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Greenlight Pinellas awareness campaign proposed for transit referendum

The campaign to educate Pinellas residents about the bus and rail plans they will vote on in 2014 got a name on Monday, and a tote bag.

Introduced as "Greenlight Pinellas," the campaign is being run by Tucker Hall, a Tampa-based public relations firm. The group has a $300,000 contract with the county's transit agency to ensure that when people go to the polls in November 2014 to vote on a proposed sales tax for transit, they have some idea what is before them.

The group is also being paid to walk a fine line. It can inform voters about the referendum that would pay for expanded bus service and light rail. But because it is receiving public money, it legally cannot tell them how to vote.

Yet Tucker Hall is not taking a completely dry approach.

In plans it unveiled Monday to representatives from various transit agencies, the company proposed a campaign that would get Pinellas residents talking to each other about transit. Yard signs with a bright green design would call to passersby with the suggestion: Ask me about Greenlight Pinellas. T-shirts, tote bags, buttons and glow-sticks would be emblazoned with the logo.

Print T-shirts and distributing mailers will come at a cost, but Tucker Hall staff said it was too soon to name a figure.

The word greenlight "doesn't mean we agree on everything," said Anthony Collins, the company's senior vice president.

"Greenlight means moving in unison," he said, reminding those in attendance that a similar transit referendum died in Hillsborough in 2010, partly because officials quarreled over the plans mere months before the vote. Pinellas must show residents it has one plan and its elected officials back it, Collins said.

Tucker Hall's proposal calls for the mailers and signs that are staples of any campaign, but much of the conversation it hopes to stir up would take place on sites like Facebook or Twitter. The group has already purchased the domain for www.greenlightpinellas.com, where it plans to post answers to residents' questions.

Along with online platforms, the group has proposed creating three committees of 20 to 30 business, civic and government leaders. These groups would meet periodically, beginning in May, and discuss the transit plan, eventually combining to form the much smaller Greenlight committee. This group would meet in September and October.

The group's presentation received rave reviews from members of the Advisory Committee on Pinellas Transportation, which unanimously approved it. But ultimate authority rests with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, which holds the contract with Tucker Hall.

"I think you nailed it," said Jeff Danner, a St. Petersburg City council member.

But others wondered whether Pinellas is plugged-in enough (and young enough) to respond to online messaging.

"Two weeks ago you said, 'I think we're going to wow you,' and yes you did," said Harriet Crozier, a representative from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, adding, "I'm just going to have to learn some of these social media sites."

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779.

Greenlight Pinellas awareness campaign proposed for transit referendum 03/18/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 1:11am]

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