Post election, we are celebrating our victories and licking our wounds after that wild and partisan ride. So how about some largely positive takeaways from Tuesday?
Turns out we actually do care about transportation. After years of failing to pass a sales tax to improve how we get around — a big roadblock to being everything Tampa Bay could be — Hillsborough County voters said yes to an extra penny tax for improved bus service and roads, relief from traffic jams, safer walking and biking and expanded public transit.
This was no small ask. It puts us in the top tier for sales tax in the state and requires us to trust politicians to spend wisely. So maybe the enthusiastic, whirlwind campaign built the groundswell. Or maybe those anti-rail troglodytes who show up with their signs but no solutions couldn’t yell boondoggle loud enough to drown out the drumbeat that we need this. Hey Pinellas County — you listening?
We also care about kids sweating in school. Maybe it was the utter simplicity of the problem: Hillsborough school buildings are old and seriously behind in maintenance. This year students are sweating through classes, with more than half of our schools reporting AC problems the first day alone.
It’s easy to get voters behind giving kids an environment they can learn in. It’s harder to persuade them to put their trust in school leaders who have at times been, well, less than leaderly.
Clearly, voters came out on the side of students on this one, approving a half-cent sales tax. Notably, that’s twice Hillsborough voted to up taxes for the greater good.
Dogs, too. Enough already with the archaic, sometimes cruel practice of greyhound racing. By 2020, Florida voters want it gone.
And fairness, even for felons: If you had a felony record in Florida, it didn’t matter if you had done your time and completed your sentence including probation and fines. Your right to vote — something that would go a long way toward making you a part of your community again and less likely to land back in jail — wasn’t coming back any time soon. You couldn’t even ask for five years, and then they could tell you no without telling you why, which they did.
Sound fair to you?
Florida voters gave that a resounding no with more than 64 percent voting for automatic restoration of rights except for felons convicted of murder and sex crimes. That’s about 1.2 million people who will get to participate again. Fair enough, voters said.
Nope, and nope: Joe Kotvas, a former Hillsborough commissioner imprisoned in a 1980s bribery scandal now running as a no-party candidate, failed to make a dent in support for Mariella Smith, the Democrat who handily beat longtime Republican Commissioner Victor Crist. And, big ouch there.
In other news, county judge candidate Eilam Michael Isaak ran as Michael Isaak because he said he didn’t want voters to discriminate against him because of the "ethnicity" of his name. His campaign literature said he "attends" conservative Idlewild Baptist, though his full page ad in the Jewish Press of Tampa noted his many Jewish supporters and his parents’ synagogue and did not mention Idlewild.
Voters went with candidate Jack Gutman.
Now: If someone could just explain the crazy way we voted on those amendments.