Sunday, July 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the latest initiative shows the growing public demand for a modern transit system and a willingness by private citizens to fill the leadership void. It has a long way to go and plenty of details to consider, but this is a promising effort that finally could be a breakthrough on the region’s top challenge.

A citizens group called All For Transportation announced Thursday it will launch a petition drive to put a 1-cent sales tax increase in Hillsborough on the November ballot. Organizers are going the petition route because they see no chance that the Republican-led Hillsborough County Commission will put a transit tax before voters. The commission pulled the plug on a transit referendum in 2016, and organizers said they don’t want to again waste years fashioning a transit package that never makes it to the voters. The group filed its paperwork Friday with the county elections supervisor and has until July 27 to submit the 49,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot. That’s a tight deadline, but not impossible.

Under the plan, the county sales tax would increase to eight cents on the dollar, beginning in 2019, for 30 years. Forty-five percent of the money would go to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to improve bus service and pay for other mass transit options. The remainder would be split between Hillsborough and its three cities for roads, bridges, sidewalks, intersections and other uses such as routine maintenance. The tax would generate about $280 million per year, and of that, about $126 million would go to HART, or more than three times what the agency currently receives in property tax, its single-biggest revenue source.

This is a substantial amount of money that could modernize the region’s transportation system. It could provide a funding base for rapid bus, light rail and other new services, while making roads safer and intersections more efficient. The set-asides for mass transit and roads would still give local governments the flexibility to set their own priorities — spending more for transit or pedestrian safety projects, for example —and the language is forward-looking enough even to accommodate autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies. More importantly, it seeks to bring a closer link between land use and transportation planning, a big gap in Hillsborough that has fueled the far-flung exurbs. The proposal would include an oversight committee to ensure the money was properly spent.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gave the effort his early support, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce said it is "excited" about learning more details. The initiative is being backed by both Republican and Democratic leaders in Tampa. Jeff Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning owner who is redeveloping downtown’s channel district, also said he is looking forward "to seeing this effort take shape."

It’s early still, and there will be time to examine the details. But it says something about the state of Hillsborough’s transportation system and its elected leaders that private citizens would step up to fill the leadership void and lead an effort to address and the shortcoming that threatens to drag down the entire region. They certainly deserve public support at this formative stage.

Comments

Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Published: 07/20/18
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18