Friday, November 17, 2017

Column: Educate before debate on private toll road


If Pasco County commissioners want the public's informed advice on how to meet future transportation needs along the SR 54/56 corridor, they should start by offering to educate us on all the options — and then listening to our input.

It is insufficient for the county to be angering residents by holding a series of what it erroneously labels town hall meetings, and then limiting debate on how to address traffic along the 33-mile corridor between Zephyrhills and U.S. 19.

At a March 10 public meeting, county officials ignored what should have been the main subject: all 18 options they say were reviewed for addressing what is expected to be a massive increase in corridor traffic in the next 20 years. Officials focused solely on the elevated toll road option, even though we won't know if its a viable option until next month when its finances and general design are available for review.

I'm not interested in just telling the county what I am against. I'd prefer to explain what I support. Turning thumbs-down on any option is easy. Making educated choices rating 18 options is not. Pasco residents are up to the task if given the facts upon which to arrive at an informed decision. So where is the public education and discussion of all 18 options?

The county offers us little help via a confusing website designed more for engineers than for the general public. Residents would benefit from a clearer, simpler and more user-friendly website outlining each of those 18 options.

If this were a political campaign, elected officials would find creative ways to get fliers and other printed materials delivering their message into our hands. They should do the same here. A factual summary that condenses all 18 options to a single sheet printed on both sides should be prepared, highlighting that more information on each is available on the website.

Provide stacks of the document to at least a few hundred of the high-traffic stores and businesses along the 54/56 corridor. Ask owners if, as good citizens, they would make them available at their checkout counters and stick them in when bagging purchases.

Distribute it to every community development district, homeowner and condo association in Pasco County. Ask that they publish it in their newsletters, post it on their websites and distribute it at their clubhouses, pools and fitness centers.

Only then should the county host real town hall meetings. Residents should be invited to come together and discuss the options or new ideas that they believe have merit. They should be invited to fill out a form ranking the 18 options. The onus would be on the public to do more than "just say no" and to reach a consensus on which transportation plans best meet our needs. The onus then shifts to commissioners to adopt the one they believe best represents the interests of Pasco residents.

But it will require education today to have that informed debate tomorrow.

Jim Flateau is a resident of Ballantrae in Land O' Lakes. He can be emailed at [email protected]


Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17