Pinellas transit officials approve asking for sales tax referendum

After a three-hour bout with Pinellas and Hillsborough citizens in a packed room, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority officials unanimously voted to push a one-cent sales tax increase for the County Commission to put on the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot — an effort that would ultimately revolutionize local public transit.

The one-cent tax increase would initiate funding for a light rail system that would extend from Clearwater to St. Petersburg, and is estimated to cost between $1.5 billion and $1.7 billion to build.

From sixty-something-year-old men making racial slurs about officials to college-aged students fighting for a way to bring their hometown up to speed with the rest of the country, more than 100 people filled out requests for three minutes to speak to officials and the full house in an effort to sway their vote. A very vocal 60 people ended up speaking.

Just before the meeting was called to order, 64-year-old Lon Phillips discussed with his fellow citizens how Councilman Wengay Newton is "a baby gorilla, part of a system that was serving itself and stealing from the peasants."