Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said he’ll campaign and fundraise to defeat any new transportation sales tax referendum if it includes a spending plan similar to the All For Transportation model passed by voters in 2018.
The All For Transportation one-cent sales tax was struck down by the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit by White, because the referendum question outlined how the money would be spent. The court said that violated the authority of the commissioners to control the spending.
But several Democratic commissioners want to hold another referendum, possibly next year. If the commissioners decide the spending plan, they say, it should be similar to the All for Transportation plan voters approved.
White, an east Hillsborough Republican, objects to spending money allocated to unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County on mass transit, as the All For Transportation plan did. He says residents of the unincorporated areas want the money spent on roads instead. Transit spending should come from money allocated to Tampa, he said.
Last week, White sharply disagreed with Democratic Commissioners Pat Kemp, Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith during a workshop on the results of a survey of unincorporated area residents on transportation needs.
In the survey, only about a quarter of respondents said they use public transportation or would if it were more convenient.
Kemp, Overman and Smith said that’s a positive finding, considering those being polled are already accustomed to commuting with cars, and that public transit options are scarce in the unincorporated county.
But White called it “preposterous to try to spin this data” as positive for transit spending. “The people of unincorporated Hillsborough County want attention to roads.”
In an interview, he added, “The only reason that previous referendum passed is the citizens of suburban and rural Hillsborough County were fooled by this special interest group” with “misleading mailers and communications.”
White said if another referendum is associated with a similar spending plan, he would “fight tooth and nail” and “do everything in my power to defeat it, which would include a fundraising drive to get the message out.”
Cross files in D68
Environmental scientist Lindsay Cross, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2018, has filed for the state House seat being vacated by Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, and she begins her campaign with an endorsement from Mayor Rick Kriseman.
Cross, 43, is government relations director for the Florida Conservation Voters non-profit group and has a long history of professional and volunteer work in environmental conservation.
In 2018, the Democratic Party chose Cross as a last-minute replacement on the ballot when a former Democratic candidate against Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, dropped out.
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Despite having only about three months to campaign, Cross raised more than $500,000 for her campaign and an independent political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward, and came within 8 points of Brandes, losing 54-46 percent.
Originally from Detroit and the daughter of two public school educators, Cross moved to the Tampa Bay area in 2001 and has a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of South Florida.
She said she became interested in politics after acting as an environmental policy advocate.
“I’ve worked from the beginning doing outreach and managing research and restoration projects, but I always saw the value of translating science to the public and elected officials,” she said.
But she said she’ll focus her campaign on issues beyond land and water preservation — “more investment in public schools,” affordable health coverage and ending the Legislature’s “rampant pre-emptions” of powers of local government.
For several years, she said, the Legislature has bee “taking away the ability for governments that are closest to the people to do what’s right for the local communities.” Pre-emption bills are “nitpicking what cities and counties are doing” while ignoring major state issues such as the state’s dysfunctional unemployment compensation system, she said.
She said state public school teachers are near the bottom nationally in pay, while the Legislature is “giving away a lot of taxpayer money to charter schools that don’t have the same accountability.”
Cross is the first candidate to file for the District 68 seat, which Diamond is leaving to run for Congress.
Blackmon touts endorsements
St. Petersburg City Council member Robert Blackmon, a late filer in the mayor’s race, has released his first list of endorsements, including former Mayor Bob Ulrich and county Commissioner Kathleen Peters.
He also announced backing from Florida Gulf Coast Associated Builders and Contractors and the Iron Workers Local 397.
Among the individuals, Ulrich is the only one of the five who lives in St. Petersburg.
The others are Treasure Island Mayor Tyler Payne, former Clearwater Vice-Mayor Doreen Caudell and former state Rep. Larry Ahern.
Blackmon noted that Peters’ district includes much of the city.
All five of the individual endorsers are Republicans.
Luna: “Anti-God” left oppresses Christians
St. Petersburg congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna told a crowd at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Orlando last week that the “anti-God” left is attacking and oppressing Christians.
Luna proclaimed herself “pro-life, pro-God, pro-gun and anti-socialist.”
The gathering of right-wing evangelicals in Orlando also saw speeches by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Former Vice President Mike Pence was booed by some in the crowd because of his role in congressional consideration of the presidential election.
Luna said the “radical left” has been “trying to make pastors especially quiet, and afraid to use their voices to speak out against their radical anti-God agenda.”
“When you’re standing up for what’s right you will always be met with hate,” she said. “You will always be smeared … because you are standing up for what your moral conviction is, which does inherently tie to you being Christians and for your belief in God.”