Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough inching ever so slowly to a rail decision

There I was at a Hills­borough County Commission meeting when Mark Sharpe started looking a little like the Maytag repairman.

Remember him from the TV commercials, all lonely because nobody called? Except the Maytag guy was alone because everything was working so well. In Commissioner Sharpe's world these days, things are not.

A Republican who considers himself a fiscal conservative, Sharpe is the county voice making a case for a 1- cent sales tax for light rail, greatly expanded bus service and road fixes. Other commissioners have voiced support, but Sharpe's the guy showing up to take a beating at Republican gatherings and even a tea party event, the guy threatened with being run out of office, pardon the expression, on a rail.

"Americans build," Sharpe likes to say, sounding pretty Republican to me.

But lately, commissioners cannot seem to agree even on the 75 words they will (or maybe won't, given the turtle-ish speed at which things are going) put on the November ballot to ask if voters are willing to pay that penny for transit.

There was talk of being rushed. Some wanted the way the money will be divvied up (75 percent for bus and rail, 25 percent for road improvements) included on the ballot. Commissioner Rose Ferlita brought along her own ballot language — that would be Option 3, if you were counting.

Heck, I'm not sure they agree on the meaning of the word "ballot" at this point.

Tampa's biggest voice for rail, Mayor Pam Iorio, was in the audience that day as the commission parsed and niggled and ultimately voted to do, well, not much. I saw her close her eyes and bow her head at the latest slowdown for something this big, this important — a proposal she later said had been studied and vetted and considered longer and more thoroughly and by more people in more corners than almost any other in her political career.

I read her bowed head as a request for divine guidance.

Here's another thing I don't get: Commissioners who voice support for getting transit on the ballot but who say it doesn't have a chance with voters, or those who think that agreeing to put it on the ballot doesn't mean they actually support it. Yes, in this economy, it may not pass. But doesn't this sound like bet hedging? Like testing political waters without making a commitment?

Forget the tangle of politics here. Don't you, like me, want to know if your elected officials believe this is the right thing to do?

Normally, when Sharpe talks rail, he is like a highly caffeinated, majorly wonkish Energizer Bunny. Commissioner Jim Norman can call rail "a noose around the neck of the taxpayers," and Sharpe comes back with its popularity in Phoenix, Charlotte and Salt Lake City, or 60,000-plus daily riders in Dallas, or 45,000 in Houston.

But this day, he sounded subdued, even after he got surprising and enthusiastic applause from the audience for his pitch about America, and building, and getting this in the voters' hands.

At today's meeting, the commission will again talk transportation (not to mention the major distraction of whether to fire the county administrator, attorney and auditor).

Will Sharpe stand alone in his convictions?

Will others express some?

As we inch toward November, we'll see.

Hillsborough inching ever so slowly to a rail decision 03/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 8:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What to watch this week: 'Midnight, Texas,' Shark Week specials

    Blogs

    It's that time of year again. No, not back-to-school month or geek convention season - it's Shark Week.

    Midnight, Texas, a new supernatural series on NBC, premieres at 10 p.m. Monday.
  2. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner: 'I did not collude with Russia' (w/video)

    National

    WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, spent about two hours Monday answering questions from Senate investigators about his contacts with Russian officials, insisting he had not colluded with foreign agents before or after the 2016 presidential campaign.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens during the "American Leadership in Emerging Technology" event with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington on June 22, 2017. [Associated Press]
  3. Polk County officials urge owner to remove pet buried at public park

    Human Interest

    Lake Wales city officials are looking for the owner who buried their dead dog in a public park.

    Lake Wales city officials are looking for the owner who buried their dead dog in a public park. [Facebook]
  4. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]
  5. Florida taxpayers to shoulder $1.1 million in legal fees over 'docs vs. glocks' law

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida will pay $1.1 million in legal fees to attorneys who challenged a controversial state law that sought to prevent doctors from asking patients about guns, a group representing opponents said Monday.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed the 2011 law after it "was approved by a large, bipartisan majority in the Florida Legislature," a spokesman said Monday.
[Photo by Joe Raedle | Getty Images]