Pro-regional mass transit leader: What do we do now after penny tax loss?
In the post-Nov. 2 election, area business leaders are trying to figure out what on earth happened to end up with such a lopsided defeat of the Hillsborough County penny sales tax intended to fund the start of a regional light rail and enhanced bus transit system. One of the key players in that pro-transit movement was Gary Sasso, chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership, the head of the Carlton Fields law firm in Tampa and the chair of Moving Hillsborough Foward group started this year to promote support for the pro-transit penny tax on the November ballot. A lot of money was spent advertising for the transit tax but it did not happen.
Now Sasso (photo, left) is offering some insights as to why the transit effort was so soundly defeated and what will happen now. In a commentary written for Creative Loafing's Daily Loaf blog, Sasso cites a bunch of independent statistics that say many voters who gave a thumbs down on election day did not directly oppose the idea of a regional mass transit system. Instead, they blamed a lack of specifics about light rail station locations, the bad economy, and the sheer uncertainty about the costs of a light rail system.
So, Sasso writes, do we do now? The longer we wait to endorse regional mass transit, the more crowded we will get with people and the more crowded our streets become, he says. Creating more Selmon Expressways -- in other words, more highways that are toll roads -- is not much of a solution. Writes Sasso:
"This is not the future we want for our community. This is not the future we want for our region. The Tampa Bay Partnership remains committed to its view that investment in infrastructure, including public transit, is absolutely necessary to building inclusive, sustainable, and productive prosperity for the entire Tampa Bay region. We cannot give up on this vision any more than we can give up on Tampa Bay.
"Nor can we wait until it is safe to wade back into the electoral waters, the economy improves, and the mood of all our citizens swings back to a more cheerful one. We must take responsibility for our own economy and for our own cheer, and we must do that now. To that end, the Tampa Bay Partnership will continue to work with all concerned citizens and public and private leaders in the Tampa Bay region and the State to develop the kind of infrastructure we need to achieve economic health and the quality of life in our region that all our citizens want and deserve."
Next time, Sasso suggests, the pro-mass-transit team will be better prepared.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist