Pinellas left out of mass transit talks
ST. PETERSBURG -- Pinellas County leaders were noticeably absent from two mass transit meetings held by U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, in Tampa last week.
Mica, Republican leader of the House Transportation Committee, said his staff sent out invitations to the Hillsborough County Commission, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Tampa City Council and nine Hillsborough legislators. His staff also asked the Tampa Bay Partnership to invite local transportation officials.
The partnership said it sent out invitations to members of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, including Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. But no elected officials from Clearwater, St. Petersburg or Pinellas County governments showed up to the last-minute meeting Tuesday.
Joe Kubicki, St. Petersburg's transportation director, said the city knew about the meeting, but he was on Thanksgiving vacation last week and did not send anyone from his staff. Baker was traveling to New York Tuesday to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The meeting was a call to action for local leaders, according to Mica, who urged them to come forward with mass transit plans now as Congress sets to complete an update of its five-year transportation funding bill. Governments that don't submit plans soon could be left out.
Mass transit, said Mica, "is critical to the whole region, and we want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to get involved."
Mica said he will try to meet with Pinellas County officials soon.
"Tell them I love them in Pinellas County, and I wouldn't neglect a wonderful hair on their bodies," he said.
Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer