Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Referendum for parks? No better time

Just when you thought time was running out for the Friendship Trail Bridge, public officials go getting all creative on you.

As in: a proposal to let voters decide.

As in: not just saving a honey of a park across the water, but also funding parks and recreation countywide at a time when we need them most.

This week the Hillsborough County Commission again considers the old Gandy Bridge — rescued at the last minute from demolition, converted into what turned out to be a wildly popular recreation trail across the water and abruptly closed after nine years in 2008 when it was judged to be a crumbling danger.

For some 600,000 of us who yearly walked, skated, ran and biked that 2.6 miles over the waves between Tampa and St. Petersburg, this was a heartbreak. It was also heartburn for some savvier public officials who understood a reborn bridge had become the kind of unique amenity that makes a community that much more interesting and attractive to the rest of the world.

Most heartbreaking of all, though, was the price tag in the millions to fix it, and with taxpayers in no mood.

Elected officials did not embrace the price nor its potential political backlash.

So even with a recent and enthusiastic pack of young professionals scrambling for a plan to save and remake the old Gandy, it faces the real possibility of demolition.

But wait — an idea that makes sense.

(Yes, still talking government here.)

Under a proposal by County Administrator Mike Merrill, voters could be asked in a November referendum to consider raising their property taxes 21 cents per $1,000 of property value over ten years — or $25 a year for a $165,000 home that has a $50,000 homestead exemption.

That relatively small amount would fund $80 million: $27.5 million to rebuild the park across the water, and — maybe the best part — a lot of money for badly needed park facilities and improvements countywide.

Merrill says one kind of referendum Florida voters tend to approve is for parks and recreation. "It places the whole decision in the hands of voters," he said. "It gives plenty of time to have discussions over the summer."

And there's no good reason for commissioners not to get behind it.

Reality check: This will be a hard sell to voters. Expect loud protest from those who oppose spending anything on anything, preaching to wallet-weary voters still weathering the rotten economy.

But the economy is exactly the point, since parks (and libraries) couldn't be more important than when people have the least to spend.

Tampa did something remarkable the other day: The city reduced park and recreation fees. Reduced! Cut back! That makes programs more accessible and provides a place for kids to do something on summer vacation beyond getting into trouble.

This kind of thinking comes from the school of pay now, gain later. It's thinking ahead instead of staying safely short-sighted. It's figuring out when the cost of progress might be worth it.

Remember, we're not talking a fancy sports stadium here, but parks — rec centers, softball fields and soccer pitches for kids to play on.

Plus, one amazing park over the water that's still worth saving.

Referendum for parks? No better time 06/26/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 9:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. From the food editor: Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders

    Cooking

    I decided my almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

    Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. Forecast: Soggy, yet hot, workweek ahead across Tampa Bay

    Weather

    A soggy workweek is ahead across Tampa Bay as decent chances for scattered storms remain consistent over the next several days.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Travel ban, Kennedy retirement speculation the focus as Supreme Court prepares for break

    Courts

    WASHINGTON — Before taking their long summer break, the Supreme Court justices are poised to act on the Trump administration's travel ban and a separation of church and state dispute involving a Missouri church playground.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy, shown in 2007, has given no public sign that he would step down this year and give President Donald Trump his second high court pick in the first months of his administration. Kennedy's departure would allow conservatives to take firm control of the court. [Associated Press]
  4. Florida education news: Guns, charter schools, drug education and more

    Blogs

    HOSTILE WORK PLACE: A legal review determines that while a University of South Florida technology center former director might have been boorish and hostile, …

  5. Fire crews battle blaze at apartment complex near Seminole Heights

    Fire

    Fire crews are battling a blaze that broke out early Monday morning at an apartment complex near Seminole Heights, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.