Candidate protests commissioner's role in tea party rally
At least one Hillsborough County Commission candidate sees irony in the participation of one of his opponents in Thursday's tea party rally in downtown Tampa.
Commission Chairman Ken Hagan offered welcoming comments to the crowd, saying he shared the it's concern that the country is heading in a wrong direction of higher taxes and deficits. Jim Hosler, a former planner and consultant who is running for the same at-large commission seat as Hagan, told event organizers in an e-mail Friday that they "sullied" their organization by letting him participate.
Hosler notes that Hagan served as chairman of a transportation task force he formed that has recommended seeking voters approval of a 1-cent sales tax to pay for new rail, expanded bus service and roads. Hosler strongly opposes the initiative and said he was asked to speak at the event but was turned down.
"Hagan is the Father of the Largest Tax Increase in Hillsborough County History," Hosler wrote.
Hagan has repeatedly said he merely supports asking voters what they think and that he thinks the initiative will fail. In a meeting Thursday, he went so far as to call the assertion "nonsense" when it was leveled at him by fellow commissioner Jim Norman.
Hosler said he has had every opportunity to prevent the issue from reaching the ballot if he really feels that way.
Sharon Calvert, one of the organizers of the event, said Hagan was asked to speak as a gesture of thanks for his guidance in helping the group secure Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park as the venue. The tax day tea party was initially planned at the USF Sun Dome, but was moved about 21/2 weeks ago, she said.
"Obviously there's only one tax date. So we couldn't change that," Calvert said. "It was basically a thank you to the people of the city of Tampa and the county who helped us."
No one from city of Tampa government spoke during the event. Mayor Pam Iorio was repeatedly singled out for criticism by other speakers because of her support for the rail initiative.
-- Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer