Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Buckhorn calls for Hillsborough transit referendum by fall 2016

TAMPA — For a second year, Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Tuesday used his State of the City speech to make the case for an upgraded regional transportation network, calling for a Hillsborough transit referendum by fall 2016.

"We've got to have more transportation options," Buckhorn told a crowd of about 850. "For too long, the only real option we've ever given ourselves is to build more roads, widen them and start over."

Instead, Buckhorn said, the region needs to talk about rail that connects Tampa to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

"Our goal, at the latest, should be a referendum in the fall of 2016," Buckhorn said. "I would prefer sooner."

He did not mention Hillsborough's last attempt at a similar referendum. Four years ago, that vote won precincts in the city, but lost in the unincorporated county on its way to defeat.

Along the way, he said, everyone should recognize that rail will never pay for itself, and anyone who argues that it can survive from fare box revenue is kidding.

Stations would not be in every neighborhood, so transit must include buses connecting to light rail and bus rapid transit from New Tampa to downtown.

"Buses are a big part of this solution," he said. "It's not just one option. It's not just two options. It's multiple options, but we need to start now."

And the efforts should not stop here, he said.

"We need to support Greenlight Pinellas," he said, referring to the Nov. 4 Pinellas referendum on whether to raise that county's sales tax by 1 cent to expand bus service and create a 24-mile light rail line from St. Petersburg to Clearwater.

"We need to do everything we can to make sure that passes," Buckhorn said. "When Pinellas succeeds, we succeed."

Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Mark Sharpe afterward praised the mayor "for being big, bold and audacious."

"It's what drives economic development and job creation," said Sharpe, an advocate for mass transit and a leading voice in Hillsborough's evolving discussion of the relationship between transportation and economic growth. There's no reason, he added, why the region can't connect its two large commercial districts, Gateway and West Shore.

Sharpe said he agreed with Buckhorn on "what he said about the region working best when it works together."

"Greenlight needs to succeed," he said. "What we're doing must succeed."

Buckhorn gave his speech in the Tampa Armature Works Building, a 103-year-old red brick warehouse built to store trolley cars, for the same reason that last year's speech took place in the downtown Kress building: to spotlight older buildings that could be put to new uses.

"They represent our community's history, but, more importantly, they represent our community's future," Buckhorn said, the city's skyline visible behind him through the building's open bay doors.

The old trolley barn is the centerpiece of a planned development that includes about 1,900 units of multifamily housing overlooking a bend in the Hillsborough River north of downtown.

Nearby, the city is spending $6.5 million upgrading Water Works Park, and restaurateur Richard Gonzmart is spending $4 million-plus to create Ulele Native-Inspired Food and Spirits.

In the 41-minute speech, Buckhorn built his themes — service, determination, enterprise and duty to others — around the stories of inspiring Tampa residents, including:

• Longtime Historic Tampa Heights activist Lena Young-Green and her son, Owen Young, principal at Middleton High School. There, Buckhorn said, Young has taken a school at risk of closure because of poor performance to the point where its students win national robotics competitions.

• Berkeley Prep sophomore Declan Farmer, 16, the leading scorer on an American sled hockey team that this month won gold at the Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

• Julius Davis, who grew up in east Tampa, started as a laborer at his father's masonry company and now co-owns VoltAir Consulting Engineers, which has tripled in size in five years.

• Legacy Green, a preschooler who at the age of 3 met Buckhorn last year when the city began a project to demolish 75 abandoned homes and improve city services in Sulphur Springs, where she lives.

"As we grow, we must also lift," he said. "That's my little girl. That's your little girl. That's all of our little girls."

Through the mix he described Tuesday — redevelopment and economic opportunity, plus help for struggling neighborhoods — Buckhorn said he hopes "little girls like Legacy can point to us … and say, 'I now have a better chance.' "

A slip and a quip

Mayor Bob Buckhorn got some laughs during his State of the City speech, and not all them were scripted. Talking about regional cooperation, Buckhorn said, "Rick Kriseman, the mayor of Tampa, the mayor of St. Pete, we're in this together." A ripple of laughter. "Yeah, he's not going to be the mayor of Tampa."

More laughs. "That ain't happening."


"I wouldn't mind his baseball team."

Buckhorn calls for Hillsborough transit referendum by fall 2016 03/25/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 10:59am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.