1. Opinion

Ruth: As Greenlight vote nears, opponents accelerate the lunacy

We have now deftly transitioned from the ditzy phase of the Greenlight Pinellas campaign to the certifiably nuts home stretch.

There is still time for a last gasp of full blown bonkers before all the votes are counted on the effort to ask Pinellas County voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax to dramatically improve bus service and begin construction of a light rail system.

First, opponents of the transit referendum compared the supporters of Greenlight Pinellas to Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

When the Anschluss hit the fan, it took a while for anyone associated with the cheesy video of actor Bruno Ganz portraying Hitler to fess up to linking a public transportation initiative to the murder of 6 million Jews. Now there's a profile in propaganda for you.

That probably explains why a group of Greenlight Pinellas supporters found themselves standing in Williams Park this week to decry the sharp turn into imbecility surrounding the upcoming vote.

As Brian Willis, president of Connect Tampa Bay, started to speak, he was handed a print-out of a recently posted online comment from Greenlight Pinellas detractor Dr. David McKalip. The surgeon equated pro-Greenlight types to engaging in "violent intimidation" akin to al-Qaeda terrorists.

The source of McKalip's fear-mongering stemmed from the discovery that some No Tax for Tracks campaign signs had been vandalized in Gulfport. This would not quite seem to rise to the level of an international terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the United States, not to mention countless car bombings, executions and assorted mayhem that has killed thousands of people worldwide.

At this rate, McKalip and his little friends still have time to link Greenlight Pinellas to ISIS, Boko Haram, the Khorasan Group and Hezbollah — all because some folks believe light rail is a good idea.

Flanked by Dr. Johnny Johnson, the dentist who led the effort to restore fluoride to the county water supply, and local businessman Freddy Cueves, Willis noted critics of his support for Greenlight Pinellas have accused him of treason. Really? Greenlight Pinellas = CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames?

It only got sillier, but no less addled, from there.

Willis pointed to a photo No Tax for Tracks leader Barb Haselden has been touting showing an almost empty Park & Ride lot as evidence that Denver's light rail system is a bust. The only problem is Denver transportation officials have noted the lot has nothing to do with the city's transit system, but rather is a photo of the Pepsi Center parking lot.

Willis noted a No Tax for Tracks conspiracy theory making the rounds in the SPAM-o-sphere that the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has darkly tinted windows on its buses to obscure a lack of ridership. We pause here for a forehead slap.

"This is not progress for us," observed Cueves, who looked a bit bewildered to find himself caught up in a public policy debate with the other side dominated by Marlon Brando's delusional Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.

Just a month to go. Plenty of time for Hannibal Lecter to make an appearance as a train conductor.