ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas County Democratic Party has decided not to take an official stance on the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The party's message: Research it and make up your own mind.
"Greenlight Pinellas is too important to the future of our communities and county to reduce it to partisan politics," the party said Wednesday in a statement.
But the rest of the three-paragraph news release reads like an endorsement of the plan that would increase the county's sales tax from 7 to 8 cents on the dollar to pay for expanded bus service and a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
"It's unfortunate that some local Republican Tea Party types oppose the Greenlight Pinellas as they oppose virtually everything else," the release said. "But in fact, most commissions and councils in Pinellas made up of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, top local GOP elected officials, the Tampa Bay Rays organization, the chambers of commerce and most residents of Pinellas County realize we need much better mass transit so our residents will have state-of-the-art travel options of expanded buses and local trains."
The party calls the sales tax a fairer way to fund those improvements than the property tax currently levied to fund public transit in Pinellas.
In an interview, party Vice-chairwoman Susan McGrath said that a majority of the party's executive board does support the plan but decided not to take an official vote.
In contrast, the Pinellas Republican Executive Committee voted unanimously this month to oppose the referendum, saying the tax increase "would do more harm than good."