  At one point during the news conference, County Administrator Mike Merrill told reporters that he really hasn't been following what's been going on with Greenlight, as he and his cohorts unveiled a huge list of proposed projects that can only be funded if County voters pass a referendum in 2016. But the two are definitely intertwined.

Greenlight has learned from many of the mistakes that were made in 2010 in Hillsborough, and much if not most of the Pinellas County establishment is firmly behind the initiative. All but one of its county commissioners back the measure, as do virtually all of the 24 municipalities (Seminole is one of the exceptions). 

Support on such a level was definitely not the case in Hillsborough in 2010, though this reporter often thinks too much emphasis has been placed on why the measure didn't pass. For all of its alleged problems, folks in Tampa and Temple Terrace were somehow able to overlook those issues and support the measure, but in the hinterlands, fierce anti-tax fervor is paramount, and hasn't gone away. Support from voters in South and Eastern Hillsborough is going to make or break this initiative, which Merrill stresses isn't "fully cooked" at this point, meaning that public input in the coming months will be monitored by county transportation officials. But by early next year that cake will be baked, and then the campaign begins to sell it to the masses. 

Will the community outside of Tampa support it? There's still lots of cynicism out there. But for public officials like Mayor Buckhorn who envision Tampa as a city reaching new heights, there will continue to be a ceiling on our growth without a worthy transportation system to go with it....


Matt Daus has a lot of opinions about Uber and the state of the taxi cab industry as head of the International Association of Transportation Regulations. The New Yorker was in Tampa yesterday to give an overview of the current situation with ridesharing services in a presentation to the Public Transportation Commission.  Daus says that if Uber and Lyft were once the underdogs in their battles to provide service in American cities, that's hardly the case any longer.

And Charlie Crist held a news conference in St. Pete yesterday to announce five concrete executive orders he will issue on day 1 of his new administration if elected governor this November. Those included raising the minimum wage for contractors doing business with the state agencies that report to him, and prohibiting any form of discrimination within his state agencies or their contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

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