TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his companies have invested $700,000 in the All for Transportation referendum being decided today, and after casting his own vote this morning he said he likes the initiative's chances.
"We expect to win today," he said after speaking to about 400 people at the Dreamit x Biznow innovation summit at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. "But win or lose, we want to run as near-perfect a campaign as we can and do everything we can" to educate Hillsborough voters.
Vinik said he has put in "a lot more time than money" on All for Transportation, mainly making phone calls to help raise a total of $4 million for the effort and working with the activists who are running the campaign in favor of the proposed 1-cent sales tax to pay for expanded bus service, transit and traffic network improvements.
Asked if All for Transportation has done internal polling, Vinik said, "most campaigns do."
"We feel good about the polling, but we all know that when you get to election day or election month, the final results do not always represent the polling," he said. So when the Lightning plays Edmonton tonight "I will have my laptop on at the game to see where this comes out."
Asked whether a defeat would mean the end of local efforts to improve transportation, Vinik said, "absolutely not."
"This will be momentum, and we will have gotten closer and we've got 77,000 signatures — 51,000 approved — so if unfortunately it fails, we will use this as a trampoline to get it to pass the next time," he said. "It is so critical to our future that we've got to keep at it."
Passing the tax would enable Tampa to compete against other Sunbelt cities, "versus the Charlottes, and Raleigh-Durhams, and Nashvilles and Austins of the world," he said told the crowd at the innovation summit.
"Transportation is one of those items which is absolutely critical for us, because we want to keep young people here," he said. "We don't want you to go to New York and Silicon Valley. We want you to stay here because there's opportunity."
Contact Richard Danielson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times