Kevin Thurman is part of the leadership of a new pro-transit group called Connect Tampa Bay. He said in the two and a half months that the organization has been around, they've already attracted 1,800 members. That's a testament, he said, to how strong the momentum is for improved transit options in the community.
Barbara Haselden represents the South Pinellas 9.12 Patriots group. She blasted the fact that the Pinellas transit agency PSTA is spending $300,000 to utilize the talents of the Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker/Hall to conduct a campaign to get the measure approved next year. "How is this legal? Is this legal," she asked rhetorically.
Marge Baker said she helped with the 1996 "Eight is enough" ballot initiative that called for term limits in Pinellas, a measure that has never been enforced because of other court rulings. "They have no right to ask for this tax because they are not acceptable as our county commissioners," she said.
(The Tampa Bay Times reported on Tuesday that seven Pinellas residents, including Haselden, filed for an injunction last Friday to prevent four of the seven commissioners from voting. Those same four — Ken Welch, Susan Latvala, Karen Seel and John Morroni — are already being sued by another group who claim that they've busted term limits that were voted on in 1996 but have never been upheld in the county).
The vote was devoid of any drama, as approval was a done deal before the afternoon's session began. Commissioner Susan Latvala said the "conversation has just begun," while Commissioner John Morroni said the vote was just giving citizens the opportunity to debate the issue over the course of the next year and a half.
But the one persistent critic of the plan, Commissioner Norm Roche, disputed the notion that the vote on Tuesday was just a conversation starter, saying that it's about putting a measure on the November 2014 ballot. And if that was the case, he added, why the need to do so now? He said the deadline to put the measure on the November ballot isn't for well over another year — a point that Chairman Welch acknowledged.
Commissioner Karen Seel also voted yes, but again added her thoughts that November of 2015 would be better based on the economy being in better shape. She admitted that though the county has made "great strides" in road improvements, there was only so much that can be done with roads in an increasingly congested area.