Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 6:00pm
OLDSMAR -- Backers of the Greenlight Pinellas plan suffered a setback Tuesday night when the Oldsmar City Council refused to officially endorse the transit referendum.
The council voted 4 to 1 against a resolution supporting the plan that would raise the sales tax by a penny, to 8 cents, to expand bus service and build a light rail system between Clearwater and St. Petersburg by way of the Gateway area.
Mayor Doug Bevis, who also serves on Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors, was the lone yes vote. Vice mayor Linda Norris and council members Jerry Beverland, Gabby McGee and Jim Ronecker voted no.
Ronecker, Beverland and Norris are firmly opposed to the plan, but McGee said she was on the fence because she has concerns about the paying a higher sales tax that does not include a sunset date. After the vote, she made it clear she voted no because she's opposed to voting on a resolution at all.
"We don't know how all our residents feel about it," she said. "I don't know how I feel about it. If I can't say to myself yes or no, then how can I say in a resolution yes or no?"
It's still a disappointing result for Greenlight supporters trying to rally support among elected officials in as many of the county's 24 municipalities as possible before Election Day on Nov. 4, especially in north county where the plan has been a tougher sell. So far, councils or commission in 16 cities have approved a Greenlight resolution, including Tarpon Springs, Dunedin and Safety Harbor. Oldsmar's council is the second to vote against one, joining the City Council in Seminole.
In an interview Wednesday, Beverland repeated a common refrain among Greenlight opponents: there's not enough in the plan for north county, and the light rail system doesn't make sense for Pinellas.
Beverland said he would have preferred the plan focus on improving the bus service by increasing the sales tax by, say, a half penny.
"I would have voted for that in a millisecond," he said. "In fact, I would have campaigned for that."
Bevis noted the plan doubles the bus service in north county and that Greenlight has the support of three of Oldsmar's major employers: Nielsen Research, Vology and United Health Care.
He said the Greenlight plan is a critical first step to a regional system that connects Pinellas, especially north county, to Hillsborough, and that it's likely that a future spur of the rail line will benefit Oldsmar.
"I'm a big fan of regional transportation, as is everybody on our City Council," Beverland said. "I guess we just differ on how we get there."
The other cities that have approved a Greenlight resolution are St. Petersburg, Largo, Clearwater, Belleair, Treasure Island, Redington Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Bluffs, St. Pete Beach, South Pasadena, Madeira Beach, Redington Shores and Indian Shores.