Monday, December 11, 2017
Transportation

In turnaround, HART allows CAIR Florida to advertise on its buses

TAMPA — Reversing course, Hillsborough County's transit agency will allow the Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations to advertise on its buses.

The unanimous vote by members of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board of directors is a sharp turn from where members were in August, when eight of the 10 present rejected the advertisement on county buses, citing promotion of religion as a concern.

The vote, taken Monday evening, came after CAIR Florida filed a letter requesting an appeal.

The nonprofit organization says it is aimed at challenging stereotypes of Islam and Muslims and defending civil liberties.

Its ad features a photograph of eight people and the CAIR Florida logo, with the message: "Embracing Diversity at Work, Defending Civil Rights in The Community."

It is meant to promote free legal advice the group provides to people of all religions, races or national origin, the organization said.

"The general focus and thrust of our work is civil rights defense. We serve primarily the Muslim community because that is our donor base," said CAIR Florida spokeswoman Samantha Bowden. "But we also serve non-Muslim clients."

Last month, the board went against a HART staff recommendation when it rejected the advertisement. On Monday, board attorney David Smith said the directors typically have followed staff recommendations in the past. He also told board members that the applicant is not relevant to the decision.

"The only question is does the text of the ad comply with the applicable policy?" he said.

Two board members were absent for the vote. Some members placed blame for the initial rejection on the language of HART's advertising policy, which makes it difficult to discern between religious and civil rights organizations, said board member Mike Suarez, who serves on the Tampa City Council.

"I think we all agree the policy itself was unintentionally vague," said Suarez, who last month voted for the ban.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who was one of two votes in support of the advertisement during the first round, said he thought the rejection had more to do with the organization behind the ad.

"What happened on Aug. 5 was a great injustice … ," Beckner said at the meeting. "It's pure and outright hatred and discrimination and now this board has an opportunity to right that injustice. We can talk about what the policy looks like in the future, but the right thing today is to approve this ad."

In a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times, HART board member John Melendez, an engineering consultant, countered that opinion.

"I respectfully and wholly disagree with those statements. Voting to ensure policy and the law are followed, and acknowledging policy needs to be changed, is not hatred. Rather it is an act of honoring the truth," he wrote.

CAIR Florida's Tampa executive director Hassan Shibly said his group is happy to be finalizing the design for the ad and hopes to have it appearing soon. "I think, frankly, they made a mistake," Shibly said, "and they recognized it and corrected themselves."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.

Comments
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

LAND O’LAKES – A citizens group says a better way to move vehicles along a congested central Pasco corridor could involve a never-been-tried intersection design that diverts turning traffic onto parallel frontage roads.The citizens group, known as th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine Skyway bridge will shut down on a Sunday morning in March for a running race that is expected to draw up to 7,000 participants.The Armed Forces Families Foundation announced the event, dubbed the "Skyway 10k Saluting Mil...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Heading east where Roosevelt Boulevard joins Ulmerton Road, the inside lane of Roosevelt is confusing where the roads merge. If a driver uses the lane striping on their right as their guide, they are in one lane, and if they stay to the left, they ar...
Published: 12/05/17
Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Pasco and Hernando residents will get to find out what transportation projects are in the works for their communities on Tuesday evening.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Long-awaited Tampa Bay transit study identifies five corridors for future transportation syste...
Published: 12/05/17

Workers to drill under Gandy Boulevard, partially closing lane Monday through Friday

TAMPA — An eastbound lane on West Gandy Boulevard at Church Avenue will partially close from Monday through Friday for drilling related to the Selmon Extension.Workers will use a geotechnical drill to examine the soil under the road, according to pro...
Published: 12/02/17
St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

ST. PETERSBURG — Those traversing the 40th Avenue Bridge, the main span connecting Shore Acres and Venetian Isles with the Old Northeast and Northeast Park neighborhoods, can expect to see orange cones barricading the center of the bridge for t...
Published: 11/29/17
Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

What is going on with the traffic lights on 66th Street? The way they are timed could be causing road rage.Going either north or south on 66th from 102nd Avenue N to 54th Avenue N, it used to work like this: The light would stop both lanes, those tra...
Published: 11/28/17
Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

The Largo Mall entrance stoplight on Ulmerton Road just east of Seminole Boulevard has been causing traffic delays on eastbound Ulmerton at Seminole Boulevard. It appears that the light at the Largo Mall entrance is being triggered on-demand by folks...
Updated one month ago
FDOT considers transit, other options for improving Fowler Avenue in USF area

FDOT considers transit, other options for improving Fowler Avenue in USF area

TAMPA — A new study eventually could lead to better traffic flow on Fowler Avenue while offering a variety of transportation options.The $500,000 study, to take up to 18 months, focuses on the University Area and the University of South Florida. It ...
Updated one month ago