Friday, February 23, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Horse-and-buggy crowd blocks tracks of progress

There are moments when it seems the grouchy, get-off-my-lawn mugwumps who haunt various corners of the community would prefer to see a Pinellas County where the order of the day would include doyennes in hoop skirts, horse-drawn carriages and John Philip Sousa Sunday concerts in Williams Park.

This isn't merely the party of No! It's a small but vocal cabal bent on being the party of woe. If these folks had their way, they would be inveighing against electricity as not only a passing fad but a communist conspiracy.

How else, really, to explain the opposition and disinformation campaign against Greenlight Pinellas, which is merely an initiative to enhance transportation throughout the county by expanding bus routes, extending service hours and developing a 24-mile light-rail system linking Clearwater and St. Petersburg?

All Greenlight Pinellas aspires to is to acknowledge that we do actually live in the 21st century. Oh, the socialism of it all.

Come this November, voters will be asked to approve a sales tax increase from 7 to 8 percent, which would replace the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's current funding, a property tax.

The new funding mechanism, if approved, would generate about $120 million to $130 million to enhance the county's transportation system. Imagine that. A major metropolitan area with a comprehensive transportation network. Oh, the Marxism of it all!

Opponents of Greenlight Pinellas have falsely claimed that the sales tax bump is really a 300 percent tax increase. Not true. They've claimed that the light-rail system would be little more than street cars. Nope. In other words, the Greenlight-Pinellas-as-a-tool-of-Satan crowd is endeavoring to scare people.

Ultimately the future of Greenlight Pinellas depends on how you answer some simple questions: What kind of community do you want? What kind of quality of life do you want? Oh, and how's that traffic jam working out for you?

Pinellas is awash in Bob's Barricades, detours and orange cones.

To paraphrase John Kennedy, a taillight has been passed to a new generation of Pinellasites, born into an endless line of bumpers, tempers rising, disciplined by a hard and bitter commute.

No doubt in the months ahead there will be many community forums and debates about Greenlight Pinellas. And yes, the yard sign war will take no prisoners if the lunacy that erupted over the Lens is any indication. A world-class piece of functioning artwork at the Pier?!?!? Well!!! We'll just see about that!

Forget the political back and forth. There's a simpler way to determine the efficacy of Greenlight Pinellas if you want to be your own political consultant.

Pick any weekday morning and try to get from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Clearwater starting around 7 a.m. and then make the reverse commute starting around 4:30 or so. What fun.

And while you are sitting there and sitting there and sitting there contemplating why it is that sports talk radio stations seem to have an obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will draft in the seventh round on the third day of one of the most meaningless events in sports, you might well ask yourself if there isn't a better way to move around in Pinellas County.

Take that ride a few times and you might very well be willing to pay a 300 percent sales tax bump merely to avoid having to sit behind that moron in front you blabbering away on his cellphone at 17 miles an hour in the left-hand lane.

And yet … despite the obvious need for a vastly improved transportation system integrating better bus routes with a light-rail network, the forces of "We're all doomed!" continue to wring their hands over the merest chance progress might be committed by the citizenry.

By the way, the always thrilling barbershop quartet competition begins at noon.

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