Greenlight Pinellas campaign surpasses $1 million fundraising mark

Published Oct. 16, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — The backers of the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum have hit their million-dollar goal.

The Friends of Greenlight political committee filed a financial disclosure report Wednesday showing $1.03 million in contributions through Oct. 10. It's the magic number that supporters have said would allow the Yes on Greenlight campaign to mount an effective effort to pass the 1-cent sales tax to expand bus service and build a 24-mile light rail line connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

With three weeks left to go before the Nov. 4 election, there's no time to stop and celebrate, said Stuart Rogel, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership and a leading fundraiser for the campaign. The fundraising deadline is Oct. 30.

"Our goal is to power through these next three weeks to raise as much money as we can and talk to as many voters as we can to tell them why this is the right plan for Pinellas County and win this race," Rogel said.

The opposition group No Tax for Tracks has raised about $83,000 and spent more than $54,000. Campaign chairwoman Barb Haselden said she was unimpressed with Greenlight's million-dollar benchmark, noting that supporters of a similar proposal in Hillsborough County raised nearly $1.6 million and still failed.

Haselden said her group has handed out more than 5,000 yard signs and is waging a successful social media campaign.

"I feel very positive about where we are," she said.

Helping to push the Yes on Greelight effort into seven digits was a $50,000 contribution from Tampa businessman John H. Sykes. That is in addition to $50,000 that Sykes Enterprises donated in April. Sykes founded that company, which is now run by his son, Charles "Chuck" Sykes.

Four years ago, John Sykes supported Moving Hillsborough Forward, which pushed for an ultimately unsuccessful 1-cent increase for mass transit there. He has said that light rail is helping the city's economy in Charlotte, N.C., where he worked before moving to Florida, and would do the same here.

Other recent donors to the Greenlight campaign include Bright House Networks ($25,000); TransAmerica Insurance and Derby Lane ($10,000 each); and Hooters Management Corporation ($2,500).

A political action committee formed by Jacobs Engineering Group in Pasadena, Calif., gave $25,000. Cardinal Point Management, a commercial real estate company in St. Petersburg, gave $10,000.

The Yes on Greenlight campaign has spent $835,423 so far, the report shows. A large chunk went to direct mail pieces and television commercials.

Starting today and running to Nov. 4, the "Vote Yes for Your Neighborhood Tour" will stop in a different location every day, campaign spokesman Kyle Parks said. The first stop is at the Proino Breakfast Club in Largo, where Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce president Tom Morrissette will host a discussion of the plan and its effects on that city.